St Dominic Savio

(entered heaven this day in 1857)

Dear Don,

Thank you for asking my opinion of your Lenten program for fasting and sacrifice.  It is, if I may be frank, ridiculous. If you follow through with all those radical proposals, you will necessarily neglect your primary duty (your studies), you will most likely wreck your health, and you will fill yourself up with a most dangerous pride – thinking that you are much holier than your buddies because you did so much penance during Lent.  Be shrewder, and more humble. Why not just take today’s saint’s program?

Dominic heard the call to the priesthood when he was just a boy, and his parish priest recommended him to St John Bosco’s oratory, where St John was training the future co-founders of his Salesian Order.  Dominic thrived there, organizing a club with some of the other boys called the Company of the Immaculate Conception. Together they took up some devotions, but mainly set about taking care of things that would help the oratory run more smoothly – washing floors, for example, and tending to boys who had special needs.  Dominic proved himself to be a natural leader and desired with his whole heart to serve God worthily. Don Bosco showed him the way, emphasizing the need to combine cheerfulness, participation in the activities of the oratory (which was much like a religious school), and careful attention to daily duties. He also curtailed Dominic’s tendency to perform imprudent sacrifices.  Dominic used to say, “I can’t do big things. But I want all I do, even the smallest thing, to be for the greater glory of God…” He took to heart Don Bosco’s excellent advice: “The penance God wants is obedience. There is plenty to put up with cheerfully – heat, cold, sickness, the tiresome ways of other people. There is quite enough mortification for boys in school life itself.”  Now that’s a solid approach to Lenten spirituality.  Don’t you think that the normal challenges of college life, if viewed with faith and met with self-control, hard work, and a Christian sense of responsibility, will make for a Lenten program more pleasing to God than all-night vigils and raw-egg fasts?  St Dominic would, I daresay; and I certainly do. If you try to live out this young saint’s (he died when he was only 15) lifetime motto – “Death before sin!” – you will have a more than adequate Lenten program.

Sincerely, Uncle Eddy

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