This poem was written on the catacombs in Rome by Pope St. Damascus (366-383) commemorating the martyrdom of St. Tarcisius:
“When a wicked group of fanatics flung themselves on Tarcisius who was carrying the Eucharist, wanting to profane the Sacrament, the boy preferred to give up his life rather than yield up the Body of Christ to those rabid dogs.”
During the Third Century, Christians had to meet secretly in the catacombs to avoid persecution. A 12-year-old boy, Tarcisius, volunteered to take the Eucharist to the condemned Christians in prison. On his way there, he was recognized by a group of friends, who invited Tarcisius to come play in their games. Knowing that he was a Christian and curious about the Eucharist that Tarcisius was carrying, the gang of boys ran to him. At some point, the group of boys evolved into an angry mob that overcame Tarcisius, who went down under their blows.
An adult, believed to be a fellow Christian, intervened and drove off the angry mob. But it was too late. Tarcisius’ injuries were to be mortal because he died as he was being carried back to the Christian group at the catacombs.
God has never reserved heroism and martyrdom for the Eucharist to adults only. Children, too, are capable of loving Jesus so much that they were willing to die for Him.
Youth has never been a barrier to holiness. Children, too, can become saints, as was evidenced by St. Tarcisius. The invitation to holiness begins for everyone at Baptism and follows them throughout their lives. Thank you St. Tarcisius for being such a valiant example.
“In a race, everyone runs but only one person gets first prize. So run your race to win. To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best.”
– 1 Corinthians 9:24-25