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   The Life of Dominic Savio

  Chapter IX  

Dominic Forms the Resolution of Striving After Perfection.

In the above chapters we have considered Dominic as a student going through his scholastic course, and have insisted principally on his talents and industry. His spiritual advancement was of even greater importance in his eyes. Savio had been at the Oratory for six months when he heard a sermon delivered there on an easy method of arriving at the perfection of the saints. The preacher brought out particularly these three points that impressed themselves deeply on Savio's mind: first, that it was God's will that we should become perfect; secondly, that it was easy to become so; thirdly, that an exceeding great reward is laid up for those who arrive at perfection. The effect of the sermon on Dominic was to set his heart aglow with love of God. For some days he was extraordinarily quiet, so that his companions began to remark it, and I noticed it myself. I began to think that his health was commencing to give way again, so I questioned him about it.

His answer was put very quaintly: "If I am suffering at all," he said, "it is from something beneficial." I asked him to explain: he replied that he had been thinking over the sermon and was seized with the desire of becoming a saint; that it now appeared to him much easier than he had thought, and asked for some special guidance in regard to his behaviour. I very naturally praised his good intentions, but pointed out that it would not be beneficial for him to be disturbed and uneasy about it, for in such disquiet of soul the voice of God could not be heard. I told him he should be always happy and cheerful, to be exact in the practices of piety and his other duties, and to take his recreation regularly with his companions.

One day I told him I wished to make him a little present, but that I left the choice of it to him. "I do not desire anything else," he replied, "but to become perfect; if I do not obtain that I shall be fit for nothing." On another occasion we were discussing the etymology of names, and he put the question: "What does Dominic mean?" Some one answered: "Belonging to God:" "See then," he promptly replied, "if I was not right in saying that I ought to become a saint; even my very name says that I belong to God; therefore it shall be my constant endeavour to become a saint."

These and similar words on other occasions may seem extraordinary in so young a boy, but Dominic meant them in all seriousness; and his use of them, just referred to, was not because he was not leading a holy life; on the contrary; but it was because he wished to undertake penances, and remain for hours in prayer, things which his superiors decided were not suitable for his years or health, or his occupations.