The 22 Martyrs of Uganda
Charles was one of 22 Ugandan martyrs who converted from paganism.
Though he was baptized the night before being put to death, he
became a moral leader. He was the chief of the royal pages and
was considered the strongest athlete of the court. He was also
known as "the most handsome man of the Kingdom of the Uganda."
He instructed his friends in the Catholic Faith and he personally
baptized boy pages. He inspired and encouraged his companions
to remain chaste and faithful. He protected his companions, ages
13-30, from the immoral acts and homosexual demands of the Babandan
Mwanga was a superstitious pagan king who originally was tolerant
of Catholicism. However, his chief assistant, Katikiro, slowly
convinced him that Christians were a threat to his rule. The premise
was if these Christians would not bow to him, nor make sacrifices
to their pagan god, nor pillage, massacre, nor make war, what
would happen if his whole kingdom converted to Catholicism?
When Charles was sentenced to death, he seemed very peaceful,
one might even say, cheerful. He was to be executed by being burnt
to death. While the pyre was being prepared, he asked to be untied
so that he could arrange the sticks. He then lay down upon them.
When the executioner said that Charles would be burned slowly
so death, Charles replied by saying that he was very glad to be
dying for the True Faith. He made no cry of pain but just twisted
and moaned, "Kotanda! (O my God!)." He was burned to
death by Mwanga's order on June 3, 1886. Pope Paul VI canonized
Charles Lwanga and his companions on June 22,1964. We celebrate
his memorial on June 3rd of the Roman Calendar. Charles is the
Patron of the African Youth of Catholic Action.