|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Major shrine||San Silvestro in Capite, Rome|
|Feast||August 15 (Roman Martyrology)|
|Attributes||Host, youth, wounds|
|Patronage||altar servers and first communicants|
Tarsicius or Tarcisius 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 in the second half of the 4th century.
The only positive information concerning this Roman martyr is found in a poem composed in his honour by Pope Damasus (366–384), who compares him to the deacon Saint Stephen and says that, as Stephen was stoned by a crowd, so Tarsicius, carrying the Blessed Sacrament, was attacked by a group and beaten to death.
Nothing else definite is known concerning Tarsicius. Since Damasus compares him to Stephen, he may have been a deacon; however, a 6th-century account makes him an acolyte. According to one version of the detailed legend that developed later, Tarsicius was a young boy during one of the fierce 3rd-century Roman persecutions, probably during the reign of Emperor Valerian (253–259). 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; that day is widely observed as the Feast of the Assumption, therefore 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.
The first five lines say that both Stephen (the protomartyr) and Tarsicius are equal in merit, and Stephen's death (as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles) is retold poetically. The last four lines can be translated as:
When an insane gang pressed saintly Tarsicius, who was carrying the sacraments of Christ, to display them to the profane, he preferred to be killed and give up his life rather than betray to rabid dogs the heavenly body.
- The spelling in the 4th-century poem of Pope Damasus I and in the Roman Martyrology
- The spelling in Wiseman's Fabiola
- 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.
- (Spanish) San Tarsicio
- (Italian) San Tarcisio
- Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience, August 4, 2010
- True Stories for First Communicants, Neumann Press, (1919)