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Saints have always been associated with heroes and heroines fighting for their faith. Their stories provide the inspiration for us to live virtuous and holy lives.
Most saints were good and righteous during their lives, but there were some serious sinners out there before they found the light and converted.
In the early years of the Church and throughout the Middle Ages, writers were all too eager to be perfectly candid in regards to saints who were far from saintly in their youth.
The following five saints offer hope in the belief that we have the potential to change our lives around. Who knows, maybe you can be a saint someday too?
1) St. Augustine
St. Augustine might be one of the most famous of saints with a sinful past. Considering that his mother (St. Monica) was a devout Christian, this seems rather surprising.
Augustine rebelled against his Christian upbringing. Instead, he decided to live a hedonistic life and liked to party all the time. One of his famous prayers said, “Grant me chastity, but not just yet!”
He had an illegitimate son with one of his young mistresses. He left her and the baby when he thought he could marry an heiress. He continued to drink and carouse well into his 20s.
But his religious mother never gave up on him. She followed him around constantly begging him to repent his sins.
Her persistence finally paid off. Augustine read the letters of St. Paul and decided he didn’t want to sin anymore. He got baptized and became a priest, writing many letters on the topic of Catholicism.
St. Augustine is the patron saint of brewers. Testimony to his conversion of a wild child who liked to party and raise hell.
He was quoted as saying, “There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.” His feast day is on August 28. (1)
2) Blessed Bartolo Longo
Benedict XVI described Bartolo as being “militantly anticlerical and engaging in spiritualist and superstitious practices”.
Bartolo came from a religious family and all was well until he attends university. He got involved with a group of Satanists and becomes a satanic high priest.
He held séances, participated in fortune-telling and got down with frequent orgies. But he wasn’t satisfied with just practicing his pagan religion, he liked to publicly criticise and ridicule Christianity.
He even was able to convince other Catholics to walk away from the Church and join in occult ceremonies.
None of this behavior made him happy however and he began to experience depression and a fascination with demons. Eventually, he suffered a mental breakdown.
After almost committing suicide, Bartolo had a spiritual awakening and decided to devote his life to the church.
He constructed several churches, helped the poor and preached against the dangers of occultism until his death in 1926, he was 75.
After his death, Cause for canonization was called for almost immediately. He was beatified by John Paul II who called him the “Apostle of the Rosary”. Bartolo’s feast day is October 5. (2)
3) St. Mary of Egypt
Mary came from an Egyptian Christian family. She was just 12 years old when she decided to run away and live in Alexandria.
This was one of the biggest cities of the eastern Roman empire at that time. Alexandria also had something Mary wanted: sexual adventure.
She lost her virginity not long after she got to the great city. For the next 17 years, she slept around. Contrary to popular belief, however, Mary didn’t work as a prostitute. She told her biographer she did, “free of charge what gave me pleasure”.
She heard of a ship that was bringing people to the Holy Land and was enticed by the thought of seducing the young men who were going. After arriving, she saw a monument of Mother Mary and she began to pray for forgiveness.
She became a hermit who lived alone in the desert for 47 years. All she did was fast and pray. She is known as the patron saint against sexual temptations. Her feast day is celebrated on April 1st. (3)
4) St. Vladimir
Vladimir became the prince of Kiev by killing his older brother. He then raped his sister-in-law, adding her to the several hundred women in his harem.
He constructed a temple to all the gods. In consecration, he sacrificed a town father and his son. When the emperor of Constantinople asked for his help in stopping a rebellion, Vladimir demanded the emperor’s sister for his wife as a reward.
The emperor said ok, but first Vladimir had to convert to Christianity. Though everyone thought that Vladimir would go back to his old ways once he returned to Kiev, baptism had apparently changed him.
He got rid of all of his extra wives and the harem, ripped down his pagan temple, and started a campaign in an attempt to convert the people to Christianity. He is the patron saint of the Russian Catholics and his feast day is on July 15. (4)
5) St. Philip Howard
Philip belonged to one of the richest noble families in England. He could afford anything he liked, and he liked everything.
He was known to be a playboy and a gambler. He ran up huge debts, selling his wife’s property to repay them. Once, he publicly stated that he really didn’t consider himself married.
After witnessing a debate between ministers and an imprisoned Jesuit priest, (Father Campion), Philip got back with his estranged wife and began to practice Catholicism.
They tried to flee the country in secret, hoping to freely practice their religion on the new Continent, but they were caught. Howard was locked up in the Tower of London, where died 10 years later.
He is the patron saint of difficult marriages, separated spouses, and betrayal victims. His feast day falls on Oct. 19. (5)