One of the enemy’s favorite tricks is to convince us that our past lives, especially if they were sullied by grave sin, are simply too sordid for God to forgive. With that type of attitude, reading about the lives of the saints who led beautifully pure lives from start to finish can be downright depressing: of course they’re saints—they didn’t do anything wrong! It makes sense to us that the St. Lucys, St. Maria Gorettis, and St. John Pauls of the world are in heaven.
To help us trust in the infinite reach of His mercy, though, God has inspired the Church to recognize those saints who have had darker pasts. If we’ve bought into the message that our past will keep us from happiness here on earth and everlasting joy with God in heaven, let’s take a look at a few of our heavenly friends who didn’t catch on to the Christian message right away:
St. Olga. She’s one of my favorites to help illustrate this point to my children, that there’s nothing that we can do on this earth that will keep us from God’s mercy if we only ask for it. Born in the ninth century St. Olga was a princess of the new Russian kingdom. After her husband Igor was assassinated, Olga assumed her place at the throne and ordered hundreds of her husband’s killers and their followers to be murdered, even arranging to have a whole town burned to the ground. She later converted to Christianity and spent the rest of her life trying to spread her new religion peacefully.
St. Augustine: Doctor of the Church and former sinner who had spent all of his twenties in grave sexual sin.
St. Olaf: Martyr for the faith and former pirate.
St. Christopher: The saint who bore the Child Jesus on his shoulders across a dangerous river and who was said to have been a former Satanist.
St. Peter: First Pope, Rock of the Church and a best friend of Jesus who had denied Him in His hour of need.
The list goes on, but when we’re tempted to despair we need to invoke Christ’s mercy and take heart, knowing that many of our most glorious brothers and sisters in heaven haven’t always been saints.
“So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” (Lk 7:47)
Copyright Meg Matenaer (2015).
Photo by pippalou (2014) via Morguefile.