Saint Dominic Savio
Memorial: 6 May; formerly 10 March
Profile: One of ten children of a blacksmith and seamstress.
Protege of Saint John Bosco. Altar boy at age 5. At 12 he
entered the Oratory School preparatory to becoming a priest.
Well-liked and pius, his health forced him to give up his
dream of the priesthood. He died at age 15. His dying words:
"What beautiful things I see!"
His birthplace is now a retreat house for teenagers; the
home where he grew up in Morialdo is now
a retreat house for children. The final house in which he
lived is the home in Mondonio where the Savio family moved
when he was 10, and where he eventually died. Here you can
see his father's metal shop, and his mother's tailoring shop.
His tomb is in the basilica of Mary, Help of Christians
in Turin, not far from the tomb of his mentor, teacher and
biographer, Saint John Bosco.
Born: 2 April 1842 @ Riva di Chieri, Italy
Died: 9 March 1857 @ Mondonio, Italy
Beatified: 1950 by Venerable Pope Pius XII
Canonized: 12 June 1954 by Venerable Pope Pius XII
Name Meaning: belonging to God (=Dominic)
Patronage: boys, children's choirs, choir
boys, choirs, falsley accused people, juvenile delinquents,
am not capable of doing big things, but I want to do everything,
even the smallest things, for the greater glory of God."
was born on April 2, 1842, the son of a very poor blacksmith.
He went to school near his home for as long as possible. Later,
he walked a six-mile round trip to attend a school in a nearby
town. One day, while the teacher was out of the room, two
boys brought in a lot of snow and trash and stuffed it into
the only iron stove which was heating the room. When the teacher
returned, he was so angry that the two guilty boys claimed
that Dominic had done it. The teacher gave Dominic a severe
scolding, telling him that were this not his first offense,
he would have been immediately expelled.
Dominic said not one word in
his own defense but stood in front of the class and hung his
head while the teacher scolded. The next day, some of the
other boys probably tattled. At any rate, the teacher learned
the truth of the matter. He went immediately to Dominic and
asked why he had not answered the charges made against him.
Dominic said that he knew the teacher would have expelled
the other boys and he wanted them to have another chance.
"Besides," said Dominic, "I remembered that
Our Lord was unjustly accused and He said nothing."
Even at this early age, Dominic had begun
the practice of the virtue which was later declared heroic
at his beatification. From the time he was a small child,
he had been very religious. He pleaded to help the Priest
at Mass when he was only five, but more than simply observing
religious customs and practices, Dominic lived his religion
for the entire span of his brief life.
In 1854, he went to
Turin and became a pupil at Don Bosco's Oratory.
Here he worked, studied, played and prayed for three years
before his final illness forced him to return home. During
Dominic's brief time at the Oratory, he gained the love and
respect of all the boys and the Priests. He was not pushy
and would not interrupt to state his own views but he was
not afraid to oppose wrong and could always give reasons why
he thought a certain action was wrong.
Once Dominic overheard two boys planning
a rock fight. They had become very angry with each other and
were going to fight it out. Dominic tried his best to talk
them out of this idea which was quite dangerous but nothing
would sway their determination. He could have told the teacher
but he felt this would only have served to postpone the fight.
Finally, he made the boys agree to one secret condition which
he would tell them about just before the fight. Dominic went
with the boys and helped them make their preparations by piling
up rocks. When the boys were ready to begin, Dominic held
up a small crucifix and reminded them that Christ died forgiving
sins but that they were going to fight a dangerous fight to
get even for a minor slight. "Now," said Dominic,
"throw your first rock at me. That is my condition."
At this demand, one of the boys said, "But Dominic, you
have never hurt me or done anything to me and you are my friend."
"You will not hurt me, a poor human, but will you, by
your actions, hurt Jesus Christ who is also God?" asked
Dominic. The boys hung their heads in shame and dropped their
stones. Dominic never mentioned this incident and we would
have no record of it had not the two combatants told their
Dominic Savio had decided to become a saint.
Immediately he went to the chapel to pray. He refused to play
any games with the other boys and put on a long, serious face.
For two days Dominic remained in this sober attitude. Finally,
Don Bosco, his teacher, called him and asked
if he were sick. No, Dominic assured him that he felt particularly
well and happy. Then why, asked Don Bosco, had Dominic refused
to play his customary games and why the sober expression?
When Dominic explained his great desire to become a saint,
Don Bosco praised his decision but counselled
him to be cheerful and not to worry; serving God is the way
to true happiness.
The lesson bore its fruits. Dominic became
an apostle of good cheerfulness with the other boys. One day,
as he was getting acquainted with a new-comer to the Oratory,
he explained to him his programme. "Here we make holiness
consist in living as joyfully as we can. We take care to avoid
sin - that great thief which robs us of the grace of God and
peace of soul; we neglect no duty and so seek God with all
our hearts. Begin from now and take as your motto these words:
Servite Domino in laetitia: Serve the Lord with holy joy."
His Love of the
Experience proves without question that the
greatest source of spiritual help lies in the Sacraments of
Penance and Holy Communion. Boys and girls who receive these
Sacraments frequently grow from childhood to maturity, and
so to the end of their lives, always models of Christian virtue.
Would to heaven that children might understand this truth
and put it into practise and also that their teachers might
help them to persevere with it!
Before he came to the Oratory, Dominic had
been going to Confession and Communion once a month, as was
customary in most schools but here he went more often. One
day he heard a sermon in which the preacher said: "Boys,
if you wish to persevere on the road to Heaven, I advise you
to go often to Confession and Holy Communion. Choose a confessor
to whom you can unburden yourselves freely and never change
him unless it becomes necessary to do so."
Dominic well understood the importance of
this advice. He began by choosing his confessor, whom he never
left during the whole of his stay at the Oratory. In order
that this Priest should know him thoroughly, he insisted on
making a general confession.
At first he went to confession
every fortnight, then once a week, each time receiving Holy
Communion. His confessor, in view of his extraordinary progress
in spiritual matters, advised him to communicate three times
a week and at the end of a year he allowed him daily Communion.
Dominic was very pleased with this state
of things. "When I am at all worried," he
would say, "I go to my confessor, who shows me what is
God's Will; for Jesus Christ Himself assures us that the confessor
speaks with the Voice of God. Then when I want something important,
I go to Holy Communion, when I receive the same Body that
Our Lord offered up for us on the Cross, together with His
Precious Blood, His Soul and His Divinity. What more is wanting
to complete my happiness until the day when I shall see face
to face Him whom I see now on our altars only with the eye
Before his First Communion, Dominic had made
four promises and wrote them in a little book which he often
re-read. He wrote:
1. I will go often to confession and I will
go to Holy Communion as often as I am allowed.
2. I will try to give Sundays and holy days completely to
3. My best friends will be Jesus and Mary.
4. Death rather than sin.
The fourth promise was to be Dominic's motto for the rest
of his life. Time and again, he asked God to let him die before
offending Him by committing a mortal sin. Dominic knew some
pretty rough boys and was often in a bad part of the town.
However, to the end of his life, he never committed a mortal
sin. In fact, he led a saintly life.
Love of Penance.
Dominic's youth, his delicate health and
the innocence of his life, alike dispensed him from all species
of mortification but as he knew that innocence is difficult
to preserve without doing some kind of penance, the path of
mortification seemed to him to be strewn with roses.
By mortification, I do not here mean bearing
patiently with the contradictions and insults of others nor
the continual mortification of the senses at all times, during
prayers, at lessons or recreations, for this was habitual
with Dominic. I mean bodily mortification. In the fervour
of his soul, Dominic resolved to eat and drink only
bread and water every Saturday, in honour of Our Blessed Lady,
but his confessor forbade it. Next he wished to fast during
Lent but after a week, his director came to hear of what he
was doing and put a stop to it. He begged at least to be allowed
to go without his breakfast but this also was forbidden, for
all these mortifications would have had a very bad effect
upon his health.As fasting and abstinence were forbidden him,
Dominic sought about for other means of mortifying himself.
He put bricks and pieces of wood in his bed so that even in
his sleep he should not be comfortable. He also wanted to
wear a hair shirt. Being forbidden also to do these things,
he had recourse to yet another stratagem.
During the autumn and winter he kept
his summer bed-clothes so that in January he still had the
thin blankets that had served him in mid-summer. One day when
a slight indisposition had forced him to stay in bed, the
Rector came to see him. Noticing that the boy had rolled the
sheet round and round himself, he drew nearer and saw that
the bed had only a light covering. "What is the meaning
of this?" he asked, "Do you want to die of cold?"
"No," was the reply, "I shall not die of cold.
Jesus in the manger and on the cross had less to cover Him
Nevertheless, he was strictly forbidden to
do any penance whatsoever until he had obtained the consent
of his superiors. This order he obeyed, though sadly. One
day when he met me he said: "I really don't know what
to do. Our Lord says that without doing penance we cannot
reach Heaven and I have been forbidden all penance; how small
are my chances of Paradise!" "The penance
that God asks of you is obedience." "Won't
you allow me to do some other penance as well?" he pleaded.
"Yes, bear patiently the insults of others and endure
uncomplainingly heat, cold, wind and rain; when you are tired
don't be ill-humoured; when you are ill, thank God."
"But these are necessary sufferings." "Then
make a virtue of necessity, endure everything for the love
of God and you will be sure to gain merit in His sight."
At these words Dominic seemed satisfied and went happily on
Dominic was so unaffected
in his demeanour that only his teachers and intimate friends
realised that this modesty was the fruit of great efforts,
helped by grace. It was a heroic effort for him to mortify
his sight, for he was by nature quick and observant. He confided
to his friends that when he first began to practise it, the
effort was so great as to bring on violent headaches. And
yet he achieved such a complete mastery of his eyes that it
was the opinion of all who knew him, that never once did he
so much as give an unguarded glance or indulge his sight to
the least degree. "The eyes," he would say, in his
spiritual talks to his friends, "are windows. As you
need only see what you wish to see through a window, so with
the eyes; they may show us an angel of light or the spirit
of darkness, both equally anxious to possess our souls."
One day, one of the boys brought
with him a magazine in which were some indecent and impious
pictures. He was quickly surrounded by other boys anxious
to see these horrible drawings. Dominic also ran up, but as
soon as he perceived what the true nature of the pictures
was, grew indignant, took the magazine and tore it into little
pieces. At this abrupt interruption, the others looked at
one another in silence. Dominic kept quiet for a few seconds
and then explained his action.
"What are you thinking of? God has given
you eyes that you may admire the beauty of His works; and
you are using, or rather abusing, them to look at these abominations.
Have you forgotten what so often Our Lord says: that a single
harmful look can soil our souls? And here you are feasting
your eyes on that filth!"
"But," objected one boy, "it
was only a joke." "A fine joke you'll think it when
you're burning in Hell!" "I didn't see any such
great harm in them," protested another. "So much
the worse. Not to see any harm in those horrors, argues that
your eyes are used to such sights and such an avowal makes
your sin greater. Do you not know that the holy patriarch
Job, though old and infirm, declared that he had made a contract
with his eyes, that they should never rest on anything but
that which was chaste and holy?"
At this they all held their peace: nor did
anyone else feel inclined to cross swords with one so able
in defence and attack.To the custody of the eyes, Savio also
joined that of the tongue. Whenever anyone else was speaking,
whether they were right or wrong, he would keep silence, often
even breaking off what he had been saying, to give others
an opportunity for speech. His masters and other superiors
are unanimous in declaring that they have never had an occasion
to reproach him for a word spoken out of season, either in
school or during study or in church. More than that, if any
one of his school-fellows picked a quarrel with him, he would
keep his temper and restrain his tongue.
One day, he had warned another boy of a bad
habit he had but instead of taking the warning in good part,
the boy lost his temper and overwhelmed Dominic with reproaches,
finally beating and kicking him. Dominic could have returned
this with interest, for he was the bigger and stronger of
the two but be chose to take a Christian's victory and though
his face grew red, controlled himself and merely said: "You
have behaved badly but I forgive you. Try not to treat others
How can we sufficiently praise Dominic's
mortification of his other senses? I shall content myself
with citing a few examples of his severity with himself. In
winter, he suffered with chilblains on his
hands but however painful they might be, he was never heard
to complain. On the contrary, he seemed to take pleasure in
them. "The bigger they are," he would say, "the
better for the health," and by 'health' he meant that
of the soul. Some of his school-fellows assert that in the
bitter cold of winter, he was in the habit of walking slowly
so as to suffer and do penance.
In boarding schools, there are always some
pupils who grumble either at the length of the church services
or complain of the school regulations, or else of the cooking.
They are a real cross for their superiors, for they foster
a spirit of rebellion amongst the other pupils. Far other
was the conduct of Dominic. Never was he heard to grumble
at the weather, or at the quality of the food; indeed, meal-times
were for him another opportunity for mortification, for he
would gladly accept any morsels rejected by the other boys
as being too salt, or not salt enough, or underdone, or overdone,
declaring that they were exactly to his taste.
It was for him an agreeable pastime to clean
the shoes, brush his friend's clothes, do the humblest services
for those who were ill, sweep and other like menial tasks.
"Everyone does what he can," he would say, "I
am not able to do much but I do all I can for the greater
glory of God; and I hope that in His Infinite Goodness, the
Lord will look kindly on my poor efforts." So,
eating what was distasteful to him, giving up what he liked,
keeping the custody of his eyes even in little things, giving
up his own will, enduring with perfect resignation sufferings
mental and physical; such were the mortifications that Dominic
practised all day and every day. Anxious as he was to die
to himself in order that Christ might live in him, he assiduously
took advantage of even the smallest opportunity to enhance
his merit in the sight of God.
His Devotion to
Among the many graces with which God had
been pleased to enrich Dominic's soul, not the least was his
fervour in prayer. He had got so into the habit of
conversing with God that even in the midst of the noisiest
games he would recollect himself in Him and raise his heart
heavenwards in pious exclamations. He had a great
devotion to the Blessed Mother of God and every day practised
some mortification in her honour. On his way to school, he
never let his eyes dwell on any person of the opposite sex
but kept them on the ground. Once, when he had been forced
to admit having thus missed seeing something that his school-fellows
were all discussing, one of the boys lost his temper with
him and exclaimed:
"What do you think
to do with your eyes if you never use them?" "I
hope to use them to behold the beauty of our Heavenly Mother,
when I shall be worthy to see her in Paradise." He
had an especial devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Every time he entered the Church, he knelt in prayer before
her altar. He asked of her the grace to keep his heart free
from all intemperate affection... "O Mary," he prayed,
"I wish always to be thy child. Obtain for me that I
may die rather than commit a sin against the virtue of purity."
Never in robust health, Dominic became quite
ill in March of 1857 with what the doctors diagnosed as an
inflammation of the lungs. The treatment in those days consisted
of blood-letting or slitting a vein and letting 'excess' blood
drain out. In the space of four days, the doctor cut Dominic's
arm ten times. Far from helping, this probably hastened his
death. He died quietly in his home on March 9, 1857. His last
words were - "What a beautiful thing I see."
"Blessed are the clean of heart, for
they shall see God."
St. Dominic Savio
boys, children's choirs, choir boys, choirs, The Falsly Accused,
juvenile delinquents, Pueri Cantors.
b. 1842 d. 1857
St. Dominic Savio was born in Italy in 1842. One day when
he was just four, he disappeared and his good mother went
looking for him. She found the little fellow in a corner
praying with his hands joined and his head bowed. He already
knew all his prayers by heart! At five, he was an altar
boy. When he was seven, he received his First Holy Communion.
On that solemn day, he chose a motto: "Death, but not
sin!" and he kept it always.
"A teenager such as Dominic, who bravely struggled
to keep his innocence from Baptism to the end of his life,
is really a saint," said Pope St. Pius X. Yes, Dominic
was an ordinary boy with an extraordinary love for God.
At the age of twelve, Dominic entered the school
run by St. John Bosco. Don Bosco examined him first
and at the end of the questions, Dominic asked, "What
do you think of me?" "I think you're good material,"
answered the priest, with a big smile. "Well, then,"
said Dominic, "You are a good tailor, so if the material
is good, take me and make a new suit out of me for Our Lord!"
Everyone in the school saw from the way he prayed that
this boy was different. He greatly loved all the boys, and
even though he was younger, he used to worry about them.
He was afraid that they would lose the grace of God by sinning.
One day, a fellow brought a magazine full of bad pictures
to school. In a minute, a group of boys had gathered around
him to see it. "What's up?" wondered Dominic,
and he, too, went to look. Just one peek was enough for
him. He grabbed the magazine and tore it to pieces! "Poor
us!" he cried in the meantime, "Did God give us
eyes to look at such things as this? Aren't you ashamed?"
"Oh, we were just looking at these pictures for the
fun of it," said one boy. "Sure, for fun,"
answered Dominic, "and in the meantime you're preparing
yourselves to go to hell!""Oh, what's so wrong
about looking at these pictures anyway?" another fellow
demanded. Dominic had a ready answer. "If you don't
see anything wrong," he said sadly, "this is even
worse." It means you're used to looking at shameful
No one said anything after that. They all realized that
Dominic was right. Another time he stopped a terrific stone-throwing
fight between two angry boys. Holding up a little crucifix
between them, he said, "Before you fight, look
at this and say, 'Jesus Christ was innocent and He died
forgiving His murderers. I am a sinner, and I am going to
hurt Him by not forgiving my enemies.' Then you can start
- and throw your first stone at me!" The two boys were
so ashamed of themselves that they apologized, and promised
to go to confession too. One day Dominic began
to feel sick and was sent home to get better. While at home
he grew worse, instead, and received the last Sacraments.
He was only fifteen then, but he did not fear death. In
fact, he was overjoyed at the thought of going to Heaven.
Just before he died, he tried to sit up. "Goodbye,"
he murmured to his good father. Suddenly his face lit up
with a smile of great joy and happiness. "I am seeing
such wonderful things!" he exclaimed. Then he spoke
no more, for he had gone to Heaven.
Dominic is the patron saint of choir boys and of
the falsely accused. This latter title was given
to him due to the following incident. One time, two boys
filled the school stove with snow and garbage during the
cold winter months. When the teacher came back into the
room, they falsely accused Dominic of doing the "dirty"
deed. Although disciplined in front of the entire class,
Dominic refused to tell on the two mischievous boys. When
the truth was later revealed, Dominic was asked why he didn't
confess to his innocence. He remarked that he was imitating
Our Lord, Who remained silent during His persecutions and
His feast day is March 9th.