Memorial of Charles Lwanga and Companions


When the White Fathers introduced Christianity into Uganda, the king was only 18 years old.  He was an alcoholic and addicted to sexual relations with boys.  After he discovered one of them being taught the Catholic faith he was so enraged that he drove a spear through the instructor’s neck. Then he demanded that the Christian boys renounce their faith. They wouldn’t do it.  So, on June 3, 1886, he ordered them to die by fire.  

Charles Lwanga, a young leader who had protected the boys, was the first to be martyred.  He was fastened to a pyre of wood under which the fire was kept low.  He prayed quietly while the fire slowly did its work.  Just before the end, he cried out, Oh, my God!” and died.

Then all the boys were stripped and wrapped in bamboo mats to be burned alive.  Afterwards, one of the executioners said, “We have killed many people but never such as these. There was not an angry word.  All we heard was the soft murmur of prayers on their lips.”  That day thirteen Catholics, eleven Protestants and eight catechumens from ages 13 to 25, were martyred.

One of them said prophetically, “A well that has many sources never runs dry.  When we are gone, others will come after us.”  Within four years, the number of Christians there had grown to over 10,000.1

 Do you fear martyrdom?  I do, but it helps me to remember that the grace to die for our faith isn’t given to our imaginations and fears about a future martyrdom, it is given to strengthen our wills if and when it actually happens.  We will not be alone.  Christ will be with us.  

 1. Bert Ghezzi, “Voices of the Saints”