Today, March 25, we celebrate the feast of Saint Dismas (died 30), also known as the “Good Thief” or the “Penitent Thief”, crucified beside Jesus. While Saint Dismas was never officially canonized by the Church, he is considered a saint by virtue of Jesus inviting him into Paradise while on the Cross. Saint Dismas is the patron saint of condemned prisoners, reformed thieves, undertakers, funeral directors, penitent sinners, and prisoners. His life and story provide inspiration for each of us—especially during this Lenten season—on the importance of true repentance.
39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!”
40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”
42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)
“And Pilate, after sentence, ordered a title to be written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin letters, according to what the Jews said: This is the King of the Jews . And one of the robbers who were hanged, by name Gestas, said to Him: If you are the Christ , free yourself and us. And Dismas answering, rebuked him, saying: Do you not even fear God, who art in this condemnation? for we justly and deservedly have received those things which we endure; but He has done no evil. And he kept saying to Jesus: Remember me, Lord, in Your kingdom. And Jesus said to him: Verily I say unto you, that today shall you be with me in paradise.”
Saint Anselm, telling what might be the pious legend of Saint Dismas and his companion, Gestas, and their encounter with the Holy Family. From these writings, we are told that Dismas and Gestas were thieves, who set upon the Holy Family—Mary, Joseph, and the infant Jesus—as they fled into Egypt following the massacre of the Holy Innocents. As the thieves advanced upon the unarmed family, Saint Dismas was moved by the “Glorious beauty and majesty” of Jesus, and rather than rob them, defended them against the other brigands. Dismas hosted the Holy Family in his own cave, offering all that he had to them, and upon seeing the respect he paid to her child, Our Blessed Mother assured him that he would be rewarded for his actions prior to his death
So it is with Saint Dismas, and so it is with us, as well. Our loving God has made us the same promise that was made to Dismas, and that promise will be fulfilled. We look toward our heavenly reward with hearts of true repentance, recognizing that our faith in Jesus Christ should always give us that same certain hope that was the good thief's when Jesus said to him: "Today you will be with me in Paradise."
It is always possible to make a new start by means of repentance. ‘You fell,’ it is written, ‘now arise’ (Proverbs 24:16.) And if you fall again, then rise again, without despairing at all of your salvation, no matter what happens. So long as you do not surrender yourself willingly to the enemy, your patient endurance, combined with self-reproach will suffice for your salvation. ‘For at one time we ourselves went astray in folly and disobedience,’ says St. Paul. ‘…Yet He saved us, not because of any good things we had done, but in His mercy’ (Titus 3:5.) So do not despair in any way, ignoring God’s help, for He can do whatever He wishes. On the contrary, place your hope in Him and He will do one of these things: either through trials or temptations, or in some other way which He alone knows, He will bring about your restoration; or He will accept your patient endurance and humility in the place of works; or because of your hope He will act lovingly towards you in some other way of which you are not aware, and so will save your shackled soul. Only do not abandon your Physician, for otherwise you will suffer senselessly the twofold death because you do not know the hidden ways of God.”
Almighty and merciful God, who justify the wicked, we beg You graciously to grant that just as Your Only-begotten Son drew the Blessed Thief to Himself with His kind glance, You might move us also to worthy repentance, and grant also to us as You promised to him the everlasting glory of Paradise. Through the same Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Glorious Saint Dismas, you alone of all the great Penitent Saints were directly canonized by Christ Himself; you were assured of a place in Heaven with Him "this day" because of the sincere confession of your sins to Him in the tribunal of Calvary and your true sorrow for them as you hung beside Him in that open confessional; you who by the direct sword thrust of your love and repentance did open the Heart of Jesus in mercy and forgiveness even before the centurion's spear tore it asunder; you whose face was closer to that of Jesus in His last agony, to offer Him a word of comfort, closer even than that of His Beloved Mother, Mary; you who knew so well how to pray, teach me the words to say to Him to gain pardon and the grace of perseverance; and you who are so close to Him now in Heaven, as you were during His last moments on earth, pray to Him for me that I shall never again desert Him, but that at the close of my life I may hear from Him the words He addressed to you: "This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise."
Year 2: Day 84 of 365
Prayer Intentions: True Repentance.
Requested Intentions: Health for a soon to be delivered baby (T); Financial security (L); Healing of tooth pain (A); Health of expectant mother and child (R); Purification of the souls in Purgatory (A); Guidance in studies (J); Healing and security for a displaced family (C); Healing of high blood pressure; Recovery of brother following surgery (A); For a sister in trouble, that she may make better decisions in the light of Christ (M); Health of expectant mother and child (R); Attainment of funds for surgery (J); Freedom from financial difficulties (E); For employment and college acceptance (E); Recovery and healing of a friend (C); For successful outcome to surgery (C); Healing for brother (M); Successful employment (C); For the victims of the Japanese tsunami/earthquake (J); Healing (E); For a son struggling with depression (B); Successful conception (M); Freedom from social anxiety; confidence in the Lord (J); Improved success in employment and studies (D); Freedom from illness (T); For a wife’s employment (E); Healing of a husband’s knee (M); Freedom from sickness (R); Healing (C); Restoration of marriage (F); Freedom from medical difficulties, employment, successful relationship (D); Healing of a father following stroke (S).