Saint Dominic Savio

Born Apr. 2, 1842, Riva di Chieri (Torino), Italy.
Died Mar. 9, 1857, Mondonio, Italy.
Canonized June 12, 1954.
Feast day May 6.

Dominic’s father was a blacksmith, and the family moved several times as he pursued his craft. Dominic had the privilege of making his first Communion at the age of 7, when the usual age was about 12. On that occasion the boy made four startling resolutions: to go to confession and receive Communion often; to sanctify Sundays; to keep Jesus and Mary as his friends; and to die rather than sin. He was faithful to these promises.

In the fall of 1854 Dominic sought admission to the Saint’s home in Turin. Already he wanted to be a priest. At the Oratory Dominic quickly became everyone’s friend and an energetic apostle, although his health was never strong, nor was he one of the senior boys, nor was he one of the most gifted intellectually. He explained to one new boy, “Here we make holiness consist in being cheerful.” Don Bosco had to restrain his impulse to do severe penances, reminding Dominic that his main penance must be obedience and the fulfillment of his duties, like study, house chores, and recreation.

In 1856 Dominic was moved to establish among the best boys of the Oratory (all older than he!) the Company of Mary Immaculate as a secret society of apostles among their peers. They looked after new pupils, kept an eye on boys likely to get into trouble, and generally set an outstanding example of study, piety, and good behavior. Ironically, all of the original members became founding members of the Salesian Society in 1859, except Dominic.

Dominic experienced mystical gifts. Don Bosco found him in ecstasy after holy Communion one day. On another occasion, he led the priest to someone who needed the last sacraments; how the boy knew could not be explained. Another time, without any communication from home, he told Don Bosco his mother needed him. Don Bosco let him go, and he found his mother in difficult labor. He gave her a scapular, and she delivered perfectly. The women of the Savio family used that scapular for generations. St. Dominic is an unofficial patron of expectant mothers on account of this episode.

Dominic became quite ill during the winter of 1857. Finally, Don Bosco allowed him to go home to Mondonio (about 25 miles away), hoping he would recover under his parents’ attention. It seems that the doctor’s bloodletting only worsened the patient’s condition, however. In any case, a few days later Dominic died, a few weeks short of his 15th birthday. Both his fellow pupils and Don Bosco were so impressed by young Savio’s life that the Saint wrote his biography and published it in 1859. It has been translated into many languages, including English, and is still in print. St. Dominic Savio is the patron saint of choirboys.