25 March: Feast of The Good Thief, St. Dismas… who stole heaven

Titian_Christ_Good_Thief_Dismas_smToday is Lady Day, the Feast of the Annunciation, the instant of the Incarnation.

However, 25 March is also the Feast of the Good Thief, St. Dismas!

Fulton Sheen famously quipped of this thief-saint that he “stole heaven”.  A good thief indeed!

Many saints have their feast days assigned to the day when they were born into heaven (read: died).  There is a tradition that that first Good Friday was on the same day as the Annunciation, 25 March.   That doesn’t seem right, but it’s a good story.

Luke 23:39-43:

And one of those robbers who were hanged, [Gesmas] blasphemed him, saying: If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. But the other [Dismas] answering, rebuked him, saying: Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art condemned under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this man hath done no evil. And he said to Jesus: Lord, remember me when thou shalt come into thy kingdom. And Jesus said to him: Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise.

It makes the heart ache, to read these words addressed to that penitent sinner.  Would that they were address to each one of us.

But wait!  They can be.

Holy Church has the Lord’s own authority to forgive sins, to loose and to bind!

It is exercised by His bishops and priests!


It might be a challenge in this time of coronovirus pandemic, but perhaps you can get informed about the creative solutions priests have found in your area.  The steal away like a thief and lift your state of grace.

There is, by the way, a legend that, during the Holy Family’s flight from Herod to Egypt, they ran into Dismas, who was exercising his trade of thievery.

Dismas was going to rob them, but seeing the Infant Jesus, he instead gave them shelter in his lair and let them go on their way without harming them.  Dismas would continue to be a nefarious ne’er-do-well.  His intellect still darkened by sin on Calvary kept him from recognizing Christ’s Mother.

Sin makes you stupid.

Finally, Fathers, mark on your calendar that in the back of your traditional Missale Romanum there is a Mass formulary for the 2nd Sunday of October  in honor of the Good Thief for use in prisons and in houses of reform of mores and of the discipline of amendment

Daniel Mitsui – Crucifixion



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Marius2k4 says:

    I love Daniel Mitsui, but regarding the Hebrew inscription, I prefer the Hebrew to read “???? ????? ???? ???????”. You could even throw in an extra ? between “and” (?) and “king” (???), and it could still be part of the same word group in Hebrew.

    “Yeshua Ha’nazorai Va’ha’melech Ha’yehudim”. The Tetragrammaton (YHVH/????) becomes much more apparent, and the request of the priests of Pilate to change it would make more sense. The divine name “He is” was essentially inscribed as Jesus’ epitaph.

  2. Marius2k4 says:

    We’ve also learned that at least this implementation of WordPress seems to lack Hebrew language support. Noted.

  3. JustaSinner says:

    Father Z, a question here. Many just semantics, but Our Lord tells Dismas that he will be with Him in paradise THAT DAY, emphasis added by me. But did not Jesus die, then descended into Hell and arose the THIRD DAY? I know Jesus was never confused, but maybe the gospel writers???

  4. monstrance says:

    To Dismas – it will seem like the very same day, for it will be his next moment of consciousness.

    Fr Z – I have often had Protestants use these passages in an attempt to prove their -“just accept Jesus and you’re saved “. None of that Catholic stuff – Baptism, “works”, etc are needed.
    As if Dismas isn’t doing anything as he suffers and hangs on a cross next to the God Man on Calvary.
    A rather unique opportunity for the thief.

  5. Imrahil says:

    I personally would solve the question the dear JustaSinner posed in the following manner:

    Our Lord was saying that St. Dismas would come to the Limbo of the Fathers that same day. The Limbo of the Fathers, also called Bosom of Abraham (at least then, with Abraham still present), is not usually called Paradise, but even in its normal state constituted absence of all other pain except lack of body and lack of Divine vision (but sure expectation of both). Now, in addition (as it were), the Word Incarnate comes to this very place; sure “Paradise” is a fitting term to apply to this place for these 33 hours of world history? After all, its original use was on what was, even with the Tree of Life and all, a garden of terrestrial material.

  6. bobbird says:

    The late Catholic historian Warren Carroll places Good Friday as April 7, 30 AD, so I use that in whatever lectures I give. This is calculating Jesus’ birth as 4 BC [and there is no “Year Zero”]. However, for serious historians this has always been an exercise in nailing jello to the wall, so any disagreement is worth discussing. Some even still go with the date 33 AD. Fr. Z’s opinion would be interesting to hear, but no doubt this is insignificant in the Overall View of His life and Passion.

  7. Chuck4247 says:

    From where did we learn the names of the saints on the other two crosses?

Comments are closed.