The Life of Dominic Savio
Dominic's Ideas About Dying and His Preparation for a Happy Death.
The brief years of Dominic's innocent life, as above related, may well be considered as a continual preparation for death. But he regarded the Sodality of the Immaculate Conception, which he had practically founded, as a secure means for obtaining the assistance of the Blessed Virgin, at the point of death, which many thought to be a not very remote contingency in Dominic's case. I do not know exactly whether he had a revelation concerning the time or circumstances of his death, or merely a presentiment of it, but it is certain that he spoke of it a good time before it occurred, and with such clearness and circumstantial knowledge, that it could not have been described more exactly by one who had actually witnessed his death.
On account of the state of his health, every care was taken to moderate his studies and his exercises of piety; but as an effect of his natural delicate build, and the constant spiritual effort, his strength gradually gave way. He had no misgivings about this himself, and had often said: "I must hurry, or else night will overtake me on the way," which meant that he had only a short time left to him, and that he should use it well in the performance of good works.
It is the custom at the Oratory for the boys, to make the exercises for a good death every month. This consists chiefly in approaching the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion as though it were to be for the last time. Pius IX. had granted several indulgences to this pious exercise. Dominic always made this preparation for a good death with an exactitude that could not be excelled. Among the prayers said in public on this day are an Our Father and Hail Mary for the one amongst us who shall be the first to die. On one of the monthly exercise days Dominic playfully said: "Instead of saying 'for the first one amongst us who is to die,' it ought rather to be: 'for Dominic Savio, who will be the first one amongst us to die.' " And this he remarked on more than one occasion.
In 1856, just before the month of May began, he went to his Director to ask for some special guidance in order to keep the month with particular devotion. The Director told him it should be done by the most exact fulfilment of one's duties, by receiving Holy Communion daily, and performing some little act in honour of Our Lady every day. Dominic then wished to know what special grace he should ask for, and was told to ask that Our Lady might obtain for him an improvement in health, and the grace to become more pleasing in the sight of God. To this Dominic replied: "Yes, I shall ask the grace to become a saint, that she may help me in the last morgent of my life and that I may die a holy death."
In fact during that month he seemed to be living only outwardly amongst us and to be more than usually in communion with the world of angels; and his efforts to do something in honour of Our Lady every day were remarkably successful, so much so, that a companion was prompted to remark to him: "If you do so much this year, how will you be able to improve upon it next year?" Dominic replied: "You may leave that to me; I must do all that is possible this year, and if I am here next year, I will answer your question."
In order that his failing health might have every care I arranged for a medical consultation. Dominic was examined by these specialists, and all wondered at his bright cheerfulness of disposition, the acuteness of his intellect, and the prudence displayed in his replies. Dr. Vallauri, of distinguished memory, who was one of the most eminent consulting physicians, said: "What a priceless treasure you have in this boy!"
I asked him what was the cause of the boy's gradual decline, that could be noticed almost day by day. He said it was the delicacy of his constitution, his precocious knowledge, and the constant highly strung tension of his whole being; these were too great a strain on his vital powers.
"Is there any remedy that you can suggest?"
"The best remedy, as far as I can see, is to let him go to Paradise, for which he seems to be quite ready; but the only thing that can prolong his life is to make him put his studies entirely aside, and let him have some light occupation suitable to his strength."