Rwanda is known as a country of a thousand hills because of the natural beauty of its landscape made up of many rolling hills. It is rich in culture and wildlife. Its history, however, is marked by tribal hatred which led to the tragic Genocide in 1994.
Let’s now revert some years back. From 1981 until 1989, Kibeho, a town in Southern Rwanda, had been experiencing a phenomenon that attracted attention not only of large numbers of ordinary people but also of Church authorities. Three girls, students of Kibeho College, maintained they experienced Our Lady’s apparitions. Upon detailed scrutiny, the Catholic Church officially approved the visions of Alphonsine, Nathalie and Marie-Claire in 2001. The message delivered by Our Lady of Kibeho, who asked herself to be called “Mother of the Word”, is very clear. Denouncing a dramatic moral state of humanity, which made Our Lady cry, it calls to repentance and conversion. It strongly reminds of the salvific meaning of suffering in human life. Our Lady said to Nathalie on 15 May 1982: “Nobody enters heaven without suffering”. On another occasion she said: “The Child of Mary does not discard suffering”. Moreover, the message from Kibeho points to prayer and mortification as a means of personal conversion and as a means of gaining it for others. As for devotions, Mary asked to rekindle the devotion of the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows, promising that it would help to attain true contrition for our sins.
In response to Our Lady’s request, a chapel was erected in the place of apparitions and, gradually, a Sanctuary of the Mother of the Word came into being. Its blessing and inauguration took place in 2003. As His Excellency Augustin Misago, Bishop of Gikongoro, wished in his Declaration bearing the final judgement on the event of the “Apparitions of Kibeho”, Kibeho is called to become a place of prayer for God seekers, who come to ask for the grace of conversion, to offer their intentions in reparation of the sins of the world, and to promote reconciliation between individuals, communities or nations.
Taking into account the charism of the place, “Communita Regina della Pace” Association eagerly welcomed an invitation of the Rector of the Shrine, Rev. Zbigniew Pawłowski, to create together an International Center of Prayer for Peace within the project of “The 12 Stars in the Crown of Mary, Queen of Peace”. The foundation of the center of spirituality which is currently being established, will be Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for peace and the ministry of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Association is now taking steps in order that the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the Shrine in Kibeho could be held in an altar designed especially for this purpose, which, at present is being elaborated in the Polish atelier of the artists from Gdansk: Mr. Mariusz Drapikowski and Mr. Kamil Drapikowski.
The altar for Kibeho will have the form of a triptych and will be called “The Light of Reconciliation and Peace”. Like other realizations of this artistic studio, it is rich in Biblical and spiritual symbolism. It is worth focusing on some of its examples, which will help us captivate the deep message this work of art conveys.
The Book of Revelation is “the point of departure”. The vision of Heavenly Jerusalem – the city of 12 gates is symbolically depicted in the square shape of the altar which alludes to the walls of Jerusalem. On each of its sides, there are 3 gates, described in the last Book of the Holy Scripture as “pearls”. In the altarpiece, they are artistically expressed by pearls arranged in the form of a cross.
On the panels of the Triptych, the mysteries of the Rosary of the 7 Sorrows of Our Lady are presented in bas-relief. In its upper part, the Throne of Grace is shown: God the Father carrying the Body of his Son after taking it down from the cross. In the bottom part, one can find the traces of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Centrally, the figures of the Apostles of the Divine Mercy, St. Faustina and St. John Paul II, are depicted. Their relics are there too. Their lives reminded humanity that the easiest, shortest, and surest way to Christ is Mary and that only in the light of Jesus’ Merciful Love true reconciliation and peace are attainable.
The Triptych, while open, in its central part shows the Burning Bush with a luminous monstrance: Mary tenderly holding her Son, Eucharistic Jesus. The two leitmotifs of the Stars in the Crown of Mary are here: Mary, Mother of God, and the Light, Jesus Christ. Mary’s mantle is all woven with flowers. It alludes to the seers’ vision of 1982 – a garden of flowers, some fresh, and others faded. Our Lady explained that the fresh flowers represented people whose hearts are turned to God, whereas the faded flowers represented those whose hearts are turned to earthly things, especially to money. Mary asked the visionaries to water this garden. The more conversions there were, the more the garden grew larger.
The Burning Bush has been interpreted in different ways. It is an image of God’s presence (the Old Testament story of Moses and the Burning Bush), but it can be considered as a Marian metaphor too. Burning but not consumed bush is seen in this perspective as a symbol of Virginal Motherhood of Mary, Mother yet Virgin. It is worth noticing that the prefigurement of Our Lady’s virginal motherhood, as an iconographic motif, appeared in the fine art many centuries ago. Its example is a triptych titled The Burning Bush by Nicolas Froment, painted in 1476 and located in the Cathedral of the Holy Saviour of Aix-en-Provence (France). Last but not least, in the upper part one can see the Rwandan symbols which, in a sense, “float” towards heaven, formed in a shape of ECG monitoring lines. They allude to a heartbeat of a person in prayer.
This work of art, as well as other realizations and accomplishments within the Work of “The 12 Stars in the Crown of Mary Queen of Peace” would not be possible without generous help of many people of good will who have been supporting us both spiritually and materially. Therefore, we would like to express our deep gratitude to all of them. May abundant blessing of the Lord be upon you. We also wholeheartedly invite all to join us in prayer for peace. You might offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Eucharist for this intention, a Holy Hour, or say a Rosary. Even without going out, you may offer up your sufferings for peace in the world. Your sacrifice is precious! You are also most welcome to contact us for any assistance at: [email protected]