The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century – Dominic Savio

Saint Dominic Savio, prayer card, artist unknownArticle

The college boy of fifteen, Dominic Savio, attracts us with the charm of youth. In 1911 the Eucharistic Congress of Madrid sent a telegram to Pius X, begging him to hasten the beatification of Dominic Savio, who, because of receiving his First Holy Communion at the age of seven and his extraordinary devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament, merited recommendation as a pattern for children and was deemed worthy of the title – “Child of the Holy Eucharist.”

The life of this angelic boy proves how wisely Pius X acted in strengthening children early and often with the Bread of Life. His admirable teacher, Don Bosco, has himself written the wonderful life of Dominic. He was born on 2 April 1842, at Riva, near Turin, the son of a blacksmith, and was early introduced to all practices of piety by his parents. The seductive power of evil had no influence on him. On the contrary, he energetically repulsed others who gave him bad example. We can not but marvel at his precocious intelligence of heavenly things, an intelligence matured by divine grace. “He is indeed a boy of whom much may be expected,” writes his spiritual guide. “May God open to him a career in which so precious a fruit may ripen.” When the boy of seven was told that he was to receive Holy Communion the joy of his heart knew no bounds. From that time he was almost continually in the church to prepare himself worthily for the great day approaching. The seriousness of purpose which he showed on this occasion remained his guiding star during all his life. It was clear that so promising a boy must study and, seeing that his parents were wanting in the necessary means, the priest of the place enabled Dominic to attend an academy in the neighborhood of his native town. At twelve he went to the Oratory of the Venerable Don Bosco in the district of Valdocco, and from this institution he was sent to the college in Turin.

Don Bosco and Dominic Savio soon understood one another. A divinely inspired teacher and a pupil with an unspoiled and generous heart had met. Dominic soon laid hold of two ideas with all the fervor of his ardent soul, he would become a saint and, if possible, save his soul. With tenacious energy he strove for complete self-mastery. Like all saints he gave himself to works of supererogation in prayer and penance. Don Bosco had to curb his zeal. Among his companions in the Oratory and in the college the boy worked like a true apostle. He strove especially to foster among his associates devotion to the Immaculate Conception and the reception of the Sacraments. Such zealous persons are as a rule not liked by the young. But it was not so with Dominic. Not at all obtrusive, no disturber of youthful gaiety, he was a genuine boy, alive with a boy’s nature. He did even more by example than by words, which showed to all how earnestly he was trying to be a saint. His youth was not without its difficulties, but they served only to strengthen the more his steadiness of character.

Dominic had reached the sixth class in the college when he was stricken with a disease of the lungs. Don Bosco, filled with anxiety, hoped that a change of air might bring relief, and sent the boy to his parents at Mondonio, where they were then living. But what Dominic had long confidently foretold now came to pass. On the evening of 9 March 1857, he died in the arms of his sorrowing father. The news of his death at first brought grief and mourning to his relatives, friends and teachers, but this soon gave way to joyful conviction that a new intercessor for them stood before the divine throne. Men soon began to ask favors from Dominic and their prayers were not in vain.

Many cardinals and bishops expressed their desire that Dominic Savio be soon raised to the honors of the altar, that he may serve as a pattern and protector for the precarious age of boyhood. But he will also spur on the old to endeavor for virtue. “We old people,” writes Cardinal Agliardi, “feel ourselves humbled before such virtue in a fifteen-year-old boy. But he who is yet in the bloom of youth will under the attraction of so great a fragrance of innocence follow likewise in the footsteps of his piety.”

MLA Citation

  • Father Constantine Kempf, SJ. “Dominic Savio”. The Holiness of the Church in the Nineteenth Century: Saintly Men and Women of Our Own Times, 1916. CatholicSaints.Info. 16 September 2018. Web. 22 January 2019. <>