Memorial of Charles Lwanga and Companions

Scripture Readings: Acts 28:16-20, 30-31;  Jn 21:20-25                                 

Today is the feast of the Uganda Martyrs.  Even though Northern Africa was one of the earliest homes for Christianity, the interior of the continent had not been evangelized until modern times.  Missionaries first entered central Africa in 1879.  Only seven years later newly baptized Christians, ages 13 to 30, were persecuted and died for their faith rather than give in to King Mwanga’s immoral desires.  Following in the cruel footsteps of his father who secured the throne by burying alive his own brothers and half-brothers, all sixty of them, King Mwanga sentenced 45 boys and young men to be wrapped in bamboo and burned to death.  Then he expelled the missionary White Fathers from his country.  The remaining Christians secretly carried on the work of evangelization.  Without priests or sacraments they courageously kept the faith alive.  After the King’s death twenty years later, the White Fathers returned to Uganda and found five hundred Christians and one thousand catechumens waiting for them. 

Today millions of pilgrims celebrate this feast at the Martyrs’ Shrine.  They walk from distant lands for weeks under the hot sun to honor the young martyrs who gave up their lives rather than betray their love for Christ.  It is a happy day in Uganda, celebrated with joyful dancing, beautiful choirs, enormous processions and a magnificent High Mass.  It is even a national holiday.

This is what happens when we testify to the truth like the apostles by the way we live, proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching the whole world to love our Lord Jesus Christ.