Don Bosco meets Dominique Savio

In the summer of 1854, the tocsin rang at all the churches in Turin. Some street vendor brought cholera to the royal city of Piedmont. Soon all the hospices are full; convents and hotels are transformed into infirmaries. The much hated religious, Capuchins, Camillians, Dominicans and Oblates, are at work.
Don Bosco and Don Victor Alasonatti, for some time his assistant at the boarding school and the oratory, assist the sick in the particularly contaminated district of Valdocco.
From time to time, cholera redoubles its violence. In a single parish, he mowed down five hundred people in a few weeks. And it's still not the end!
The boarding school, where more than a hundred young people are currently staying, is terribly threatened.
—What are we going to do? they ask Don Bosco.
"Stay in god's grace. Always recommend yourself to the protection of the Blessed Virgin, and the scourge will spare you. »
On the day of the Assumption, Don Bosco exhorts the elders to devote themselves. He does not need to insist. More than forty students, workers, apprentices of commerce, immediately answered his call. Don Bosco has tears in his eyes. His disciples sometimes gave him concern; come the test, they reveal themselves heroes. They are in hospitals; they go to look for the abandoned in their attic, joyfully render them the most humble services and spend many sleepless nights at the bedside of the sick.
Misery is indescribable. The most necessary is often lacking. The oratory gives without counting, but the reserves are exhausted.
One day, Michel Rua comes to ask Don Bosco's mother for a sheet for a sick man he discovered in a slum. The brave woman unnecessarily searches cupboards and bahuts:
"Nothing more here," she said; here is another tablecloth anyway!
"Thank you, Mom Bosco, it's still as much.
No sooner has Michel turned his heels than Jean Cagliero arrives:
— At the Hôtel du Cœur d'Or, a few completely destitute foreign patients lie on the bare ground. Wouldn't you have for them some bed sheets and linen?
"There's really nothing left," sighs Mom Marguerite.
"Absolutely nothing?
After a moment of reflection, Mother Bosco runs to the church, removes the altar tablecloth, pulls from the sacristy an amict and a rattle, and gives it all to the boy: "Our Lord will forgive me for stealing it. Is it not he himself who suffers in the person of the sick? »
The boy takes the bundle. Coming back, in the evening, he does not feel very well. His head turns, he feels nauseous. Mom Marguerite forces him to go to bed. He reluctantly resigns himself to it:
"And my night service! The sick are waiting for me.
"You too are sick. You have a high fever. You have a burning head. Lie down and sleep well!
It was not cholera, but a kind of typhoid that he caught. For four nights he is between life and death. Mom Marguerite does not leave him so to speak. The doctor, very worried, advises to give him extreme unction.
"Let's see, John, what do you prefer," Don Bosco asks him, "to live or go to paradise?"
"Go to heaven.
— And yet it won't be for this time yet. The Blessed Virgin wants to heal you. You will get away with it, you will take the cassock, you will be a priest, and one day, breviary under your arm, you will go far, far away...
The next day, the fever fell. A few days later, Jean leaves the bed and resumes his service near the cholera. The mysterious word of the father will often come back to his memory and he will one day see its miraculous realization.
As the epidemic gradually fell in autumn, Don Bosco provided his dear Samaritans with magnificent relaxation. He takes them to The Becchi to harvest at his brother Joseph's house.
Everything is well changed in this country. Antoine has been dead for five years; it is his sons who run the paternal farm. Joseph is beautifully settled in another farm nearby.
Joseph welcomes with extreme pleasure all this band of happy boys; he installs straw for them under the roof to sleep; he provides them with food and drink, enchanted by these lurons that fill by singing his large vats.
In the fresh air the overworked boys regain their strength, pale and fallen cheeks are padded, and the most taciturn learn how to laugh at the Becchi!
One morning, as Don Bosco leaves the house to join his troop in the vineyards, a child of a dozen years old approaches him with his father:
"Are you dealing with me?"
"Yes, Monsieur l'abbé," replies the man. I am Charles Savio, blacksmith in Mondonio, and here is my son Dominique. I had to give in to him. He absolutely wanted to come to the Becchi to talk to you.
Don Bosco examines the child who looks at him candidly with his big bright eyes. For a bit, he would think he had in front of him his childhood friend, Louis Comollo.
He brings in his visitors, and Dominique tells him very ingenuously that he is learning Latin in Châteauneuf, but that his great desire is to continue his studies in Turin, at the oratory.
"Will you accept me?
—Why not? It seems to me that you are made of good stuff.
— Good stuff? takes the little one. Then it will be you the tailor who will work it.
"Only, you seem to me a little weak health for studies.
"The good Lord will help me.
"And what do you want to do, your studies finished?
"I would like to be a priest, if the good Lord gives me the grace.
— Beautiful ideal! But what are your abilities? We will immediately realize that. Here is a book; goes to the room next door to learn a page by heart. Task to get there in an hour. Meanwhile, I'm going to talk with your father.
Dominique returns after just five minutes:
"If you want me to recite?"
— How? Do you already know your page by heart? Let's listen to this!
Dominique recites the page word for word, without hesitation.
"You have a wonderful memory! notes Don Bosco.
This feat reminds him of his own youth.
"Yes," the father observes with pride, "my boy learns easily. He only thinks of studying. He will never make a blacksmith; he does not have the strength, and then, he may be able to do better.
"It's understood," replies Don Bosco. Come to Turin on All Saints' Day. I accept you very willingly.
The child utters a cry of joy and throws himself on the priest's hand to kiss her.
Dominique arrives with his package in Turin on the appointed day. Don Bosco leads him to his room, informs him of the rules and recommends that he always be docile to the will of his masters.
"I promise you," Dominique replies immediately. His attention then turned to a motto inscribed on the wall: " Da mihi animas, cetera tolle. »
"Do you understand what that means?" don Bosco asks.
"Give me souls; take the rest!
"This is the motto of St. Francis of Sale. You translated it well, but still, do you understand its meaning?
— Certainly. Here it is not a question of money, it is about souls. I hope that mine will also participate in this endeavour.
Don Bosco admires this child, who reminds him more and more of his dear Louis Comollo. He has black and wavy hair, a well-traced eyebrow arch, radiant eyes of purity, an expressive mouth, a noble oval of the face.
Day by day, Don Bosco appreciates better the treasure entrusted to him.
Dominique Savio is quickly accustomed. Poverty and destitution reign in Ceans; nevertheless, the smallest and darkest chambers shine with joy.
Don Bosco preaches cheerfulness around him. If he sees a child walking with his head down: "What bothers you? he asks immediately. If you have committed a sin, quickly put your conscience in order; otherwise, change that mine for me! »
The newcomer admires the abbot's ascendancy over his children. Has one of them forgotten himself in the day and quarreled with another, Don Bosco calls him in the evening and asks him:
"Well, my child, how is it going?"
—Very good.
— Really? There's nothing in you that's not going very well?
The child lowers his head and says:
— Yes. When can I go to confession?
"Go get ready for the chapel, I will join you there in a moment.
Dominic often wonders what is Don Bosco's recipe for subjecting so many young people, almost always from a lamentable environment, to perfect discipline. "He surely has a magic wand," he thought to himself, "and I see what it is: that of his affection for us."
Dominique is right. The secret of education for Don Bosco is goodness. When one of his wards has made a mistake, a single kind word is almost always enough to get him back on track. Don Bosco resorts to punishment only in the very last place, very rarely, and when he has to use this process, goodness is not absent again. Corporal punishment is strictly prohibited.
Dominique especially tastes the little word of the evening, which closes the day. The matter of only a few minutes, but the words of Don Bosco go straight to the heart and always end with a paternal "good night!".
One evening, Don Bosco reminds his audience of the obligation for everyone to sanctify themselves and explains how it is both difficult and much easier than is generally thought to strive for perfection every day. That evening, Dominique can't fall asleep. The next day, he came to find Don Bosco in his room:
What does it take to become a saint?
"And you, what do you think? What do you think is necessary?
"I could stay for whole days without eating anything, or almost?
— Not.
— Do I have to make a discipline for myself to flog myself?
— Not.
— Give up recess? Don't play with my classmates anymore?
— Not.
—What can be done to go to heaven? Dominique asks at the end of his imagination. Yet God wants us to do penance?
"Penance for you is obedience.
"Probably, but I should still add something to it from time to time. This is read in all the lives of saints.
"Naturally, you have to do something special too. For example, patiently enduring hunger and thirst, heat and cold.
"But, all this, I must always endure.
"Yes, but all this is only virtue if you bear it for God's sake. This is the path to perfection! It's not complicated, it's even very simple.
— And absolutely nothing in particular?
— It is already a very special thing for a twelve-year-old to conscientiously fulfill his daily obligations and to practice patience. It is for him the direct path to heaven.

A few days after Dominic's arrival at the oratory, a magnificent feast was celebrated on the day of the proclamation of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX, December 8, 1854. In Rome, in the crash of the cannons and the din of the bells, the exultant acclamation of the Christian people sounded: "Long live the Immaculate Conception!"
On the same day, Dominic Savio, kneeling before the altar of the Blessed Virgin, repeated this prayer several times: "Mary, I give you my heart; make it always yours. Jesus and Mary, always be my friends; but, please, make me die rather than have the misfortune of committing a single sin! »

(Don Bosco, the Apostle of Youth, G. Hünermann)

Don Bosco rencontre Dominique Savio