Little Nellie craved a kiss from someone who had just received the Eucharist

1907 Ireland, a toddler nicknamed "Little Nellie" was dying tragically of TB in a Catholic convent. But she had the spunk to suggest a barter to her statue of the Infant of Prague: "Jesus, if you give me Your ball, I will give you my shoeses". 
Her nurse, Miss Hall, told her she could not have that, but Nellie retorted, "Him can give it if Him likes!" Verily a few years later Nellie’s request was granted insofar as Jesus gave her the world to  influence when accounts of her holiness and mystical gifts moved the heart of Pope Saint Pius X to issue the decree in 1910 which lowered the age of First Holy Communion from 12 to 7 years.

Little Nellie was the youngest of 4 children. Her mother died when she was an infant and her father, finding himself unable to cope on his own, placed his tiny tots in care. The convent home was found for Nellie in Cork City. Some believe Irish nuns of that day were excessively harsh, and perhaps they were stern. Indeed, before Little Nellie came to be beloved by these brides of Christ, she softened their hearts. During her short stay in their midst, rather than being dominated by them, she directed them to deeper holiness.
To wit, Little Nellie was a bright child and was taken for lessons in their schoolroom, but she kept crying out during class, and thinking she was acting up, a nun punished her by taking away her new shoes and socks and forcing her to wear old boots. Soon they found the reason for Nellie’s wailing was that she had previously sustained a severe spinal injury which made sitting still in class agonising. Nellie so lovingly forgave the nun who had disciplined her that the nun’s heart melted. There are a surprising number of these accounts told of Little Nellie by the members of that community.

Nellie’s lungs were found to be so badly consumptive that she was given months to live. Frustrated on account of being confined constantly to her cot, Nellie was induced to offer a novena to the Infant of Prague for a grace of healing, and after 9 days of prayer Nellie had such inexplicably renewed strength she was able to walk in the garden, thus inspiring her to befriend the Divine Child. With great love she kept up lively conversations with the statue of the Infant, chatting with Him as though he were her closest peer, using her gift for music to play tunes on her bugle for Him. Nellie, entirely of her own volition, insisted that clean, fresh flowers were the only ones which were to be kept by the statue of the Infant, refusing a gift of fake flowers from one of the nuns by telling her, "they are too stiff…give Him some of His own flowers."

Her nurse took Nellie to do the Stations of the Cross. Seeing Christ being nailed to the Cross while conscious of His omnipotence, Nellie expressed her bewilderment, "But why Him letting them do that? Him could stop them if Him liked!" When she learnt Our Lord let His Blood flow so as to cleanse us of our sin, she cried, "Poor Holy God! Oh, poor Holy God!" This became the source of her later appellation by which she is known to this day: Little Nellie of Holy God.
In addition to TB, more physical agonies were visited upon her; a tooth was found growing at the root of her tongue which had to be removed, and she was diagnosed as having a diseased jaw from which diffused a horrible stench. As her jawbone crumbled, and she would pinch her crucifix and ask, "What is it compared with what He suffered on the Cross for me?" 

She started demonstrating a gift for knowing if someone had received the Eucharist or not. She flatly told a girl who tried to fool her into thinking she had received the Sacred Species, "you did not get Holy God today." When the nuns came up from Mass, she knew which ones had just received the Eucharist and which ones had not. More and more often Nellie had privileged colloquies with Christ. Once when her nurse mistakenly thought she had died, Nellie humbly revealed, "Holy God says I am not good enough to go yet."

All the while in her grew an intense desire to actually receive the Sacred Species before she succumbed to death. Yet Little Nellie was still some 8 years younger than the age children were then given their First Holy Communion, so she gave her nurse this request, "When next you go down to chapel to get Holy God, come back and kiss me. I want Holy God!"  A kiss from her nurse would momentarily satisfy Nellie’s longings. Perhaps if you are a parent with babe in arms, you may kiss your child after you have received the Eucharist as Nurse Hall kissed Nellie. Two months before her death Nellie made her First Holy Communion and on that same day the stench from her jaw suddenly disappeared and the smell of incense surrounded her cot.

She would come to be known as the Little Violet of the Blessed Sacrament, but Nellie was no shrinking violet; once when a priest was about to give her a blessing, she instructed him to take off his biretta first, "Father, take off your cap!"
When on her deathbed, one of the Sisters asked Nellie that when she went to God, she was to ask Our Lord to take her to Heaven, but Nellie responded, "Holy God can’t take you Mother, till you are better and do what He wants you to do."  This nun lived to be 99.
At 4 years and 5 months old, as she was about to die, Little Nellie said she could feel Holy God coming for her, and she breathed her last.
Little Nellie of Holy God was born on August 24, 1903. Perhaps we may remember her on her birthday this year, and pray for the childlike Faith Our Blessed Lord said was necessary for our entry into His Kingdom, and for her special love of the Eucharist.  

I wrote this column for The Mass of Ages, the magazine of The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales. You may read the entire magazine here


  1. Thank you for this very charming story. May Holy God bless us all and we Him.


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