St. Charles Lwanga & the Ugandan Martyrs

Uganda MartyrsA Catholic convert, Charles Lwanga served in the royal household of King Mwanga II of Buganda, as an assistant to Joseph Mukaso, head of the court pages. At the time, King Mwanga saw Christian missionaries as the greatest threat to his reign. He had already begun expelling and killing Christians when he noticed that his pages were not attending to him.

Joseph and Charles had been teaching the pages about Christianity, and were preoccupying them in order to keep them away from the sexual demands of King Mwanga. When Mwanga heard about this, he had Joseph executed and replaced him with Charles. Then six months later he gave all of his Christian pages a choice: loyalty or martyrdom.

Each of his Christian servants chose loyalty to Christ, including  Charles, who baptized several of them before they were marched off to the place of execution – thirty-seven miles away.

Fr. Siméon Lourdel, a Catholic missionaries, saw the group of pages walking on the way and noted how cheerful unafraid they appeared as they laughed and chatted.

Also condemned was Andrew Kagwa, a Kigowa chief, who had converted his wife and several others. The chief counsellor was so furious with Andrew that he proclaimed he wouldn’t eat until he knew Andrew was dead. When the executioners hesitated Andrew egged them on by saying, “Don’t keep your counsellor hungry — kill me.”

In total, twenty-two Catholics were martyred, as well as several Protestant Christians. Pope Paul VI canonized the 22 Catholic martyrs on October 18, 1964.