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   The Life of Dominic Savio

  Chapter VII  

Dominic Comes to the Oratory of St. Francis of Sales. His Manner of Life.

Nothing is more characteristic of youth than its tendency to changeableness. A decision is taken on a certain thing today, tomorrow all will be changed; there may be virtue in a heroic degree one day, but on the next the opposite may manifest itself; and this is where there is need of guidance and firmness in education, lest unhappy results should follow. There was no sign whatever of this in Dominic. All the virtues seemed to grow together in him and he was able to practice them all in combination.

Directly he came to the Oratory, he came to my room, in order to place himself, as he said, entirely in the hands of his Director. He at once caught sight of an inscription which bore the favourite words of .St. Francis of Sales: "Da mihi animas, caetera tolle." He began to read it attentively, and I desired him to grasp the meaning. So I helped him to make it out, the translation being: "Give me souls; take away everything else!" "He seemed to reflect a moment, and then he said: "I think I understand; here the aim is not to gain money, but to win souls, and I hope that my soul will be included in the number."

His mode of life was just the routine life of school work; and at first there was nothing extraordinary to remark, beyond his scrupulous observance of every rule. At study or any other duty, he was at once diligent and zealous. Convinced that the Word of God is the guide to Heaven, he was particularly attentive to instructions and sermons, and from them he gathered maxims and rules of conduct which formed his constant guide.

He always made a point of asking for explanations of difficulties, and thus he was able to make continual progress in virtue, and in exactness in the performance of his duties, so that it would be difficult to go beyond the excellence he attained. He had already requested the favour of having his faults pointed out, so that his conduct towards all became equally praiseworthy; he was very apt at noticing what should be avoided in the conduct of a companion, and what should be imitated, and Dominic chose his companions accordingly.

The year 1854 was drawing rapidly to its close. It was a memorable year throughout the Catholic World, for all were awaiting the declaration of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception. We, at the Oratory, were preparing to celebrate the occasion with due solemnity, and endeavouring to draw some spiritual advantage from it.

Savio was one of those who felt a desire to celebrate the great day in the manner most acceptable to Our Lady. He wrote out on nine pieces of paper an act of virtue to be practised every day of the Novena, drawing out one each day. These he faithfully put into practice, and approached the Sacraments with great devotion. On the evening of December 8th, Dominic knelt before the Altar of Our Lady, and, with the approval of his Confessor, renewed the promises made at his First Communion, begging particularly that he might be faithful to the last of the four, repeating his petition several times. Strengthened thus in fervour by his recourse to the Immaculate Mother of God, his conduct appeared so edifying, and included such acts of virtue, that I began to note them down so as not to let them be forgotten.

Coming now to describe the particular doings of the boy I find that I am confronted with quite an array of events and virtuous actions deserving of mention. For the sake of greater clearness I propose to group together certain incidents which deal with one phase or one particular matter, rather than to adhere to a strict chronological sequence.