Italy Died Age 14
born on April 2, 1842, the son of a very poor blacksmith.
He went to school near his home for as long as possible.
Later, he walked a six-mile round trip to attend a school in a
nearby town. One day, while the teacher was out of the room,
two boys brought in a lot of snow and trash and stuffed it into
the only iron stove which was heating the room. When the
teacher returned, he was so angry that the two guilty boys claimed
that Dominic had done it. The teacher gave Dominic a severe
scolding, telling him that were this not his first offense, he
would have been immediately expelled. Dominic said not one
word in his own defense but stood in front of the class and hung
his head while the teacher scolded. The next day, some of
the other boys probably tattled. At any rate, the teacher
learned the truth of the matter. He went immediately to
Dominic and asked why he had not answered the charges made against
him. Dominic said that he knew the teacher would have expelled
the other boys and he wanted them to have another chance.
"Besides," said Dominic, "I remembered that Our Lord was unjustly
accused and He said nothing."
Even at this
early age, Dominic had begun the practice of the virtue which
was later declared heroic at his beatification. From the
time he was a small child, he had been very religious. He
pleaded to help the Priest at Mass when he was only five, but
more than simply observing religious customs and practices, Dominic
lived his religion for the entire span of his brief life.
he went to Turin and became a pupil at Don Bosco's Oratory.
Here he worked, studied, played and prayed for three years before
his final illness forced him to return home. During Dominic's
brief time at the Oratory, he gained the love and respect of all
the boys and the Priests. He was not pushy and would not
interrupt to state his own views but he was not afraid to oppose
wrong and could always give reasons why he thought a certain action
overheard two boys planning a rock fight. They had become
very angry with each other and were going to fight it out.
Dominic tried his best to talk them out of this idea which was
quite dangerous but nothing would sway their determination.
He could have told the teacher but he felt this would only have
served to postpone the fight. Finally, he made the boys
agree to one secret condition which he would tell them about just
before the fight. Dominic went with the boys and helped
them make their preparations by piling up rocks. When the
boys were ready to begin, Dominic held up a small crucifix and
reminded them that Christ died forgiving sins but that they were
going to fight a dangerous fight to get even for a minor slight.
"Now," said Dominic, "throw your first rock at me. That
is my condition." At this demand, one of the boys said,
"But Dominic, you have never hurt me or done anything to me and
you are my friend." "You will not hurt me, a poor human,
but will you, by your actions, hurt Jesus Christ who is also God?"
asked Dominic. The boys hung their heads in shame and dropped
their stones. Dominic never mentioned this incident and
we would have no record of it had not the two combatants told
had decided to become a saint. Immediately he went to the
chapel to pray. He refused to play any games with the other
boys and put on a long, serious face. For two days Dominic
remained in this sober attitude. Finally, Don Bosco, his
teacher, called him and asked if he were sick. No, Dominic
assured him that he felt particularly well and happy. Then
why, asked Don Bosco, had Dominic refused to play his customary
games and why the sober expression? When Dominic explained
his great desire to become a saint, Don Bosco praised his decision
but counselled him to be cheerful and not to worry; serving God
is the way to true happiness.
bore its fruits. Dominic became an apostle of good cheerfulness
with the other boys. One day, as he was getting acquainted
with a new-comer to the Oratory, he explained to him his programme.
"Here we make holiness consist in living as joyfully as we can.
We take care to avoid sin - that great thief which robs us of
the grace of God and peace of soul; we neglect no duty and so
seek God with all our hearts. Begin from now and take as
your motto these words: Servite Domino in laetitia: Serve the
Lord with holy joy."
Love of the Sacraments.
proves without question that the greatest source of spiritual
help lies in the Sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion.
Boys and girls who receive these Sacraments frequently grow from
childhood to maturity, and so to the end of their lives, always
models of Christian virtue. Would to heaven that children
might understand this truth and put it into practise and also
that their teachers might help them to persevere with it!
came to the Oratory, Dominic had been going to Confession and
Communion once a month, as was customary in most schools but here
he went more often. One day he heard a sermon in which the
preacher said: "Boys, if you wish to persevere on the road to
Heaven, I advise you to go often to Confession and Holy Communion.
Choose a confessor to whom you can unburden yourselves freely
and never change him unless it becomes necessary to do so."
understood the importance of this advice. He began by choosing
his confessor, whom he never left during the whole of his stay
at the Oratory. In order that this Priest should know him
thoroughly, he insisted on making a general confession.
At first he went to confession every fortnight, then once a week,
each time receiving Holy Communion. His confessor, in view
of his extraordinary progress in spiritual matters, advised him
to communicate three times a week and at the end of a year he
allowed him daily Communion.
very pleased with this state of things. "When I am at all
worried," he would say, "I go to my confessor, who shows me what
is God's Will; for Jesus Christ Himself assures us that the confessor
speaks with the Voice of God. Then when I want something
important, I go to Holy Communion, when I receive the same Body
that Our Lord offered up for us on the Cross, together with His
Precious Blood, His Soul and His Divinity. What more is
wanting to complete my happiness until the day when I shall see
face to face Him whom I see now on our altars only with the eye
First Communion, Dominic had made four promises and wrote them
in a little book which he often re-read. He wrote:
1. I will
go often to confession and I will go to Holy Communion as often
as I am allowed.
The fourth promise
was to be Dominic's motto for the rest of his life. Time and
again, he asked God to let him die before offending Him by committing
a mortal sin. Dominic knew some pretty rough boys and was
often in a bad part of the town. However, to the end of his
life, he never committed a mortal sin. In fact, he led a saintly
2. I will try to give Sundays and holy days completely to God.
3. My best friends will be Jesus and Mary.
4. Death rather than sin.
Love of Penance.
youth, his delicate health and the innocence of his life, alike
dispensed him from all species of mortification but as he knew
that innocence is difficult to preserve without doing some kind
of penance, the path of mortification seemed to him to be strewn
I do not here mean bearing patiently with the contradictions and
insults of others nor the continual mortification of the senses
at all times, during prayers, at lessons or recreations, for this
was habitual with Dominic. I mean bodily mortification.
In the fervour of his soul, Dominic resolved to eat and drink
only bread and water every Saturday, in honour of Our Blessed
Lady, but his confessor forbade it. Next he wished to fast
during Lent but after a week, his director came to hear of what
he was doing and put a stop to it. He begged at least to
be allowed to go without his breakfast but this also was forbidden,
for all these mortifications would have had a very bad effect
upon his health.
and abstinence were forbidden him, Dominic sought about for other
means of mortifying himself. He put bricks and pieces of
wood in his bed so that even in his sleep he should not be comfortable.
He also wanted to wear a hair shirt. Being forbidden also
to do these things, he had recourse to yet another stratagem.
During the autumn and winter he kept his summer bed-clothes so
that in January he still had the thin blankets that had served
him in mid-summer. One day when a slight indisposition had
forced him to stay in bed, the Rector came to see him. Noticing
that the boy had rolled the sheet round and round himself, he
drew nearer and saw that the bed had only a light covering.
the meaning of this?" he asked, "Do you want to die of cold?"
"No," was the reply, "I shall not die of cold. Jesus in
the manger and on the cross had less to cover Him than this."
he was strictly forbidden to do any penance whatsoever until he
had obtained the consent of his superiors. This order he
obeyed, though sadly. One day when he met me he said: "I
really don't know what to do. Our Lord says that without
doing penance we cannot reach Heaven and I have been forbidden
all penance; how small are my chances of Paradise!" "The
penance that God asks of you is obedience." "Won't you allow
me to do some other penance as well?" he pleaded. "Yes,
bear patiently the insults of others and endure uncomplainingly
heat, cold, wind and rain; when you are tired don't be ill-humoured;
when you are ill, thank God." "But these are necessary sufferings."
"Then make a virtue of necessity, endure everything for the love
of God and you will be sure to gain merit in His sight."
At these words Dominic seemed satisfied and went happily on his
Dominic was so unaffected in his demeanour that only his teachers
and intimate friends realised that this modesty was the fruit
of great efforts, helped by grace. It was a heroic effort
for him to mortify his sight, for he was by nature quick and observant.
He confided to his friends that when he first began to practise
it, the effort was so great as to bring on violent headaches.
And yet he achieved such a complete mastery of his eyes that it
was the opinion of all who knew him, that never once did he so
much as give an unguarded glance or indulge his sight to the least
degree. "The eyes," he would say, in his spiritual talks
to his friends, "are windows. As you need only see what
you wish to see through a window, so with the eyes; they may show
us an angel of light or the spirit of darkness, both equally anxious
to possess our souls."
one of the boys brought with him a magazine in which were some
indecent and impious pictures. He was quickly surrounded
by other boys anxious to see these horrible drawings. Dominic
also ran up, but as soon as he perceived what the true nature
of the pictures was, grew indignant, took the magazine and tore
it into little pieces. At this abrupt interruption, the
others looked at one another in silence. Dominic kept quiet
for a few seconds and then explained his action.
you thinking of? God has given you eyes that you may admire
the beauty of His works; and you are using, or rather abusing,
them to look at these abominations. Have you forgotten what
so often Our Lord says: that a single harmful look can soil our
souls? And here you are feasting your eyes on that filth!"
one boy, "it was only a joke." "A fine joke you'll think
it when you're burning in Hell!" "I didn't see any such
great harm in them," protested another. "So much the worse.
Not to see any harm in those horrors, argues that your eyes are
used to such sights and such an avowal makes your sin greater.
Do you not know that the holy patriarch Job, though old and infirm,
declared that he had made a contract with his eyes, that they
should never rest on anything but that which was chaste and holy?"
At this they
all held their peace: nor did anyone else feel inclined to cross
swords with one so able in defence and attack.
To the custody
of the eyes, Savio also joined that of the tongue. Whenever
anyone else was speaking, whether they were right or wrong, he
would keep silence, often even breaking off what he had been saying,
to give others an opportunity for speech. His masters and
other superiors are unanimous in declaring that they have never
had an occasion to reproach him for a word spoken out of season,
either in school or during study or in church. More than
that, if any one of his school-fellows picked a quarrel with him,
he would keep his temper and restrain his tongue.
he had warned another boy of a bad habit he had but instead of
taking the warning in good part, the boy lost his temper and overwhelmed
Dominic with reproaches, finally beating and kicking him.
Dominic could have returned this with interest, for he was the
bigger and stronger of the two but be chose to take a Christian's
victory and though his face grew red, controlled himself and merely
said: "You have behaved badly but I forgive you. Try not
to treat others so."
How can we
sufficiently praise Dominic's mortification of his other senses?
I shall content myself with citing a few examples of his severity
he suffered with chilblains on his hands but however painful they
might be, he was never heard to complain. On the contrary,
he seemed to take pleasure in them. "The bigger they are,"
he would say, "the better for the health," and by 'health' he
meant that of the soul. Some of his school-fellows assert
that in the bitter cold of winter, he was in the habit of walking
slowly so as to suffer and do penance.
schools, there are always some pupils who grumble either at the
length of the church services or complain of the school regulations,
or else of the cooking. They are a real cross for their
superiors, for they foster a spirit of rebellion amongst the other
pupils. Far other was the conduct of Dominic. Never
was he heard to grumble at the weather, or at the quality of the
food; indeed, meal-times were for him another opportunity for
mortification, for he would gladly accept any morsels rejected
by the other boys as being too salt, or not salt enough, or underdone,
or overdone, declaring that they were exactly to his taste.
It was for
him an agreeable pastime to clean the shoes, brush his friend's
clothes, do the humblest services for those who were ill, sweep
and other like menial tasks. "Everyone does what he can,"
he would say, "I am not able to do much but I do all I can for
the greater glory of God; and I hope that in His Infinite Goodness,
the Lord will look kindly on my poor efforts." So, eating
what was distasteful to him, giving up what he liked, keeping
the custody of his eyes even in little things, giving up his own
will, enduring with perfect resignation sufferings mental and
physical; such were the mortifications that Dominic practised
all day and every day. Anxious as he was to die to himself
in order that Christ might live in him, he assiduously took advantage
of even the smallest opportunity to enhance his merit in the sight
Devotion to Our Lady.
many graces with which God had been pleased to enrich Dominic's
soul, not the least was his fervour in prayer. He had got
so into the habit of conversing with God that even in the midst
of the noisiest games he would recollect himself in Him and raise
his heart heavenwards in pious ejaculations. He had a great
devotion to the Blessed Mother of God and every day practised
some mortification in her honour. On his way to school,
he never let his eyes dwell on any person of the opposite sex
but kept them on the ground. Once, when he had been forced
to admit having thus missed seeing something that his school-fellows
were all discussing, one of the boys lost his temper with him
and exclaimed: "What do you think to do with your eyes if you
never use them?" "I hope to use them to behold the beauty
of our Heavenly Mother, when I shall be worthy to see her in Paradise."
He had an
especial devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Every
time he entered the Church, he knelt in prayer before her altar.
He asked of her the grace to keep his heart free from all intemperate
affection... "O Mary," he prayed, "I wish always to be thy
child. Obtain for me that I may die rather than commit a
sin against the virtue of purity."
robust health, Dominic became quite ill in March of 1857 with
what the doctors diagnosed as an inflammation of the lungs.
The treatment in those days consisted of blood-letting or slitting
a vein and letting 'excess' blood drain out. In the space
of four days, the doctor cut Dominic's arm ten times. Far
from helping, this probably hastened his death. He died
quietly in his home on March 9, 1857. His last words were
- "What a beautiful thing I see."
are the clean of heart, for they shall see God."