St. Charles Lwanga and Companions
Planted the Seed
It started in 1879 when the Society of Missionaries of Africa, known asthe White Fathers, entered a country in Sub-Saharan Africa. They hadonly two missions, educate the children of the region and spread theChristian faith.
Fortunately for the white Fathers, they met a willing ally in KingMutesa of Uganda. King Mutesa treated the missionaries with kindness.
In six years, the fathers had raised a community of Christian converts,educating and baptizing the new faithful. The converts were groomed totake on new converts. Many page boys in the king’s court were convertedto catholicism.
When King Mutesa passed on, and his corrupt son Mwanga replaced him, theWhite Fathers were expelled from Uganda. Unknown to the new king, thecatholic faith (seed) has already been planted, never to be uprooted.
In secret, Uganda witnessed a growing number of Christians, Catholics,and Anglicans alike.
Battle for the Soul of the Church
Proverbs 29 vs. 2: But when the wicked man rules, the peoplegroan. Under king Mwanga, the Christian community in Uganda groaned.
King Mwanga engaged in rituals. Also sexually forced himself on theyoung pages in his court. To refuse the king means to die. Threatened bythe authority the Christian faith poises and teaches, King Mwanga beganpersecuting the believers and promoters of Christ.
The first casualty was a visiting Anglican bishop to Uganda. JosephMukasa, chief steward and a friend to the king, had condemned thekilling of the bishop.
Joseph served as a catholic community leader of about 200 faithful. Hehad always protected the pages under his care from the king’s lust. 15November 1885, he was beheaded for speaking the truth to the king.
The king ordered that Charles Lwanga, the top page, quickly take overjoseph’s position as the chief steward.
Who Was Charles Lwanga?
Born Kaloli Lwanaga on 1 January 1860 of the Baganda tribe, todaycentral and southern Uganda. He became a Catholic convert onencountering the White Fathers and had never looked back.
Lwanga was one of the page boys in King Mwanga’s court. When he was 25,he became a chief page and used his position to shield the boys (13-30)under his protection from the King’s sexual exploitation.
On the night of Joseph Mukasa’s death, Lwanga took with him some pageboys and sought the white Fathers in secret for baptism, fearing theirown death without baptism.
He was baptized by Pere Giraud and took the name Charles. In the nextweek, Charles helped 100 more got baptized. He took over the role oforganizing and teaching the catholic community. Charles strengthened theboy’s faith in remaining chaste and faithful to God.
We Live and Die for Christ
When king Mwanga found that some of the page boys were being taught thecatechism, he called for a general assembly on 25 May 1886 while atMunyonyo. He sentenced two boys to death.
The following day, Charles secretly baptized two of the boys under himwho were still catechumens.
King Mwanga called for all the page boys and attendants in his court. Heasked that the Christians be separated from the pagans and promised tospare anybody ready to renounce the Christian faith.
A total of 15 boys stepped forward as Christians, led by Charles.Infuriated by their guts, he condemned them to death. The boys were tiedup and marched to Namugongo, the place of execution.
Pontian Ngondwe, Athansuius Bazzekuketta, and Gonzaga Gonza weremurdered on their way to the execution site. Arriving at the executioncamp, they were left for 7 days while they prepare the stake.
Martyrs of Uganda
- Pope Paul V1 canonized them, saints and martyrs.
5 Interesting Facts About St. Charles Lwanga and Companions
- What a fantastic day to die! Charles Lwanga was killed on the
morning of the Feast of Ascension and his companions later in the
evening. They died to rise with Christ.
- St. Charles Lwanga and his companions became the first martyrs of
Sub-Saharan Africa. Brave young men, they were facing death.
- To honor the sacrifice of these courageous martyrs, Pope Paul V1
became the first-ever Pope to visit Uganda. He made a pilgrimage
to the site of their martyrdom.
- Cheerful in death? The last words of Charles Lwanga as the fire
burnt him alive was KATOUNDA!, which means My God.
- Tertullian said, ‘ Blood of the martyrs is the seed of the
church. These words can’t be more true for the martyrs of
Uganda. Today, the Basilica of Uganda stood on the site where the
martyrs’ blood was shed.
Prayer To St. Charles Lwanga and Companions
O God, who have made the blood of Martyrsthe seed of Christians,mercifully grant that the field which is your Church,watered by the bloodshed by Saints Charles Lwanga and his companions,may be fertile and always yield you an abundant harvest.Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, forever and ever. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal)