In our today’s world, we tend to be quick to judge on the way others: look, talk, or sins they have committed, but we would do ourselves great favour to recall the Faith Hall of Fame contains terrible sinners who became saints.
In as much as St. Augustine is most often mentioned as a sinner who became a saint, his sins pale in comparison to many others. In this article, I listed 5 sinners who became servants of God and what we can learn from them.
1.) St. Paul – Murderer of Christians and apostle. Suffice it to say, St. Paul is one of the most recognizable and notable Christians in the Bible, but before he was Paul his name was Saul of Tarsus. Prior to his conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul was a terror to Christians. He held the coats of those who stoned Stephen, the first martyr, to death for declaring Jesus. In essence, he was an accessory to the martyrdom of Stephen. He vigorously sought permission from authorities to gather up Christians, thrown them in prison for blasphemy, and have them killed. But, Paul met Jesus and everything about him changed. “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?” was the question Jesus asked him. That’s the question that changed Saul into Paul and changed a sinner into a saint.
Lesson: The greatest plans God has may include the worst of sinners, even the enemies of God’s people. Never permit fear and someone’s past cloud your attitude toward them and the hope they will come to Christ.
2.) St. Matthew –Apostle and tax collector. In as much Matthew was a Jew, he worked for the Roman government as a tax collector. The Romans would contract the job of collecting taxes out to individuals. The individuals, in turn, would not only collect taxes from citizens but would charge much more than the fees. The extra charges allowed tax collectors to skim off the top and take a share of the taxes for themselves. Often these tax collectors would bully and threaten individuals in order to collect the money. Citizens viewed tax collectors as the lowest individuals and most despised. They also viewed them as traitors. Moreover, Matthew met Jesus and his life changed dramatically as he became one of the original 12 and carried the news of Jesus all across the region. He’s also the author of one of the four gospels.
Lesson: Even those we label or see as the lowest of low in society are relevant to God and He wants to use them to spread the Word of God.
3.) St. Olga- murderer and cold-hearted torturer turned saint. St. Olga is venerated as the saint of widow and converts. She is the first canonized Russian saint. However, she clearly was not the type of person anyone would imagine becoming a saint. St. Olga was a princess who was the first documented female ruler of Russia.
Her husband, Igor I, was a prince of Kiev and was killed in 945 by those serving under him. Olga became the regent of the grand principality of Kiev because her son was still a minor at the time of Igor’s death. St. Olga set out for revenge against those who killed her husband. She had the murderers captured and scalded to death. But, she did not stop there. She had hundreds of people murdered who belonged to the tribe her husband’s murderers were members of. She is said to have ordered the execution of 5,000 men at a feast held in her remembrance.
St. Olga converted to Christianity and was baptized between 945 and 957 after being touched by the majesty and awe of the liturgy, despite her son’s disapproval. After her son took control of the country, she requested archbishops and priests to be appointed to her country but her son was a pagan and the Holy Roman Emperor accused her of lying and trickery and refused. But, she secretly kept a Catholic priest near her at all times and upon her death in 969, her son did allow a Christian burial rather than a pagan celebration. Her grandson, Vladimir, would later take control and make Christianity the official religion of the nation in the 980s.
Lesson: Even when we choose to let anger, vengeance, and retaliation take over our actions, despite how ugly our past may be and how many people we have hurt God touches even the hardest of hearts.
4.) St. Vladimir- He is the patron saint of Russian Catholics. He was the grandson of St. Olga. When civil war broke out between his half-brothers, he was forced to flee to Scandinavia. But, he did not stay long. He put together an army and returned to Kiev, capturing and murdering his own half-brother for power. He became the ruler of Russia after challenging and defeating his brother. As a ruler, he was known for his barbarism and immorality, much like his grandmother. He built a new temple to false gods and ordered the sacrifice of a father and son for the temple’s consecration. But, he became impressed and interested in Christianity because of Christianity’s progress and growth. After his conversion, he changed his life and became devoted to others becoming Christians. He brought Greek missionaries to Russia, led people to Christianity, built schools and even churches. He got rid of his 7 other wives (he had 8 wives at the time), tore down the pagan temple, and spent the rest of his life trying to convert Russians to Christianity.
Lesson: Those who have abused their power, lied and done horrific things to gain power and control can still turn around and follow God. They can be some of the greatest doors God uses to usher in Christianity to others.
5.) St. Mary of Egypt- Patron saint of penitents, prostitute. St. Mary ran away from home at the age of 12 and became a prostitute. She took so much delight in seducing men that it is said she didn’t even charge for her services most of the time. After being a prostitute and making a game out of seducing men for 17 years, she took an “anti-pilgrimage” to Jerusalem where she said she wanted to find more men to seduce. An unseen force is said to have stopped her from entering into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and it was this event that caused her to discover her sins and become remorseful for her lifestyle. As a result, she prayed for forgiveness at a statue of the Blessed Mother and promised to give up her lifestyle. After this, she tried to enter the Church again and was allowed to enter. She later received absolution and Holy Communion.
Lesson: Those in sexual sins are loved by Christ and He seeks to love them, change their lives, and use them.