St. Dominic Savio
There are many things that little boys want to be when they grow up, but not as many as they can be right here and right now. Unfortunately, one cannot be an astronaut at the age of seven. Neither can one be a lion tamer or a lawyer or a policeman.
There was once a little boy who knew all this. He knew it better than most. So instead of getting discouraged or impatient or put out, he made a very wise decision.
You see, this little boy, whose name was Dominic, had a very special friend. He was actually his best friend and Dominic’s parents had introduced them when Dominic was still very small. The little boy loved to go and sit with his friend and chat about all sorts of things like school and his sometimes annoying little sister Ramona and how much he wished his friend would hurry up and come to HIS house for a change.
You may have guessed, and I’m sure that last bit gave it away, that the name of Dominic’s best friend was Jesus and that he lived in a very special way inside of the tabernacle in the big stone church in the middle of the village of Riva. You also may have guessed that when Dominic wished his friend would come to his house he was actually wishing he could receive his first Holy Communion.
He would sit for hours or, what seemed like hours but probably were not, in the front pew of the big cold church, dangling his five year old, six year old, and finally seven year old legs, imagining that his heart was a little room and wondering how he could make it absolutely perfect for his best friend’s first visit.
It must be clean and neat as a pin, he thought, with big bunches of flowers and paper chains and other colourful decorations. It will have big pictures of my best friend and his mum over the fireplace, so he feels right at home and I will have a strong lock on the door so nobody can interrupt my friend and I.
Finally, the good news came. Father John, the parish priest, told Dominic that he knew his catechism well enough to make his first communion a bit early- the very next Sunday to be precise! Dominic could not believe his ears. He rushed home to tell his mama and papa the great news and, grabbing his notebook, ran all the way back to the church to tell Jesus thank you for finally accepting the invitation.
He went back to the church every evening that week and every evening he brought his notebook- the new one with nothing written in it yet, and sat and talked with his friend. But as fun as it was to imagine preparing the little room in his heart, and as nice as it was to tell Jesus all about it, he knew that it wasn’t enough. He was going to have to make some serious decisions. In fact, Dominic wanted to be a saint, and that would take some discipline!
This is what he decided:
- I will go to confession and communion often.
- I will keep holy the feast days.
- Jesus and Mary will be my best friends.
- I would rather die than commit a sin!
And he wrote those four decisions down on the first page of his brand new copybook and he grinned in a serious kind of way because he knew that these decisions would make his heart into a real home for Jesus. Confession and communion would keep it clean and bright and white and airy. Celebrating the feast days would fill his heart with joy and decoration and colour. By putting Jesus and Mary at the centre of his heart as his very best friends, and truly meaning that, and by being ready to DIE for that friendship, were all incredibly wise things for anyone, and especially for a seven year old, to decide. Deciding them, Dominic made up his mind to be happy. We know he had decided that he was going to be a saint. Because being a saint is something that you can really BE, no matter what age you are.
Dominic could hardly sleep that night for excitement. The next morning was a beautiful one, inside and out. He hardly noticed the bright blue sky or the clean white suit his mother helped him into, although he was glad to look nice for what he thought would be the most important day of his life. He slipped his notebook up his sleeve and was on his way down the lane before he realised it was really happening.
That Mass was a Mass Dominic would always remember. It was not anything new- he had been an altar server since he was only five and he knew all the responses and exactly how one behaved. But he had never felt so old, so decided, so excited, and so ready as he did then, sitting tall and still, the pages of his notebook tickling his arm. He had the door of his heart wide open, listening to the readings- his Friend talking to him, kneeling for the consecration- his Friend dying for him, and finally going out to meet him, kneeling, saying, “AMEN!” And promising to keep his decisions, to be true to his words, and then, Jesus was IN! And Dominic shut the door after him and shut his eyes and thought in that moment that he was surely the happiest boy alive.
There are many other stories about little Dominic. Once he took the blame and the punishment for a prank another boy played so that the boy, who was a notorious troublemaker, would not get expelled from school. Another time he stopped two boys from throwing stones at each other by standing between them with a crucifix, reminding them that if they hurt each other, they would be hurting Jesus just as much. He was very good at keeping those decisions that he had written down in his notebook that night. He did such a good job that, when he died at only fifteen years old, he was made a saint and became the patron saint of teenagers.
But if you would like to know more about him, and trust me, his story will give you some good ideas, then I suggest you read a longer version of it. And by the time you finish you may ask yourself, and why not? Why not keep my own notebook, make my own promises to Jesus? For no matter what you end up doing or being, you can decide to be first and foremost a friend; the very best friend of the one who loves you enough to leave heaven and come down to visit the little room of your heart in every Mass you attend. It’s up to you to decide what He finds when He gets there.