Meo, affectionately known as Nennolina,
was born in Rome on December 15, 1930, and died when she was only six
years old, on July 3rd, 1937. It may be hard to imagine that a six
year-old child would be declared Venerable by the Church, but Pope
Benedict XVI did so in 2007, extolling her heroic virtues. This honor
was made possible when the Sacred Congregation for the Causes of
Saints declared in 1981 that even young children are capable of
heroic virtue. If canonized, she would become the youngest
non-martyr Saint of the Church.
was born to a devout family, and her parish church was “The
Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem,” one of the Seven Pilgrim
Churches of Rome. It houses pieces of the True Cross and two thorns
from Crown of Thorns, among many other sacred relics. It now also
contains the tomb of Venerable Antonietta Meo.
was a happy and playful child. When she was four, her parents noticed
a lump on her knee, and attributed it to a simple fall, but the
swelling would not go away. It was eventually diagnosed as an
aggressive cancer of the bone, and her left leg was amputated when
she was only five years old. She was outfitted with an artificial
leg, and was soon back playing with her friends. Although in pain,
she remained cheerful.
power of God’s grace was evident in the way she accepted her
suffering. When her father asked her if she was in pain, she
reportedly answered: “Daddy, pain is like fabric, the stronger it
is, the more value it has.” One day she said to her mother: "When
I suffer, I immediately think of Jesus so I don't suffer anymore!
It's simple not to suffer: don't think of your pain, but think of
Jesus', because He suffered so much for us that you won't feel
it is remarkable that a six year-old child has been acknowledged as
Venerable by the Church, it is equally extraordinary to learn that a
young child could write letters such as the one below, addressed to
the Holy Trinity. In this letter, written with childlike simplicity,
she prays to each member of the Holy Trinity individually and
familiarly. She speaks of sacrifices in reparation for sins,
spiritual Communion, Calvary and the Cross, the Blessed Sacrament,
sanctification of her body and soul, prayers for the pope and the
Church, and more. And it is only one of over 160 that have been
preserved. She wrote them while suffering from the painful
metastasis of cancer through much of her body.
Letter No. 132
[spelling and format retained].
Most Holy Trinity,
God the Father I wish you very very well!...Dear God the Father what
a beautiful name
want to say it with as much more respect than when I don’t say it
with as much
as it should be said. Dear God the Father I ask Your forgiveness for
all these sins that I
committed, Dear God the Father I want to make many sacrifices to make
reparation for all
sins that on this day are committed dear God the Father and forgive
many many sinners,
is so repentent the come into Paradise to glorify the Most Holy
Jesus, I can’t come to receive you sacramentally every day in my
heart, but come at least
Jesus now that you are in my heart remain always always with me and
make it so I can
Jesus, I want to be always always on calvary beneath Your cross and
also want to be Your
that burns day and night before the Most Blessed Sacrament of the
altar. Dear Jesus I
you very very well.
Holy Spirit, You who are the love that unites the Father to the Son
Sanctify my body and
soul and make me come soon into Paradise. Dear Holy Spirit, You who
are the Spirit of love
my heart with love for Jesus.
Holy Spirit I wish You very very well, dear Holy Spirit make me grow
always more good
make it so one day I can come into Paradise.
Most Holy Trinity, Bless the Church the Pope the Clergy my family and
all the world.
and kisses from Your dear
after Nennolina wrote her final letter, Professor Aminta Milani, the
chief physician of Pope Pius XI, came to examine her at the request
of her doctor. The professor spoke with Antonietta and was
astonished that she could endure such pain without complaining. Her
parents told him about the letters she had been writing, and at his
request they provided him with the most recent one, which her mother
had crumpled up and thrown into a drawer because she was so upset at
seeing her daughter suffer so much and so close to death.
the next day an auto from the Vatican stopped at their house, and a
personal messenger from the Holy Father greeted the family and
imparted the apostolic blessing upon Nennolina. He related that the
Pope had been very moved upon reading the child’s letter to the
Crucified Jesus. He also gave them a note from Professor Milani, in
which he asked the dying girl to remember him in her prayers.
is the text of this letter:
2, 1937; Letter No. 162[spelling
and format retained].
really wish You well and I love You so much.
want to be on Calvary with You and I suffer with joy because I know
how to be on Calvary.
Jesus. Thanks that You have sent me this illness because it’s a way
to arrive in Paradise.
Jesus, tell God the Father that I love Him so much, Him too. Dear
Jesus, I want to be Your
and Your lilly dear Jesus, dear Jesus give me the strength necessary
to stand the pains that
offer for sinners [at this moment she was taken to vomiting].
Jesus, tell the Holy Spirit to illuminate me with love and fill me
with His seven gifts.
Jesus, tell the Madonnina that I love her so much and that I want to
be with her on
because I want to be Your victim of love dear Jesus.
Jesus, I entrust to you my Spiritual Father, and do for him all the
Jesus, I entrust to you my parents and Margherita [her sister].
Jesus, I send you lots of greetings and kisses.
1944 Our Lord spoke to a mystic about Nennolina. He said that this
little child, who had barely reached the age of reason, now, in
heaven, “...possesses an intelligence and a knowledge not at all
inferior to those of the most-learned and long-lived of the mystical
doctors.” St. John the Evangelist, “...who died at the age of
one hundred, after having known the highest mysteries of God; Paul,
the scholarly Apostle; Thomas the angelic doctor and […] all the
giants of true
knowledge, cannot add light to that Little One, my saint.
Holy Spirit, whose precocious bride she was on earth, taught her in
embraces of fire what He does not teach to the proud humanly learned,
and in uniting her to Himself in this blessed Country […] He
infused into this Little One the perfection of knowledge, just as He
infuses it into adults and the learned.” [Maria
Notebooks 1944, p.
than a month later Nennolina herself appeared to Maria Valtorta while
she was at prayer in the early morning hours of July 5, 1944. As
background, it is necessary to know that Italy was in the midst of
the Second World War, and Valtorta had been forced to leave her own
home in Viareggio due to a mandatory evacuation. She
was bedridden with a number of serious ailments, but did not want to
take the risk of asking the German Command for an ambulance;
consequently she was placed as comfortably as possible on the back
seat of an automobile. For
eight months, she was obliged to take refuge with some others in the
small Hamlet of St. Andrea di Compito, where she had a room in the
home of a married couple. Infirm and in pain, she was extremely
unhappy there, especially since she was left without her spiritual
evening, at 3 a.m. while crying desolately, she began to pray.
“Afterwards I made my usual offerings. And when I came to the one
for Nennolina, I said to her ‘Nennolina, give it yourself to Jesus
and tell Him to have me go back to my house. If you say so, He will
listen to you...and you can understand – you that were so sick –
what what the suffering of an infirm woman means.’”
(Nennolina) then appeared to Maria, dressed in white, with “...her
thoughtful, shining eyes, smiling and luminous, with a sash of light
at her side, in the place where the big wound was.”
it you?” Maria asked, and Nennolina replied with the smile of a
happy girl. Maria asked her if she was happy, and the girl smiled
then asked about her leg. Nennolina now gave a spoken answer: “It’s
no longer of use. Here, where I am, nothing is of use any longer.
Love is enough.” And then she pirouetted half-way around with the
act proper to a girl, laughing all the while.
“Do you love me, Nennolina?” The reply: a smile of assent.
“Remember to tell Jesus that poor Maria has only Him and hopes in
a farewell smile, “...the figure dissolved into light.”
Notebooks 1944, pp.