An Amazing Conversion Story: From Apostate to Saint

This story is recounted by Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange (in his work, ‘Life Everlasting’):

“I knew a man who had been reared as a good Christian, but who had wandered away from God. After having lost his wife and his only son, the son being an angel of piety, he was assailed by a terrible temptation to despair, a temptation which lasted many months. He determined to kill himself. On the day when he went to do so, at the instant when, in Tulle, he was about to throw himself into a ravine, his sister and the Carmelite nuns were praying ardently for him. At the very moment our Lord appeared to him, sad and sorrowful, and called him by his baptismal name: “Joseph.” After this view of the mercy of God, Joseph
Maisonneuve, [124] that was his name, understood that the redemption was meant also for him. He was converted completely. He became sweet and humble of heart. He expiated his sins by severe penance up to his last hour, dying in the odor of sanctity. He is called the holy man of Tulle. Many wonderful cures were wrought by his intercession. Even during life his prayer worked wonders. In his own village he had a friend who led a bad life. The saint prayed nightly, his arms in the form of a cross, and he performed severe penances to obtain this grace. One day he learned that his friend had shot himself, but that he was not yet dead. The saint at once went to him. The dying man had twenty-four hours to live. Joseph Maisonneuve exhorted him so well that he repented and died a most Christian death.”

God is “rich in mercy”!

But “almost all souls are lost”, say some (including certain saints, who at times appeal to alleged visions etc.). Listen, dear reader. The saints are not infallible. Not all visions and revelations come from God. Not all words come from reliable sources. Many revelations contradict each other (believe me). Only God knows the number of those who will persevere. Regardless of this number, let us not wish to run from the truth, whatever it may be. Instead, let us accept God’s unfathomable goodness, which is no less loveable when punishing unrepentant sinners. Meanwhile, let us turn our attention to the love and mercy of God:

“A single burning prayer of the seraphic St. Theresa (as was learned through a highly creditable revelation) converted ten thousand heretics.”

– Taken from ‘The Soul of The Apostolate’ by Jean Baptiste Chautard

“You see, I long to have My creatures serve Me out of love. Therefore, if a soul avoids some fault for fear of My chastisements, that is not what I am longing for from My creatures. I desire to be loved; I crave the love of My creatures! When they will come to love Me, they will no longer offend Me. When two people really love each other, they never offend each other. That is precisely the way it ought to be between the Creator and His creatures.”

– Jesus to Sr. Consolata Betrone

 “A religious was preaching a retreat at Thielt, and a servant girl had been present at the opening sermon in which the preacher said that the souls going to Heaven were as few in number as the leaves that remain on the trees in winter. This remark caused so great a displeasure to the woman that she stayed away from the rest of the sermons. When she mentioned this occurrence later on to Father Paul [the Benedictine “wonderworker”]  he said: “You did right, for in making such a statement the preacher outraged the infinite goodness of God.”

(Taken from p. 253 of ‘The Very Rev. Fr. Paul of Moll…’)

“Having heard a preacher declare that no person could be saved without the love of God, and that all must at least have so much of it as would lead them to repent and to abstain from sin, the Saint began to think that many, when dying, seemed to repent more from fear of hell than from the love of God. Our Lord replied:

“When I behold anyone in his agony who has thought of Me with pleasure, or who has performed any works deserving of reward, I appear to him at the moment of death with a countenance so full of love and mercy, that he repents from his inmost heart for having ever offended Me, and he is saved by this repentance. I desire, therefore, that My elect should acknowledge this mercy by thanksgivings, and that they should praise Me for this amongst the greater number of benefits from which they receive from Me.”

– From ‘The Life and Revelations of St. Gertrude’

You see, things are not so straightforward. If certain subjects lead you to doubt God’s goodness, avoid them. Here is a book that I strongly suggest for all, but especially for those inclined to doubt, discouragement, sadness, melancholy etc:

‘Consoling Thoughts of St. Francis de Sales’:


Jesus: “My child, you canst do nothing more gratifying to Me than to…”

Jesus said to St. Gertrude:

“My child, you canst do nothing more gratifying to Me than to submit patiently to all the tribulations that befall you.”

The reward in Heaven for patiently accepting even the slightest suffering is so great that, according to many Saints, if we knew its true value, we would willingly embrace all sufferings, and even go so far as to seek more!  

“The angels are jealous of us for one reason only; they are not able to suffer for God. Only through suffering can a soul say with certainty: My God, You see I do love You!”

– St. Padre Pio

Why does God permit tribulations?

For our salvation! The more we love God, the more blessings we receive, both here and hereafter; every occasion for growing in love and humility, therefore, should be seen as a great- nay, an INFINITE- blessing! 

God desires not only that we be saved, but that we become Saints!  

“And why should you become a saint except to please your Jesus ever more and more.”

– Jesus to Sr. Benigna Consolata

Why does God desire that we become Saints?

Let us consult the Scriptures. In James 5:16, it says: “… the continual prayer of a just man availeth much.” While it is true that God loves us all, His Heart is so merciful and so sensible to love that He grants great graces to those who are conformed to His divine will:

“For the prayers of one loving soul prevail more with God, both for the living and the dead, than the prayers of a thousand souls who love less.”

– Jesus to St. Gertrude

(almost the exact same words were spoken to St. Teresa)

“The prayer of a humble and loving soul disarms the anger of My Father and draws down an ocean of blessings”

– Jesus to Sr. Josefa Menendez

The prayers of the Saints were extremely powerful: they obtained miracles, the conversion of a great number of sinners, and many other graces that surpass all earthly gifts, such as money, fame, and all else that withers and leaves only emptiness. God’s infinite love impels Him to seek holy souls who will lead sinners to the Heart of God, as He revealed to Sr. Benigna Consolata Ferrero:

“My Benigna, the thirst I experience of saving the greatest possible number of souls, impels Me to seek generous ones whom I can associate in My work of love. Thou wilt be the victim of My Justice and the consolation of My Love. Thou wilt be consumed by Love. Yes, My little spouse, I accept thy sacrifice with all the expansion of My love. I will immolate thee, but it will be always with the sword of Love- I will enchain thee, but with the bonds of love. I will consume thee, but in the fire of My Love.”

When we consider that our sins have merited eternal punishment, we should be greatly consoled by the thought that Our Lord offers us occasions to save our soul, to become holy, and thereby to help Him save other souls, who will love Him forever! The wickedness of one mortal sin, according to Ven. Louis of Grenada, is worse than all the sufferings on Earth and in Hell! I share these words for the purpose of humbling us and helping us to realise that the small crosses God “sends” us are trivial in comparison, and should therefore be received with much gratitude! God will bless us abundantly if we seek holiness, His glory, and the salvation of souls:

“The greatest charity is to take away souls from Satan and to bring them back to God!”

– Saint Padre Pio

I need not warn you of the dangers of selfishness and lukewarmness. The greater we grow in humility, the more we will see our own unworthiness, which, far from discouraging us, will fill us with love for and confidence in Him “… Who came from Heaven to seek you at the very time you were flying from Him.” (St. Thomas of Villanova).

However cold, ungrateful or sinful we might have been in the past, let us forget all that; instead, may we follow- with the help of Our Lady- the first movement of grace in our souls that calls us to love the God Who created us out of and for infinite love! That is no pious exaggeration! If only the world knew such love!

“What can there be more agreeable to the Heart of the infinite love of God than to pray for the conversion of those who are in a state of mortal sin? To be a child of love, is to sacrifice oneself to the love of God for the conversion of sinners.”

“If one could understand the value of an act of love for God in suffering, one would experience the greatest grief at being obliged to pass a single moment without being able to make this meritorious act. HAPPY IS HE WHO, IN SUFFERING, MAKES ACTS OF LOVE!”

– Fr. Paul of Moll, Benedictine “wonder-worker”

(I strongly recommend reading the book ‘Father Paul of Moll’; especially if you are scrupulous)