Saint Dominic Savio: A Young Saint

By Monique Sammut | May 6, 2018
The Beginning

Dominic Savio was born on April 2, 1842 in Italy.  He was one of ten children, in a poor, hardworking, and pious family.  Dominic’s father was a blacksmith and his mother was a seamstress.  His first name, Dominic, means “of the Lord,” and his last name, Savio, means “wise.”

Dominic was praying by himself by the time he was four.  He used to help his mother around the house, greet his father when he came home from work, and was devoted to and unfailing in saying his prayers.  Dominic did well in school, was very obedient, and he worked very hard.

When Dominic was five, he began serving Mass.  He was allowed to make his First Holy Communion at the young age of seven (at the time, the age was twelve).  Dominic attended Mass whenever he could and went frequently to Confession.  Don Bosco said that whenever Dominic would talk of his First Holy Communion he would say:

That was the happiest and most wonderful day of my life.

On the day of his First Communion, Dominic made some promises including:

Mary, I give you my heart.  Always keep it yours.  Jesus, Mary, be my friends.  I beg you, let me die rather than be so unfortunate as to commit a single sin.

He referred often to the promises he made.

The Student of Don Bosco

Don Bosco thought very highly of Dominic and wrote a biography about him entitled The Life of Dominic Savio.  This biography contributed greatly to Dominic’s cause for canonization and provides most of the information about his life in addition to what Dominic’s family and friends said about him.

Dominic became a student of Saint John Bosco at the Oratory of Saint Francis de Sales.  While he was at the oratory, Dominic made a decision to become a saint.  He was very worried that he would not be able to be a Saint and that he did not know how.  When Dominic learned that his first name meant “of the Lord” his desire to become a Saint grew stronger.  Don Bosco told Dominic to be cheerful, to continue in  his studies and prayers, and to keep playing games with the other children.

Dominic decided to do penances such as putting stones and wood in his bed, sleeping with thin blankets in winter, and eating nothing but bread and water.  When Don Bosco found out about Dominic’s penances, he ordered him to stop because of his frail health.  Don Bosco explained to Dominic that as a student, his penances should include doing his daily work with humility, perfection, and obedience.  After Don Bosco’s advice, Dominic formed a new goal for his life:

I can’t do big things but I want everything to be for the glory of God.

Dominic never complained about the food or the weather.  He was very patient and obedient.

The Immaculate Conception

The Dogma of the Immaculate Conception greatly impacted Dominic.  Together with his friends, he started The Sodality of Mary Immaculate.  The members of this group placed themselves, throughout their lives and at the hour of their deaths, throughout their lives and at the time of their death, under the protection of Mary.  The members of this group sought to honor Mary in different ways and to attend communion frequently.  The members made every effort to go to confession and Communion as if it was their last.

Dominic At Home

Dominic told Don Bosco that he would be the first in the Sodality to die.  As time went on, Dominic’s health began to deteriorate.  He spent most of his time talking with and encouraging his friends.  Dominic also helped at the school infirmary whenever any of his friends were admitted.  When Dominic’s health grew worse, he was sent home.  A few days later, Don Bosco found Dominic back at the oratory.  Don Bosco wanted Dominic to remain at the oratory, but because Dominic had developed a severe cough, he wrote to Dominic’s father.  Dominic wanted to spend his last days at the Oratory with Don Bosco but he accepted the fact that he was going home.

During his time at home, Dominic grew worse.  His parents sent for the doctor who ordered bed rest.  Dominic asked to go to confession and receive Communion because he knew he was dying.  His parents did not think it was necessary, but they asked the Priest to come and visit Dominic.  He also asked for the Last Rites to which his parents agreed only to please him.

A Saint for Everyone

Dominic died on March 9, 1857, at the very young age of 14.  He is remembered for his piety and devotion.  Many people thought that Dominic died at too young an age to be canonized but because of his “heroic virtue” Pope Pius XII beatified Dominic on March 5, 1950 and canonized him on June 12, 1954.

Pope Pius XI praised Dominic by saying he was:

Small in size, but a towering giant in spirit.

Saint Dominic Savio’s feast day is on May 6, but it was formerly March 9.  He is the patron saint of choir boys, falsely accused people, and juvenile delinquents.

“Ask Jesus to make you a saint.  After all, only he can do that.  Go to confession regularly and to Communion as often as you can.”  – Saint Dominic Savio