In Saints Behaving Badly: The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil-Worshippers Who Became Saints,just published by Doubleday, Tom Craughwill gives the answers.The list of the evils that some saints engaged in before their conversion is long: thievery, embezzling, satanists, promiscuity, idolatry, drunkedness and even anti-popery. The list brings to mind St. Paul "Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, Nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God" and what follows "And such some of you were; but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6: 9-11). Indeed!
Craughwell's book is filled with both the well known (Augustine, Patrick, Francis of Assisi,Ignatius of Loyola) and the lesser known (Callixtus, Pelagia, Genesius, Fabiola). From the latter group is the story of St. Pelagia, an actress who before her conversion lived a life of rather loose morals. One can readily think of a number of similar actors, actresses, rock stars, politicians who might be the Pelagia's of today--whose popularity is matched by the wanton lifestyle they lead--leading others down a path of self-destruction. What keeps them and us from following Pelagia's path to saintdom--perhaps this event related by Craughwell provides a hint:
That night the devil woke Pelagia. "What evil have I ever done to you?" he asked. "Tell me how I have offended, and I will give you whatever you want. Only do not leave me. Do not make me a laughingstock."
Most of us would probably believe that lie--and if you do you might need to read another book that has just been published by Ascension Press, Interview With an Exorcist. Pelagia didn't need that book, but she knew what to do:
Pelagia made the sign of the cross and drove the devil away.
Of course this exactly what Saints Behaving Badly does for the reader, it gives them a solid lesson in Christian spirituality by showing them how the great saints have overcome the very evils that plague many of us. It is a catechism of a different source, a real page turner and in the end a book that can change your life.