The Almost-Youngest Saint, Dominic Savio

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(Dominic Savio’s feast used to be on the day he went into eternity, but has been moved to May 6th, so here are a few belated words on the young saint, an inspiration to us who have passed many more years on this Earth, and are nowhere near his sanctity. But God can do much, with little).

Dominic Savio died on March 9th, 1857, at the age of 14, his last words, ‘what beautiful things I see…! When he was declared a saint on June 12, 1954 by Pope Pius II, Dominic Savio was the youngest non-martyr ever to be canonized in the history of the Church, until the visionaries of Fatima, Jacinta and Francesco Marto, were declared saints in 2017.

Dominic was one of ten children of, as the saying goes, ‘poor and pious’ parents, which is a noble alliterative description, and should be applied even more often. They raised their children well, but Dominic especially was receptive to grace from his earliest years, imposing on himself strict obedience to his parents, a regular prayer life, and adherence to the moral law, from which he never deviated.

His spiritual life only mature more deeply when he met Saint John Bosco in 1854, who was to be  his mentor for the short span that remained in his life. Dominic joined his ‘Oratory’ for boys, excelling in his studies on the way to the priesthood, but even more so in his spiritual growth. Dominic would quell feuds amongst the other lads – many of whom were rather rough and still feral –  and even seemed to have supernatural knowledge from God. He once led Father Bosco to a dying man, through twisted alleyways, just in time. When the good priest asked his student how he knew, Dominic became uncomfortable, so Don Bosco didn’t press the matter. What he did do was write a short biography of Dominic Savio, which became immensely popular, a masterpiece of Italian, and spiritual, prose.

Before Pius X’s decree lowering the age in 1910 by his decree, Quam Singulari, most people made their Holy Communion at about 12. Dominic, his virtue so attested, was permitted to receive at 7, calling that day the ‘happiest of his life‘, and he was soon communicating daily, in an era where most went but a few times a year, if that.

He traversed a long way quickly, and knew that his own death was approaching – likely from pleurisy. He prepared as well as any saint might, with a good confession, Communion, and devoutly going through the Exercises for a Holy Death.

And a holy death he made, on the evening of March 9th, 1864, as though falling asleep, after seeing what seemed the glory of heaven itself. He never reached the priesthood, but, as a later young saint was to say, ‘I will do more good from heaven‘.

May a few more Dominic Savio’s arise from the ‘poor and pious’ families out there, and shine like sparks amongst the stubble.

Saint Dominic Savio, ora pro nobis! +