Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


Invoking the Intercession of St. Tarcisius for the Synod

March 21st, 2015, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Nearly 4 years ago I wrote on Cleansing Fire about St. Tarcisius , but it seems timely to do so again, especially leading up to the Synod, where the Holy Eucharist is being targeted for abuse.  This time the wild beasts in the arena are not lions and tigers, but those who don’t believe in the Real Presence (else how can they advocate what they do?), or who see giving His Precious Body away to those whom Christ called adulterers is a fair trade for the modern 30 pieces of silver in government funding (Germany, e.g.), or who simply don’t have even the faith of a child to defend against the sacrilege.  

How ironic it should be that all is again happening in Rome!  How ironic that it should be coming from within the Church, with secularity, modernity and avarice being the concubines uniting themselves to the wayward prelates.  It is indeed becoming clearer what Christ meant when he asked in Luke 18:8: “… when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?”  And how He promised (in Matthew 24:22):  “… if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.”   St. Tarcisius, PRAY FOR US!  

St. Tarcisius, Boy Martyr

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

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

Long, long ago, when Catholic Schools were run primarily by religious orders and it was unusual to find even a lay teacher, every student learned the story of St. Tarcisius.  It was one of the stories in the second grade reader, and produced much discussion in the classroom.  What would each of us be willing to do for the sake of the Eucharist?  It was an apt question for second graders who were about to embark on their First Communion.

I was always enthralled by the story of Tarcisius; so much so that I wanted to take his name in Confirmation in 5th grade.  But the good sisters squelched that as inappropriate; so I obeyed them, and probably avoided scandalizing that Bishop!

In recent years, when I mention Tarcisius to faithful Catholics, most seem unfamiliar with the boy saint.  It is a shame, because he inspired many generations of young people.  Perhaps because his Feast Day in the Roman Martyrology is the same day as the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Tarcisius is passed over in memorials. However, one would think that he is grateful to have reserved the place on the calendar, waiting to cede the major recognition to Our Holy Mother in the 6th century.

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 primary 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 would not 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.  And yet another version is that a Roman soldier, secretly a Christian, completed the task of taking the Eucharist to the prisoners. 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.  Here is the poem of Pope Damasus :  (Please feel free to offer a translation in the comments.)

Text of the poem by Pope Damasus

A poem in Latin, composed by Pope Damasus, serves as the only positive historical evidence of the saint’s existence:

Par meritum, quicumque legis, cognosce duorum,
quis Damasus rector titulos post praemia reddit.
Iudaicus populus Stephanum meliora monentem
perculerat saxis, tulerat qui ex hoste tropaeum,
martyrium primus rapuit levita fidelis.

Tarsicium sanctum Christi sacramenta gerentem
cum male sana manus premeret vulgare profanis,
ipse animam potius voluit dimittere caesus
prodere quam canibus rabidis caelestia membra.

Damasi Epigrammata, Maximilian Ihm, 1895, n. 13

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9 Responses to “Invoking the Intercession of St. Tarcisius for the Synod”

  1. avatar Jim says:

    When I received my First Communion at St. Thomas from Msgr. Burns in 1960, he related the story of St.Tarcisius to us as a class.

  2. avatar annonymouse says:

    I was thinking St. Thomas More, who gave his life rather than betray the sanctity and indissolubility of marriage. Saints Tarcisius and Thomas More, please pray for us!

  3. avatar militia says:

    There are two sacraments under attack here: marriage and the Eucharist. So both saints make good intercessors. Actually, now that I think about it, the Sacrament of Penance is also under attack. How can forgiveness be extended to anyone who does not have a firm purpose of amendment? And if all this were to happen, then the priesthood too will be under attack, with priests forced to extend absolution to people who are not ready to receive it. It is easy to see how the fears of what might happen at a Synod cuts deeply into the roots of the Catholic Church. Mother of God, pray for us!

  4. avatar Jim says:

    To Annonymouse: Actually, I should have been more specific…I meant St. Thomas the Apostle in Irondequoit, not St. Thomas More in Brighton. But actually, both Saints can intercede for us.

  5. avatar christian says:

    There is a stained glass window of St. Tarcisius in the former St. Andrew Church on Portland Avenue. That stained glass window was always present in St. Andrew Church and remains in the same church building of a Protestant congregation that bought it.

  6. avatar Hopefull says:

    Do we have any pictures of the St. Tarcisius window? Is there a central place where there is any documentation of the beauty in churches which have been closed?

  7. avatar annonymouse says:

    Jim – got it. I was not addressing your post about the good Monsignor; rather I was adding St. Thomas More (and now that I think of it, St. John Fisher of Rochester, too) as excellent intercessors on behalf of Marriage and Eucharist.

    That there would be open consideration of such a change in Church doctrine is not only frightening, but these defiant German bishops are, in effect (for lack of a better word), defecating on the graves of these holy martyrs, Thomas More and John Fisher, who gave their lives in defense of the indissolubility of marriage. I do hope our Holy Father prayerfully considers their example, and I pray that they intercede before the throne of Our Lord.

    I find it more than a little ironic that the Basilian priest in Toronto would be telling Cardinal Burke to “shut _ _ up” over this very issue when the Basilian order founded and for many years staffed our local (formerly Catholic) college named after the martyr John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester.

  8. avatar christian says:

    I think I have a photo of the stained glass window of St. Tarcisius window. I could locate it and send it to the staff of Cleansing Fire if they are interested.

  9. avatar Diane Harris says:

    I have seen some pictures of the stained glass at St. Andrew (Beautiful!) but I am not sure which one is Tarcisius. So, yes, please; do send the picture and I’ll add it to the post.

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