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Saints Behaving Badly: The Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil-Worshippers Who Became Saints

3.56  ·  Rating Details ·  261 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
Saints are not born, they are made. And many, as "Saints Behaving Badly" reveals, were made of very rough materials indeed. The first book to lay bare the less than saintly behavior of thirty-two venerated holy men and women, it presents the scandalous, spicy, and sleazy detours they took on the road to sainthood.
In nineteenth- and twentieth-century writings about the liv
Hardcover, 191 pages
Published September 19th 2006 by Doubleday Books (first published January 1st 2006)
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I blame Richard Burton for my interest in saint-o-logy. His performance in the screen version of Becket wakened me to the idea that hedonists could eventually be recognized as Saints. Suddenly, a whole new world of history opened up which is why this book joined my collection. Listing specific saints and providing a brief biography for each one, the author keeps the reader involved, even though I was a bit disgusted by some of these historical figures.

The focus of the book is to look at how thes
May 04, 2008 Dave rated it liked it
Recommends it for: The religiously curious.
This book is more interesting than the "Lives of the Saints" I read as a boy in Catholic school, giving a picture of saints as real people, not just angels without wings. Reading Saints Behaving Badly, one can imagine that some of these folks would have been hard to live with, let alone love. I do wish, though, that more detail had be given on the conversions these saints experienced. Those must have been profound and moving experiences, but it's hard to get that feeling here.
Dec 12, 2013 Jorge rated it really liked it
Informative book that tells the life of a few saints before they were holy people. It made me think about the ethics behind redemption. Some of the saints were murderers and thieves; yes they converted, but by today's standards, someone like them would never be forgiven by society. So, by today's standards, should we still look at them as saints, or should we change the way we look at today's ex-felons? Also, if someone like them became saints, is there still hope for someone like us? Read this ...more
May 06, 2008 booklady marked it as recommended
Recommended to booklady by: Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Shelves: hagiography
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer says, "Cathy, this is an entertaining book which some may take to be putting down the saints. However, when I read it I marveled that people so bad could make such a turn-around in their lives and become so good. I took it as a tribute to the power of goodness!"

Thanks Krista! I can already guess who some of the saints were -- or should I say "are"! Despite the provocative title, I 'get' it and you're right, Good is stronger than evil and will always win out.

Lindsay Wilcox
Saints are pretty awesome. The idea of a host of people too numerous to count who do nothing except worship God and pray for everyone who’s not in heaven definitely gives me comfort. When you’re too busy to pray, ask the saints to pray for you. When your prayer needs an extra boost, ask the saints to chip in, too. When you wander astray, ask for the help of the saints who had the same problems.

Read the rest at Austin Catholic New Media.
Apr 07, 2016 Katie rated it it was ok
This book was ....awkward. For one I had the wrong idea going into it. I thought it was more historical based. Like the books about kings and queens detailing how horrible people could be in history. This was not that.

For one it's written by someone who clearly believes the stories about the saints rather then someone writing down just the facts from history. Which I found uncomfortable. It helped for a bit when I decided to treat this as a book of folklore. But that was also hard because raise
Apr 06, 2014 Tana rated it it was amazing
I just finished reading Saints Behaving Badly by Thomas J. Craughwell. I have to admit that if I hadn't seen an advertisement in a Catholic magazine for the book, I would have been a bit turned off by the title because I can imagine someone with anti-Catholic sentiments gleefully trying to slander our saints.

I found Saints Behaving Badly to be a quick, easy, and fascinating read. The author went into greater detail about some of the saints' follies than I had previously read in other books. The
Dec 12, 2013 Jamie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who feels like they cannot measure up and be a saint (i.e., everyone)
Excellent "random" find at the library!
This tells the stories behind a score of saints "before they were saints".

It helps put a little more human flesh onto the "saintly" pictures we grew up with - we get to hear about the murderous deeds of some Ukrainian/Viking monarchs; the financial cheats and scandals prior to eventually being elevated to the episcopacy (or even papacy); the jealousies and rumor-mongering that would plague otherwise intelligent and devout people; and, above all, the graces
Interesting enough... but I would have preferred some more modern saints. Each saint gets a brief bio covering a couple small pages. Most of the saints are pre-1500s and as such have quite.. dramatized? lives. I think most of it is the stuff of legends, so I would have preferred saints who were post-1600 who we knew more facts about and could perhaps better relate to. A warning: this book is obviously written for a Catholic audience, so those unfamiliar with Catholic terminology could be ...more
Jan 07, 2016 Kelly rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 06, 2016 Charlotte rated it liked it
What an entertaining little book. It is a super fast read and though I'll never be able to keep all those saints and their stories separate in my mind, it was a fun book. First off, I thought the book was going to be about all kinds of famous people we think of as kind that may have had a past. Well, this book is all about Catholic saints and Biblical figures who had "sordid" pasts. Not being a Catholic myself, I thought the subject matter was handled so tastefully. The point of the book wasn't ...more
Jan 06, 2010 Diana rated it it was amazing
Before they were saints, they were great sinners, but most books and stories gloss over their transgressions and focus solely on their great deeds. This book covers some of the most depraved and sinful saints in the history of the church, from playboy St. Augustine to St. Francis of Assisi, a wastrel.

An absolutely fascinating read, one that I quite literally couldn't put down. The stories were quite short, and some weren't as fleshed out as I would have hoped, but the information in them was ver
Sep 08, 2014 Alex rated it liked it
Craughwell's style makes for quite an entertaining read in these accounts of saint's lives before they were anything close to saintly. While it includes several renown saints, such as St. Patrick and St. Augustine (the rockstar bad boy among saints), perhaps the most insightful and funny chapters cover less famous members of the saintly pantheon. Ultimately, enthusiasts of religious history, particularly Catholic history, should give it a read to gain a little further understanding of the blurry ...more
Aug 30, 2015 Collin rated it liked it
Lots of fun. I wish there were more sources, but there's a fairly substantial bibliography in the back, so that's okay.

I like hearing the un-bowdlerized versions of these people. As with most very short, vignette-style biography compilations, though, it's a little sketchy on details. It's a little unfulfilling on its own. However, as something that jumpstarts continued reading - or, better, as a resource to jumpstart fiction-writing ideas! - it's amazing.

And, undetailed or not, it's a book abou
Arlene Allen
May 10, 2013 Arlene Allen rated it really liked it
Shelves: spirituality
interesting! i learned about quite a few saints i had never heard of before and found it quite enlightening. i love the study of saints; human beings just like us (me) who through God's great grace, redeemed them. Some i truly didn't get although he's been revered for centuries is Thomas Becket. i do not see howhe was ever genuinely spiritual, but that's just my opinion and i apologise to anyone whose patron saint is Thomas Becket
David R.
May 11, 2011 David R. rated it really liked it
The title implies more naughtiness than is actually documented. Craughwell lays out brief bios of mostly medieval personalities who substantially reformed after conversion experiences. Notable are Saints Augustine, Francis, Patrick, and Christopher. All the stories read nicely and are consistently interesting.
Dec 17, 2009 Susan rated it it was ok
Generally speaking, stories about Catholic saints are usually pretty fascinating, and often downright graphic...but the title of of this book is misleading if you're expecting a taste of the grotesque. This book sounds so much better than it actually is...Frankly, the stories are vague and even somewhat dull. Read Butler's classic work on the lives of the saints instead.
Nov 28, 2012 Matt rated it liked it

This book provides a great glimpse into the power of conversion of "normal" people from varying backgrounds into a life dedicated to serving others. The author also provides interesting historical context to these people's lives. I found the book slow to pique my interests but it grew on me.
Christina Lucero
Jul 22, 2013 Christina Lucero rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the different stories ...each chapter was a person's story. I just would have liked to have known what or where the change of heart came from what influenced the drastic change from being a rapist murderer to a charitable praying person...favorite chapters were on Olga and Olaf those were my top 2!
Dec 30, 2013 Paul rated it liked it
Each chapter is a short story about a saint. Each saint has a conversion story. Some of the saints in the book are more widely known than others. The lesson for all of us is that despite our shortcomings, we too can become saints.
Jul 12, 2014 Alan rated it liked it
An entertaining and education series of vignettes about some of the "hard cases" who turned their lives around, and are today recognized by churches as saints. Longer review here:
Aug 01, 2012 Jessica rated it really liked it
Come on now... the title alone is worth the price of admission! If you ever need a reminder that we are ALL (both the godly and the profane) infinitely, indelibly flawed, turn to this book. This is an ideal example of the beauty that can come from the ultimately imperfect existence of humanity.
The Katie
Jul 10, 2007 The Katie rated it it was ok
Well I thought this would be a great nitty gritty expose of saints lives. Part way through the intro, their was some religious mumbo jumbo about about following the path of god. Ugh. I read a few chpaters, and it just wasn't that juicy. So I returned it to the library.
Dec 17, 2009 Angel rated it it was ok
Shelves: religion-studies
Not exactly as juicy or exciting as the title suggests. It really was just ok. It was something I picked up from the New Books shelf at my local public library.

I wrote a note about it in my personal blog:
Kathy  Petersen
The title says it all, although some of Craughwell's saints didn't behave all that badly in their early years. Still, it is most encouraging to read that not all canonized folks have led perfect lives.
Apr 07, 2008 Nino rated it it was amazing
Excellent read. Humorous, anecdotal, nonacademic. Inspiring: If these people are holy, I can be, too!
Just finished it. Excellent reading.
Mike Stuchbery
May 09, 2014 Mike Stuchbery rated it liked it
Entertaining tales of the figures venerated as Saints by the Catholic church who had sordid beginnings. Quick, entertaining read.
Jan 07, 2015 Jennifer rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I enjoyed reading this book, which I would call more a novella. Although interesting, I expected a bit more depth into the stories, and would have liked better-known saints.
Chantal E. R. H.
Aug 28, 2011 Chantal E. R. H. rated it liked it
I actually finished this awhile ago, I just forgot to mark it. It was a little dense and not my favorite books about the saints. It is interesting though.
Mary Alice
Dec 08, 2008 Mary Alice rated it really liked it
This was enjoyable. Little snippets about mostly not-so-well known saints who were the worst of the worst before they found their way to peace. A quick read.
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