MartRom 25 March: The Good Thief

I almost forget… today is the feast day of the Good Thief.

In the 2005 Martyrologium Romanum.

2. Commemoratio sancti latronis, qui, in cruce Christum confessus, ab eo meruit audire: «Hodie mecum eris in paradiso».

I find it quite appropriate that today should be the day for his feast.

Can anyone guess at why I think today is a good day for his feast (aside from any historical connection maybe to a translation of relics, etc., of which I am unaware)?

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  1. Geoffrey says:

    I noticed that today in the “old” Martyrology (which I use because the new one is not yet in English). Did history give him a name? I can’t remember…

  2. Geoffrey: Indeed, yes. Tradition names him St. Dismas.

  3. John F. says:

    St. Dismas

  4. John says:

    A guess why you think today might be a good day for his feast–

    “Today you will be with me in paradise.” We celebrate St. Dismus’s re-entering into paradise with Christ on the same day that Christ himself left paradise in the incarnation.

  5. Joshua says:

    Ancient tradition is that Christ died the same day that He was conceived, indeed it is through the belief that He died March 25 that it was held that He was conceived March 25. hence this is the day that St. Dismas died [Right. There is part of the connection.]

  6. Geoffrey says:

    St. Dismas! I thought so. I was getting confused between Dismas and Longinus… I guess the Church in the martyrology officially leaves him nameless since it isn’t in Sacred Scripture?

    And I was going to say “because it’s Lent!” but I knew it couldn’t be that easy! John’s guess seems the most logical.

  7. I’ve heard the same thing Joshua has heard. Wasn’t there some Jewish tradition that prophets died on the days of their conception, or something like that?

  8. Ioannes Andreades says:

    In 2016 Good Friday falls on March 25, for what it’s worth.

  9. Andrew says:

    In addition to what Joshua notes, some traditions hold that the Creation began on the equivalent of March 25th (5199 BC), the Savior who “make[s] all things new” was conceived on this day, and the final act by which He accomplished this occurred on this day.

  10. Father Bartoloma says:

    Perhaps, standing at the foot of the Cross, Our Lady also took note of this man and prayed for his conversion of heart as her heart was being pierced. For that reason, on the same day as a great Marian feast day that is close to passiontide and the triduum I think that it is a fitting day in the Calendar for the good thief.

  11. perhaps there is a parallel between the Annunciation made by the Archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary and the announcement made by Our Divie Lord to Saint Dismas (‘this day you will be with Me in Paradise’) [This comes close to what I was thinking.]

  12. WillyJ says:

    I guess in the lesson of humility depicted on both feasts on March 25. “May it be done to me according to your will” and “Remember me when you come into your kingdom”

  13. MBarcikowski says:

    In the calendar of Polish archdiocese of Przemysl St. Dismas (“Swiety Dyzma” in Polish) is venerated today (March 26th) as a patron saint of this archdiocese.

  14. prof. basto says:

    It is always a great emotion to recite in the “Adoro Te devote”:

    In cruce latebat sola Deitas, at hic latet simul et humanitas; ambo tamen credens atque confitens, peto quod petivit latro paenitens

  15. Gregory DiPippo says:

    In confirmation of Joshua’s comment: the belief that Christ’s earthly life before the Resurrection was a perfect cycle of years, and that His death therefore took place on the same day as His Incarnation, is extremely ancient. In fact, the choice of date for Christmas is probably based on it, rather than the other way around. In many medieval liturgical books, March 25 is noted as both the Incarnation and Passion of the Lord, and even though Easter has always been a mobile feast, many of the same Calendars note “Resurrectio Domini” on March 27th. The post-Communion of the Annuntiation, which is also the collect of the Angelus, makes explicit reference to this association of the Incarnation with the Passion and Resurrection.

    GRATIAM tuam, quæsumus, Domine, mentibus nostris infunde; ut qui, Angelo nuntiante, Christi Filii tui incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem ejus et crucem ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. [Yes. I noticed that yesterday. It was really a COLLECT, so its placement at the end of that Mass formulary is a significant choice.]

    Re: 2016. Anyone who is interested in the Byzantine Rite, make a point of going to your local Byzantine church on Good Friday of that year. The Annuntiation is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Byz. rite, officilly designated the “Evangelismos – receiving of the Gospel” of the Virgin Mary. Because of the feast’s traditional association with the Passion, when the Annuntiation falls on Good Friday, the Byzantine rite celebrates the Mass of the Annuntiation in the morning, where normally there is no Mass on that day as in the Western Rites.

  16. William Tighe says:

    Perhaps of interest:

    It would appear that as early as the Third Century some Latin Christians had come to believe that the crucifixion of Christ occurred on March 25, 29 AD (as we would reckon it), and that therefore his conception (or, for some few, his birth) on March 25 as well (and his birth, therefore, on December 25). Many Eastern Christians, by contrast, dated his death on the Greek 14 Artemision, taken to be the equivalent of the Jewish 14 Nisan; 14 Artemision became 6 April when the Roman Calendar replaced the earlier calendar in the Greek world towards the end of the Third Century; and as a result the Easterns celebrated his various “manifestations” (birth/visit of the magi/baptism) or “epiphanies” on 6 January. It was only in the latter decades of the Fourth Century that the Easterners accepted the Western 25 December “nativity” and the Westerners the Eastern 6 January “epiphany” (save for the Armenians, who have never accepted the 25 December nativity).

    Touchstone has just published my article on the Egyptian Origins of Lent:

    and perhaps next year will publish my article on the Origins of Easter as “the Lord’s Passover.”

  17. Ed Peters says:

    What good ideas! I like them all.

  18. Peter Kwasniewski says:

    Adam fell by taking hold of the forbidden fruit through pride.
    The good thief on the cross took hold of the once-forbidden fruit of paradise through humility.
    The Word became flesh to make this holy thievery possible. [“holy thievery”… good]

  19. Some of you are thinking along the same line that I am.

    In the moment of the Incarnation, Christ begins His saving work. In the moment of His Passion He saves the Good Thief, a first fruit of His mission as it were.

  20. irishgirl says:

    Speaking of dates: in 1429, the year that St. Joan of Arc liberated Orleans, France, Annunciation Day and Good Friday fell on March 25.

    One of the big pilgrimage centers in France during the Middle Ages was the shrine of Our Lady at LePuy [the ‘Black Virgin’]. St. Joan’s mother, Isabelle Romee, made the pilgrimage on foot to LePuy to pray for her daughter’s safety and success in her military campaign. She met Friar Pasquerel, the so-to-be confessor of her daughter, while at LePuy.

    I think it’s a wonderful instance of God’s providence that Our Lord was conceived in Our Lady’s womb and went back to His Father on the same date!

  21. J. C. Oberholzer says:

    My daughter-in-law delivered a healthy 10+pound baby boy yesterday on the
    Feast of the Annunciation. His name? What else: Gabriel Patrick!

  22. Lourdes says:

    Just a little trivia…Good Friday will fall on March 25th in the year 2016.

  23. T says:

    My favourite good thief witticism: The good thief stole all his life and in the end he stole heaven.

  24. Janet says:

    I can’t contribute anything intelligent to this conversation, but just wanted to say that I am delighted to have learned something new and fascinating in this thread. As a convert, there continue to be many details such as this, that I know nothing about (such as why the Church puts things where She puts them in the liturgical year).
    To think that Christ died on the same day of same month that he was conceived 30 or 33 yrs before… I never knew! I continue to find depths of meaning and beauty in the Catholic Church, and I am thankful God brought me ‘home’ to it! And Fr. Z, thank you for this blog. It is intelligent, informative, and just a breath of fresh air!

  25. This is why Frodo in The Lord of the Rings destroys the Ring on March 25.

    I have read that St. Dysmas is known as a martyr because he died for his proclamation of Christ. One of the early saints (I think it might be St. Augustine, but I can’t remember) explains that breaking the legs of criminals is not part of a crucifixion, but of another kind of execution. He thinks that the Jews asked for the legs of the two thieves to be broken out of anger at Dysmas’ proclamation of Christ’s innocence and kingship. They asked for both of the thieves’ legs to be broken to hide their true motivations.

  26. By the way, should St. Dysmas’ feast day be today, since according to tradition, the gates of heaven were not opened until Holy Saturday? Today would have been the day he entered heaven.

  27. Bonifacius says:


    A nice thought, but Our Lord tells the thief, “*Today* you will be with me in paradise.” St. Dismas was saved on Good Friday in that he entered the bosom of Abraham. Then he entered heaven on Holy Saturday. Of course, I think it’s kind of dicey to try to specify the order of events between Our Lord’s Death and Resurrection. I would think that everything in those ca. 40 hours was “Holy Saturday” in a sense.

  28. supertradmom says:

    A tangent…when the Annunciation falls on Good Friday, I stop and read the great English Metaphysical poet John Donne’s poems “The Annunciation and the Passion” and “Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward” here copied for your perusal.

    by John Donne

    TAMELY, frail body, abstain to-day ; to-day
    My soul eats twice, Christ hither and away.
    She sees Him man, so like God made in this,
    That of them both a circle emblem is,
    Whose first and last concur ; this doubtful day
    Of feast or fast, Christ came, and went away ;
    She sees Him nothing, twice at once, who’s all ;
    She sees a cedar plant itself, and fall ;
    Her Maker put to making, and the head
    Of life at once not yet alive, yet dead ;
    She sees at once the Virgin Mother stay
    Reclused at home, public at Golgotha ;
    Sad and rejoiced she’s seen at once, and seen
    At almost fifty, and at scarce fifteen ;
    At once a son is promised her, and gone ;
    Gabriell gives Christ to her, He her to John ;
    Not fully a mother, she’s in orbity ;
    At once receiver and the legacy.
    All this, and all between, this day hath shown,
    Th’ abridgement of Christ’s story, which makes one—
    As in plain maps, the furthest west is east—
    Of th’ angels Ave, and Consummatum est.
    How well the Church, God’s Court of Faculties,
    Deals, in sometimes, and seldom joining these.
    As by the self-fix’d Pole we never do
    Direct our course, but the next star thereto,
    Which shows where th’other is, and which we say
    —Because it strays not far—doth never stray,
    So God by His Church, nearest to him, we know,
    And stand firm, if we by her motion go.
    His Spirit, as His fiery pillar, doth
    Lead, and His Church, as cloud ; to one end both.
    This Church by letting those days join, hath shown
    Death and conception in mankind is one ;
    Or ’twas in Him the same humility,
    That He would be a man, and leave to be ;
    Or as creation He hath made, as God,
    With the last judgment but one period,
    His imitating spouse would join in one
    Manhood’s extremes ; He shall come, He is gone ;
    Or as though one blood drop, which thence did fall,
    Accepted, would have served, He yet shed all,
    So though the least of His pains, deeds, or words,
    Would busy a life, she all this day affords.
    This treasure then, in gross, my soul, uplay,
    And in my life retail it every day.

    Donne, John. Poems of John Donne. vol I.
    E. K. Chambers, ed.
    London: Lawrence & Bullen, 1896. 170-171.

    by John Donne

    LET man’s soul be a sphere, and then, in this,
    Th’ intelligence that moves, devotion is ;
    And as the other spheres, by being grown
    Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
    And being by others hurried every day,
    Scarce in a year their natural form obey ;
    Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit
    For their first mover, and are whirl’d by it.
    Hence is’t, that I am carried towards the west,
    This day, when my soul’s form bends to the East.
    There I should see a Sun by rising set,
    And by that setting endless day beget.
    But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall,
    Sin had eternally benighted all.
    Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see
    That spectacle of too much weight for me.
    Who sees Gods face, that is self-life, must die ;
    What a death were it then to see God die ?
    It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink,
    It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink.
    Could I behold those hands, which span the poles
    And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes ?
    Could I behold that endless height, which is
    Zenith to us and our antipodes,
    Humbled below us ? or that blood, which is
    The seat of all our soul’s, if not of His,
    Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn
    By God for His apparel, ragg’d and torn ?
    If on these things I durst not look, durst I
    On His distressed Mother cast mine eye,
    Who was God’s partner here, and furnish’d thus
    Half of that sacrifice which ransom’d us ?
    Though these things as I ride be from mine eye,
    They’re present yet unto my memory,
    For that looks towards them ; and Thou look’st towards me,
    O Saviour, as Thou hang’st upon the tree.
    I turn my back to thee but to receive
    Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave.
    O think me worth Thine anger, punish me,
    Burn off my rust, and my deformity ;
    Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace,
    That Thou mayst know me, and I’ll turn my face.

    Donne, John. Poems of John Donne. vol I.
    E. K. Chambers, ed.
    London: Lawrence & Bullen, 1896. 172-173.

  29. Curtis says:

    Or from the Dies Irae:

    Qui Mariam absolvisti
    Et latronem exaudisti
    Mihi quoque spem dedisti

    Perhaps the “hope” is the connection?

  30. supertradmom says:

    And, in the old liturgy for Christmas Eve, which used to be the Feast of SS. Adam and Eve, one of the Propers referred to “the happy fault and necessary sin of Adam” said again in Holy Week. I remember thinking about this connection as a child.

  31. Fr. Dismas says:

    I cannot find it at this second, but there is a Mass for the “Good Thief” (the name “Dismas” is not used, just “Good Thief,” as you see on Fr. Z’s post) on October 12 that can be celebrated at prisons. Obviously, St. Dismas will get trumped by The Annunciation of Our Lord to Our Lady.

  32. Fr. Dismas says:

    Found it: post-conciliar, but here are the prayers:

    Ant. ad introitum: Ait latro ad Iesum: “Memento mei Domine, dum veneris in Regnum tuum.”
    Collecta: “Omnipotens et misericors Deus, qui iustificas peccatores, te supplices exoramus, ut nos benigno intuitu quo Unigenitus tuus beatum Latronem traxit, ad dignam paentitemtiam provoces, et illam quam ei promisit, tribuas nobis gloriam sempiternam. Per Dominum.”

    Lectio libri Isaiae prophetae: I, 16-18
    Psalmus Resp. : Ps 31, 1-2a. 5. 10b-11 (R: 1a)
    Alleluia: R. Alleluia. V. Iesu, memento mei, cum veneris in Regnum tuum. Alleluia.
    Lectio sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam 23, 39-43

    Super oblata: Haec oblatio nos, Domine, quasemus, ab omnibus purget offensis, quae in ara Crucis etiam totius mundi tulit offensa. Per Christum.

    Ant ad communionem: Amen, dico tibi: Hodie mecum eris in paradiso.

    Post communionem: Sumpta mysteria, quaesumus, Domine Iesu, ad illam felicitatem nos praeparent, quam in Crucis patibulo pendens Latroni confitenti misericorditer promisisti, Qui vivis.

    I apologize for any errors… typing in a hurry.
    (each Bishop’s conference must petition Rome to use this Mass)

  33. “This is why Frodo in The Lord of the Rings destroys the Ring on March 25.”

    And the Fellowship departs from Rivendell on December 25. All the principal action of The Lord of the Rings occurs between Christmas and the Annunciation (inclusive).

    Tolkien was a daily communicant too, btw.

  34. Geoffrey says:

    Wow! Mass propers for the Good Thief?! Is that in the new Missale Romanum or in a supplement for local celebrations?

  35. Fr Paul McDonald says:

    But our Lord *was* born on Dec 25 ! From the dead sea scrolls we know when Zechariah (of the abijah section of the priesthood according to St. Luke) was serving in the temple, thus when John the Baptist was born, and thus our Divine Lord.

  36. Matthew says:

    Bonifacius: “A nice thought, but Our Lord tells the thief, ‘*Today* you will be with me in paradise.’ St. Dismas was saved on Good Friday in that he entered the bosom of Abraham. Then he entered heaven on Holy Saturday.”

    Actually, the souls in Limbo did not enter Heaven until the Ascension. They could not be present there while our Lord was still on earth. He did not return to heaven until the Ascension, for after the Resurrection he tells St. Mary Magdalen that he has not yet ascended to the Father. Just one possible reference, the Baltimore Catechism makes this explicitly clear:

    Q. 416. Who were present at the ascension and who ascended with Christ?

    A. From various parts of Scripture we may conclude there were about 125 persons — though traditions tell us there was a greater number — present at the Ascension. They were the Apostles, the Disciples, the pious women and others who had followed Our Blessed Lord. **The souls of the just who were waiting in Limbo for the redemption ascended with Christ.**


    N.B. St. Dismas is also variously called St. Dimas.

  37. Mary says:

    Because he was saved with the help of the sufferings of Our Lady at the foot of the cross?

  38. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Fr. McDonald,
    The Gospel of Saint Luke tells us when Zacharias was serving, and we may be able to deduce from the DSS when exactly that was, but there could have been any (reasonable) length of time between Zacharias’ getting the news, and the actual conception of the Baptist.

  39. Stephen says:

    Pointless speculation-but maybe the Lord will return on some future March 25 to complete salvation history?

  40. Mary Firiel says:

    Matthew: “Actually, the souls in Limbo did not enter Heaven until the Ascension.”

    Yes, but time does not apply the dead in the same way as it does to earth. They’re in eternity. “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” cannot be a *lie*, so the Good Thief and all the Just could have gone to Heaven at the *act* of the Ascension but not the *date*, because in Heaven “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day.” (Sorry I don’t know what chapter and verse, or even what Book of the Bible that is. We can ask a Protestant. :) )

  41. Jordanes says:

    Father McDonald said: But our Lord was born on Dec 25 ! From the dead sea scrolls we know when Zechariah (of the Abijah section of the priesthood according to St. Luke) was serving in the temple, thus when John the Baptist was born, and thus our Divine Lord.

    The Dead Sea Scrolls, and later rabbinic tradition, show that the 24 priestly divisions had two rotations in the Temple every year, because there are about 50 weeks in the year and 24 x 2 = 48. In addition, all 24 priestly divisions served in the Temple simultaneously during the festivals of Passover and Tabernacles, because the great number of pilgrims offering sacrifices required their presence. St. Luke does not indicate Zacharias was there on account of the holy days, so it must have been one of his division’s regular rotations. So, as a priest of the division of Abijah, there are two possible times when Zacharias could have been served at the time the angel appeared to him, in the spring or in the fall. (St. John Chrysostom mistakenly thought Zacharias was the high priest and that the angelic apparition was on the Day of Atonement/Yom Kippur, but St. Luke says that Zacharias was a priest of the division of Abijah serving as such, not the high priest.) If Zacharias was serving in the spring, then Jesus was born in the autumn, around the time of the fall festivals. If Zacharias was serving in the fall, then Jesus was born in the winter, around the time of Hanukkah, which begins on the 25th day of Kislev, roughly equivalent to December.

    Mary said: “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” cannot be a lie, so the Good Thief and all the Just could have gone to Heaven at the act of the Ascension but not the date

    Traditionally it has been believed that Paradise was the Limbo of the Fathers prior to Christ’s descent into hell, after which Paradise was transferred by Christ beyond the confines of the earth. In that scenario, Jesus would be saying that he and the thief would descend that day into the Limbo of the Fathers, where Jesus would liberate the souls of the Old Testament saints who awaited the Messiah.

  42. Domine Non Sum Dignus says:

    The date of March 25, 29 A.D. was was mentioned above as being the First Good Friday (by William Tighe). Through my reading of Mother Mary of Agreda and other sources, I thought the Roman Martyrology stated (or would that be implied) that March 25, 35 A.D. was the first Good Friday. (Either way, March 25th in both 29 A.D. and 35 A.D. occurred on Fridays.)

    But I had also heard that in 35 A.D., March 25 aligns with the Jewish Passover. (I don’t know about 29 A.D.) Also significant is that March 25, 1 A.D. is reckoned as the very first day of Anno Domini (i.e, the day before was as March 24, 1 B.C. — there was no Year Zero). Also, through 1752, in Great Britain (when they finally accepted the Gregorian Calendar, declaring that the day after Wednesday September 2, 1752 would be Thursday, September 14, 1752), New Year’s Day was still March 25th. In other words, in the Colonies, the date on which George Washington was born it was reckoned as February 11, 1731 (which by the Gregorian Calendar was February 22, 1732) — because in the “Old Style” (as it came to be called decades later), March 24, 1731 was followed by March 25, 1732.

    It does makes sense that Anno Domini (and New Year’s Day, for that matter) would be on March 25th — the Annunciation — the Day on which the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us.

  43. William Tighe says:

    If we follow the Gospel of John (as all of the early Church Fathers appear to have done, save for Tertullian and St. Cyprian) and postulate that Christ was crucified on Friday, 14 Nisan, the Eve of Passover (and not Passover Day) — which would make the Last Supper not a Passover seder, but a meal celebrated 24 hours earlier — then the only possible dates for the crucifixion would have been Friday, 7 April AD 30 or Friday, 3 April AD 33. In the year 29, the date on which 14 Nisan would most likely have fallen (for the Jewish calendar was a lunar calendar rather than a solar calendar) would have been Monday, 18 April (or just possibly Sunday the 17th) — and while in that year March 25th would have fallen upon a Friday it would be some three weeks earlier than Passover, and so is simply an impossibility as the date of the crucifixion.

    There is no historical basis for making December 25th the actual date of Christ’s birth, and certainly not the Dead Sea Scrolls, since the Temple literature of the Qumran sectaries is concerned with how the Temple ought to be run and its feasts calculated, not how it was actually done at the time, for they believed that the Temple had been profaned by an intruded line of high-priests, and were concerned with restoring it to what they reckoned was the true calendar.

    If, however, we were to postulate that Christ was crucified on Passover Day, on Friday, 15 Nisan, then we might consider Friday, 11 April AD 27 and Friday, 23 April AD 34 (and in the latter year only if a leap-month had been inserted into the Jewish calendar, as was done every few years, usually in the Spring) as well, but both years seem almost impossible on historical grounds, the one too early, the other too late.

  44. William Tighe says:

    See: “Dating the Crucifixion,” by Colin J. Humphreys & W. G. Waddington, *Nature,* Vol. 306, 22/29 December 1983, pp. 743-746.

  45. Fr. Dismas says:

    I’ve heard of St. Dismas being mentioned as accompanying Our Lord in the “hallowing of hell” (the opening of the Limbo of the Fathers), in art and apocrypha, but I don’t have any sources for that (aside from a history of religious art class I took).

  46. Fr. Dismas says:

    Oh, and in one of the near-Eastern traditions there’s a somewhat humorous hymn where the angel guarding Paradise and St. Dismas have a back-and-forth, St. Dismas arguing with the angel to let him in, and the angel essentially “not getting the memo yet from the Boss.”

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