Our Lady of Fatima Opens New Doors for the Faithful
by Mary Topping
* Previously published in Our Lady of Fatima Newsletter, Spring 2015
At age 90, Our Lady of Fatima parishioner Luella Elenz still works. She’s employed as a messenger. God is her boss and the Blessed Mother her guide. Luella has amassed multiple copies of prayer cards and reader-friendly pamphlets about the Catholic faith and shares them with people who enter her life to spread the Word of God. Specifically, Luella has built a vault of knowledge about Mary and her appearance as our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.
With the celebration of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the 1917 visions of Our Lady of Fatima underway in the parish, I met with Luella to better understand devotion to Our Lady. In the process I became the latest beneficiary of her personal library. As Luella demonstrates, in addition to affirming faith in God, Our Lady of Fatima leads people to seek and acquire a deeper devotion to and understanding of the Blessed Mother.
Drawn to the legacy of Fatima
Luella was born eight years after the 1917 Fatima apparitions and grew up on a farm in southern Illinois. She was raised a Lutheran. When she visited her Catholic grandmother, she took notice of a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. “When I was about ten or eleven I looked at that picture and I thought, ‘Who would hurt a man that looked like this?’ And I guess he walked with me all my life. I didn’t know it.”
About two years later in January 1938, Luella stood outside with her family, staring at flashes of light in the night sky. “I can remember it as plain as day. Those lights were so bright and they were moving. It scared me to death,” she says now, “because my dad said, ‘I think the end of the world is coming.’”
Our Lady of Fatima predicted the light exhibition during her appearances to the children in 1917. She said they would happen to indicate that “war, famine, and persecution of the Church and the Holy Father” would ensue as chastisement for offenses against God. This could be prevented, Our Lady said, by consecrating Russia to her Immaculate Heart and practicing of the communion of reparation on first Saturdays.
“They were called the Northern Lights, but Sister Lucia claims they were the lights that the Blessed Mother said would be the beginning of the Second World War, which it was,” says Luella. Witnessing those lights was like a sign that encouraged her to learn more about the Mother of God, who foretold them.
Luella was baptized and received Holy Communion for the first time on her wedding day. As a convert to Catholicism she became curious about the Blessed Mother. Luella has studied Our Lady of Fatima since 1979 on her own and not as a teacher or scholar.
The vision of Our Lady of Fatima is especially powerful, Luella believes, because she made requests. The requests focus on a return to faith in God. Wrapped into the Blessed Mother’s appeals is the need for prayer to amend the offenses of others, a message that was also brought as a short prayer by the angel who, in 1916, announced Mary’s coming to the shepherd children.
Mary’s requests included praying the Rosary for world peace and promulgating devotion to her Immaculate Heart. Some believe the request regarding the consecration of Russia, designed to result in conversion of the country, has been satisfied by the actions of recent Popes. Others, Luella among them, feel Our Lady’s plea in this regard goes unanswered.
For Luella the request regarding Russia matters because Mary’s entreaties reflect the will of God and so we must heed them. “She’s the vessel, the tabernacle of God to the world,” says Luella. “She’s how we get to know God.”