Venerable Antonietta Meo;
Dec. 15, 1930 to July 3, 1937
By Sister Irene Hartman, OP
Holy Ones of Our Time
This little girl of six years was an Italian who may become the youngest saint (who is not a martyr) to be canonized by the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XXVI approved the process toward canonization by naming her Venerable in 2007. Two miracles are required for canonization; a woman in Indiana claims that she has been healed of Hepatitis C by praying to Antoinette.
Antonietta was born in Rome of upper middle class parents, Michele and Mario Meo. She attended a Catholic school and was a charismatic leader, active in all games and a very kind child. She was noted for her personal charm and was blessed with a good sense of humor and joyfulness. At the age of five, Nennolino, as she was affectionately called, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone cancer which began with an injury from a fall. The amputation of her leg she bore cheerfully. She was fitted with an artificial leg and continued playing with other children. She prayed, “Dear Jesus, you are holy, you are good. Help me, grant me your grace and give me back my leg. If you don’t want to, then may your will be done.”
Catholic theologians have called this child a mystic because of the extraordinary character of her letters. In the months before her death, Nennilino wrote one hundred letters to Jesus or to the Blessed Virgin. “Dear Jesus, I love you very much. I want to abandon myself into your arms. Do with me what you want. Help me with your grace. You help me, since without your grace, I am nothing.” She prayed often, especially when she was in pain, and she offered her pain to Jesus. “He had suffered so much for humankind, and he had never committed any sin. He didn’t complain.”
In her last days, the little girl made her first confession, was confirmed, received her first Communion, and was anointed. She wrote an especially endearing letter to Jesus on the vigil of her first Communion. “Dear Jesus, tell God the Father that I am happy that he inspired me to accept the proposal to make my first Communion on Christmas Day because it is in fact the very day on which Jesus was born on earth to save us and die on the cross. The first Communion dress is beautiful, but what is most essential is for the dress of the soul to be beautiful.” She promised to receive Jesus in Communion every Sunday and to be the sanctuary lamp that burns day and night before the Blessed Sacrament. She prayed on that vigil for three graces; namely “to make me a saint, to give me souls for you, and make me walk well … though in truth this is not very important because I have given my leg to you.”
She insisted on writing a letter to Jesus a few days before her death, even though she was interrupted when she had to vomit. She asked Jesus to take care of everyone she loved, and she asked for grace to bear the pain. She finished the letter to Jesus with these words, “Your little girl sends you a lot of kisses.” As she was dying on July 3, 1937, Nennolino begged her mother not to cry. She said that Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus had told her that her time had come; the little crippled girl was ready to go home.
Editor’s Note: A brief video presentation about Nennolino can be found at dcdiocese.org/register.