Modern Day Saint
(Little Nellie of the Holy God)
This article on a Modern Day Saint is longer than most, but I had a difficult time reducing this inspirational story to even this space. It is a beautiful story about a beautiful child. This angelic child of but four years is an attractive model of virtue to all of us, especially in her love for the Holy Eucharist, and her ardent desire to receive our Lord in Communion.
Nellie was the last of four children born to Mary and William Organ (a soldier) on 24th August 1903, at the Royal Artillery Barracks, in Ireland. Both of her parents were very devout Catholics. Mrs. Organ, always pious, in her last months turned entirely to God, and her Rosary was never out of her hands. She clung to Nellie with such transports of affection towards the end that the child had to be torn, almost rudely, from her dying embrace. She died in January 1907. Now Mr. Organ was left with four motherless little ones. The priest came to the rescue and had them provided for - Thomas, the eldest, barely nine, to the Christian brothers; David to the Sisters of Mercy, and Mary and Nellie to the Good Shepherd Sisters.
On arrival at the Convent both of the girls looked ill. They were sent at once to the Sister’s of Mercy’s Hospital. In about two months the sick children returned from the hospital, but Nellie was still quite frail. They knew nothing of Nellie’s injured back, caused by being dropped as a baby. But they saw that the regulation shoes were too heavy so they got a fine pair of slipper shoes. Next day, dressed in white with rose pink socks and her new shoes, Nellie looked a picture. Nellie’s appearance was very striking because her colouring was quite unusual; her fair hair framed a face set, not with blue eyes as one might expect, but with great, luminous, solemn, dark eyes. “She looked like a little angel,” said a companion on this particular morning.
In class even babies have to sit still occasionally. Sitting still was always the cause of bitter tears to Nellie on account of her weak spine. One day she was particularly fractious. She wailed, cried and stamped her foot when they tried to soothe her. At last Sister Mary Immaculata said to her reprovingly, “Come, come, Nellie. If you are not a good little girl I will take off those pretty shoes and give you back your old ones.” But Nellie redoubled her wailing. The Sister sent a pupil to take off the dainty shoes. Meanwhile Nellie’s behaviour puzzled her. The child made no resistance to the girl’s efforts; on the contrary she assisted in removing the much-loved shoes and stockings and even managed a friendly little smile, though the tears still trembled in her big mournful eyes. Presently Nellie stole up to the Sister’s knee, and clutching the folds of her habit whispered softly, “Mother, I am sorry.” This was too much for Sister Immaculata. She caught the little one up in her arms and restored the socks and shoes. Nellie was a puzzle - these heroic efforts, in such a baby, to suppress tears and wailing which threatened to break out in spite of herself.
During a doctors visit to Nellie his verdict was that she was already very consumptive. He held no hopes for her recovery. Sister Mary Immaculata´s heart was pierced with regret for what she called her “harshness” to the suffering child.
There was a statue of the infant of Prague in the Infirmary, and Nellie at first took it for a doll. When she was told it was Holy God as a child, she became interested. Nurse Hall made a novena for her and when at the end she felt better and was able to get up, Nellie was greatly impressed. One day when Nurse Hall was ill, Nellie called a girl, “Quick, quick, bring Holy God, put Him on the chair near me, it is He that will cure Mama, you will see.” Then she embraced the statue and put it on the ground and said, “Now, little Jesus, dance for me.”
“What nonsense,” said the girl. “You know he can’t dance.” And she went on with her work.
Nellie took her little trumpet, began blowing, and called out enraptured, “Look, look, see how he dances.” Another girl came but they saw nothing except Nellie, sparkling eyes and cheeks aglow. When she was not able to blow the trumpet anymore she called on the girl to “blow more music”. In a few moments she called out, “He has stopped!” and her face regained its usual calm. One of the Sisters, hearing of this incident, said, “Dear Lord, if you really did dance for Nellie, give us money for a bakehouse which we badly need.” A few days later £300 came from a lady marked: For A Bakehouse.
The little altar of the Holy Infant, which stood beside her cot, received her greatest care. She frequently asked for fresh flowers and for oil for the lamp that burned before the statue.
Of Nellie’s first visit to the chapel during Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Nurse Hall gave this account of the child’s extraordinary behaviour on that occasion. Nurse carried Nellie down to the chapel. She had never before actually seen the Sacred Host exposed. What then was Miss Hall’s surprise to hear the little one say to her in an awed whisper, “Mother, there He is, there is Holy God now,” and with her little hand she pointed to the monstrance, after which she never once took her eyes off the Host, while an expression of ecstasy transfigured her face. From that day onward, by some interior warning and without a single exterior sign to guide her, she always knew when there was exposition at the Convent.
During the last days of September Nellie had grown so weak and ill that they feared she would die, so she was carried to the school Infirmary which was brighter and more cheerful than the cottage.
The Bishop of Cork had said that if any children were in danger of death he would come and confirm them. In reply to a letter, Mother Superior mentioned the Organs, stating that Nellie, the younger, aged four, was very fragile, but not suggesting the possibility of immediate danger and making no mention of Confirmation. The Bishop, on receiving the letter, took no notice of the reference to Nellie, but next morning he felt inspired during Holy Mass to go and confirm the tiny child. Immediately, after breakfast, he called the Superioress and told her he proposed coming at twelve o’clock that very day to administer the sacrament of Confirmation to Nellie Organ.
While Sister Mary Immaculata was busied with these temporal things, another Sister was thinking of the spiritual. She hurried upstairs to give the child some instructions on the Sacrament she was about to receive. The event far surpassed her expectations. Nellie knew already what she intended teaching her! “And”, the Sister adds, “as the hour approached, the little one’s limbs trembled from excess of her joyful anticipation.” And so, on 8th October 1907, Nellie received the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Nellie declared to all who came to see her on her Confirmation day, “I am now a soldier of Holy God”.
It was soon seen that she had clearly grasped that Fortitude was the grace of graces to be looked for in Confirmation. So vigorously did she apply her forcible character to practise patience in suffering that, the Mother Superior assured me, she never saw the child betray impatience after the day of her Confirmation, though her sufferings were very great indeed. When the pain was sharpest she would take a crucifix and, kissing it, would sigh with tears, “Poor Holy God! Oh, Poor Holy God!” If they sympathised with her she would smile and remark, “What is it compared with what He suffered on the Cross for me?”
All this time consumption was wasting away the baby frame. Not only were her lungs affected but also her jawbone had begun to crumble away. In the end it came away in pieces, and the odour from it was extremely unpleasant - at times unbearable. The devoted nurse syringed it sometimes with disinfectants. The child, although it hurt considerably, nevertheless not once resisted this, after her Confirmation. When the nurse took out the syringe, Nellie took out her crucifix. Giving her intelligent consent to this pain.
For several days she remained preoccupied. When asked if she wanted anything she would answer, “No, mother, I was only thinking of Holy God.” Her lovely eyes looked sad but resigned, nor did she again ask for Holy Communion although that was always on her mind.
Father Bury, S.J., during a retreat at the Convent, often went to visit Nellie. He asked her, “Now tell me, what is Holy Communion?” Nellie answered, “It is Holy God. It is He who makes the nuns and everyone else holy.” At another time she said. “Jesus rests on my tongue and then goes down into my heart.” One day after a visit, as he was going away, he lifted his hand to give his blessing as usual, when Nellie stopped him and said, “Oh Father, won’t you take off your cap?”
Father Bury heard Nellie’s confession and gave her unconditional absolution, showing he fully believed she had come to the use of reason. He wrote to that effect to the Bishop, saying Nellie had come to the use of reason and was endowed in no ordinary degree with ardent love of God and the desire to be united to Him in Holy Communion. The bishop agreed. When Nellie heard of the Bishop’s consent she kept repeating, “Oh, I will have Holy God in my heart, I will have Holy God in my heart.” Night brought little rest. She kept Nurse Hall awake all night long asking, “Is it not time to rise yet? The stars are gone, Mother, surely it is time to get up now.”
The eventful morning dawned at last, the morning of 6th December 1907. It was the First Friday. Dressed all in white she was carried down and placed in an easy chair before the Sanctuary. The community Mass had just ended. Nellie remained silent and motionless with her head bowed down in prayer and adoration. Every eye was on this baby of predilection; all her companions looked on in wonder.
Then came Father Bury in stole and surplice. Domine non sum dignus! Who can be worthy? No one. But He can make us worthy by His gifts and graces. Nellie knew this well for He Himself had taught her. She saw the priest approaching; she lifted her eager face. “The child,” writes father Bury, “literally hungered for her God, and received Him from my hands in a transport of love.” So all her yearnings were satisfied. Holy God had come into her heart at last. Still Nellie sat there motionless, insensible to things of earth, in silent, loving conference with the Saviour, her radiant countenance reflecting the Eternal Light that dwelt within her.
On 9th December, she was anointed. Death seemed to be momentarily at hand, and the grace of Extreme Unction was now added to the graces she had already received. As the sisters said, “Our Little Nellie has received all the Sacraments except Holy Orders and Matrimony. Yet Nellie did not die.
On Christmas Eve Nellie was to receive the Infant Jesus at Midnight Mass. She had tried to rest early in the evening but long before the hour for Holy Communion had arrived Nellie was making her preparation. “Do not speak to me before Mass,” she said. “I want to keep thinking of Holy God.
The New Year 1908 dawned, but it brought no hope to those who loved Little Nellie. It was a wonder to all how she continued to exist. The tiny frame was quite exhausted. She could retain nothing, not even a spoonful of broth. She seemed to live on the Blessed Sacrament alone.
On the 2nd of February Nellie flew to Holy God whom she had loved so faithfully. She was four years, five months and eight days old. A couple of days later Nellie’s remains were confided to consecrated ground in St. Joseph’s cemetery.
It was not, however, before Nellie’s sanctity made itself perceived. Her admirable and precocious virtues, her extraordinary life and her angelic death began to be talked about. The graces obtained through her intercession were by degrees divulged. The resting place of this little child became celebrated throughout the country and it became more practical to move her body to the Convent cemetery. When the grave was opened, on 9th September 1909, it was seen that the body was incorruptible.
Many persons visit the grave, not only from Ireland but also from abroad. Some come to satisfy their devotion and others - by far the greater number - to ask for cures of various kinds. Nor do they petition in vain.
Many have tried to have her canonised; however, Pius Xth exclaimed. “So they want me to canonise her...but that is unheard of in the Church, a child of four! We have, it is true, a little saint, of two and a half years, but that is a martyr, St. Simon of Trente. In the case of martyrs it is easier.” “It is certain that Little Nellie practised virtue in an heroic degree, “She was a little angel. Her patience was admirable, her resignation in suffering perfect. Moreover, she showed a superior intelligence in supernatural matters. As for her innocence, it is beyond a doubt...she was an angel, living with angels.”
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