The Life of Dominic Savio
His Frequentation and Devout Reception of the Sacraments.
The confirmed experience of those who have assisted in the spiritual training or the general education of the young is, that the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion are the best safeguards and the strongest supports for that critical period of their life. If you can show me a boy who frequently receives the Holy Sacraments, it will be enough to convince me that he will pass through the years of youth, reach the age of manhood and maturity, and, if God so disposes, arrive at a venerable old age, and all during that time will be an example to those who know him. This should be impressed upon the young so that they may form this excellent habit: it should be seriously considered and grasped by all who share in the education of the young, so that they may assist them to put it into practice.
Apart from certain establishments, few in number, it was not usual in the time we are treating of, for children or adults to go frequently to the Sacraments, and so Dominic Savio had only been accustomed to go once a month to Confession and Communion before he came to the Oratory. But from that time he began to go more often. In fact it had been stated in the pulpit of the Oratory Chapel, that if the boys were really desirous of walking in the path of virtue, and persevering in it, they should practise three things: to go regularly to the Sacrament of Penance; to approach the Holy Table very frequently; to open their heart freely to their confessor. Dominic had noted down these counsels, for in such things he had a special knowledge of what was important.
He chose his confessor, and only had the one during his stay at the Oratory. In order to make quite sure that everything was correct, and to form a right estimation of his conscience, he made a general confession. Then he began to go every fortnight, and then weekly. His habit of monthly Communion was soon altered to a weekly one, and then to several times a week, and then to a daily one. At one time he seemed to become scrupulous and wished to confess oftener, but his confessor forbade him to go more than once a week, and he adhered to this direction.
But in this confessor he had the utmost confidence, and opened his whole soul to him. Even out of confession he often consulted him about the affairs of his soul, and in regard to a change of confessor he very acutely said: "The confessor is the soul's physician. You do not change your doctor unless he proves unworthy of your confidence, or unable to deal with your complaint. Neither of these cases applies to me. I have entire confidence in my confessor, and I do not know of any diseases of the soul that he cannot cure." However, this confessor directed him to go to another priest from time to time, especially at the monthly exercises for a good death; and the boy did so.
In these matters, indeed, he had special gifts. He used to say that he could not possibly be in need of spiritual comfort or strength;for he got all the guidance he required from his confessor, and all the desires of his soul were satisfied in the delights of Holy Communion; nothing could be added to his happiness, until it was time for him to be admitted to the unveiled presence of Our Lord, whom he now beheld on the Altar with the eyes of Faith.
It was this frame of mind that conduced to Dominic's perpetual calm and cheerfulness, and the special joy that seemed to accompany his daily life. However, it must not be imagined for a moment that he was not observant in the extreme, lest anything should prevent his being prepared to go daily to the Holy Sacrament; on the contrary, his conduct was on all occasions singularly without blemish. I have questioned those who were with him during his three years amongst us, and who lived the same student's life with him, and not one of them could, after due reflection, bring forward any defect or negligence, or suggest any virtue in which he was lacking; and yet boys have a high standard when judging of such things in their companions.
In regard to his actual reception of Holy Communion, he used to say a special prayer of preparation the night before. In the morning he prepared with the other boys during Mass, and with his own particular devotion; but his thanksgiving cannot be said to have ever terminated. It was quite an ordinary occurrence, that, if not specially called or aroused, he would not remember breakfast time or even school time, remaining in prayer, or rather in a sort of contemplation and adoration of the goodness of Our Divine Lord, who communicates with souls in His own ineffable manner.
If he could spend an hour during the day in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, it was his utmost delight; but he always found time for a visit every day, and got someone to go with him if possible. His favourite prayers were a series of acts in reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus; they were a well known devotional practice, and to be found in most prayerbooks; in order that his communions might be more fruitful and meritorious, and that there might be a motive of renewed fervour every day, he always had a definite intention in view. His intentions were thus distributed over the week:
SUNDAY. - In honour of the Blessed Trinity.
MONDAY. - For the welfare of spiritual and temporal benefactors.
TUESDAY. - In honour of my Patron Saint, Saint Dominic, and of my Guardian Angel.
WEDNESDAY. - In honour of Our Lady's Seven Dolours, for the conversion of sinners.
THURSDAY. - For the Souls in Purgatory.
FRIDAY. - In honour of the Sacred Passion of Christ.
SATURDAY. - In honour of Our Lady, to obtain her protection in life and death.
Whatever devotions were practised in honour of the Blessed Sacrament, he took part in them with eager joy and delight; and would accompany the priest when taking Holy Viaticum, if he were allowed. One day a priest was passing across a muddy street with the Blessed Sacrament, when Dominic was near. There had been a great deal of rain and it was muddy all round. But the boy took no head of that. He knelt in the mud and made his act of adoration. A companion remonstrated that he need not have knelt in the mud: that God did not command it, and did not wish him to dirty his clothes in that way. But that was not at all Dominic's view of such things; he replied that trousers as well as knees belonged to God; and should therefore be employed in His honour. "Whenever I approach the Sacramental Presence," he said, "I would not only throw myself in the mud, but even into a fiery furnace, for thus I should be consumed with that fire of infinite charity, which moved Our Lord to institute the Most Holy Sacrament.
On another occasion he noticed that a soldier was standing while the Blessed Sacrament was being carried by; Dominic did not like to invite the soldier to kneel down, so he took out his handkerchief, spread it on the ground, and made a sign that he might kneel on it. The soldier was a little confused at this hidden rebuke, but he left the handkerchief alone and knelt down where he was, in the middle of the street.
One of Dominic's delights was to be dressed as a cleric for the great Procession of the Blessed Sacrament on the Feast of Corpus Christi. His whole bearing revealed the depth of his Faith and the excess of his love.