St Tarcisius of Rome
The Invisible Companion
(Patron of Children who are bullied)
“The philosophers and the orators have fallen into oblivion; the masses do not even know the names of the emperors and their generals; but everyone knows the names of the martyrs, better than those of their most intimate friends.”
It is in these terms that Theodoret bishop of Cyrrhus sought to convey the extent of the triumph of Christianity: by the mid-fifth century, the cult of the saints had ringed the populations of the Mediterranean with intimate invisible friends. ‘The invisible friend’ - the ‘intimate friend’ - these are terms on which Theodoret and his contemporaries dwelt lovingly in relation to the saints. What we shall follow in this chapter is the manner in which new invisible companions came to crowd in around the men and women of late antiquity and the early middle ages. In so doing, we shall touch upon the subtle transformation of immemorial beliefs that was involved when Mediterranean men and women, from the late fourth century onwards, turned with increasing explicitness for friendship, inspiration and protection in this life and beyond the grave, to invisible beings who were fellow humans and whom they could invest with precise and palpable features of beloved and powerful figures in their own society.
From The Cult of the Saints : It’s Rise and Function in Latin Christianity
By Peter Brown
The legend of St Tarcisius of Rome is one of the most memorable of the early child martyrs and we would probably know him a lot better if his feast did not fall on the Assumption of the Mother of God, August 15th. Tarcisius was a young boy thought to be anywhere from the age of 10-14 years old, who lived in the third century during the persecutions of Emperor Valerian. Because the early Christians were forced to hide in the Roman catacombs, and have their services beneath the ground, someone, usually a Deacon would be required to take the Eucharist from Mass and carry it to the Christians in prison. One day, for whatever reason, a Deacon was unavailable and so little Tarcisius was asked to carry the Eucharist to the prisoners. While he was on his way a group of Roman boys grew curious about what the child was carrying. They stopped him and demanded to see what he held so close to himself. Tarcisius refused to let the bullies touch the Eucharist and they began to beat him until he fell face down, protecting the Eucharist, and was ultimately beaten to death. A Roman soldier is said to have stopped the boys, who ran off and then he carried Tarcisius away, the child still holding tight to his Lord. For this reason he is a patron of altar servers and children who today, more than ever, experience bullying.
There is a novel called “Fabiola : The Church of the Catacombs” written by Cardinal Wiseman in 1854, which makes use of actual young martyrs as characters, like Sts. Agnes, Emmerentiana, Sebastian and Pancratius. This novel greatly influenced my childhood, and introduced me to these young people who were so extraordinarily courageous. The model for this icon is Calvin Rupoli, my greatnephew who is now 11 years old.
We all have and hold Christ inside our hearts and souls . St Tarcisius help us to hold Him close during these dark times and let His light shine out with great brilliance and courage from us all.
Fr Bill McNichols
15 August 2018