The Life of Dominic Savio
The News of His Death. Remarkable Testimony.
The last words uttered by Dominic, as related in the preceding chapter, did not give his father the impression that he was dying, He thought he was again falling into a brief period of repose. He went out of the room for a few minutes, and on his return spoke to Dominic; but there was no reply, and he perceived that he had really expired. The grief of the parents and their desolation at the loss of such a son may be well imagined.
News was most anxiously awaited at the Oratory. A letter was dispatched to me in haste by his father, and when I read: "I have sad news for you," I concluded that all was over. He went on to say: "Our dear son, your pupil, gave up his soul to God yesterday evening, with the innocence of another St. Aloysius, and after receiving the Holy Sacrament in a most edifying manner."
There was consternation at the Oratory when I told the boys. Some were in grief at the loss of such a true friend; others, at being deprived of a valuable adviser, and all missed the inspiring example of his virtuous life. Some gathered together to say a prayer for him, but the greater number declared that they were sure he was a saint and already in Paradise. Some began immediately to invoke his intercession, and there was a general endeavour to get something that had belonged to him, as a relic. The master of the class that he attended in Turin, Father Picco, announced the sad tidings to his boys in these words:
"A short time ago, I happened to speak to you about the uncertainty of human life, and I pointed out that death does not spare even those who are in the spring time of youth. On that occasion, l had an example in one of the boys, who had been a pupil of this very class, a boy full of life and vigour, and yet after a few days absence we heard that he had been taken ill and had passed away, to the great sorrow of his parents and relations.
"When I brought forward that example I little thought that this year would be saddened by a similar occurrence, that such an instance would be repeated in the case of one who was sitting here listening to me. Death has carried off one of your companions, Dominic Savio. You may remember that he was not very well when he was here last, and then had to stay away from the classes altogether. The doctors advised his removal to his native place, and there he died after only four days of illness.
"Yesterday I read the letter from his father in which he makes the sad announcement, and the picture he draws of the boy's saintly death moved me to tears. He could find no more suitable expression to apply to his beloved son than to call him another St. Aloysius, both on account of the holiness of his life and his resignation in death. I leave to his superiors at the Oratory to describe the holiness of his life, the intensity of his fervour and piety; I must allow his companions and friends, who were in daily contact with him, to describe the gentleness and modesty of his demeanour, and the careful restraint he exercised over his words. As far as he came under my direction he always deserved the highest praise for his behaviour, his diligence and exactness, and it would afford me the greatest consolation if all of you would resolve to follow his example.
"While he was at the Oratory, but had not yet begun to attend these classes, his diligence and piety won for him the highest reputation. So rapid was his progress that I was most anxious for him to come, and I had the highest possible hopes for his future career. I had met him sometimes in my visits to the Oratory, had been struck by the innocence of his life and the winning gentleness of his disposition, and had been drawn to him in a particular manner. During the time that he attended these classes he fulfilled my expectations perfectly, and all of you are witnesses to his excellent conduct. In many details, which most boys consider beneath their notice, he was scrupulously exact, and by the fervour and recollection he brought to all his actions, he sanctified his whole day and made it an acceptable offering in the sight of God. Such conduct is worthy of imitation; it would bring consolation to parents and teachers, and all blessings and happiness to the boys themselves.
"Dominic gave us an example of how a life should be spent in the service of God, in contrast to those youths who seem to be in ignorance of the end for which they were created, or who stifle the good dispositions that come to every soul. Reflect on the example of Savio, and it will help you to spend your life in the service of your Creator and to be prepared to give an account when the time comes. If I notice an improvement in work and behaviour, I shall regard it as obtained by the intercession of Dominic, and as a reward for having been associated with him, if only for a short time."
Thus did Fr. Picco announce the death of one of his most promising pupils, and evince the general sorrow at his loss.