|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Major shrine||San Silvestro in Capite, Rome|
|Feast||August 15 (Roman Martyrology)|
|Patronage||altar servers and first communicants|
St. Tarcisius (or Tarsicius) (Italian and Spanish: San Tarsicio or Tarcisio) was a martyr of the early Christian church who lived in the 3rd century. The little that is known about him comes from a metrical inscription by Pope Damasus I, who was pope at least a century later.
The only positive information concerning this Roman martyr is found in a poem composed in his honour by Pope Damasus, who compares him to St. Stephen. Just as Stephen was stoned by a crowd, so Tarsicius, carrying the Blessed Sacrament, was attacked by a group and beaten.
Nothing definite is known concerning Tarsicius. As Damasus compares him to Steven he may have been a deacon; however a sixth-century story makes him an acolyte.
Tarcisius was a youth during one of the fierce Roman persecutions of the third century, probably during that of Valerian. One day he was entrusted with the task of bringing the Eucharist to condemned Christians in prison. He preferred death at the hands of a mob rather than deliver to them the Blessed Sacrament, which he was carrying.
He was originally buried in the Catacombs of San Callisto and the inscription by Damasus was placed later on his tomb. Some time later his relics were moved to the San Silvestro in Capite church in Rome. His feast day is celebrated on 15 August, but, since that day is occupied by the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, he is not mentioned in the General Roman Calendar, but only in the Roman Martyrology.
Blessed José Sánchez del Río was nicknamed "Tarcisius."
Text of the poem by Damasus
A poem in Latin, composed by 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. 14
The first five lines say that both Stephen (the protomartyr) and Tarsicius are equal in merit, and Stephen's death (described in the Acts of the Apostles) is retold poetically. The last four lines literally say:
The Sacraments of Christ being carried by St. Tarsicius,
When a vulgar profane gang would have overwhelmed the Wholesome Things,
He willed to release his soul by being cut down
Rather than give up the Celestial Members to rabid dogs.
- Kirsch, Johann Peter. "St. Tarsicius." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 25 Apr. 2013
- Stevens, Clifford. The One Year Book of Saints, Our Sunday Visitor Books, Huntington, Indiana
- Bittle O.F.M. Cap., Berchman. A Saint A Day, The Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee, 1958
- "Saint-Tharcisius (Municipalité de paroisse)" (in French). Commission de toponymie du Québec. Retrieved 2012-01-27.