The Life of Dominic Savio
Various Incidents. His Attractive Manner with His Companions.
Although Dominic, as we have seen, was imbued with the desire to do good to souls, it did not, as some mistaken people might imagine, tend to make him melancholy or mournful. On the contrary, he was the life of the recreation time, though he very wisely knew how to turn every opportunity to account. When others had something to say or a story to tell, he never interrupted or criticised; but when conversation flagged, he had an inexhaustible fund of entertaining information and anecdotes which were highly interesting to his companies. He knew just when to seize the opportunity of speaking, if it were necessary to deal with grumbling or murmuring, or something not approved of.
His manner was so cheerful and attractive that he counted among his companions even those who were least disposed to piety, or were of an opposite nature to his own, and they always took in good part whatever insinuation or hint he might give them.
Once when the boys were at play in an open space, a man came up and joined in the conversation. He was amusing at first, and had a story or two that suited the curiosity of young people. But when he had made himself at home a little; he went on to speak of religious subjects and priests and the like, and treated them with ridicule and disrespect. Many of the boys noticed the change in his conversation and went off to play; others stayed on. But then Dominic arrived. He stopped for a moment to listen, but immediately saw what the man was about, and without any hesitation said to the boys round him: "Don't stay here listening to such a degraded man; he is only trying to corrupt souls." The boys were accustomed to Dominic's influence in regard to such things, and all moved away, leaving the man alone. The latter retired discomfited, and never tried his persuasive arts in that neighbourhood again.
This influence of Dominic's gradually increased, so that he could usually persuade the boys against any course in which he saw that evil might lurk. There was at the Oratory, at the time, a little society composed of the better and more able boys, who endeavoured to check any wrongdoing amongst the rest, and to deal with any unruly ones amongst them. Savio belonged to it and played a foremost part in it. Whatever little presents came to him he reserved them to add weight to his persuasion. Sometimes he would seize an opportunity in the games, when a boy on whom he had designs was a partner of his, to ask him to promise to go to Confession with him on the following Saturday. As Saturday usually seemed a long way off, the boy generally consented; but Dominic did not let him forget it, and when Saturday came he would take the boy off to church, as pleased with the success of his little ruse as a sportsman is in securing his prize. In this way it often happened that a boy, on whom a hundred sermons would be lost, would at once succumb to some novel method invented by Dominic's zeal for souls.
However, it occasionally happened, that on the appointed day, the boy who had promised to accompany him to Confession, would be missing. As soon as Dominic saw him again he would say: "Ah, you disappointed me; you didn't keep your promise." The boy would bring forward some excuse, but he was never able to convince Dominic, who easily explained to the boy that he had been caught in one of the devil's tricks for putting off Confession. He would then go on to show him how happy he would be afterwards if he made a good Confession, and get him to make another promise. It always happened that these boys would go to Dominic afterwards and tell him how glad they were for having followed his advice, and that they would go frequently to the Sacraments in future.
It is a common thing, that among a great number of boys, a few are left more or less severely alone, whether on account of their peculiar character, or of some defect, or something uninviting about them; sometimes, too, these are the object of the ridicule and torment of their companions, and are sorely in need of a friend. Dominic was always on the look out for these. He was frequently in their company, entertaining them in one way or another. Others, who through ignorance or neglect, were disposed to be mischevious or bad, Dominic took in hand, and always brought them to a better frame of mind. With the sick again he was in great demand; so that in one way or another Savio was a real apostle and put into practice his great ideal of drawing souls to God.