Immaculée recited 27 rosaries and forty Divine-Mercy chaplets a day.
For 91 harrowing days in 1994, a twenty-two-year-old Catholic student named Immaculée Ilibagiza of the Tutsi people in Rwanda, Africa, hid in the bathroom of a minister's house with seven other adults to escape all but certain death. Hutus were in the midst of a reign of terror that, before it was over, depending on the estimate, would record 800,000 to a million Tutsis—Immaculée's people—murdered (in one to three months).
It was a secret bathroom that even some of the minister's family didn't know about: three by four feet and so small that Immaculée and the others—for those three months—had to take turns standing.
The alternative was death by machete.
Indeed, Immaculée lost her parents, two brothers, her grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, neighbors, friends, and classmates in the "war."
For endless, nail-biting days, she and the others listened in stark terror as killers searched her village for remaining Tutsis and even entered the house in which they were hiding, missing them by God's grace.
Day in and day out, light or dark, just outside the window—at times, just feet beyond the thin walls that shielded them—were the sounds of murder.
And every day—perhaps every hour—the women wondered how they would meet their end; one of them begged the minister, who was a Hutu, but had hidden them out of Christian kindness, to throw dirt on her corpse if they were next so the dogs—which were consuming the strewn corpses—would not tear into hers.
It was so terrifying that often while the women hid their mouths dried and there was no saliva to swallow—terrifying but for prayer: Immaculée recited 27 rosaries and forty Divine-Mercy chaplets a day— praying every waking moment.
It was how she survived. It was how they all survived— physically and emotionally.
"I felt like my head was laying on the lap of the Blessed Mother all day," she recounted to us recently.
"There was no eating. I prayed from the morning until eleven at night.
"Every day, every second, I had to think of the Blessed Mother. And at night, I would dream of Jesus. Although all day I was praying to Mary, at night I always dreamt of Jesus, and He told me, 'Don't fear again.'"
"Immaculée credits her salvage mostly to prayer and to a set of rosary beads given to her by her devout Catholic father prior to going into hiding. Anger and resentment about her situation were literally eating her alive and destroying her faith, but rather than succumbing to the rage that she felt, Immaculée instead turned to prayer. She began to pray the Rosary as a way of drowning out the negativity that was building up inside her. Immaculée found solace and peace in prayer and began to pray from the time she opened her eyes in the morning to the time she closed her eyes at night. Through prayer, she eventually found it possible, and in fact imperative, to forgive her tormentors and her family's murderers."
The warning of Kibeho, she feels, is for the whole world, and also has been transmitted from sites like Medjugorje, whichImmaculée has visited and firmly supports. "I think it is the Lord going to the ends of the world," says the African woman, who now lives in New York and has worked at the United Nations. "So many souls are searching for God. We will see chastisements. We will have trouble because of our sins."
But like her we have the Rosary.
Like her, we have the Divine Mercy chaplet.