The Life of Dominic Savio
The Progress of his Illness. He Receives the Last Sacraments. Edifying Incidents.
Dominic had left the Oratory on the 1st of March. The journey home in the carriage and the change of scene appeared to do him good, and therefore it was not thought necessary that he should remain in bed. But after a few days he seemed to become weaker, his appetite was poor, and his cough more noticeable, so that the doctor was consulted. His opinion was that the boy was a great deal worse than he appeared. He had him put to bed at once, and as he thought there was some inflamation he had recourse to blood letting.
This remedy usually had great terrors for the young. The doctor therefore advised Dominic to fix his attention on something else, and to have patience and courage. The boy smiled and said: "What is such a little wound compared to those made by the nails in the hands and feet of our Saviour?" Then with the greatest tranquillity of mind, in almost a playful mood, and without the least sign of apprehension, he watched the whole operation. When it had been repeated several times he seemed to be somewhat better; the doctor thought there was a turn towards improvement; his parents thought likewise; but Dominic was not to be brought to their opinion. Guided by the thought that it is better to receive the Sacraments in good time, than to delay till it was too late, he sent for his father and said: "Father, I think it would be better to consult the heavenly physician. I wish to go to Confession and Communion."
His parents quite thought that he was on the road to recovery; it was with sorrow they heard such remarks as these, and it was just to satisfy his desire that they sent for the priest. He came at once, heard the boy's confession and, in accordance with his request, brought the Holy Viaticum.
The devotion and eager fervour displayed by Dominic under these circumstances is better imagined than described. Whenever he approached the Sacraments it was in the attitude and dispositions of a Saint Aloysius, and now that he received them for what he deemed to be the last time, it was with outbursts of ardent love that his heart went out to meet his Divine Lord.
He recalled then the promises he had made at his First Communion: how he had besought Jesus and Mary to be his constant friends, and resolved to prefer death rather than wilfully give way to sin. When his thanksgiving was over he said in complete tranquillity: "Now I am at peace; it is true that I have to make the long journey to eternity, but with our Divine Lord by my side, I have nothing to fear; tell everyone that if they have Him there is nothing to fear, not even death itself."
Dominic had always been a model of patience under suffering, but this virtue was even more conspicuous in him during his last illness, which he bore as a Saint. Whatever he could do for himself, he wished still to do, so as not to inconvenience anyone; he thought his parents had already had too much to bear from him. He took any and every medicine without the least sign of distaste, and underwent ten times the operation of blood letting without any sign of impatience.
After four days of attendance the doctor congratulated the boy and his parents on the improvement he found, and told the mother and father to thank God that now the worst was over, and only convalescence remained.
The parents were naturally pleased; but Dominic smiled and said: "The world is overcome. I have now only to make a befitting appearance before God."
When the doctor had gone, Dominic seemed to place no reliance on his promise of recovery, and asked that the Sacrament of Extreme Unction might be administered to him. In this again the parents only complied in order to satisfy him, for neither they nor the priest could perceive any signs of his being near to death; the very serenity of his countenance, and his bright conversation, made them believe that there was really some improvement.
But whether Dominic was guided by sentiments of devotion, or whether some divinely inspired voice had spoken to his heart, the fact is that he counted the days and hours of his life as a person reckons numbers in arithmetic, and every moment was occupied in preparation to appear before God. Before receiving Extreme Unction he expressed his devotion thus: "Pardon my sins, O God, for I love Thee, and wish to love Thee for ever! May this Sacrament which Thou permitted me to receive in Thy infinite mercy, blot out all the sins I have committed by my hearing, sight, tongue, hands and feet; may my body and soul be sanctified through the merits of Thy passion. Amen."
He answered all the responses in such a clear voice, and with such realisation of their meaning, that one would have imagined him to be in perfect health. It was then the 9th of March, the fourth day of his illness, and the last day of his life. His strength was diminishing, and remedies seemed to have no effect, so that the Papal Blessing was given. He said the Confiteor himself, and responded to the priest in his turn. When he was told that it earned with it a Plenary Indulgence, he showed the greatest joy and said Deo gratias et semper Deo gratias. Then he turned to the Crucifix and recited some verses of a favourite hymn.