Saint Dominic Savio
St Dominic Savio was born on April 2, 1842, at Riva di Chrei, a small village in north Italy. He was the son of poor parents, whose names were Charles and Brigid Savio.
St Dominic’s mother taught him to make the sign of the cross and to whisper the sweet names of Jesus and Mary, long before he went to school. He soon knew his prayers as well as the elements of the catechism. She trained him to do everything to please God, and to be obedient, kind, truthful, modest and honest. At the tender age of five, he knew his way to church and used to pay daily visits. The parish priest, being struck with the child’s reverence before the Blessed Sacrament, invited him to serve on the altar. Dominic was a perfect server and was very faithful to the fourth Commandment. He honoured his mother and father and had great love for his parents. He obeyed them promptly and cheerfully and was an unselfish boy, even from his earliest years.
Dominic’s First Communion
When Dominic was six years old he started to go to the village school. A priest named Don Zucca, was the schoolmaster and he noticed that his new student was pious and intelligent, and as he had a good memory, he knew by heart many prayers. In view of the little boy’s knowledge of the catechism, his innocent life and his devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, Don Zucca decided to allow him to make his first Holy Communion at the age of seven. This was exceptional in those days, for children generally made their first Communion about the age of eleven or twelve.
Whenever Dominic spoke of the day he received the Blessed Sacrament for the first time, he described it as “a beautiful day”. This happy occasion of his first meeting with Jesus was a turning point in his life. He wrote down four resolutions which were the guiding rules of his life:
1. I will go often to Confession, and to Holy Communion as often as my confessor will allow me.
2. I will be exact in keeping holy the Sundays and Holidays of Obligation.
3. Jesus and Mary will be my friends.
4. I wish to die rather than sin.
The Eventful Year of 1854
In 1854, Dominic met a priest named Don Bosco. Don Bosco admitted Dominic to the Oraatory at the end of October of that year, when he was 12 and half years old. At the Oratory, Dominic’s spiritual growth progressed under the guidance of Don Bosco.
On one occasion Don Bosco told the boys at the Oratory that they should aim at living holy lives. “It is the will of God,” he said to them, “that we should become saints. It is easy to become one. God has promised a great reward in heaven to those who live a holy life.” This instruction made a powerful impression upon Dominic. It was like a spark falling into his heart, enkindling in it the fire of God’s love. When speaking to the priest afterwards, he said to him: “Father, now I see that one can be a saint and be happy too. I feel I must become one: will you please help me to become a saint?” Don Bosco promised to help him.
St Dominic Savio’s Death
When Dominic was fourteen, his health began to decline. His superior became anxious about him and sought the opinion of the doctors. As he steadily grew weaker, they advised that he should be sent home. Towards the end of February, 1857, Don Bosco decided with regret that it would be better for the sick boy to go home, where he would have the loving care of his mother. When he heard of his superior’s decision he at once resigned himself to God’s will, and offered his disappointment of not becoming a priest as a sacrifice of his life to the Lord. On the morning he left the Oratory, he went to Confession and Communion with great fervour.
On 1st March, 1857, Dominic Savio reached his home at Mondonia. His parents hoped that he would soon recover, however, the Saint knew that his end was near and begged his parents to send for the priest. They were taken aback when he insisted that he wished to receive the last Sacraments because he seemed slightly better, though he was extremely weak. Fully conscious, the holy youth, having been absolved, received his Holy Viaticum. He was heard to repeat: “Yes, yes, O Jesus! O Mary! You will always be my Friends: sooner death than sin.” On the evening of March 9th, whilst his father was reading at his son’s request the prayers for a happy death, he suddenly smiled peacefully. Then his father heard him say faintly to him “Goodbye, dearest father, goodbye….Oh!” He exclaimed softly, looking up intently, “What beautiful sights I see!” With these words lingering on his lips, his face beamed with joy, and his hands crossed upon his breast, this boy saint of 14 breathed his last. God had heard his prayer and plucked him in his innocence from this world as a pure white lily for paradise.
Because Dominic Savio was faithful to his four resolutions, which he made on his first Communion day, he lived a holy life and died a saintly death. Hence, St John Bosco, writing of him says: “ I would most earnestly recommend all boys to take him as a model.”