25 March: Feast of St Dismas, the Good Thief “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.

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!


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.

This is another proof that 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.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Pingback: 25 March: Feast of St Dismas, the Good Thief “who stole Heaven” | Catholicism Pure & Simple

  2. OldProfK says:

    Father, I’m grateful that you keep exhorting us to confession. After reading your blog for a couple of years now, I finally went for the first time in 25 years (the Saturday after Ash Wednesday). Thank you again.

    [This made me choke up. Thanks for relating this. I hope many people who haven’t been in sometime will see this and be moved finally to go.]

  3. misanthrope says:

    Add another beneficiary of your exhortations; first confession in three years this past Tuesday. Very grateful, Father Z.

    Regarding Dismas – I recall reading something in Anne Catherine Emmerich’s visions about his having seen the Christ Child during the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt, though I thought he was at the time a young son of a family of robbers who took them in and provided food and shelter during the journey. I could be mistaken as it’s been a few years since I have read that part.

    I find Emmerich’s recounting of the Passion of our Lord exemplary Lenten reading. I recall many of the things she relates having made it into Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion of the Christ’.

    Thanks again Father for your prodding….

  4. Mike says:

    Such GREAT news when a soul gets to confession after a long time.

    I’ve a question on this feast day’s name:

    I’ve heard a cantor and a priest pointedly refer to it as “the annunciation of Our Lord”. Isn’t it the annunciation of OUR LADY? That is, it is announced TO her after she gives her consent, that she will bear in her womb the Savior?

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