The young Dominic was only 7 years old when he received his First Holy Communion. It was an exception his priest made, since it was not the custom of the Church at the time (children were required to be 12 before their First Communion at the time), because of the young boy’s piety and knowledge of the faith. At the age of 7, Dominic followed his First Communion by writing four promises in a small book:
1.) I will go to Confession often, and as frequently to Holy Communion as my confessor allows.
2.) I wish to sanctify the Sundays and festivals in a special manner.
3.) My friends shall be Jesus and Mary.
4.) Death rather than sin.
He was a poor Italian boy from a hardworking family. He was born in a small village called Riva in northern Italy. His father was a blacksmith, and his mother was a seamstress. The couple had 10 children and were devoted, pious Catholics. When Dominic was 2 years old, his family moved to the village which is modern day Castlenuovo Don Bosco, where the young boy would be introduced to Fr. Don Bosco (who later became St. Don Bosco).
Dominic grew up devoted to the faith and spent his time imitating Christ to others and throughout his life. He prayed before meals and even refused to eat a meal with anyone who did not pray. He once allowed some classmates to falsely blame him for juvenile delinquent actions they had committed. Dominic remained silent in the face of the accusation and took the scolding and punishment for the boys. Once his teacher discovered the truth, he was asked why he did not defend himself or speak up and tell who was responsible. He responded by saying that he was imitating Jesus because Jesus was falsely accused and yet never spoke up to defend himself.
Dominic attended Mass as frequently as possible and was often seen praying before the Tabernacle with his mother. As a child, he was often known for kneeling and praying outside the Church building as well. He even prayed in the mud, snow, or rain. He became an altar server and maintained his promise to attend Confession regularly. Dominic said the day of his First Communion was the happiest day of his life.
The child’s teacher spoke well of him and decided to introduce him to Fr. Don Bosco, who would later take the child under his wing and mentor him. Bosco, although famous for caring for the needs of hundreds of boys (most were orphaned and poor), was impressed with young Dominic. Bosco tested the child to see how knowledgeable and dedicated to the faith he was by presenting him with a copy of The Catholic Readings (dealing with apologetics) and asked Dominic to give him a report on it the following day. It did not take Dominic an entire day to give the report. In fact, it only took him 10 minutes to recite the text to Fr. Bosco and provide an explanation for its significance. This impressed Bosco enough to help the young child go to Turin and attend the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales following Dominic’s request to Bosco that he wanted to become a priest.
Dominic studied directly under Bosco and was never shy about asking questions and seeking to know as much as he could know. He once told those at the Oratory that it was easy become a saint because God wanted everyone to become saints. Dominic made a significant impact on the lives of those around him. When his health started suddenly failing, it was decided by Bosco that the child would be returned to his family to recover. Dominic, however, said he did not feel that he would recover and was dying. Bosco felt the same way. When Bosco said his goodbyes to the young boy as he went home, they both felt it would be the last they would see of each other. They were right. He never returned to the Oratory. Dominic Savio died on March 9, 1857.
Dominic’s death prompted Bosco to write a book about the young child’s life titled “The Life of Dominic Savio.” Following countless calls for the boy’s canonization, Pope Pius X opened the cause for canonization for Dominic. He was declared venerable in 1933 by Pope Pius XI, beatified in 1950, and then later he was canonized by the Church in 1954 by Pope Pius XII. He is the patron saint of choirboys, the falsely accused, and juvenile delinquents.
St. Dominic Savio, pray for us.