Saints with rough pasts: Never too far gone

Therese Bussen

No one is ever too far gone for a change of heart — and there are several saints to prove it. From the murderers, the promiscuous, the thieves, the atheists and even a Satanic priest, conversion is always possible, as is sainthood.

Here’s a list of some of the saints who prove the saying attributed to St. Augustine, “There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.”

St. Augustine – Died 430 A.D.
Feast: Aug. 28

You may know that St. Monica, his mother, helped her son experience conversion through her prayers, but he really was a wild child before that happened. St. Augustine was a partier and drinker, and he had a mistress and illegitimate son, both whom he abandoned. But even after his conversion, it took him some time to embrace a renewed way of living his life — giving us another famous quote, “Lord, give me chastity but not yet.” Once he finally did change his life, however, he became a priest, bishop, a famous writer, a founder of religious and one of the greatest saints and Doctors of the Church.

St. Olga – Died 969 A.D.
Feast: July 11

Olga was married to Prince Igor of Kiev, Russia. She was a cruel woman, who, after her husband’s death, brutally killed his murderers and then proceeded to hunt down and kill hundreds of their followers. But she was later baptized and converted to Christianity. Her grandson, St. Vladimir, was influenced by her faith, but he too followed suit of living a wild life —he was a murderer had many pagan wives— before embracing a Christian way of life. Because of his conversion and his rule in Kiev, much of the city also converted.

St. Mary of Egypt – Died around 421 A.D.
Feast: April 2

Mary left her home at the age of 12 and for about 17 years, she led a life of seeking sexual conquests. One day, a pilgrimage to Jerusalem stopped through her town and she joined them — not with the intention of making the pilgrimage, but rather for the challenge of seducing everyone aboard the ship. Once they arrived in Jerusalem on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, she joined the crowds. When she reached the church door, she found herself unable to enter, restrained by some force. She realized that her lifestyle was the cause of her exclusion and she immediately repented for her way of life and begged Our Lady for her help. She entered the church and adored the cross, and she went on to live the life of a hermit.

Bl. Bartolo Longo – Died 1923
Feast: Oct. 5

Bartolo Longo was raised a Catholic. But from the time his mother died at 10 years old, he grew so distant in his faith that by the time he studied in university, he was an atheist who began dabbling in the occult. He attended séances, experimented with drugs and orgies and eventually became a Satanic priest. But like St. Augustine, the prayers of his family aided in his conversion and with the help of a Dominican priest, he came back to the Church, fully cleansed. He fell in love with the rosary, and he founded schools and orphanages for the poor.

Honorable mentions:
St. Mary Magdelene, who had seven demons cast out of her; St. Paul, who killed Christians until Christ appeared to him in a vision, converting him; St. Moses the Ethiopian, who was the leader of a gang; and St. Olaf, who tried to convert his country by force and went into exile with a mistress and illegitimate son, abandoning his wife and daughter. All converted and became saints!

COMING UP: A little help making holiday cocktails — from the Saints

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

A little help making holiday cocktails — from the Saints

Holy Name Parish to hold fundraiser featuring author of Drinking with the Saints

Aaron Lambert

Despite popular belief, adult beverages and the Catholic Church definitely go hand in hand; just ask Dr. Michael Foley, author of Drinking with the Saints: The Sinners Guide to a Holy Happy Hour.

“I believe that a healthy faith and a healthy drinking culture go hand in hand,” Foley told the Denver Catholic.

On Dec. 10, Holy Name Parish in Sheridan will host Foley as he speaks about his book, which is essentially a bartender’s guide mixed with an encyclopedia of saints. The evening will feature a silent auction, and samples of the some of the drinks featured in the book will be provided. All are invited, and proceeds from the $10 cover fee will benefit the expansion of Holy Name’s parish hall.

Father Daniel Cardo, pastor of Holy Name, said the purpose of the occasion is two-fold; the holidays bring with them lots of gatherings and parties, and Father Cardo thought it would be nice to provide some mixed drink ideas for hosts to serve their guests. More importantly though, he said it’s a way to bring Christ back to Christmas.

“In these celebrations and gatherings for family and friends, we want to bring Christ, but we know it’s difficult,” Father Cardo said. “Many people don’t think about Jesus during Christmas, sadly, so my hope is that this event will also give us some elements as to how, in a very friendly and loving way, to be able to bring Jesus Christ back to our Christmas gatherings.”

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-4-42-44-pm

Drinking with the Saints by Michael Foley pairs cocktails, wine and beer suggestions with the many feast days in the Church’s liturgical year. (Image provided)

The idea for Drinking with the Saints was sparked by Foley’s family traditions and his love of a good cocktail. The book is organized by the liturgical year and features over 350 cocktails in addition to wine and beer suggestions, all paired with the Church’s feast days. Each day features a drink suggestion and a short biography of the saint, rife with interesting facts.

“I got the idea to write the book from my own family’s customs – we enjoy the liturgical year – and also my wife and I enjoy an evening cocktail, so it was only a matter of time before those two things came together,” Foley said.

The book, Father Cardo said, is thoroughly researched, and does a good job of presenting biographical information about various saints in a fun manner.

“The book is a very interesting combination of a lot of research, but expressed in a fun and deeply Catholic way,” he said. “It has a lot of information about the saints and the liturgical year, and a lot if information about drinks, which offers a very virtuous, human and fun way of enjoying God’s blessings.”

He added, “I think it makes a great Christmas present.”

A drink recipe from Michael Foley

Two days prior to Foley’s talk at Holy Name is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. The author was kind enough to share with the Denver Catholic a recipe for a “White Lady,” which he said was “an appropriate cocktail salute to Our Lady’s immaculate purity.”

White Lady
1 1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. triple sec or Cointreau
1/2 oz. lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/2 egg white (optional but tasty)
Pour ingredients into a shaker with ice and shake forty times. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Drinking with the Saints

Saturday, Dec. 10, 6 p.m., $10
Holy Name Parish
3290 W. Milan Ave.
Sheridan, CO 80110

For more information, and to buy the book, visit drinkingwiththesaints.com