Our Lady of Kibeho’s message to the world

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By Kateri Williams

Most Catholics are familiar with the Marian apparition sites in France, Portugal and Mexico.  Yet, many are unaware of the Marian apparitions that took place in Kibeho, Rwanda between 1981 and 1989 to three children.  Recognized by the Vatican in 2001, Our Lady of Kibeho is the only Marian apparition site approved by the Catholic Church on the Africa continent.   

November 28 is the feast day of Our Lady of Kibeho, and as we commemorate the 30th anniversary of National Black Catholic History Month this November, it is a most opportune time to share the Blessed Mother’s message to the world at a time when it needs it most. 

At the time of her appearance, Kibeho was a peaceful town. The visitations took place 13 years before the brutal genocide of over one million people in Rwanda. The messages from Our Lady to the three young visionaries included a foreshadowing of the impending tragedy. However, her messages were not only for the people of Kibeho. Our Lady stated, “If I am coming here it does not mean that my message is only for Rwanda, nor just Africa, but for the entire world.” 

Her messages reminded us to pray the rosary daily.  Furthermore, she requested that the visionaries reintroduce the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary to the world. She promised that the recitation of this rosary in conjunction with (not in place of) the traditional rosary would result in forgiveness of our sins as well as the understanding of why we commit such sins, so we can avoid the snares of the devil and fill our hearts with the love of God. 

The story of the visitations of Our Lady to the children of Kibeho is most beautifully illuminated by Immaculée Ilibagiza, the best-selling author of several books on the subject which include, Our Lady of Kibeho: Mary Speaks to the World from the Heart of Africa, If Only We Had Listened, and Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.  It is the personal mission of Immaculée to share Our Lady of Kibeho with the world, and the narratives of the visionaries are awe-inspiring.  In this time, as our own country seeks healing and unity, we ask Our Lady of Kibeho to pray for us. 

Prayer to Our Lady of Kibeho 

Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Word, Mother of all those who believe in Him and who welcome Him into their lives, we are here before you to contemplate you.  We believe that you are amongst us, like a mother in the midst of her children, even though we do not see you with our bodily eyes. 

We bless you, the sure way that leads us to Jesus the Savior, for all the favors which you endlessly pour out upon us, especially that, in your meekness, you were gracious enough to appear miraculously in Kibeho, just when our world needed it most. 

Grant us always the light and strength necessary to accept, will all seriousness, your call to us to be converted, to repent, and to live according to your Son’s Gospel. Teach us how to pray with sincerity, and to love one another as He loved us, so that, just as you have requested, we may always be beautiful flowers diffusing their pleasant fragrance everywhere and upon everyone. 

Holy Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, teach us to understand the value of the cross in our lives, so that whatever is still lacking to the sufferings of Christ we may fill up in our own bodies for His mystical Body, which is the Church. 

And, when our pilgrimage on this earth comes to an end, may we live eternally with you in the kingdom of Heaven. Amen. 

Kateri Williams is the Director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver.

COMING UP: Five tips for reading the Word of God

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Sunday, Jan. 24 marks “The Sunday of the Word of God,” instituted by Pope Francis last year and to be held every year on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time. This may strike us as odd, as we might think to ourselves, “but isn’t the Bible read at every Sunday Mass?” Certainly so. Not only that, but every daily celebration of the Mass proclaims the Word of God.

What’s different about “The Sunday of the Word of God,” however, is that it’s not just about hearing the Bible read on Sundays. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith notes, it “reminds us, pastors and faithful alike, of the importance and value of Sacred Scripture for the Christian life, as well as the relationship between the word of God and the liturgy: ‘As Christians, we are one people, making our pilgrim way through history, sustained by the Lord, present in our midst, who speaks to us and nourishes us. A day devoted to the Bible should not be seen as a yearly event but rather a year-long event, for we urgently need to grow in our knowledge and love of the Scriptures and of the Risen Lord, who continues to speak his word and to break bread in the community of believers. For this reason, we need to develop a closer relationship with Sacred Scripture; otherwise, our hearts will remain cold and our eyes shut, inflicted as we are by so many forms of blindness.’” This gives us a wonderful opportunity to pause and reflect on the Sacred Scriptures. 

There are two means by which God Divinely reveals truths to us: Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. As such, the Bible is not merely a human document, nor simply a collection of amazing stories that call us to do heroic things, or a collection of wise sayings. Rather, the Scriptures are “inspired.” St. Paul has a beautiful teaching about this in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice, That the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work.” By “inspired” we mean that God is the principle author of the Bible.

Certainly there were different men who physically wrote the words on the papyrus. Yet these men were influenced by the grace of inspiration to write, not just their own words, but God’s. And so the Scriptures are a mysterious congruence of Divine and human authorship – the human writers capably made full use of language, literary forms, creativity, and writing style to communicate their message, yet they did so under the grace of Divine inspiration. This means that while they wrote in such a way that they had full freedom to write as they wanted, what they wrote was also, “to a tee,” exactly as God wanted written. God is the principle author of the Bible, the human author its secondary writer. Such inspiration is how, despite the various human authors, events, and historical and cultural contexts behind the 73 Biblical texts, we’re still left with only one story since they all have the same one primary author. 

Given that the Bible is the written word of God, I’d like to offer a few “tips” for reading the Bible, since it certainly cannot be read like any other text. 

1. Pray! We must pray before opening the Scriptures for enlightenment from God. We must pray after reading in thanksgiving to God. And we must pray throughout reading in order to encounter God in Scripture and apply it to our life. Of course, the tried and trusted practice of praying the Scriptures is Lectio DivinaThe Ladder of Monks by Guigo II is the ancient resource for Lectio Divina, while a helpful book to get you started is Dr. Tim Gray’s Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina

2. Remember that you are in no rush. The important point is encountering Christ in the Scriptures, not racing through them. Speed reading isn’t reading, after all, much less when applied to the Word of God. It’s not about getting through the Bible, but encountering Christ therein. That may be a few chapters at a time or may actually be only one verse that you pray with. Whatever the case, slow and steady wins the race, as Aesop reminds us. 

3. We have to read the Scriptures regularly, daily if possible. We read in Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” Meditating day and night. A good way to start would be to read one Psalm a night as a part of your nightly prayer. Ever better would be praying that one Psalm with your spouse, if married. 

4. Do not worry about starting on page one and reading from cover to cover. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost in the text. We all know about Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Moses and the Plagues. But how many understand animal sacrifices in the Book of Leviticus or its purity laws? It’s very easy, starting from page one and flipping straight through, to lose sight of the story of salvation history. Start from page one if you’d like, but don’t feel like you can’t start with whatever book (especially the Gospels) that you find yourself drawn to. 

5. Come take classes with the Denver Catholic Biblical School! In chapter eight of the Book of Acts, we read of an Ethiopian Eunuch reading from the Prophet Isaiah. When the Deacon Philip asks him if he understands what he’s reading, the Eunuch responds, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” This is what we at the Biblical School are here for – to guide you in your encounter with Christ in the Sacred Scriptures. We’re in the middle of our Scripture classes already for this year, but we always start new classes in the fall every September. And in the meantime, we have plenty of things still coming for this year – a class on Catholic Social Teaching that begins on Jan. 27 a lecture series for Lent that starts on March 1, a conference on the Sacred Heart being offered on May 15 and Aug. 28, and a six-week class on St. Joseph in the summer starting in July. We have something for everybody – just reach out to us!