Dominic Savio, the second of 11 children born to a peasant family in Riva, Italy, was only 15 years old when he died. But his brief life is a powerful example for young people to always be confident in who they are and to realize holiness is achieved by fulfilling the ordinary demands of life in an extraordinary way, always with faith in God.

Dominic was born in 1842 to a hardworking, pious family. Even as a child, though he loved his games and books, he was different from others because he delighted in prayer and in attending Mass. Still, he was a good friend to others, had the temperament of a leader and was well-liked by his friends.

His pastor, Father John Lucca, knew the Savio family well and saw Dominic often. He was impressed with the young boy’s piety and spiritual maturity so he allowed him to make his First Holy Communion at the age of seven, rather than wait until his early teens as was the custom.

In the days before he was to receive the sacrament, Dominic made four resolutions that demonstrated his maturing faith:

I will go to Confession and Communion as often as my confessor will allow.
I will sanctify Sundays and holy days in a special way.
Jesus and Mary will be my friends.
Death, but not sin.

Dominic upheld these resolutions throughout his young life.

One day, Dominic and his father met Father John Bosco, who founded the Oratory of St. Francis De Sales in Turin for young men. Father John was impressed with Dominic’s faith and maturity and invited him to come to the Oratory to study. This meant that Dominic would have to move away from home, but he was willing to do that because he was eager to study at the Oratory. Dominic was 12.

During the almost three years that Dominic was at the Oratory, Father Bosco, who would become St. John Bosco, was so impressed with him that he began to take notes on the things Dominic said and did.

Father Bosco shared an especially meaningful experience which led him to that practice, noting that when Pope Pius IX proclaimed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8, 1854, Father Bosco and the Salesians gathered for a special prayer service in which the young students dedicated themselves to Mary. Dominic renewed his Communion resolutions.

"From that day onward," wrote Don Bosco, "Dominic made such evident progress in virtue, that I began to write down everything I noticed about him." With those notes Father Bosco created a biography of Dominic, which is the source of much of what is known about boy saint today.

Dominic shared with Father Bosco his desire to be a priest, to help with the boys in the Oratory, and to be a saint. He often missed meals to have more time at prayer, and developed extraordinary gifts of visions and knowledge that comes from living in the constant presence of God. When Dominic turned to severe penance to aid in his path to sainthood, Father Bosco took him aside and told him, "The way to be a saint, Dominic, is to be always cheerful, do your duties to the best of your ability, and give your classmates good example. Keep in mind that the Lord, Jesus is always with you and wants your happiness." Dominic listened well.

Dominic also had a great love for Mary, so just months before his death he asked Father Bosco to help him share this love with his fellow students. Together they created a group called the Sodality of the Immaculate Conception to spread devotion to Mary. Dominic drew up the rules and guidelines for the group and had them approved by Father Bosco. Today, the work of the sodality is found in campus ministry teams in Salesian Schools and youth ministry teams in youth centers and parishes.

When Dominic was 14 he became very ill. Doctors, then, felt he was just in very poor health. Today it is believed he had a serious respiratory infection for which there was no medicine at the time. He was sent home to recuperate, but Dominic knew he would never return to the Oratory. He died peacefully just short of his 15th birthday.

While some thought that Dominic was too young to be considered a saint, Saint Pius X did not and began the process for his canonization. Pope Pius XI described him as "small in size, but a towering giant in spirit."

Dominic was declared a saint in 1954. His feast day is October 9. He is the patron saint of choir boys and troubled youth.

St. Dominic is proof that sanctity does not require a long life or an early death — only a life, whatever its length, lived with and for the Lord.  For young people in today’s world, 15-year-old Dominic shows them that saints can and do look like them.  St. Dominic, pray for the youth of our Diocese and inspire them, like you, to love the Lord.