Little Nellie of Holy God

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.

Little Nellie of Holy God

Here is a  sermon by Fr Lane :

“You may remember a few weeks ago (2003) that the disused Good Shepherd Convent in Sunday’s Well, Cork was destroyed by fire. That convent and the adjoining cemetery in the convent grounds are known by many throughout the world because of a little four year old girl called Little Nellie of Holy God. Her real name is Nellie Organ and she was born in the family quarters of the Royal Garrison Barracks in Waterford in August 1903 since her father was working in the British army. It was just three weeks after Pius X was elected Pope. There were four children in the family. 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 2ndFebruary 1908 ages 4 years, 5 months and 8 days and was buried in St Joseph’s Cemetery in Cork. Little Nellie's Grave at the Good Shepherd ConventEighteen 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. I have visited her grave in the Good Shepherd Convent.

I was reminded of Little Nellie by the words of Jesus in our Gospel today,

“For my flesh is real food
and my blood is real drink.
He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me
and I live in him.
As I who am sent by the living Father,
myself draw life from the Father,
so whoever eats me will draw life from me.”

In Little Nellie’s transformation after receiving Holy Communion and her extended thanksgiving until the late afternoon we see Jesus living in her and she living in him. She is a beautiful example of Jesus transforming us when we receive him in Holy Communion. Not only was Little Nellie transformed after receiving Jesus in Holy Communion but in a sense the entire Church has been transformed after her. It is reported that Pope Pius X was considering lowering the age for children to receive Holy Communion from twelve to seven and when he heard of Little Nellie he said she was the sign he was waiting for. On 15th August 1910 Pope Pius X published his encyclical Quam Singulari encouraging early and frequent Holy Communion of children.”

There is a more detailed account in this  article by SSPX Canada.

I should declare my interests: My mother was born in Co. Waterford, and I am a frequent visitor there. I heard of this holy child while on holiday, and think often of this story when I am tempted to disbelieve in the Real Presence.

About Brother Burrito

A sinner who hopes in God's Mercy, and who cannot stop smiling since realizing that Christ IS the Way , the Truth and the Life. Alleluia!
This entry was posted in Living Catholic lives, Mass and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to Little Nellie of Holy God

  1. mmvc says:

    Jesus said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brother Burrito says:

    A big hello to all our readers visiting from

    Our statsmeter is overheating!

    Dominus vobiscum.


  3. Mike Sinnott says:

    Hi from Mauritius, a beautiful story which invites us to be more respectful at communion time. I have passed your link to a couple of people on the island here.


  4. Brother Burrito says:

    Thanks for commenting Mike, and thanks to all 9000+ of you others who have visited so far.

    In this little girl, there was no guile: we are looking at a display of Graces granted to one of the lowliest of His creatures. Little Nellie was dealt a raw deal in this life, but Our Lord is attracted to such souls, the poor, the meek and lowly, and He raises them up.

    Over a century later, thousands of people around the world are reading her story, and pondering these things in their hearts.


  5. toadspittle says:

    Toad thought it would be Dickens’ Little Nell, of whom Oscar infamously remarked that, “One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.”

    (and why ‘Holy God’? Is there another sort?)


  6. Brother Burrito says:


    Why ‘Holy God’?

    They are her own words. At 4yrs of age, she was conscious of the Holy Mighty One.

    Of which, it seems, you aren’t, yet!


  7. lutonia says:

    Why Holy God?

    Among many Irish families – especially but not only travelling families – it is quite ordinary for children (especially) to refer to ‘Holy God’. The parents teach them about ‘Holy God’ so that they will always associate things of God with the holy.

    It’s a lovely expression and a lovely story, thanks for it.


  8. kathleen says:

    A truly beautiful story Burrito. Thank you for making it known; so few people have ever heard of Little Nellie of Holy God. I first heard of this tiny girl and her incredible holiness through a programme on EWTN.

    It really goes to prove that the Holy Spirit blows where it wills, not overlooking even a little four year old child who was open and accepting to the offered grace.


  9. kathleen says:

    Yes lutonia, my Irish grandmother always referred to God as Holy, or Jesus as Our Most Blessed Lord, right to the end of her life. As you say, it was just a way of underlining out of love and respect what was already known, that God is truly The Holy One, above all his Creation.


  10. katrinawb says:

    toadspittle, your name seems apropos. Holy God is a typical Irish way to speak of the Creator. Anyone with any Irish ancestry can tell you this. You seem pretty cynical, so why are you bothering to read or comment here? Just to denigrate this beautiful account of a saintly child. Go spit elsewhere.


  11. Gertrude says:

    Not just those with Irish ancestry either! As a child (a small one) I was always told about ‘Holy God’ present in the Blessed Sacrament – and that was in South Wales! I still, in my dotage, always refer to ‘Our Blessed Lord’, and ‘Our Blessed Lady’, the latter in Obedience to the Angelic Salutation, “From henceforth all generations shall call you Blessed”. Just little things, but it seems a shame they are no longer too much in usage.


  12. JM says:

    A beautiful tale of a beautiful little girl ; a girl who had known motherly love and lost it ; a girl who had suffered. A girl who had received grace and (who knows?) may not have understood that gift for the treasure it was. It surely speaks well of both her and her parents. May they all be at peace now.


  13. omvendt says:

    “A girl who had received grace and (who knows?) may not have understood that gift for the treasure it was.”

    Positively Socratic in what he doesn’t know.


  14. mmvc says:

    The Chaplet of Divine Mercy which Our Lord gave to Saint Faustina, also ends with this prayer said three times:

    “Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.”


  15. mmvc says:

    Yes, that is the one. In German it is known as the “Barmherzigkeitsrosenkranz” and here I’ve only ever heard it referred to as the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. But it’s one and the same beautiful prayer.


  16. Brother Burrito says:

    Teresa 19:12

    This level of Worship is not available to me or my Parish.

    Would that it were, it is beautiful even to my donkey ears


  17. golden chersonnese says:

    Teresa, it’s the “Thrice-Holy Hymn” of the Eastern Christians.

    Here’s the Greek Orthodox chant:


  18. golden chersonnese says:

    Just thinking, Little Nell receiving Holy Communion would not have been an issue in the Eastern Church, where infants are baptised, receive the Eucharist and Chrismation all at once.

    Teresa, that Berlin Choir are singing the Reproaches like bats out of hell. We used to sing it much much slower and didn’t care if we couldn’t reach the end.


  19. golden chersonnese says:

    Oops, “Little Nellie”, not “Little Nell” (that norty spittingToad)


  20. toadspittle says:


    Holy God it is, then!


  21. toadspittle says:

    Toad seems to have upset Katrinawb.

    Odd, since all he did was ask a question that several other people appeared to think perfectly reasonable, and refer to another ‘Little Nell,’ entirely.

    “Go spit elsewhere,” is her stern command. If that is her wish…

    In any case, he will turn the other cheek.


  22. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad, my love, fret not.

    Though it would be harsh to say you are an acquired taste, we are most of us acquisitive given a little time.


  23. hopeful62 says:

    As a teacher,I’m constantly confused and irritated about the ‘issues’ I have to deal with (that take up my time) because the pupils constantly ‘wind each-other up’ by posting on Facebook/MSN etc. They do so because, IMHO, they are bored, and don’t think for any more than a split second about the effect their posts will have. Sadly, rather than talk face-to-face with people, they would rather hunch in their bedrooms typing away nonsense. Then again, they are kids and, sadly, know no better.

    Toadspittle’s posts reminded me of this. He posts incessantly; he posts pathetic attempts to be amusing/interesting. The last post about ‘Little Nellie’, a beautiful and moving tale, elicited this:

    “Toad thought it would be Dickens’ Little Nell, of whom Oscar infamously remarked that, “One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of Little Nell without laughing.”

    Yeah! Believe it or not, Toad, most of us are acquainted with Wilde’s remarks. What that has got to do with a four year old who loved God with all her heart and went to meet Him with complete Faith, I don’t know. If that was, and is, your only response then, you are, as I have always suspected, a sad old prat!

    Katrinawb, you were not scolding enough. ‘golden chersonnese’, I disagree. The sooner this site is rid of him the better.


  24. Mimi says:

    Poor Mr Spittle!

    You may need more than one other cheek . . . 😉


  25. toadspittle says:

    “you are, as I have always suspected, a sad old prat!”

    Got me in one, Hopeful!

    “The sooner this site is rid of him the better.”

    I’m strongly inclined to agree.


  26. Mimi says:

    En la mesa y en el foro
    Se conoce al caballero . . .


  27. toadspittle says:

    ¡Ay de mi!

    Cut to the very quick by cruel humans on CP&S, Toad is taking a lengthy vacation, where he will devote his attention to far more serious matters, such as compiling a scrapbook of Next Year’s Royal Wedding Of The Century from pictures cut out of Hello! magazine.
    Not a subject for levity, we all agree.


  28. Mimi says:

    Noooooo! Quédate, Toad, quédate!!


  29. The Raven says:

    Oh, Toad, I know that it’s characteristic of amphibians to have permeable skins, but I would have thought that years of contact with the subject matter of Hello! would have braced you against the slings and arrows of outraged commenters!

    Anyway, what “Royal Wedding of the Century”, the heir to the throne of England is a bit young to be tying the knot yet.


  30. Gertrude says:

    Burro – I had never heard of Nellie, but came across this link in Canada –


  31. mmvc says:

    Gertrude, your link doesn’t seem to work. I think it’s the same as the one Burro gives in his post, though, and the site can be accessed from there.


  32. Gertrude says:

    Sorry about that. Yes it does appear to be the same link.


  33. golden chersonnese says:

    Raven said:
    Anyway, what “Royal Wedding of the Century”, the heir to the throne of England is a bit young to be tying the knot yet.

    Raven, if the Stuart princeling of Liechtenstein is still of too tender years, perhaps Kate could marry Simon Abney-Hastings, Lord Mauchline, and re-establish the Plantagenets. He is 34 years of age.

    He is the eldest son of King Michael and Queen Noelene (RIP), His Majesty being a rice-farmer and councillor on the Jerilderie Shire Council in southern New South Wales.

    He also happens to be the 14th Earl of Loudon. I think he is a Catholic also as he went to Ampleforth (and is a direct descendant of Blessed Margaret Plantagenet Countess of Salisbury, whom Henry VIII did in in 1541 and who was the mother of Cardinal Reginald Pole, Queen Mary Tudor’s Archbishop of Canterbury),_14th_Earl_of_Loudoun


  34. piliersdelaterre says:

    Please Toad don’t go. Little Nellie is an interesting case of holiness and how the Church’s emphasis has changed (IMHO). Today, if a 4 yr old was dropped and seriously injured by her babysitter, one hopes that the Church would support a medical and legal enquiry. If her welfare was under threat, the charity offered would no doubt be more for her continuing life than for a holy death. Circumstances and expectations have changed. Matt Talbot was another Irish Catholic whose extraordinary example of holiness gave much comfort to the poor workers of Dublin in the early 20th c. But today his attitude to authority (he was an exemplary foreman at a factory) is less noted than his reforming his drinking problem. I would guess that in both cases there is slight embarassment that the Church once insisted on the virtue of obedience to God’s will in the structure of social conditions. The Holy Ghost is flapping more of his Left Wing these days!


  35. Patience says:

    I am sooooo impressed with Little Nellie’s story that I will like all Grandmothers like me to read to their Grandchildren. I love the story of a little “Queen” who impressed the Holy Father with her love of the Euchrist; and the age to receive Holy Communion from 12yrs to 7yrs. What a story! What a very good example! I will definitely like to have Little Nellie of Holy God canonized. What does it take??


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