October is the Month of the Rosary providing encouragement to pray the Rosary as Our Lady of Fatima asked of the children in Portugal on her sixth apparition. October 7 is the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, and on this day, in 1944, a miracle occurred saving the life of a Polish priest, Fr. Henry J. Denis, imprisoned at the Dachau Concentration Camp during World War II.
The Rosary is a prayer practice with a focus on the key events of the life of Jesus and His mother, Mary (Mysteries of the Rosary). The practice involves 5 prayers, but is primarily the repetition of the “Hail Mary” (“Ave Maria”) as one holds a string of beads to maintain a count of the prayers, as well as to aid in concentration while reciting these prayers. The Rosary has Biblical roots in the Gospels and Psalms; and is an outgrowth of the Marian Psalter recited in monasteries for hundreds of years before St. Dominic combined the practice with meditation on the sacred Mysteries in the 13th century in his battle against the Albigensian heresy. Read more about the Rosary at https://churchwonders.com/the-rosary/.
Our Lady of Fatima
The Blessed Mother appeared to three shepherd children (Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta) in Fatima, Portugal in 1917. During these appearances, Our Lady offered messages and requests, including on the sixth apparition of Mary at Fatima, on October 13, 1917, Our Lady requested that the Rosary be prayed and she revealed her identity as the Lady of the Rosary.
Father Henry J. Denis and the Miracle at Dachau
Henry J. Denis was born in Poland and ordained as a priest in 1936. He served as a chaplain in the Polish Army and was arrested by the Germans on September 19, 1939. After his capture, he was detained in various prisons and concentration camps including Buchenwald and Dachau. (Dachau was an infamous death camp, especially for Polish Clergy – only 818 of 1,773 Polish Clergy survived the camp. Also, to note, the Dutch Carmelite, St. Titus Brandsma died at Dachau by lethal injection in 1942.). While at Dachau, a miracle occurred for Fr. Denis on October 7, 1944, the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary.
The incident of the miracle is recounted here in Fr. Denis’ words: It was a cold, windy and rainy morning. There was a long, long roll call and prolonged counting. There were many corpses on that day, and all the dead had to be brought and placed in line with those who were alive. There was a lot of shouting, cursing, kicking and clubbing. One prisoner was missing, and was found dead. To forget the hell on earth, deep in my mind and my heart, I prayed the Rosary. The Rosary took me up there, into a different world. There were moments that I did not hear anything. Around 7:30 A.M. we left the camp to our working places. One German priest, a good friend of mine, asked me: “Henry, why did they call your name and your number?” My blood stopped to circulate. To be called and not to report at once – that’s death, and death flashed in my mind as never before. Oh, what excruciating hours. But when we returned to the camp, nobody called me. Evidently, they got their number of victims. They always called more than they needed. A dear friend of mine, Fr. Francis Dachtera, was also called on that day, he reported, and he never came back. And it was on that day, October 7, 1944, that I made a promise, a vow, that if I ever leave the camp alive, I would give the Blessed Mother some kind of visible gratitude – maybe a little shrine. (Excerpted from the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Arapahoe, NE guidebook.)
Shrine to Our Lady of Fatima in Arapahoe, Nebraska
The Shrine promised by Fr. Denis came to be in 1956 after his immigration to the U.S. and assignment to St. Germanus Parish in Arapahoe, NE in 1949. The Shrine is in a lush garden setting that depicts the scene of the visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the Portuguese children, Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta on at least six apparitions during 1917 in Portugal. At the center, stands Our Lady of Fatima in her traditional pose with a bowed head and folded hands holding a Rosary. The Blessed Mother and the children are surrounded by angels, cattle, and lambs in this rural scene. See photos and read more about the Shrine at https://churchwonders.com/our-lady-of-fatima-shrine-arapahoe-ne/