Saint John before the Latin Gate

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Saint John before the Latin Gate

(95 A.D.)

In the year 95, Saint John the Evangelist, the only surviving Apostle, who was governing all the churches of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey), was apprehended at Ephesus and sent in chains to Rome. The Emperor Domitian did not relent at the sight of the venerable old man, but condemned him to be cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. The martyr doubtless heard, with great joy, this barbarous sentence; the most cruel torments seemed to him light and agreeable because he hoped they would unite him forever to his divine Master and Saviour. But God accepted his will and crowned his desire; He conferred on him the honor and merit of martyrdom while suspending the operation of the fire, just as He had formerly preserved the three children from injury in the Babylonian furnace. The seething oil was changed for him into an invigorating bath, and the Saint came out more refreshed than when he had entered the cauldron.

The glorious triumph of Saint John happened just beyond the gate of Rome called the Latina. A church which ever since has borne this title was consecrated there, in memory of the miracle. Domitian saw this miracle without deriving the least advantage from it, remaining hardened in his iniquity. Nonetheless, he contented himself afterwards with banishing the holy Apostle to the little island of Patmos. Saint John returned to Ephesus during the mild reign of Nerva (96-98), who during his short imperial government lasting one year and four months, merely labored to restore the faded luster of the Roman Empire.

Reflection. Saint John suffered above the other Saints a martyrdom of love, being a martyr and more than a martyr, at the foot of the cross of his divine Master. All Our Lord’s sufferings were by love and compassion imprinted in his soul, and thus shared by him. O singular happiness, to have stood under the cross of Christ! O extraordinary privilege, to have suffered martyrdom beside Jesus, and been eye-witness of all He did or endured! If nature revolts within us against suffering, let us call to mind those words of the divine Master to Saint Peter: Now thou knowest not why, but thou shalt know hereafter. (John 13:7)

Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894)

Saint Dominic Savio

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Saint Dominic Savio

Confessor
(1842-1857)

Saint Dominic Savio was born in Riva di Chieri, Italy, on April 2, 1842. He looked so frail and weak on the morning of his birth that his father rushed him that same evening to the parish church for Baptism. But Dominic survived and began serving Mass when he was five years old, one of his greatest joys. He was often seen at five o’clock in the morning in front of the church on his knees in rain or snow, waiting for the doors to be opened. On the occasion of his First Holy Communion he made the resolution to die rather than sin, as he had frequently expressed his determination and ambition to become a Saint.

The village pastor at Mondonio, recognizing in Dominic a soul of predilection, arranged to have him enter Don Bosco’s Oratory at Turin. Don Bosco soon noted Dominic’s consuming quest for sanctity, and pointed out to the boy that the path to holiness is not necessarily among hair shirts and tortures of the flesh, but in the cheerful bearing and offering of each day’s small crosses. Steering the lad away from artificial practices, his loved master showed him that for a soul avid of penance, there is a superabundance to be had for the taking, through acceptance of the monotony and tribulations inseparable from the perfect fulfillment of the duties of one’s state of life.

After a few months of life in the environment of the Oratory and under the saintly care of Saint John Bosco, Dominic’s soul was fired with the zeal of his master, whose rule of life, Give me souls, Lord; You take the rest, the boy adopted for his own. Following the example of Don Bosco, who in season and out of season sought those souls wherever they were to be found, Dominic also went after them in his own little world. In the Oratory he founded and directed the Immaculate Conception Sodality, a group of boys who by prayer, word and example carried on an apostolate among their classmates and proved to be of valuable assistance to Don Bosco in his work.

On one occasion Dominic broke up a vicious duel with stones. Standing between the boy-duelists with dramatic suddenness, he flashed a crucifix and said: This is Friday. Today Christ died for love of us. Can you look at Him and still hate each other?

When Dominic’s health began to fail he was forced to leave the Oratory. Don Bosco and the boys were very sorry to see him leave; he had been a good friend to all. Don Bosco said of him: His cheerful character and lively disposition made him extremely popular even among those boys who were no great lovers of their faith. His death at his home on March 9, 1857, was sweet and peaceful. Pope Pius XII canonized him in June, 1954.

Reflection. Death rather than sin! That cry from the soul of Dominic is now, thanks to Don Bosco, resounding across the rude battlefields of teen-age purity, seeking echoes in young and generous hearts.

Lives of the Saints for Every Day of the Year (Reprint of the work of John Gilmary Shea, with Appendix including recently canonized Saints) (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1955. Third Edition: Tan Books and Publishers: Rockford, Ill., 1995).