The Life of Dominic Savio
Special Graces Granted to Dominic. Some Particular Incidents.
As far as the generality of boys is concerned, it would be considered quite extraordinary for them to maintain the high standard of conduct, and the continual endeavour after virtue that has been described above; that innocence of life and performance of good works, penances, and acts of special fervour. But these things made up the ordinary rule of Savio's life. Nothing short of extraordinary, again, were his wonderful faith, his constant hope, his ardent charity, and his perseverance till his last breath.
I now wish to describe certain facts that are really out of the common, and which may perhaps some day be the subject of criticism. It may be well to point out to the reader, that the facts to be related are very like others related in the Bible or in the Lives of the Saints; moreover I am relating what occurred under my own notice, and the incidents are given with scrupulous care; the conclusions to be drawn must be left for the discreet reader.
Very often when Dominic went into the church, principally on his Communion days, or when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, he fell into what was clearly a sort of rapture or ecstasy; and thus he would remain for a very long time, if he were not called away to fulfil his ordinary tasks.
It happened one day that he was absent from breakfast, from class, from the mid-day meal, and no one knew where he was; he was not in the study, nor in the dormitory. The Director was informed, and he had a suspicion that he knew where to find him, namely in the church, as had happened before. He went to the church, and up into the choir near the sanctuary; there stood the boy like a statue; one foot was in front of the other, and one hand was on a book stand near by, while the other was on his breast. His face was turned towards the sanctuary and his gaze fixed on the tabernacle. His lips were not moving. The Director called him; no reply; he shook him gently; then he turned and said: "Oh, is the Mass over!" "See," said the priest, showing him his watch; "it is two o'clock." The boy said he was sorry for his transgression of the rule, and the Director sent him off to dinner, saying: "If anyone asks you where you have been, say that you have been carrying out an order of mine." This was in case any inquisitive boy should put inopportune questions to him.
Another day, after making my usual thanksgiving, I was going out of the sacristy, when I heard a voice in the choir, as if someone were disputing. I went in to see what was the matter, and found Savio there. He was talking, and waiting every now and again as though listening to the answer. Among other things he said, I distinctly caught the words: "Yes, oh my God, I have already said it, and I say so again: I love Thee and will love Thee till my last breath. If Thou knowest that I should ever offend Thee, let me die; yes, I would die rather than commit sin."
I sometimes asked him what happened when he stayed behind like that. He would answer in all simplicity: "I become distracted, and losing the thread of my prayers, I behold such beautiful and entrancing sights that hours seem to go in a moment."
One day he came to my room and said: "Come quickly, Father, come with me, there is a good work to be done."
"Where am I to go," I said. "Make haste, make haste," he said. I hesitated, but as he insisted, and past experience had shown me the importance of such invitations, I went down with him. He went first, I followed. Down one street, then another, then a third, all in silence; there was yet another turning, and at a certain door he stopped; there he went up the stairs to the third floor, rang the bell vigorously, and turning to me said: "It is here that you are wanted." Then he went away.
The door was opened and a woman appeared. "Oh, make haste," she said, "quick, or it will be too late. My husband has abandoned his faith; now he is at the point of death and wishes to die a Catholic."
I went over at once to the bedside, to the sick man, who was indeed very anxious to put the affairs of his soul in order. I did what I could for the man without loss of time, and his confession was just completed, when the parish priest who had been sent for, arrived. He just had time to administer Extreme Unction with one anointing, when the man breathed his last.
Afterwards I asked Dominic how he knew that there was a man ill at that house; he did not answer, but looked at me with an air of sadness, and I noticed that tears were beginning to come. I did not question him further.
Purity of life, love of God, and his longing for heavenly things had made Dominic almost habitually absorbed in God. At times, even during recreation, these visitations would occur to him. He would drop out of the game and walk away alone. Asked why he left his companions he would answer: "My usual distractions are assailing me; it seemed to me that Heaven opened and I have to leave my companions for fear that I should say something that would appear to them ridiculous."
On one occasion something was being said about the reward of the innocent souls. Dominic had given his opinion, and by the thought of such things he was quite carried away; he became motionless at first, then dropped into the arms of someone standing near. These ecatacies in fact came on in many different places, in the study, going to and from school, and even during class.
It was remarkable that he often spoke about the Sovereign Pontiff, and expressed the desire of being able to see him, as he had something of great importance to tell him. As he had repeated this on several occasions, I one day asked him what the important matter was. He replied: "If I could have an interview with the Pope, I would tell him, that in spite of the great tribulations which he has to endure at present he should never slacken in his particular solicitude for England: God is preparing a great triumph for Catholicism in that kingdom."
"Why, what grounds have you for that statement?"
"I will tell you, but do not mention it to others, for they might think it ridiculous. But if you go to Rome, tell Pius IX. for me. This is why I think so. One morning, during my thanksgiving after Communion, I had a repeated distraction, which was strange for me; I thought I saw a great stretch of country enveloped in a thick mist, and it was filled with a multitude of people. They were moving about, but like men, who, having missed their way, are not sure of their footing. Somebody near by said: 'This is England.' I was going to ask some questions about it when I saw His Holiness Pius IX. as I had seen him represented in pictures. He was majestically clad, and was carrying a shining torch with which he approached the multitude as if to enlighten their darkness. As he drew near, the light of the torch seemed to disperse the mist, and the people were left in broad daylight. 'This torch,' said my informant, 'is the Catholic religion which is to illuminate England.' "
When I was in Rome in 1858 I related this to the Holy Father, who was greatly interested and said: "What you have told me confirms me in my resolution to do all that is possible for England, which has long been the object of my special care. What you have related is, to put it at its lowest estimation, the counsel of a devout soul."
There are many other facts of a somewhat similar nature, but which are out of place in a small life like this. I have left them on record, so that, when, in the opinion of others, their publication is demanded, they maybe given to the world.