Matthew, the tax collector

According to the Gospels, Matthew was a 1st-century Galilean. Being a tax collector, it is expected that he would have been literate in both Aramaic and Koiné Greek. His fellow Jews, the Gospels explain, would have despised him for what was seen as collaborating with the Roman occupation force. The same Gospels explain Matthew invited Jesus home for a feast. On seeing this, the  Scribes and the Pharisees criticized Jesus for eating with tax collectors and renowned sinners. Jesus famously answered, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Mary of Egypt, the "seductress"

She ran away from her parents when she was 12 years old and settled in Alexandria, where she lived an extremely dissolute life. According to her Vita, she often refused the money offered for her sexual favors, as she was driven "by an insatiable and an irrepressible passion." After seventeen years of this lifestyle, she traveled to Jerusalem to attend the Feasts of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, hoping to find in the pilgrim crowds at Jerusalem even more partners in her lust. As she tried to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, she saw an icon of the Theotokos and began a life of penance in the Jordanian desert.

Pelagia, the "loose woman"

Pelagia, often referred to as either Pelagia the Penitent, the Hermit, or the Harlot, lived in the 5th century in Antioch. A story attributed to the then deacon of Heliopolis tells that Pelagia was the "foremost actress" and a prominent harlot in Antioch. During one of the councils in the city, she heard bishop Nonnus preaching a sermon on the goodness of Paradise and soon embraced a life of penance.

Dismas, the "Good Thief"

Probably the best known criminal-turned-saint in the Catholic Church is St. Dismas. He was the “good” or “penitent” thief crucified alongside Jesus, and was promised Heaven by Jesus Christ himself. Very little is known about this man, though tradition often applies the name “Dismas” to him, which can be translated as either “sunset” or “death.” What can be ascertained is that he was a criminal in the eyes of Roman law.

Augustine, the confessing sinner

Augustine was a theologian, philosopher, and the bishop of Hippo Regius in what is today Algeria. His writings influenced the development of Western Philosophy and Christianity, and is one of the four Fathers of the Latin Church. His Confessions, which can be described as an autobiographical meditation on human freedom and divine grace, and as one of the main literary works of the Western tradition, reveal the long and often tortuous path of conversion he himself went through.