For those readers who have never heard of this little girl, I would like to draw your attention to her. She only lived for four and a half years, but her story was so moving, that it inspired Pope Pius X to admit young children to Holy Communion.
Nellie Organ was born in Ireland on August 24th, 1903. Her Father was a soldier and her Mother looked after the apartment, in the military barracks, where they lived. The little girl was baptized a few days after she was born.
Mrs. Organ would often take little Nellie down to the seashore and make big sand castles for her. There she talked to the little girl about God and told her many wonderful things about Him. And even though she was so very young, Nellie learned to say the Rosary with her Mother as well.
When she was only two, Nellie would toddle off to Mass with her Father. Along the way to Mass, she would chatter to her Daddy about “Holy God.” She always used that special name for God, but nobody knows where she learned to call Him that.
One day Nellie’s Mother became sick. A baby-sitter took care of little Nellie, but she dropped the baby and did not tell anybody. Because of the fall, Nellie’s hip and back were twisted out of joint. As the little girl continued to grow, her pains became worse and worse, but she did not know how to tell anyone what was wrong.
Mrs. Organ remained sick for some time with tuberculosis, (a disease of the lungs), and finally she died, in January of 1907, when Nellie was only three years old. The little girl believed that her Mama went to Heaven, to be with Holy God, but she was so lonely without her Mama. Nellie’s back hurt her as well, but she could not explain this, so she just cried.
The Good Shepherd Sisters lived in a Convent nearby, and ran St. Finbar’s School. Mr. Organ thought that Nellie and her baby sister would be happy with the Sisters, so on May 11th, 1907, he took the two little girls there.
The Sisters wanted to take good care of the two children because they did not have any Mother. At first, Nellie missed her Daddy but soon she got used to the new place. She loved to call the Sisters, “Mothers.” But soon the poor child got tuberculosis, and the Doctor said that she would not have long to live.
The Sisters learned that Nellie had a bad temper and other faults. When she got angry, she would stomp her little feet and try to get her own way. Like every child she had to try every day to overcome her faults and failings. Sometimes Nellie was a naughty little girl. One time she kept five or six girls late for supper, but after she was sorry for what she did. She prayed, “Holy God, I am very sorry for keeping the girls late for supper. Please forgive me and make me a good child and Bless me and my Mothers.”
Nellie could not walk well. The Sisters bought her special shoes and some rose-coloured socks. Nellie was proud of her pretty shoes and socks. One day Nellie stopped before a statue of the Child Jesus and said, “Jesus, if You give me Your ball, I will give You my little shoes!”
“O Nellie,” said her nurse, “You can not do that.”
“He can give it to me if He likes,” Nellie replied. The little girl was right, Jesus could have given her His ball, but He gave her suffering instead.
One day Nellie’s nurse took her along to Church to make the Stations of the Cross. Little Nellie could not understand why Jesus let Himself be nailed to the Cross. She asked, “But why does Holy God let them do that? He could stop those men if he liked.” When the nurse told her that Jesus wanted to suffer and die for our sins, Nellie burst into tears, crying over and over, “Poor Holy God! Poor Holy God!”
One day Nellie swallowed some beads. They stuck in her throat, so the Doctor had to come and take them out. He saw that Nellie was getting a bad cough, and said that she had tuberculosis, just like her Mother. He also told the Sisters that Nellie could not live for even one more year.
Sometime later, when the Bishop came to give little Nellie the Sacrament of Confirmation, she said, “I am now the little soldier of Holy God.” She stopped being a crybaby, and she tried never to loose her temper again.
Nellie was not yet fours years old when she began to long for Holy Communion. She wanted to receive Jesus in Holy Communion but in those days, children could not receive Holy Communion until they were twelve years old. She used to lie quietly in her bed, whispering over and over to herself, “Oh, I am longing for Holy God! I wonder when He will come. I would like to have Him in my heart.” She would often cry out, “I want Holy God!”
The Sisters were very amazed that little Nellie would often think about Holy Communion. “Mother,” she said to her nurse one morning, “go to Mass, and get Holy God, and come back to kiss me. Then you can go back to the chapel again.” The nurse would always go back to kiss Nellie, after receiving Holy Communion. Nellie longed for this, the nearest approach she could have to Holy God, and received a great deal of happiness from the fact that she could be so close to Holy God.
One day the Blessed Sacrament was exposed on the Altar. The Nurse carried Nellie down to the chapel. It was the first time the little girl had ever seen the Monstrance. With her eyes gazing at the Monstrance, little Nellie whispered, “There He is! There is Holy God now!” From then on, she always knew when the Blessed Sacrament was taken out of the Tabernacle for Exposition. Knowing this, she would say to the Sisters, “Holy God is not in the lock-up today. Take me down to Him.”
The Child Jesus knew that Nellie was tired of lying in her bed alone, all day long, so He used to come and visit her. One day He gave her a flower, another time He danced for her and sometimes He just came to visit and talk to her. Little Nellie loved every minute that the Child Jesus spent with her.
As time went on, the Sisters felt more and more that there was something special about little Nellie, because she was always asking for Holy Communion. They asked Fr. Bury to talk with the little girl, in order to find out if she really knew enough about receiving Holy Communion. The priest asked her a number of questions and then said, “Tell me Nellie, what is Holy Communion?” To this the child replied, “It is Holy God. It is He who makes Nuns and everybody else happy!” Truly it was the Jesus, who helped little Nellie, to give the priest such a wonderful answer. Now the Fr. Bury felt sure that Nellie had reached the use of reason, even though she was so very young. He knew that the little girl understood that Jesus was present in the Blessed Sacrament, and that she loved Him. Right after speaking with little Nellie, he reported the matter to the Bishop of Cork. The Bishop then gave his permission for the child to receive Holy Communion.
Nellie made her First Holy Communion on December 6th, 1907, when she was only four years old. She looked like a little Angel sitting on her chair, in her white dress and veil, with a wreath of flowers on her head. She was brought to the chapel where all the other Sisters and children of the school were assembled. There is no doubt that little Nellie knew that she was receiving “Holy God.” When Fr. Bury brought Jesus to her, a beautiful light lit up her face. She looked like a little Angel, as she quietly thanked Holy God.
One of the Sisters explains how pious little Nellie was, on the day of her First Communion: “Nellie had just received Holy Communion, when her faced changed completely. A beautiful expression of love and peace played on her face. Her head fell back on her pillow, and she grew pale as death. She was completely still, and I thought for a moment that she had died.
The Sister continued, “But the reason why Nellie did not move, is because she was so overcome with love and thankfulness for Holy God, that she stopped thinking about earthly things. She knew so well what the Blessed Sacrament is and what God is, Whom she had just received into her heart.” Fr. Bury added, “Nellie hungers for her God, and received Him from my hands, in a transport of love.”
Nellie’s First Holy Communion was very special, and all that day she spent in prayer and thanksgiving. Her love for the Holy Eucharist increased from day to day. God gave Nellie special graces. Somehow she knew, when the Sisters had not received Holy Communion.
From her First Holy Communion until the time of her death, little Nellie received Holy Communion, thirty-two times. She always had a very great love and respect for God, when she received Holy Communion. Nellie was very intelligent, and she was more like one who was twelve years old, in her respect for God and the Blessed Sacrament.
Little Nellie was patient in her sufferings and she learned to offer all her pains to the good God. When the pain was greater than usual, she would hold her crucifix more tightly and say, “Holy God suffered far more on the Cross for me.” And if by chance she was a little impatient in her sufferings, she would quickly show her sorrow for it.
Nellie was very particular about the clothes she would wear when receiving Holy Communion. Everything had to be spotless and white about her. One day when she was going to receive Holy God, a Sister told her, “Nellie, you will have to be satisfied with the flowered gown you have on, to receive Holy Communion this morning.” But the child demanded her white dress, “I want the white dress! I can’t get Holy God in this dress!” The Sister gave her a white dress. “Now,” she said, “I am able to get Holy God.”
“Baby,” said one of the Sisters to Nellie one day, “When you go to Holy God, tell Him Mother Frances wants some way to pay her debts.” The little girl replied, “Holy God knows it, that’s enough.”
“I want Holy God! I want Holy God!” This is what little Nellie continued to cry out. One day after she had received Holy Communion, a Sister came to visit her. The Sister states: “When I visited Nellie, at about 4:45 in the evening, she was lying quite still in her little white cot turned towards the window. I heard of her strange condition during the day and was very curious to see her.”
The Sister continued, “I bent over her, and as I did so, Nellie suddenly turned around and said, ‘Oh Mother, I’m so happy. I’ve been talking to Holy God.’ Her voice trembled with delight and her face glowed. Her little eyes shone so brightly that one could not help thinking, those eyes have seen God. Her smile cannot be described because it was of Heaven, and around the bed there was the beautiful smell of incense.”
Nellie had a great love for Holy God and she also had a great love for her neighbour. She used to pray for all, and for the intentions of the Pope, whom she called, “My own Holy Pader.”
When the nurse told Nellie the story of the Passion and Sufferings of Our Lord, the little girl burst into tears, “Poor Holy God! Poor Holy God!” and later she would hold the Crucifix in her hands, and say, “Poor Holy God!”
Nellie’s life was quickly coming to and end. In 1907, she celebrated Christmas by receiving Holy Communion. She had a special name for Christmas and called it, “Holy God’s Birthday.”
She knew she was nearing the end. On January 30th, 1908 she said to the nurse, “Tell me, Mother, how do you feel today?” “Very well, Nellie,” she replied. “But tell me,” asked Nellie, “do you feel you are nearing Holy God? I do.”
Little Nellie died on Candlemas, February 2nd, 1908. As she lay dying, she saw something at the foot of her bed. Her eyes followed it, and she moved her lips as if she was speaking to someone. Then she smiled and passed away.
Nellie was buried in the public cemetery, but a year afterwards her little body was removed to the Cemetery of the Good Shepherd Convent. The body was then found whole, except for the bone in the jaw which had been destroyed by disease. In regard to that decayed bone, it was declared that before she received her First Communion it gave off a terrible odor, but after that time the odor disappeared. Many pilgrims go to visit her grave every year.
After Nellie’s death, the children of St. Finbar’s School made a special Novena that Little Nellie would obtain for them and all little children around the world, the great favour of receiving Holy Communion as near as possible to the age at which she received it.
When Pope St. Pius X was told about Little Nellie, and how she longed for Jesus in Holy Communion, and how lovingly she received Him, he said, “There! That is the sign for which I have been waiting.” He also asked Little Nellie’s Bishop for a relic of her.
In 1910, the Pope Pius X made a Church Law stating that all children could receive Holy Communion at an early age. The children of St. Finbar’s School then wrote a beautiful letter to Pope St. Pius X. I will quote some parts:
“Dear Holy Father,
We, the little children of St. Finbar’s Industrial School, write, thanking Holy God for inspiring you to issue the First Holy Communion Decree. We will never stop praying for you, and we will ask Holy God to take you into His Sacred Heart. The wonderful favour, granted to the little children, of receiving Holy Communion at such an early age, is such a source of great joy to us…
We often wonder if your holiness has heard of our holy baby, ‘Nellie,’ who received Holy Communion at the age of four years and three months…. She received Holy Communion on December 6, 1907…. Holy God and Holy God’s Mother came for her February 2, 1908.
We pray to her for everything we want, and she is almost sure to hear our prayers. Twelve months ago we began a novena at night prayers that she would work six miracles, which would obtain for her little companions and all little children over the whole world, the great favour of receiving Holy Communion as near to the age that she received it as possible. Would it be wrong for us to think that the Decree has been granted through her intercession and that it is to our darling little Nellie that we and all little children owe this great privilege?”
Pope St. Pius X received the letter of the children a few months after he had issued the Decree about the Communion of Children. He wrote the following letter to the children of St. Finbar’s School:
To the beloved children of the School of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Cork, with sincere congratulations on the sentiments expressed in their pious address of true love for Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, with the warmest thanks for their prayers for the Holy Catholic Church and for Us, and with the wish that they may always keep as good as their companion Nellie, who was called to Heaven while still a child, where she is praying for them, for the comfort of their families, for the sisters, their dear Mistresses, for their Superiors, and especially for their very Venerable Bishop, to all of whom we earnestly impart the Apostolic Blessing.
I hope that those who read this story will pray to little Nellie of Holy God and ask her to help you love the Blessed Sacrament, like she did.
St. Pius X, Pray for Us