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Missionary of Good Example, Good Words, Good Action

Through the struggles of his youth, St. Dominic Savio (1842—57) gained a firm belief in the restorative power of confession. He approached his confessor as “the doctor of the soul,” and sought his advice—and the medicine of God’s grace—often.

“I have full confidence in my confessor, who is so kind and helpful to me,” Dominic said, “and I don’t think I have any trouble that he cannot cure.” Dominic was right—his confessor does seem to have guided the young man’s spirit toward Christ. Dominic tried to go to confession as often as three times a week, but his spiritual director wisely said this was unhealthy. He rightly believed the young man dealt with the spiritual struggle of scruples.

Instead, he admirably advised him to deal with the little difficulties of life, rather than seeking out the more outwardly impressive penance of fasting, by offering to Jesus his daily struggles. Dominic diligently followed his confessor’s advice to take up little everyday crosses.

Realizing that the tongue can do serious damage, he strove to not cut people off when they were speaking or to take over conversations. He likewise did his best not to waste food, believing “everything we have is God’s precious gift.” He also cheerfully did the most menial of tasks for the greater glory of God. In all of these seemingly small acts, Dominic continued his path to holiness.

Prayer played an important part in Dominic’s life. He tried to spend quiet time with spiritual readings or talk to God, and he had a special love for Mary. In 1854, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was defined, and on the feast’s vigil, Dominic prayed with conviction, “Mary, I give you my heart, please keep it always as your own. Jesus and Mary, always be my friends.” In honor of Mary, he prayed at the altar dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and he performed a special action in her recognition every day.

He and his friends founded a Sodality of Mary Immaculate and together promised to receive Communion regularly, follow the school’s rules, and help each other in their pursuits of holiness.

Especially in light of his devotion to Mary, Dominic tried to be conscious of how he looked at girls. Dominic saw that his struggle to look at others purely was part of growing up, but he did not make excuses when it was difficult.

“The eyes are two windows,” he said. “Through these windows, what you let pass, passes. You can let an angel in or you can let the devil in, and whichever you let in can get possession of your heart.”

Excerpted from Ablaze: Stories of Daring Teen Saints by Colleen Swaim, © copyright 2011, Liguori Publications (820298). To order, visit or call 800-325-9521.

Published inReflections