Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

St. Tarcisius, Boy Martyr

June 26th, 2011, Promulgated by Diane Harris

A Corpus Christi Reflection

Long, long ago, when Catholic Schools were run primarily by religious orders and it was unusual to find a lay teacher, every student learned the story of St. Tarcisius.  It was one of the stories in the third grade reader, and produced much discussion in the classroom.

Tarcisius is said to have been about 12 years old, and to have lived in the third century.  What little is known of him comes from a poem composed by Pope Damasus I, about a century later.  As the story in the readers recounted, Tarcisius one day was carrying the Holy Eucharist to prisoners awaiting martyrdom under Valerian.  Instead of a priest, he went because he was less recognizable.  He was accosted by a gang of youths who wanted whatever he was carrying so close to his heart.  When he wouldn’t surrender the Blessed Sacrament, he was beaten to death, or perhaps stoned, as the poem refers also to St. Stephen.

Legend is, that in spite of killing Tarcisius, those thugs were unable to pry open his hands to get control of the Body of Christ.  Only later, when his body was returned to a priest, could the Eucharist be easily taken from his dead hands.  Another version is that the assailants could find no trace of the Eucharist any place on his body.  Where fact stops and legend begins is a bit uncertain, but that a young boy achieved sainthood by giving his life for Christ is quite clear.  He is the patron saint of first communicants and of altar servers, and also of teenage boys.  His relics are kept at the minor basilica of The Church of Saint Sylvester in Capite, along with other martyrs’ relics from the Catacombs.  The feast day for St. Tarcisius in the Roman Martyrology is August 15, the same day as the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Statue of St. Tarcisius by Alexandre Falguière at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris


3 Responses to “St. Tarcisius, Boy Martyr”

  1. Nerina says:


    St. Tarcisius is one of my children’s favorite Saints. I was thinking of him to day when a reader (AnonII)in the Bishop Nardozi thread asked:

    Why are the school children, older students and schools being asked to renounce any honors, awards, and possibly scholarships from the political sphere as a form of retaliation against the Albany government?

  2. There is a stained-glass window of St. Tarcisius at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish at St. Andrew Church. In childrens’ books of saints, St. Tarcisius is depicted as a teenager (I believe a young teenager) who visited prisoners with the Eucharist. He is depicted as being martyred for this activity. St. Tarcisius is a good model for children and teenagers. He actually is a good model for all of us.

  3. Jim says:

    Jim M. here: I remember back in 1960, during my First Communion Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle, Msgr. Richard Burns told all of us the story about St. Tarcisius: his devout reverence for the Eucharist, and his martyrdom.

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