Saint Dominic Savio

Sharlet Francis Xavier writes about the young Saint who died in his teens.



Dominic Savio was born in 1842, in the village of Riva in northern Italy. The name Dominic means belonging to God and the name Savio means wise. His devout family was poor, but hard-working. As a child Dominic went to the Oratory of St. Francis De Sales, a school founded by Don Bosco, the future Saint, who later wrote a biography of Dominic as he was so impressed by his holiness. Dominic was very bright. He did well at school and was loved and respected by his friends. He attended Mass regularly and was often seen in Church praying with great passion to Jesus. At that time, children would receive their first Holy Communion in their early teens, but his Parish Priest, inspired by the Holy Spirit, decided that Dominic’s faith and devotion were so strong that he was allowed to receive Jesus in Holy Communion from the age of seven.


As he prepared for his First Holy Communion, the seven year old Dominic decided that he would make four rules for himself.

1. I will go to Confession and Communion as often as my confessor will allow.

2. I will sanctify Sundays and holy days in a special way.

3. Jesus and Mary will be my friends.

4. I will suffer death rather than sin.

Dominic lived by these resolutions until his death. He always considered God as his Lord and master and he was sure that God would reward those who were faithful with eternal life. He is said to have enjoyed the company of his guardian angel and used to have conversations with him. But while he full of energy and ready to join in any games with his friends, Dominic’s health was not strong.


Dominic was a very compassionate boy as he tried to imitate Jesus in all that he did. When he was eleven he was falsely accused of a serious offence at school. Dominic was threatened with expulsion, but because he had never misbehaved before, he was just given a severe scolding before the whole class. Dominic made no reply but stood in silence with his head bowed. A few days later the boy who was actually guilty was discovered. The teacher regretted punishing Dominic and asked him why he had not defended himself. He answered gently, “I remembered how Our Lord had been unjustly accused. I knew that the other boy was in trouble for other things and I hoped that if I kept silent he would be given another chance.”


Dominic had a special love for the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He often prayed asking for the grace to keep his heart like Mary’s, free from every impure desire. Pope Pius IX proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854 and Don Bosco and his Salesian brothers offered themselves to Mary, the Immaculate Mother of Jesus in a very special prayer. Dominic remembered his first Communion resolutions and renewed them at this time, especially that he would suffer death rather than sin. Dominic had made such evident progress in virtue that Don Bosco began to write down everything he noticed about the young boy and this would later become his biography.


“Like St Dominic Savio, be missionaries of good example, good words, good action at home, with neighbours and colleagues at work. At every age we can and we must bear witness to Christ! Commitment to bear witness is permanent and daily.” His Holiness Pope John Paul II in a Homily on 7th December 1997



One day, Don Bosco said to his pupils, “Everyone is called to be a Saint. It is easy to be a Saint. You just have to carefully do the ordinary things of the day in an extra ordinary way.” Dominic was deeply touched by this and began to think very seriously about how he might become a Saint. He began to do acts of penance and gradually became more aware of God’s call to holiness in his life. He was already very pious, but he became a person of prayer and began to actively spread the Gospel message of God’s love to others.


Dominic Savio told Don Bosco about a vision that he had. “While praying I found myself in a wide plain that was enveloped by mist and there were many people groping about in the fog as though they had lost their way. A voice said, ‘This is England.” Then I saw another figure coming towards me, wearing robes like those worn by the Pope in the picture in our class room. He was holding a huge, flaming torch in his hand, and wherever he went the mist disappeared. Soon it was all clear. Then the voice said, ‘This torch is the Catholic faith which is to illuminate England.’ Dominic asked Don Bosco to tell Pope Pius IX about the vision.


Dominic’s health was never strong and a month before his fifteenth birthday he took sick and died. He was canonised on 12th June 1954 and his feast is kept each year on 6th May.