Saint Tarachus and his Companions
During the persecution of Diocletian in the year 304, Tarachus, Probus, and Andronicus, differing in age and nationality but united in the bonds of faith, were denounced as Christians to the governor of Cilicia. They were arrested at Pompeiopolis, and conducted to Tarsus. The acts of these glorious martyrs are one of the most precious monuments of Church history. The interrogations, making up the first three parts of their acts, were recorded in the proconsular registers, which the Christians bought for 200 denari from the public Notary. Line by line, we read the questions posed by the governor of Cilicia named Maximus, and the answers of the martyrs. These are followed by a narration of their death, written by three Christian eyewitnesses, Mark, Felix and Verus, who buried their bodies.
Tarachus was a retired military officer of the imperial armies, who had reached the age of sixty-five. Probus had abandoned a fortune to serve Jesus Christ with greater liberty. Andronicus, the youngest, was a member of one of the first families of Ephesus.
When Tarachus was told to sacrifice, he replied, I cannot renounce the law of God. The governor of the province said, There is only one law, the one we obey.
Tarachus: There is another, and you transgress it by adoring your own handiwork, statues of wood or stone. He was struck on the mouth and beaten with rods. Tarachus said while being struck: Now you are making me truly wise; the blows you give me fortify me, they increase my confidence in God and in Jesus Christ. He was chained and taken to prison.
Probus was no less courageous; while he was being beaten the governor said to him, Look at your torn body, wretch, and the ground covered with your blood!
Probus: The more my flesh suffers for Jesus Christ, the more my soul acquires strength and vigor. He was placed in irons and no one was permitted to dress his wounds.
When the turn of Andronicus came, Maximus said to him: Adore the gods and obey the emperors, who are our fathers and masters.
Andronicus: The devil is your father, when you do his works.
Maximus: Young man, you are insolent; do you know that I have torments in readiness?
Andronicus: I would rather see my body cut into pieces than lose my soul.
Maximus: Wretch, we will see if you are insensible to torments. When you feel them, you will perhaps renounce your folly.
Andronicus: This folly is advantageous for us who hope in Jesus Christ. The wisdom of the world leads to eternal death. He was tortured on the rack, and salt put on his wounds. He said: Your torments have procured true refreshment for my body.
Maximus: I will have you perish by a slow death. And he had him chained like the others and put in prison.
A short time later they were moved to another city, where the same governor began the questioning over again. Tarachus had his teeth broken, his hands burnt, and vinegar and salt poured into his nostrils. He said: Your vinegar has only sweetness for me, and your salt seems insipid to me. Probus, brought before him, told him, My soul is stronger than ever. In heaven I have a living God whom I serve and adore; I know no other. When told to sacrifice to Jupiter, he said, Can you give the name of god to one soiled by adulteries, incests, and other enormous crimes? And when struck on the mouth, he said, I have not injured truth, I only said of Jupiter what all who adore him already know. He was burnt with hot coals on the head and feet. Andronicus was led before Maximus and told that his companions had ceded under torture. He answered: Why do you try to deceive me? My companions have not renounced the cult of the true God, and even if they had, I would not commit such an impiety. The God I adore has given me the arms of faith. Jesus Christ, my Saviour, is my strength, in such wise that I do not dread your power or that of your masters or that of your gods. You can test me with all the tortures that the most refined cruelty suggests to you. He was again beaten and salt was rubbed into his wounds. Maximus said to him: You will not despise my authority with impunity.
Andronicus: It will not be said, either, that the cause of Jesus Christ has succumbed under your authority.
A third interrogation and another series of tortures followed at still another city. Tarachus was cruelly tortured; when his ears were cut off he only said: My heart is no less attentive to the word of God, and made other similar replies, as respectful as they were heroic. Maximus said to Probus: The God you invoke has delivered you Himself into my hands.
Probus: He loves men. Food offered to idols was forced into his mouth.
Probus: I have abandoned my body to your power in order to save my soul. When you force me to eat what has been offered on your abominable altars, I am not soiled; God is witness to the violence I suffer. He was blinded. He replied: You have deprived me of the eyes of the body, but cannot take from me those of the soul. If you knew your own blindness, you would find you were more unfortunate than I am. The youngest confessor had his teeth pulled out, and was told he would be devoured by the beasts in the amphitheater. He said: God will deliver me when it so pleases Him.
Unable to walk because of their wounds, these disciples of Christ were borne to the amphitheater. The wild animals, when released, would not approach the martyrs; a bear who had killed three men that day, came and licked the feet of the youngest martyr. The governor had the beast killed. A furious lioness, even after being provoked, lay down at the feet of Tarachus and licked them. Gladiators were told to kill the martyrs. The Christians of the city sent this narration to the church of Iconium, telling them to make it known to the faithful of the other cities of the region for their edification.
Reflection: Such is true Christian devotion. Is ours the faith of the Apostles who cried: Neither death nor life shall be able to separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus? (Cf. Romans 8:38-39)
Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 12; Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler's Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).