Our Lady of Kibeho’s message to the world

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: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

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The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.


Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.