St. Tarcisius is an enigmatic but inspirational saint who lived during the 3rd century. Little is known about his life, except that he resided in Rome during the days of Emperor Valerian. It was a time of Christian persecution.
Sources tells us that Tarcisius may have been as young as 12. They also say that he served as an acolyte — or altar server.
At the time, Christians were forced to celebrate Masses in secret. It was after one such Mass that Tarcisius volunteered to carry the Holy Eucharist to prisoners and the sick.
As he walked through the streets, Tarcisius was stopped by a group of pagan acquaintances. When they realized he was a Christian, the mob kicked and stoned him. Even so, Tarcisius protectively clutched the Holy Eucharist to his breast as he laid dying. According to one tradition, at that moment the consecrated Host miraculously became one with the boy’s own flesh.
For love of the Holy Eucharist
Due to his deep love and reverence for the Holy Eucharist, St. Tarcisius is a patron saint of altar servers and First Communicants.
In his General Audience in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the many altar servers present by saying:
Dear altar servers, St. Tarcisius’ testimony and this beautiful tradition teach us the deep love and great veneration that we must have for the Eucharist: it is a precious good, a treasure of incomparable value; it is the Bread of life, it is Jesus himself who becomes our nourishment, support, and strength on our daily journey and on the open road that leads to eternal life; the Eucharist is the greatest gift that Jesus bequeathed to us.