The Life of Dominic Savio
Zeal for the Salvation of Souls.
The chief recommendation given to Dominic, to help him to attain perfection, was to endeavour to gain souls to God, for no action is more meritorious than to co-operate in the salvation of souls, for which Our Divine Saviour shed His Precious Blood. Dominic had a particular intuition of the importance of this good work, and on several occasions he said: "If I could help to gain my companions to God, what a happiness it would be!" It was on this principle that he never let any occasion go by of doing something to this end, and accordingly he frequently gave friendly advice or warning to those of the boys whose conduct was not approved of.
He had a particular horror of anything in the nature of blasphemy or taking the name of God in vain; in fact, it worked upon him to such a degree that his health was quite affected by it. If he heard any words of that nature, as he passed along the streets, he would look down as though in sorrow, and make some pious ejaculation. A companion had often noticed him raise his cap and utter a few words of prayer when these blasphemies had been uttered. On another occasion, as he returned from school to the Oratory, he heard an elderly man utter some very blasphemous words. Dominic shuddered, and immediately offered up his pious ejaculation is reparation. But he was satisfied neither, nor disposed to let it pass. Summoning all his courage, and not at all affected by human respect, he went up to the man and asked him to direct him to the Oratory. The boy's gentle manner immediately softened the man's anger, and he replied, very affably: "No, I am sorry, I don't know where it is." "Then there is another favour you can do me," said Dominic. "Oh, what is it?" The boy then came nearer and said in a low voice, only audible to the man in question: "It would be a great pleasure to me, if, when you are angry again, you would use words that are not blasphemous."
The man was naturally astonished at such a request from a boy, but there was something of admiration in his suprise; he replied: "Well done, you are right, it is a very bad habit, that I am determined to overcome."
But Dominic's manner with young offenders was different. He once heard two little boys quarrelling at their games outside the house, and one of them in his boyish anger used the Holy Name. Dominic was pained, as he always was when this occurred, so he stepped between the two boys and made them patch up their quarrel. Then he turned to the one that he had heard utter the name of God and said to him: "Come with me, there is something to be done, with which you will be pleased." He took him off to a church, near by, and both went up to the altar. There he made the boy kneel down and ask pardon for his profane use of the Holy Name. The boy did not know the act of contrition, so Dominic made him say it after him, and added to it some pious ejaculations, to atone for the irreverence offered to God.
Pursuing the same plan, Dominic made himself acquainted chiefly with the lives of those Saints who had spent their lives in the salvation of souls. A favourite topic with him was the missionary life, and what missionaries were actually undertaking at that time; and as it was impossible for him to help them materially, he offered daily prayers for their welfare, and at least one Communion a week. Strangely enough I have often heard him exclaim: "How many souls there are in England awaiting our assistance; there is nothing would please me more, had I the strength and virtue, than to go there and help, by preaching and good works, to gain them to Jesus Christ." He frequently lamented the lack of zeal in this direction, and also as regards the proper instruction of children in the truths of the Faith. It was his idea, that as soon as he was a cleric, he would go back to Mondonio, gather the children together, and teach them their catechism and to lead good lives. And he gave practical proof of this, for he often taught catechism in the church of the Oratory, and if any boy was backward, or had been neglected in regard to his religion, Dominic was always glad to take him in hand to instruct him, and prepare him for the Sacraments.
This of course could not be carried on without remarks from those who thought his zeal was out of place, and that such things should only be mentioned in church. A companion rebuked him once for talking on the life of some Saint in recreation time, and asked him why he did so. Dominic's answer was so full of genuine zeal for the good of souls, which, he remarked, had been redeemed with a great price, that it made a deep impression on those around.
During the intervals he spent at home for the holidays, Dominic put this zeal of his into practical effect; for he would gather other boys around him?and he had quite a gift for attracting them?and by conversations and stories he gave them good instruction and counsel, He also took home several objects of piety from the Oratory, and distributed them judiciously by way of rewards among these companions. It was therefore quite customary for several to accompany him to Mass and the Sacraments, and this good work had a lasting effect. During these holidays he was brought into contact with many people of all ages and conditions, for Dominic's manner had an attraction for all; and to all of them, in one way or another, he was the means of some spiritual advantage. No wonder that his reputation began to spread, even at that time. Dominic's guiding motto was, that no occasion for doing good to souls, or of offering some little act of reparation to God, should be missed; and this accounts for his constant zeal, and his visits to the Blessed Sacrament, in which he generally managed to be accompanied by a friend or some one he wished to bring to a better life.