Blessed Nellie of Holy God!
Little Nellie of Holy God
“There! That is the sign for which I was waiting.” -Pope St. Pius X after hearing about the holy life of little Nellie. A few months later in 1910 he issued “Quam Singulari” which significantly lowered the age of Holy Communion for children.
Little Nellie Organ lived to be only four and one-half years old, and yet for very good reason she is known as “The Little Violet of the Blessed Sacrament.” The remarkable story of her short yet holy life begins with her birth on August 24, 1903. Her father, William Organ and her mother Mary Aherne Organ were married on July 4, 1896 and their marriage was soon blessed with four children: Thomas, David, Mary and, lastly, Nellie. Because unemployment was very high at that time in Ireland, her father William Organ had to choose between emigration and enlistment as a soldier. He chose the latter and in October, 1897, he joined the British Army then in occupation in Ireland, in a garrison in the maritime town of Waterford.
Little Nellie was born in the "married quarters" of the Royal Infantry Barracks in Waterford, Ireland. Soon afterward she was brought to the parish Church of the Trinity where she was Baptized with the name of "Ellen," though she would be familiarly called "Nellie." It was just three weeks after Pius X was elected Pope. Nellie’s father, William, with his family, were transferred to the barracks on Spike Island in Cork Harbor and Nellie’s mother died there. William decided that he could not care for the children and the two girls were given to the care of the Good Shepherd Sisters at St. Finbarr’s Industrial School in Sunday’s Well, Cork and the two boys were sent to another location. Nellie spent only one year in Sunday’s Well before she died due to illness. She had whooping cough when she arrived and it was also discovered that she had a spinal injury which was later found out to have been caused when the family’s child-minder dropped her as a baby. She also had tuberculosis and caries, a rotting disease of the gums and jaws.
Nellie is famous for her outstanding love of Jesus in the Eucharist. A Jesuit, Fr Bury was giving a retreat in the convent and visited Nellie’s bedside each day. He realized that Nellie, although only four years of age, had reached the age of reason. Fr Bury asked her, ‘What is Holy Communion?’ She answered, ‘It is Holy God’ Fr Bury asked her what would happen when she would be allowed to receive Holy Communion. She answered, ‘Jesus will rest on my tongue and then he will do down into my heart’ One could scarcely find a more beautiful description for receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. One night when the Mother Superior was wishing Nellie good night Nellie asked her if she would bring Holy God up to her in the morning. Mother Francis said she would come to see her after Mass which Nellie misunderstood as meaning that she would bring her Holy Communion. When Mother Francis came without Holy Communion Nellie was devastated. Then Nellie asked people to come to her bedside for a moment after receiving Jesus in Holy Communion and then they could return to the chapel to finish their thanksgiving. That was the closest she could get to receiving Jesus in Holy Communion. During the retreat Fr Bury realized that Nellie, although only four years and three months, met all the criteria necessary to receive Holy Communion. And at that time children had to wait until the age of twelve to receive Jesus in Holy Communion. Fr Bury heard her confession and contacted the bishop of Cork for permission to give her Holy Communion. The bishop agreed. She was dressed in white and taken down to the convent chapel for her first Holy Communion. This is what Mother Francis said of Nellie receiving Holy Communion,
At the moment of her First Communion, which she received in a transport of love, Nellie’s features shone as if the presence of the great light in her heart reflected itself in her face. Yes, those who saw Nellie then are well convinced that the child’s appearance was not at all ordinary. This phenomenon was seen more particularly at her other Communions because, after the first, she was taken almost immediately out of the chapel and there were only a chosen few who had the happiness to witness the transformation which took place. Then Nellie had not only a countenance more recollected, an attitude more pious than she customarily had, but an extraordinary radiance.
It is said that Nellie’s thanksgiving for receiving Holy Communion would continue until late in the afternoon. From the day of her First Holy Communion the odor from Nellie’s mouth caused by the rotting of her gums and jaws ceased. Less than two months after receiving her First Holy Communion Nellie died on Sunday 2nd February 1908 ages 4 years, 5 months and 8 days and was buried in St Joseph’s Cemetery in Cork. Eighteen months after her death permission was granted to have Nellie’s remains transferred to the Good Shepherd Convent Cemetery and upon opening her grave her body was found to be incorrupt. Her body was fresh with no sign of the wasting disease she had at her death.
"May God enrich with every blessing Father Prevost and all who recommend frequent Communion to young boys and girls, proposing Nellie as their model"
-Pope Pius X
June 4, 1912