Feast of Charles Lwanga and Companions

Charles Lwanga and Companions. Bro. Michael Moran,CP

The martyrdom of St. Charles Lwanga and twenty-one companions in Uganda, Africa in 1885-86 was the start of a remarkable growth of Christianity on that continent. The White Fathers, Catholic missionaries who reached Uganda in 1879, succeeded in converting a number of native Africans who were servants of King Mwanga, a local Ugandan ruler. But in 1885 the king began persecuting Christians.

Charles Lwanga was in charge of the pages in the kingʼs court. The king wanted some of the pages as sexual partners. His Christian pages refused and he threatened them with torture and death. Led by Charles, they rejected the kingʼs advances and so the king, summoning them before him, asked if they were going to continue to deny him as Christians. “Till death!” they answered. “Then put them to death!” the king shouted.

Three pages died on the road to their execution at Namugonga. Many bystanders were amazed at the courage and calm of Charles and his companions. On Ascension Day, 1886, they were wrapped up in reed mats and set afire for their faith. The following year an extraordinary number of Ugandans became Christian.

The grace of God was working in them, the prayer for their feast on June 3 says: “Father, you have made the blood of martyrs the seed of Christians.””

Africa has a history of martyrs, Pope Paul VI recalled at their canonization; the early Christian martyrs St. Cyprian, Saints Felicity and Perpetua, the 4th century Martyrs of Sicilli, whose relics are venerated in the Passionist church of Saints John and Paul in Rome.

Charles Lwanga and his companions opened a new page in the history of holiness in Africa. Paying tribute to them, Pope Paul recommended not forgetting “ those members of the Anglican Church who also died for the name of Christ.” Pope Francis recently spoke of “an ecumenism of blood”, as Christians from different denominations suffer persecution today.
“These African martyrs herald the dawn of a new age.”

Christian activity in Africa began in the 1st century in Alexandria in Egypt and other parts of Roman Africa, but the 7th century Islamic conquest caused a deep decline in Christianity there. In modern times Christianity reached south as the European powers colonized the continent. By 2005 Catholics numbered 135 million Africans out of a population of 809 million. By 2025, African Catholics are expected to be one-sixth of the world’s Catholic population. A new Christian Era has begun.

“Go out to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.”

2 thoughts on “Feast of Charles Lwanga and Companions

  1. fdan

    Dear Father Victor, St Charles lwanga teaches us to love under the harshest of conditions. Thank you for the words on the scroll in his picture: “If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love,…if I even let them take my body and burn it, but have not love, it will do me no good whatever.” I have gone back to reverence 1 Corinthians chapter 13 again. Thank you for the ways you inspire us.

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  2. fdan

    Dear Father Victor, thank you for introducing us to the art of brother Michael Moran, CP with the painting of Saint Charles Lwanga and his companions. I went online to find more of his work and found a beautiful piece of art called Angel. Brother Michael described his work as art as prayer, where we encounter Mystery. It was that for me. Thank you, again!

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