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The Catholic Defender: Saint Dominic Savio "Death, but not sin!"


2 April 1842 – 9 March 1857


was an Italian student of John Bosco. He was studying to be a priest when he became ill and died at the age of 14


So many holy persons seem to die young. Among them was Dominic Savio, the patron of choirboys.


Born into a peasant family at Riva, Italy, young Dominic joined Saint John Bosco as a student at the Oratory in Turin at the age of 12. He impressed Don Bosco with his desire to be a priest and to help him in his work with neglected boys.


A peacemaker and an organizer, young Dominic founded a group he called the Company of the Immaculate Conception which, besides being devotional, aided John Bosco with the boys and with manual work.


All the members save one, Dominic, would, in 1859, join Don Bosco in the beginnings of his Salesian congregation. By that time, Dominic had been called home to heaven.


John Bosco records that Savio's parents recollect how he used to help his mother around the house, welcome his father home, say his prayers without being reminded,


At the age of five, he learned to serve Mass, and would try to participate at Mass every day as well as go regularly to Confession. Having been permitted to make his First Communion at an early age, he had much reverence for the Eucharist.

At that time, it was customary for children to receive their First Communion at the age of twelve. (Pope Pius X would later lower this age to seven)


Resolutions made by me, Dominic Savio, in the year 1849, on the day of my First Communion, at the age of seven.


1. I will go to Confession often, and as frequently to Holy Communion as my confessor allows.

2. I wish to sanctify the Sundays and festivals in a special manner.

3. My friends shall be Jesus and Mary.

4. Death rather than sin.


As a youth, Dominic spent hours rapt in prayer. His raptures he called “my distractions.” Even in play, he said that at times, “It seems heaven is opening just above me. I am afraid I may say or do something that will make the other boys laugh.” Dominic would say, “I can’t do big things. But I want all I do, even the smallest thing, to be for the greater glory of God.”


Dominic’s health, always frail, led to lung problems and he was sent home to recuperate. As was the custom of the day, he was bled in the thought that this would help, but it only worsened his condition. He died on March 9, 1857, after receiving the Last Sacraments. Saint John Bosco himself wrote the account of his life.


Some thought that Dominic was too young to be considered a saint. Saint Pius X declared that just the opposite was true, and went ahead with his cause. Dominic was canonized in 1954. His liturgical feast is celebrated on March 9.


Dominic Savio, the patron saint of boys, children's choirs, falsely accused people and juvenile delinquents. Dominic, one of 10 children of a blacksmith and a seamstress, was born in 1842 in Riva di Chieri, Italy.


But Dominic's example teaches us that no matter how old we are, we can serve the Lord in small ways every day. Pope Pius XII described St. Dominic Savio as “small in size, but a towering giant in spirit.” He is the patron saint of choirboys and juvenile delinquents.

He was noted for his piety and devotion to the Catholic faith, and was canonized a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1954.


making him the youngest non-martyr to be canonised in the Catholic Church


until the canonisations of Francisco and Jacinta Marto, the pious visionaries of Fatima, in 2017.


Pope Benedict XV who watched over the Holy Childhood Society with loving concern.

Dominique died at the age of 15 on 9 March 1857. He was canonised by Pope Pius XII in 1954,

"Like Saint Dominic Savio, be missionaries of good example, good words, good action at home, with neighbours and colleagues at work. At every age we can and we must bear witness to Christ! Commitment to bear witness is permanent and daily"

(His Holiness Pope John Paul II, Homily 7 December 1997)


Dominic had clear sight of what was right and wrong and acted decisively. When he received his first Communion, he adopted a personal motto: "Death, but not sin!" He would often slip away from the playground during a recess to make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.


A young man, the nephew of Stephen the cardinal of [Fossa Nuova monastery], fell with his horse into a ditch and was killed. Being lifted out, he was laid at the feet of Saint Dominic, who prayed over him and restored him to life.

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