Credit to: Philip Kosloski – published on 08/24/16
Holy men and women remind us that there’s hope for us yet!
5 Saints who were notorious sinners. They were certainly not perfect. They made mistakes along the way and often led lives of depravity before their hearts were converted. Today, they might be looking for a bail bonds service.
To most people… this is good to hear.
It makes us feel better about ourselves and gives us hope. Our hearts, that can be cold and distant from God, can be turned around and given new life.
Saints seem “too holy” for us to imitate. Really, they are more like us than we realize. They experienced the same addictions, sins and bad habits that affect how we feel every day.
Let’s embrace that these holy men and women were not perfect and in fact, not always holy. Through the grace of God, they overcame obstacles and became examples of virtue. See Thomas Craughwell’s book, “Saints Behaving Badly: The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil-Worshippers Who Became Saints.”)
In ancient Israel, during the first century, Romans subcontracted the job of collecting taxes to private individuals. These tax collectors took opportunities to extort as much money as they could. Everyone hated them including Saint Matthew.
Jesus asked Matthew to “follow him.” Many people were astonished. How could it be that Jesus would dine with “tax-collectors and sinners”? Matthew was a changed man and began following Jesus. He wrote down everything he witnessed. We now call this the “Gospel of Matthew.”
He was the “Good Thief” who was nailed on the cross next to Jesus. We don’t know much more but apparently his crime merited crucifixion. According to one biblical scholar, “Two of the most common [criminals condemned to crucifixion] were low-life criminals and enemies of the state… Low-life criminals would include, for example, slaves who had escaped from their masters and committed a crime. If caught, a slave could be crucified. They were receiving the ‘ultimate’ punishment for their crime; a tortuous, slow, and humiliating death. More importantly, they were using them as a spectacle. This was to warn other slave what could happen to *them*.”
Dismas reconciled the severity of his crimes as he compared them to Jesus. He defended Jesus from the ridicule and stated.. “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation. And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal” (Luke 23:40-41). Jesus knew that he was sincere. He said “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Dismas was granted pardon shortly before his death.
Raised by a Christian mother, Saint Augustine followed students of his time and pursued a life of pagan Manichaeism. He had a relationship with a concubine and bore a son. Although they were together for many years, they never married. Eventually she ended the relationship.
A great example of Augustine’s severity of his life of sin is the famous episode of the “stealing of the pears.” He narrates the scene in his Confessions.
“Fair were those pears, but not them did my wretched soul desire; for I had store of better, and those I gathered, only that I might steal. For, when gathered, I flung them away, my only feast therein being my own sin, which I was pleased to enjoy. For if aught of those pears came within my mouth, what sweetened it was the sin.”
Augustine was later baptized and became a priest, then a bishop and after his death, he was named “doctor of the Church.”
Pelagia was a well-known actress and known to be a “loose woman”. Saint John Chrysostom said, “Nothing was more vile than she was, when she was on the stage.” Craughwell’s picture of her sins were perfect, “The men she took as her lovers became intoxicated with her. For Pelagia’s sake fathers abandoned their children, wealthy men squandered their estates. She even seduced the empress’s brother. Trying to account for Pelagia’s power over men, St. John wondered if she drugged them, and speculated that perhaps she used sorcery.”
It is rumored that she heard a homily from a bishop. He spoke about the mercy of God. Immediately she asked to be baptized and some say that she became a nun. She spent the rest of her days in prayer.
Saint Mary of Egypt
Mary ran away from home at a very young age. She spent seventeen years as a seductress in the glamorous city of Alexandria. She enjoyed the challenge of seducing young men and often did not charge for her services. Enchanted with all of the “sexual adventure” she let passions lead her. Later confessed, “There is no mentionable or unmentionable depravity of which I was not their teacher.”
She followed a group of pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, boarded the ship and seduced everyone on it before reaching their destination. While she was in the Holy City, Mary repented her sins and was reconciled with the church.
She spent the rest of her life in the desert as a hermit and continuously fought the temptation of depravity. God finally granted her soul peace.