Fr Francesco Motto SDB
Salesian Historical Institute
Almost everything we know about Dominic Savio is due precisely to this biography written by Don Bosco for his dear boys at Valdocco, that is, for those who had had Dominic as a companion in school, in the playground, in church, in the dormitory and on walks.
Don Bosco proposed him as a model of virtue for all boys at the time, so much so that he himself made several editions. With his canonization by Pope Pius XII in St Peter's Basilica in Rome on 12 June 1954, Dominic Savio became a model of youthful holiness for the universal Church. The Salesians then, in turn, have made him known, often by using certain expressions. The most famous of these was: "Here we make holiness consist in being always cheerful". Taken out of context, these expressions risked being misunderstood.
More than sixty years have passed since that date and the world today is hopelessly removed from that of the time of Don Bosco. The young people of the 21st century are very different from the schoolboy Dominic Savio. One may wonder whether this "life of the young Dominic Savio" can simply be placed in the hands of a young person with a smartphone, and if the facts, words, anecdotes and conversations that are in it - purely and simply repeated by their educators - speak to the young people of today.
Probably not, unless they have the benefit of a wise educator that helps them to understand the setting of Valdocco, interpret what Don Bosco wrote, re-read the sayings of Dominic Savio, and decode the messages they contain. in short, the figure of the saint needs to be made relevant by being re-presented to fit the culture and theology of the present day. Some attempt has been made at the local level, but it is still not enough.
This is the real challenge that the memory of Dominic Savio launches today to parents, teachers, educators, priests and Salesians. In this regard the forthcoming Synod on youth and faith could be a wonderful opportunity.