When we were seventeen, a dozen of us boys went to a two-century-old frame house for our novitiate. At eleven-thirty the first morning the priest led us into the old library, telling us each to choose a book for a half hour’s spiritual reading each morning over the next month.
I pulled down a book of chapel sermons by John Henry Newman, opening to his sermon explaining how King Saul went bad. I hadn’t known that he went bad. I hadn’t even known who he was. But seventeen-year-olds do their best at wading their way out of ignorance.
I found that God had chosen Saul as his people’s first king, and he had been a successful warrior “head and shoulders” above all others. But God finally had to reject him because time and again Saul showed that he didn’t take religion seriously.
Like, when the priest didn’t show up to offer a sacrifice on the morning of a great battle, Saul played the priest, going through the motions as he had observed them
Then, while Saul had made the religious move of banning witches and fortune tellers, he himself had secretly resorted to them.
Once, to get God’s help for a battle, he made a vow, promising God that none of his soldiers would eat before sundown. Then, when his son, not having heard about the vow, ate some wild honey, Saul called for him to be executed for breaking the vow. Luckily for the son, his officers got it through his thick head that God does not want men killing their sons.