St Dimas was the good thief, one of the two crucified with Christ, the one who told his partner to shut up and stop taunting Jesus and then asked Jesus to put in a good word for him with God.
One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!"
But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong."
Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.
Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."
Dimas is the patron saint of thieves. He is not their patron saint the way St Anthony is the patron saint of lost items. You pray to St Anthony to help you find something you've misplaced, like when your car keys have gone missing. You don't pray to St Dimas to help you pull off a heist. You pray to him when your conscience is bothering you and you want to go straight. Which is why all of us can pray to him, not just those of us who have trouble with the notion of private property. All of us need to give up our lives of crime and go straight. But criminals get so much else wrong, I figure those of them who've heard of St Dimas probably get this one wrong too and wind up praying to him for aid and guidance.
"St Dimas, please. Make the cop on the beat suddenly hungry for a donut. Cause the alarms not to sound and any possible witnesses to forget their glasses. And please, see to it that the owner of the store left the money in the cash drawer because he was in too much of a hurry to get home to screw his wife, he didn't want to waste time making the night deposit. And please, please, if none of this works out, let me get a halfway decent lawyer who paid attention in night school and a judge who I remind him of his best friend from grade school, the guy who saved his life in the war. Thank you. Amen."
Anyway, I'm wondering if the thieves going around the area swiping religious statues from people's lawns pray to St Dimas, and which way.
So far they've taken a couple Virgin Marys and an Infant of Prague that weighed 280 pounds. Police figure it's kids stealing the statues for the fun of it. It's not as if there's a thriving black market in lawn ornamentation of any kind. These statues aren't on their way to Russia like a batch of stolen BMWs. In fact, all three have turned up, the worse for wear, dumped by the thieves for whom the fun probably wore off pretty quickly when the statues began to get too heavy to carry anymore. One of the Marys was pulled from Tin Brook yesterday, in pieces, unfortunately.
But maybe it was a case that St Dimas got to them, without their having called on him, and their consciences began to bother them. I hope so.
The Infant of Prague belonged to a Vietnam vet who put it out on his lawn in memory of a buddy.
Ernest and Joe fought in Vietnam and wound up stateside in the same military hospital. Joe lost his sight in the war. To calm him during their convalescence, Ernest prayed to the Infant Jesus of Prague for the return of Joe's sight.
Ernest had prayed to the statue of miracles once as a boy in a Canadian church. "After that, my life changed," he assured Joe. "It's like I went through life with a shield of armor." He told his friend he would return there to pray for Joe's eyesight.
Ernest never made it to the church to ask the icon for help and Joe has since passed away. But years later, Ernest remembered his promise and ordered an Italian white-marble Infant Jesus of Prague for his home's yard.
(From the story by Alexa James in yesterday's Times Herald-Record.)
Many non-Catholics think Catholics pray to their statues. They think this because a lot of Catholics do pray to their statues. We're not supposed to. Statues are meant to be aids to prayer, meditating on them is supposed to help us focus. But people being people, some of us get confused, and the statues take on life in our imaginations. They become animated with the spirits of whatever saints or angels they're meant only to represent.
So it's not surprising non-Catholics think of us as a cult of idol worshippers sometimes. Those of us who keep seeing the images of the Blessed Virgin and Jesus in grilled cheese sadnwiches and in rust stains on the walls of highway underpasses don't help with our public relations.
Not surprisingly, many Catholics are touchy on the subject. One of the touchy kind is a reader of the newspaper and after the first story appeared yesterday she called up the city desk to lecture the editor on the Church's teachings on statuary and other religious icons. The reader finished her theology lesson by sniffing, "You really should have some practicing Catholics working there to explain these things to you."
"You're speaking to one," the editor replied with the forgiving calmness of a saint.
The reader sputtered. The editor twisted the knife.
"And the reporter who wrote the story is too."
St Francis de Sales is the patron saint of journalists. I'm thinking somebody should buy that editor a statue of St Francis for her desk as a reward for her presence of mind.
Of course, somebody might steal it. Those statue thieves are still at large.
Maybe she should get a statue of St Dimas to go with it.