High School Graduate Wins Religious Freedom Essay Contest Telling Story of ‘Little Li’| National Catholic Register

As part of Religious Freedom Week, the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) announced the “Witness to Freedom” essay contest winner. The winning essay was from Sofia Cornicelli, a recent high school graduate from St. Thomas More Academy in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Her article told the story of Little Li, an 11-year-old girl in 1950s Communist China and her devotion to the Eucharist.

“The thing that struck me the most about Little Li’s story is that throughout her story her priority wasn’t actually religious freedom,” Cornicelli told EWTN News Nightly on June 23. “Her priority was making sure that the body of her Lord, which was scattered all over the floor by the communist soldiers, was taken care of with as much reverence as possible.”

“So, through her simple actions of reverencing the desecrated body of her Lord, her Lord made her a witness to religious freedom,” she added.

Little Li lived during the time when Mao Zedong completed his communist takeover of China. One day, her church was under attack, and Little Li watched as her priest was imprisoned in a small house adjoining the church. The communist soldiers scattered the eucharistic Lord all over the floor as they desecrated the tabernacle.

Thirty-two hosts lay scattered along the sanctuary floor.

Each night, the imprisoned priest would watch Little Li sneak into the church and observe a Holy Hour. At the end of the Holy Hour, she would kneel before one of the hosts on the floor, place her tongue on it, and consume her Lord with the utmost reverence. She did this every night for 32 consecutive nights.

On the 32nd night, when there was only one host left on the floor, right as Little Li placed her tongue on the host, a communist soldier shot the young girl. 

While writing her piece, Cornicelli said Little Li’s story taught her “that you don’t have to be a frontline fighter or activist to promote the cause of religious liberty.”

“It just teaches us that the little things we do also have an impact.”

Religious Freedom Week runs from June 22, the feast of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, to June 29. The USCCB encourages Catholics to pray, reflect, and act to promote religious freedom during the week.


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