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The Legend of Dismas header image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Pauline Sanders


Many years ago, after Jesus was born, the evil King Herod waited for the three kings from the Orient to return to his kingdom with news of the newborn King. When they did not return, Herod grew afraid that this new King would cause him to lose his throne. Because of this, he ordered his soldiers to kill all the babies in Bethlehem, from those newly born up to two years of age.

 

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An Angel warns Joseph

Now, God the Father could not allow Herod’s men to kill the Infant Jesus, so He sent an angel to speak to Saint Joseph while he slept. The angel told Saint Joseph in a dream to take his family and flee with them to the land of Egypt, where they would be safe.

Image of the Flight into Egypt. Our lady is on the back of a donkey, holding baby Jesus, while Saint Joseph leads them. Saint Joseph woke up and prepared in great haste to leave their simple home.

When the time came to leave, Mary the mother of Jesus woke her Infant, Who wept a little, as might any little child who is suddenly awakened in the middle of the night.

But Our Lady soothed Him tenderly, cooing and kissing Him reverently until He became quiet again.

Saint Joseph placed the Mother and the Holy Child on a donkey and set off for Egypt.

Now, Egypt could only be reached by crossing a vast desert, which the Holy Family had to cross without much food or drink, for they were very poor.

Sometimes, they suffered much from hunger, not having anything to eat the whole day, and at night they had little protection against the bitter cold. Our Lady was sad because the baby in her arms shivered with cold and cried. So it was that the Holy Family suffered terrible hardships on their way to Egypt.

 

Miracles in the desert

Nevertheless, nature came to their aid time and time again in a miraculous way. Once, when the Holy Family was very hungry, they came to a place in the desert where a fig tree stood, laden with fruit. The fruit was too high for Saint Joseph to reach, so the tree bent its branches so that Mary and Joseph could help themselves to as much fruit as they needed for Jesus and themselves.

Another time, when they had gone all day without eating, Our Lady, using her power as queen of the angels, commanded them to help with some nourishment. Thousands of angels rushed to help the Holy Family, bringing them heavenly juices and delicious food. They also walked with the Holy Family during the night, and their brilliance lit up the way as if it were a sunny day!

 

The den of thieves

One night, after many long days on their journey, the Holy Family came to a very desolate place, one full of great danger, for a gang of thieves hid in nearby caves and assaulted lonely pilgrims. From their lookouts, they watched Holy Family coming closer and closer, and at the opportune moment, pounced on them.

However, the minute they looked at the beautiful child, a bright ray, like an arrow, penetrated the heart of the leader. Strangely moved, the thief had a change of heart. He ordered his fellow robbers not to harm the holy pilgrims and to the gang’s surprise, invited the Holy Family to dine with him at his house.

The robber told his wife how strangely his heart had been moved, and while many of the thieves shyly looked on, the woman brought the awe-inspiring pilgrims little rolls, fruits, honeycomb, and juice.

 

Baby Jesus’s bath

After they had eaten, Our Lady asked the robber’s wife for some water to bathe her child. The woman brought a tub filled with water and stood by with her husband as Our Lady tenderly washed the desert dust from the Infant Jesus. The husband and his whole gang of thieves were deeply moved by the appearance of the Holy Family, whose charm, beauty, and goodness wrought a change of heart in nearly all who came into contact with them.

Our Lady bathes the baby Jesus while young Dismas and his mother watchOur Lady was so beautiful and queenly that it is said that people came out of their homes to gaze at her as she walked by.

She was not only sweet, and wise, but full of life and holy counsels. Saint Joseph and the Infant Jesus also touched hearts in a similar manner. Imagine what manner of grace and splendor they brought into that dingy den of robbers and sinners!

At a certain moment the robber whispered to his wife, “This Hebrew child is no ordinary child. Ask the Lady to allow us to wash our leprous son in His bath water, for it may do him some good.”

Before the wife approached the Blessed Mother with this request, Our Lady turned to her and kindly instructed her to wash her boy in that same water.

The poor couple’s son was really terribly afflicted by this horrible disease. At Our Lady’s word, the woman hurried to the darkest corner of the room and lifted her three-year old boy, whose limbs were stiff from the leprosy.

As she lowered the child into the basin, she saw the leprous scabs fall from his body as soon as the water touched it.

Everyone watched in wonder as the boy became clean and healthy once again.

The woman, beside herself with joy, ran to embrace Our Lady and the Infant Jesus, but Mary gently warded her off. She told her to save the water in a hole in a rock for similar future uses, then spoke to her for a long time, counseling her to escape from her home among the thieves at the first opportunity. The woman promised, and in fact, did leave them later on and joined the women at the balsam garden.

Early the next morning, the Holy Family left the den of thieves with their host and hostess leading the way past the snares set up for travelers. When at last, they had to take leave of the Holy Family, the husband and wife expressed their deep feelings, beseeching them, “Remember us wherever you go!” The region where all this took place was called Gaza, the last town before passing into Egypt.

 

Thirty years later

Thirty years passed. As the Child grew wondrously in holiness and beauty, the robber’s child also grew, but in wickedness and sin. Then, Savior and the robber found themselves side by side once again on wooden crosses.

The One was the Son of God, sinless and innocent, suffering to free us all from the bonds of sin. And the other?

Ah! Poor Dismas, thy first
leprosy was fair
To that which now disfigures
thy poor soul.
No water from His bath will
cleanse thee now,
His blood alone hath power to
make thee whole.
A thousand worlds in one
blood-crimson bath.
With godlike prodigality it pours,
In such strong streams that even crimes like thine
Are borne away in its
irresistible flood!*


Jesus hung between the two thieves, bleeding, silent, dying. His sacrifice had been made. Dismas looked at Him, and his heart was moved as strangely as his father’s had been long ago when looking into the face of the King of kings. He suddenly saw the hideousness of the life he had led and knew that he deserved to hang there on this awful cross. But this other Man, this Jesus who was called the Son of God, He was surely innocent!

Two crosses, one with Christ dying, and one with Saint Dismas looking up at HimAnd then he looked down on the beautiful, tear-stained face of the sorrowful mother, her eyes fixed on her dying Son.

He knew that face!

He remembered those sweet eyes looking down on him in that bath so long ago!

Now his heart was pierced. Gratitude, that wondrous virtue that dissipates darkness and sin flooded his soul.

Suddenly he knew that the leprosy of old was nothing compared to the horrible crimes on his soul.

As his blood-shot eyes filled, he suddenly knew Who that Babe had been.

He drew in a ragged breath and addressed Jesus: “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”

Ah! what strange echoes those familiar words must have rung in Our Lady’s memory!
And Jesus, lifting His dying gaze to the face of the thief, promptly offered him this everlasting promise:

“This day, Dismas, you will be with me in Paradise!”

 


(*) A Legend of St. Dismas and Other Poems, Copyright by P. J. Kenedy and Sons. 1927, p. 18.
Illustrations by A.F.Phillips

 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for July 23, 2019

Behold Jesus Christ crucified, Who is the only foundation of...

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July 23

 

Behold Jesus Christ crucified, Who is the only foundation of our hope;
He is our Mediator and Advocate; the victim and sacrifice for our sins.
He is goodness and patience itself;
His mercy is moved by the tears of sinners, and
He never refuses pardon and grace to those who ask it
with a truly contrite and humbled heart.

St. Charles Borromeo


PLEDGE REPARATION TO OUR LADY HERE!

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Bridget of Sweden

Her favorite son became entangled with Queen Joanna I who wa...

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St. Bridget of Sweden

Bridget was nobly born, her father was Birger, the governor of Upland in Sweden, and her mother, Ingeborg, was the daughter of the governor of East Gothland.

At fourteen she was married to young Ulf Gudmarsson, to whom she was happily married for twenty-eight years and had eight children, four boys and four girls, one of whom was St. Catherine of Sweden.

In 1335, she was appointed lady-in-waiting to King Magnus II’s bride, Blanche of Namur, and she spent years at court trying to reform Magnus’ weak, and at times, wicked ways, and the queen’s often well-meaning, but irresponsible, bend.

Though Bridget’s famous visions were already under way at this time, spanning subjects from personal hygiene to politics, she did not have great success with her royal “charges”, and was often seen as a “dreamer.”

After her husband’s death in 1344, she founded an order of women and another of men to support them spiritually. When her order was established, she traveled to Rome accompanied by her daughter Catherine and some disciples, to seek approval of her Rule. But she was never to return to her native Sweden.

In Rome, she worked to bring back the Papacy, then in the French city of Avignon, to the Eternal City. Her visions and prophecies, dealing with the burning political and religious issues of her time, continued and so increased that, alarmed, she submitted them to the direction of Canon Matthias of Linkoping who pronounced them to be of God. Peter, Prior of Alvastra, recorded these visions in Latin.

Her order was only approved by Pope Urban V in 1370.

In 1373 she made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, with Catherine and three of her sons. At Naples, Charles, her favorite son, became entangled with Queen Joanna I who wanted to marry him despite both being already married (Joana thrice). Anguished, Bridget stormed heaven, and Charles, struck by a fever, after two weeks died in his mother’s arms.

Returning from Jerusalem, Bridget, already ailing, received the last rites from her faithful friend, Peter of Alvastra, and died on July 23 at the age of seventy-one.

Bridget was canonized in 1391, and is the patron saint of the Kingdom of Sweden. She is also considered one of the patron saints of Europe.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the days of yore, when travel must be had on foot or by h...

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The Virgin Mary Rewards a Bandit

In the days of yore, when travel must be had on foot or by horse, many were the dangers to be found along the roadways. Bandits plagued travelers and made their living by depriving others of their goods and often their very lives.

A young woman in the Papal States, who was very devout towards Mary, met in a certain place a chief of the bandits. Fearing some outrage, she implored him, for love of the most holy Virgin, not to molest her.

"Do not fear," he answered, "for you have prayed me in the name of the mother of God; and I only ask you to recommend me to her." Moved by the woman’s mention of the Blessed Virgin, the bandit accompanied her himself along the road to a place of safety.

The following night, Mary appeared in a dream to the bandit. She thanked him for the act of kindness he had performed for love of her. Mary went on to say that she would remember it and would one day reward him.

The robber, at length, was arrested, and condemned to death. But behold, the night previous to his execution, the blessed Virgin visited him again in a dream, and first asked him: "Do you know who I am?"

He answered, "It seems to me I have seen you before."

"I am the Virgin Mary," she continued, "and I have come to reward you for what you have done for me. You will die tomorrow, but you will die with so much contrition that you will come at once to paradise."

The convict awoke, and felt such contrition for his sins that he began to weep bitterly, all the while giving thanks aloud to our Blessed Lady. He asked immediately for a priest, to whom he made his confession with many tears, relating the vision he had seen. Finally, he asked the priest to make public this grace that had been bestowed on him by Mary.

He went joyfully to his execution, after which, as it is related, his countenance was so peaceful and so happy that all who saw him believed that the promise of the heavenly mother had been fulfilled.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

In the days of yore, when travel must be had on foot or by horse, many were the dangers to be found along the roadways.

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