Friday, February 29, 2008

9 Days with St. Dominic Savio: The pint-sized boy and the Missal

March 9th will mark the feast of St. Dominic Savio, a teenage saint, and student of St. John Bosco.

I decided to do a little more reading and I wanted to make my bed time reading more light and thought it would be nice to focus on the lives of the saints. I had been in the St. Jerome lending library looking through books and spotted one called, Dominic Savio - Teenage Saint by Fr. Peter Lappin. This was written in 1954 and several editions of the book have been released. Unfortunately, you can only find those various editions among used books. The book is out of print.

You can google his name and find many overviews, including this one from Catholic Online on Dominic Savio.

I was simply hooked on the story of this young saint from beginning to end. While the book was probably targeted to teens, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I wanted to share some things with you from the life of Dominic and thought by posting some excerpts over the next 9 days, perhaps not daily, but as much as I can, followed by a novena prayer I found. I thought this would be a way to bring to light this boy's extraordinary life of virtue.

This first excerpt is more delightful than anything. Among our many altar boys at Assumption Grotto, I can totally envision this.

Dominic at the young age of 5, couldn't wait to serve Mass with Fr. John Zucca. He awakened and asked his mother why she didn't wake him fearful he would miss his opportunity. He bundled up, headed out into the dark, cold, snowy morning and headed over to the church where he waited for Father. Here we pick up the dialogue from the book:

"Bless my soul! Is it you Dominic?" exlaimed the priest in surprise, when he saw the boy curled up in the doorway.

Dominic watched teh way the priest's breath made smoke as he talked. He himself did not speak, but smiled and waited until the priest had opened the door. Then he rose and followed him.

While Fr. John, with Dominic's help, prepared the vestments, he thought he would have some fun with the boy. Dominic's answers were so straightforward and naive they often made him laugh. As he drew out a long shallow drawer in which the vestments were laid out, he looked at Dominic.

"Dominic," he said, shaking his head in doubt, "somehow I think you're rather on the small side to be serving Mass alone."

"Oh, but I know all the words, Father! And I've done all the rest lots of times with the other boys....and lots of times by myself."

"Do you say Mass at home, Dominic?"

"Well, you know, Father....just play-acting..."

"Yes, but how about your height, Dominic? You're too small for the Missal. Why, you're not even as high as the altar!"

"I know, Father...but maybe you could help me. You know..."

"All right, Dominic. If you get into any difficulty with the Missal, just call for help."

"Oh Father, I don't need to call for help. That would disturb the Mass. Just pull the bookstand over to the edge of the altar so that I can reach it, that's all. You don't have to worry, Father. I'll get by."

"All right, then. Let's go. But the Lord help you if you drop any Latin words on my feet!"

"Introibo ad altare Dei....I will go unto the altar of God. To God, Who giveth joy to my youth."

Father John glanced at the tumbling blond hair of the boy at his side, and smiled. Then he brushed away the distraction and gave his whole attention to the Mass.

When the difficult responses were over, Dominic began to wonder about the angels who were suppose to surround the altar during Mass. He'd never seen any. Did they ever sit down? Did their breath smoke in the cold? Did they...

"Deo Gratias!" He quickly answered the priest's glance in his direction and moved to the epistle side. This was for him the most anxious moment of the Mass. He liked to serve Mass, but he hated having to shift that heavy book. It was set away back on the altar; it was so big it covered his chest, and so weighty it made him top-heavy. When he walked across the altar steps it nearly toppled him over.

Fr. John saw two blue eyes signal to him and understood. He drew the bookstand as near to the edge of the altar table as it was safe to do. Dominic stood on his tiptoes. The fingers of his outstretched arms groped for, and found, the bottom of the stand; he tipped the stand up so that the edge rested against his chin. From there he slipped it down to his chest. He was all set. He climbed down the steps carefully, feeling his way. At the bottom he crossed over to the other side. He felt with his foot for the bottom step, climbed it. He felt for the second, climbed it. He felt for the third, raised his foot....suddenly, the book shifted on the stand, pushed him back, pulled him forward....Down crashed teh book and bookstand with Dominic underneath!

Dominic got up quickly, however, snapped the bookstand rest into the proper slant, put the Missal on it, and placed both on the altar. Then he flipped the Missal open at the red marker and made his way down again to the bottom of the steps.

"At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: Unless ye become as little children..."

Father John signed himself with his thumb, glanced out the corner of his eye, and saw a small white face with red lips set in a grim little smile.

I found a Novena you can pray each night for the next 9 days (don't worry if you missed the first day, I'm sure St. Dominic will understand). This comes from a Kuwait website where the feast day is listed as May 9th. Perhaps it varies by country.

DEAR Saint Dominic, you spent your short life totally for love of Jesus and His Mother. Help youth today to realize the importance of God in their lives. You became a saint through fervent participation in the Sacraments, enlighten parents and children to the importance of frequent confession and Holy Communion. At a young age you meditated on the sorrowful Passion of Our Lord. Obtain for us the grace of a fervent desire to suffer for love of Him.

WE desperately need your intercession to protect today's children from the snares of the world. Watch over them and lead them on the narrow road to Heaven. Ask God to give us the grace to sanctify our daily duties by performing them perfectly out of love for Him. Remind us of the necessity of practicing virtue especially in times of trial.

SAINT Dominic Savio, you who preserved your baptismal innocence of heart, pray for us.

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