Difficulty to Track
Writing a biography about a saint requires thorough research, reading and cross-referencing with other sources. What if there are no existing sources for us to know a saint’s life? That sure is a very difficult task! This is the case of St. Dismas.
The valid information that we could get about Dismas comes from the Gospels. All of the four Gospels recount that when the Lord Jesus Christ was condemned and crucified, there were two others who were crucified with Him:
“Two revolutionaries were crucified with him, one on his right and the other on his left.” (Matthew 27:38)
“With him they crucified two revolutionaries, one on his right and one on his left.” (Mark 15:27)
“Now two others, both criminals, were led away with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left.” (Luke 23:32-33)
“There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle.” (John 19:18)
The Gospels all agree that there were two others who were crucified with Jesus. However, all of the Gospels did not indicate the names of these two. Instead, they were called “criminals” or “revolutionaries”. So, the name “Dismas” was given by writers or from stories and legends. The name first appeared in the 4th-century Gospel of Nicodemus, an apocryphal literature. The same document also gave a name to the other criminal. He was named Gestas.
Contrition Brought Him Redemption
The Gospel of Luke dedicated some verses that recount the conversation between Jesus and Dismas (see Luke 23:39-43). Dismas became quite sobered during their crucifixion. In the midst of his agony, he had recognized both his wrongdoings and who Jesus was. He was filled with regret and humility. This brought in him a new hope and faith. After Gestas reviled and mocked Jesus, even demanding Him to do something about their situation, it was Dismas who stepped in and defended Jesus. It was him who reminded Gestas that they had done evil, and that they deserved the punishment they were suffering. Clearly, Dismas pointed out that Jesus was innocent and therefore undeserving of the gruesome punishment of crucifixion.
As his heart and mind transformed, Dismas came to know that he was beside a Man of love, forgiveness and power. Though undeserving and ashamed, Dismas decided to risk a request to Jesus: that He remember him when Jesus comes to His kingdom. Jesus responded with much assurance: “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43). The next thing that we know about Dismas and his fellow criminal was that their legs were broken to hasten their death (see John 19:32).
Dismas’ example reminds us that despite being a great sinner, with humility and contrition, there is still hope and encouragement for all. The Memorial of St. Dismas falls on March 25, coinciding the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord.
5 Interesting Facts About St. Dismas
- St. Dismas is the patron saint of condemned prisoners, death row prisoners, dying people, funeral directors, penitent criminals, prison chaplains, prisoners, prisoners on death row, prisons and reformed thieves.
- St. Dismas is also referred to as “The Good Thief” or “The Repentant Thief”.
- The name “Dismas” in Greek means “sunset”, “to the west” or simply “dying”.
- A legend from the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy says that Dismas and Gestas actually had a run-in with the Holy Family when they were fleeing to Egypt. Apparently, according to the story, Dismas bribed Gestas with forty drachmas to not harm the Holy Family. The story continued that the Child Jesus prophesied that Dismas and Gestas would be crucified with Him in Jerusalem someday, and that Dismas would accompany Him to Paradise.
- Majority of Bible scholars agree that Dismas and Gestas were revolutionaries or rebels, not mere thieves. The capital punishment of crucifixion was reserved to the most horrible crimes during the time, one of which was rebellion and treason.
Prayer to St. Dismas
Lord Jesus, help us to be merciful as You are merciful.Let us see that all are Your children and remember that we are not to judge.When we look on one such as Dismas,let us see an opportunity to offer hope and salvation.Let us witness the good news of salvation to the sinnerand never judge anyone as unworthy or hopeless.Just as Dismas repented at the last moments of his life on earth,let us see that this is great hope for alland grant that we never grow weary in our effortsto bring the light of salvation to all. Amen.