Why Saint Constantine is Important to Me

Bust of Saint Constantine
Bust of Saint Constantine

Many of you might notice how the pronunciation of Considine, my last name, sounds like the surname Constantine. In fact, the surname Considine is the Anglicanized version of the Gaelic surname Mac Consaidin, which in the Gaelic language literally means “Son of Constantine.”

The origins of the Irish surname Considine dates back to at least 1179 with Constantine O’Brien, fifth in descent from Brian Boru, referred to by many as the first high-king of Ireland. Constantine was Bishop of Killaloe and attended the Council of Lateran in 1215. All Considines in the world are direct descendants of Constantine and thus also Brian Boru.

The name Constantine can be traced back to Constantine the Great, also known as Saint Constantine, who was Roman emperor from 306 to 337. Constantine is famous for being the first Roman emperor to embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ and convert to Christianity. In doing so he broke from the policies of earlier emperors who persecuted Christians for their beliefs in Jesus and the one true God.

In reading more about the life of Constantine, we can see that he issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed tolerance of all religions throughout the Roman Empire and permanently established religious toleration for Christians, who were assured legal rights, including the right to build churches and set up communities. In addition Christians had previously confiscated property returned to them through the Edict. Here is one of its key passages:

“Our purpose is to grant both to the Christians and to all others full authority to follow whatever worship each person has desired, whereby whatsoever Divinity dwells in heaven may be benevolent and propitious to us, and to all who are placed under our authority. Therefore we thought it salutary and most proper to establish our purpose that no person whatever should be refused complete toleration, who has given up his mind either to the cult of the Christians or to the religion which he personally feels best suited to himself. It is our pleasure to abolish all conditions whatever which were embodied in former orders directed to your office about the Christians, that every one of those who have a common wish to follow the religion of the Christians may from this moment freely and unconditionally proceed to observe the same without any annoyance or disquiet.”

Another edict issued to the eastern Roman Empire provinces following Constantine’s victory over Licinius in 324 states his views on toleration most explicitly:

“For the general good of the world and of all mankind I desire that your people be at peace and stay free from strife. Let those in error, as well as the believers, gladly receive the benefit of peace and quiet…May none molest another; may each retain what his soul desires, and practise it… let no one use what he has received by inner conviction as a
means to harm his neighbour. What each has seen and understood, he must use, if possible, to help the other; but if that is impossible, the matter should be dropped.”

As you can see in these passages, tolerance was something of the utmost importance to Constantine. I am proud to carry his name because he was a man who appeared to understand the value of protecting and promoting religious freedom. As many of you know, I am quite active in interfaith dialogue and writing about the commonalities between Christianity and Islam. Maybe my interest in these matters was passed on to me by the grace of Saint Constantine.

Saint Constantine mosaic in Hagia Sophia
Saint Constantine mosaic in Hagia Sophia

One thought on “Why Saint Constantine is Important to Me

  1. “As you can see…tolerance was of the upmost importance to Constantine.” I was looking for some comment, however brief, about Constantine murdering his beloved son, Crispus — then following that killing up with the murder of his wife, Fausta. Yet I didn’t see any mention of these minor deeds by this renowned saint. Mmmm… sometimes it’s best just to leave out the unpalatable in order to fit the narrative, eh? Indeed it does seem to be the way: never let the facts get in the way of a good story.


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