“Whatcha doin’, Tarcisius?” came a familiar voice. “Don’t you want to play with us?”
“Yeah, where are you going?” said another.
Tarcisius recognized the voices—they belonged to some friends he went to school with. But they weren’t Christians, and he didn’t trust them.
“What are you carrying?” said a third. Tarcisius turned to see a whole group of them flocking towards him. He kept on walking.
“Just heading to visit a few friends down the road,” he said, honestly. “Can’t stop to talk.”
His step quickened and he held the Blessed Sacrament, hidden beneath his mantle, a little closer. He, an acolyte, had been sent to carry Jesus to those ministering to the imprisoned Christians condemned to die.
“You’ve got something. What is it?”
“I have nothing for you.”
“Yes, you’ve got something. Let’s see! Is it one of your Christian things?”
“Ooh, maybe it’s that weird bread they worship!”
This was not going to end well, Tarcisius decided. He grasped the Sacrament tighter and began to run, but the mob quickly surrounded him.
“You’re not going anywhere! Get him! Get the bread!”
Knowing what was about to happen, the courageous young man may well have prayed, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commit my spirit.”
The vicious gang descended on him. By the time a Christian soldier passing by drove them off, Tarcisius was mortally wounded. The soldier gathered the martyr in his arms, where he soon died.
Still grasped in his faithful hands, safe and untouched, was the Blessed Sacrament.
What we know for sure of the life of St. Tarcisius comes to us from a short poem written about him and St. Stephen by Pope Damasus in the 4th century, which tells us his name and that he died defending the Holy Eucharist. A 6th-century legend adds that he was an acolyte. He was probably killed between the mid-3rd and early 4th centuries.
With his courage, devotion, and steadfast love for Jesus in the Eucharist, Tarcisius remains a model for all young men, especially those who serve at the altar of God.
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