Saint Dominic Savio (1842-1857)
Detail from painting by Musio
Dominic was born on 2nd April 1842 at San Giovanni di Riva, near Chieri (Turin). When he made his first Holy Communion, at the age of seven, he wrote down the following as his plan of life: "I will go to confession very often and go to communion as often as my confessor gives me permission. I will celebrate Sundays and feast days as holy days. Jesus and Mary will be my friends. Death rather than sin."
When he was twelve he was accepted by Don Bosco to go to the Oratory in Turin, and he asked Don Bosco to help him 'become a saint'. He was a gentle lad, always calm and cheerful, and he put great efforts into his studies and into helping his companions in every way, teaching them their Catechism, tending the sick, sorting out quarrels, etc.
One day he told a boy who had just arrived at the Oratory: "You ought to know that here we find holiness through being very happy! We try to avoid sin, which robs us of God's grace and our peace of mind, and we carry out our duties as well as we can."
Dominic kept faithfully to this plan, strengthened by the sacraments and his devotion to Mary, and accepted hardships gladly. God blessed him with special gifts. When Pius IX proclaimed the dogma of the Immaculate Conception on 8th December 1854, Dominic consecrated himself to Mary and began to make even greater progress in holiness. In 1856 he set up the 'Sodality of Mary Immaculate' with a group of his friends, to carry out apostolic work together. Mamma Margaret (Don Bosco's mother), who had come to Turin to help her priest son, said one day: "You have many good boys, but none can match the good heart and soul of Dominic Savio. I see him so often at prayer, staying in church after the others; every day he slips out of the playground to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. When he is in church he is like an angel living in Paradise."
Dominic died in Mondonio on 9th March 1857, just under a month before his fifteenth birthday. His remains are in the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians. He was canonized on 12th June 1954 and his feast is kept each year on 6th May.
Pope Pius XII described him as "small in size, but a towering giant in spirit." He is the patron saint of boy choristers.
Mr P J Ryan, when head of English at Salesian College Battersea, composed a Hymn to St Dominic Savio which was set to music by Fr Thomas Carroll SDB. The 'land thy fondest dreams caressed' in the chorus is England, where the young Dominic expressed the wish to travel as a missionary. Fr Pat Sherlock has transcribed the words and melody and added some chords, which better musicians can improve: Hymn to St Dominic Savio (PDF file 154K)