Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions – Martyrs of Uganda – Feast Day – June 3

Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions are the 22 Martyrs of Uganda who were killed by orders from King Kabaka Mwanga II between November 15 1885 to January 27 1887. Their feast day is celebrated on June 3 every year.

Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions – Martyrs of Uganda

Martyrs of Uganda, Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions

Date of Birth 19th Century AD
Country of Birth Uganda in Africa
Profession Christian Converts
Place of Work Uganda
Date of Death November 15 1885 to January 27 1887
Place of Death Uganda
Feast Day June 3
Beatification By Pope Benedict XV in 1920
Canonization By Pope Paul VI on 18 October 1964
Patron Saint of Archdiocese of Accra, Ghana

Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions Life History

Below are the twenty-two (22) Martyrs of Uganda who were killed in the persecutions of King Mwanga.

They are –

  1. St Achilleus Kiwanuka (Achileo Kiwanuka or Achilles Kiwanuka)
  2. St Adolphus Ludigo-Mukasa (Adolofu Mukasa Ludigo)
  3. St Ambrosius Kibuuka (Ambrosio Kibuuka)
  4. St Anatole Kiriggwajjo (Anatoli Kiriggwajjo)
  5. St Andrew Kaggwa
  6. St Antanansio Bazzekuketta (Anthanasius Bazzekuketta)
  7. St Bruno Sserunkuuma
  8. St Charles Lwanga (Karoli Lwanga)
  9. St Denis Ssebuggwawo Wasswa (Dionysius Ssebuggwawo)
  10. St Gonzaga Gonza
  11. St Gyavira Musoke
  12. St James Buuzaabalyaawo
  13. St John Maria Muzeeyi (John Mary Kiwanuka Muzeeyi or Jean Marie Muzeyi)
  14. St Joseph Mukasa (Yosefu Mukasa Balikuddembe)
  15. St Kizito
  16. St Lukka Baanabakintu (Luke Baanabakintu)
  17. St Matiya Mulumba (Matthias Mulumba Kalemba)
  18. St Mbaga Tuzinde
  19. St Mugagga Lubowa
  20. St Mukasa Kiriwawanvu
  21. St Nowa Mawaggali (Noah Mawaggali)
  22. St Ponsiano Ngondwe (Pontian Ngondwe)

There was a publication that circulated in Britain in 1875 purporting to be an invitation from Muteesa I, the king of Buganda. The letter requested that missionaries be send to Uganda. It is after this invitation that a group of French Catholic White Fathers, led by Père Simon Lourdel (Fr. Mapera) came to Uganda.

The White Fathers had converted several people who then began to convert others. Most of those converts held important posts at King Mwanga’s court and also lived and taught there.

In 1884, the ruthless and pedophile Kabaka Mwanga II succeeded to the throne. He began to get concerned by the growing influence of a new class of officials who were Christians, educated and and wished to reform Ganda society. These Christians wielded much power more than the traditional territorial chiefs.

One incidence happened on October 29 1885, when Kabaka Mwanga II ordered the assassination of the incoming Anglican bishop James Hannington. The leader of the small community of 200 Christians called Joseph Mukasa, a twenty-five-year-old convert to Christianity and the chief steward of Mwanga’s court, frowned upon the assassination of Hannington, confronted Mwanga and condemned his action.

King Mwanga and Joseph Mukasa were friends but when Joseph dared Mwanga to change his lifestyle, Mwanga forgot their friendship, struck Joseph with a spear, and ordered him killed. When the executioners were tying Joseph’s hands, he said to them, “A Christian who gives his life for God is not afraid to die.” With all his heart, he forgave the King and pleaded that Mwanga repents his sins. On November 15 1885, Joseph Mukasa was finally beheaded and burned.

After the death of Joseph Mukasa, Charles Lwanga took over the leadership and instruction of the Christian community at the King’s court. He also took charge to protect the young boys and men out of pedophile Mwanga’s hands.

For six months the persecution died down but suspicion and anger took toll on Mwanga and in May 1886 he called Mwafu, one of his pages and sought to know what he had been doing all along such that he kept away from Mwanga. The page replied that Denis Sebuggwawo had been giving them religious instruction. This made Mwanga’s temper to rise out of control. He ordered Denis to be brought to his precense where he, himself threw a spear to Denis and pierced his throught killing him instantly.

After this incident, Mwanga ordered the royal compound to be guarded and sealed thus preventing anyone from escaping. Thereafter, he gathered some executioners in the kingdom.

St Charles Lwanga knew what was coming their way. He gathered his congregation at night and baptized four catechumens, including Kizito, a thirteen-year-old.

Mwanga brought his whole court before him the next morning. He began to separate the Christians from the others by saying, “Those who do not pray, stand by me, and those who pray stand over there.” He asked the fifteen boys and young men if they were Christians and if they intended to remain Christians. Will all strength and courage, they answered “Yes”. This sealed their fate and Mwanga condemned them to death.

The execution was to be done at Namugongo a place 37 miles away from the King’s court. Mwanga commanded that they be taken there. Coincidentally, one of those to be executed was the chief executioner’s son called Mbaga. He tried to persuade his son to escape but the son refused. On the way to execution, they passed the home of the White Fathers. Father Lourdel narrated that St Kizito was chattering and laughing. The martyrs espoused so much courage and joy all the way to their martyrdom.

Pontian Ngondwe, a soldier, the royal servants Athanasius Bazzekuketta and Gonzaga Gonza and Matthias Mulumba Kalemba, an assistant judge were murdered en route to Namugongo. St Matthias was cut up on the road and it took him at least three days to die.

The remaining prisoners reached Namugongo and were imprisoned for seven days. They were brought out, On June 3, and placed on the pyre wrapped in reed mats.

The first to be killed was Mbaga Tuzinde by order of his father, the chief executioner. His father had tried in vain to make Mbaga change his mind. The rest were burned to death praising Jesus and declaring that the executioners could burn their bodies, but could not harm our souls.

Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions were beatified in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV and canonized by Pope Paul VI on October 18 1964

Litany of the Uganda Martyrs

  • Holy martyrs, followers of the suffering Christ, obtain for us the grace to imitate our suffering saviour
  • Holy martyrs, who overcame all difficulties with outstanding courage, obtain for us courage when things are difficult.
  • St Charles Lwanga, Patron of African Youth and Catholic Action, obtain for us the grace of firm and zealous faith.
  • St Mathias Mulumba, ideal chief and follower of Christ, meek and humble, obtain for us the gift of Christian gentleness
  • St Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe, First Martyr of Uganda who inspired and encouraged neophytes, obtain for us the spirit of truth and justice.
  • St Dionysius Ssebuggwawo, Zealous for the Christian Faith and renowned for your modesty, obtain for us the virtue of modesty in our lives.
  • St Pontianus Ngondwe, Faithful Soldier longing for the martyr’s crown, obtain for us the grace for always being faithful to our duty.
  • St Andrew Kaggwa, Model Catechist And Teacher, obtain for us the grace to love the teaching of Christ.
  • St Athanasius Bazzekuketta, Faithful Steward of The Royal Treasury, obtain for us the spirit of responsibility.
  • St Gonzaga Gonza, Full of Sympathy for prisoners and all who were in trouble, obtain for us the Christian spirit of mercy
  • St Noel Mawaggali, humble worker and lover of evangelical poverty, obtain for us the love of the poverty taught us in the Gospels.
  • St Luke Banabakintu, who ardently desired to imitate the suffering Christ by martyrdom, obtain for us the grace of imitating the suffering of our Redeemer.
  • St James Buzabalyawo, faithful soldier and patriot, obtain for us true love for our fatherland.
  • St Gyavira Musoke, a shining example of how to forgive and forget injuries, obtain for us the grace of forgiving those who injure us.
  • St Ambrosius Kibuka, young man full of joy and love of your neighbour, obtain for us the grace of loving our neighbor with Christian charity.
  • St Anatole Kiriggwajjo, a humble servant preferring a devout life to worldly honours, obtain for us grace to live a life of piety in preference to being rich and great.
  • St Achilles Kiwanuka, who for the sake of Christ detested vain superstitions, obtain for us a holy hatred of superstitious practices.
  • St Kizito, Child resplendent with purity and Christian joy, obtain for us the gift of joy in our Lord
  • St Mbaga Tuzinde, who preferred death to the persuasions of your parents, obtain for us the grace to follow generously the voice of divine grace.
  • St Mugagga Lubowa, young man renowned for your heroic chastity, obtain for us the grace of perseverance in chastity.
  • St Mukasa Kiriwawanvu, fervent catechumen rewarded with the Baptism of blood, obtain for us the grace to persevere in our faith to the day of our death.
  • St Adolph Ludigo, conspicuous by your following our Lord in his spirit of service to others, obtain for us a love of unselfish service.
  • St Bruno Sserunkuma, soldier who gave an example of repentance and temperance, obtain for us the virtues of penance and temperance.
  • St John Marie Muzeyi, prudent counselor, and renowned for the practice of the works of mercy, obtain for us the virtue of mercy.
  • Blessed Daudi Okelo and Blessed Jildo Irwa, zealous and committed catechists, who taught the Gospel with their words and life shading their blood for the faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and saviour obtain for us all, the lay faithful, catechists, teachers, religious, ministers, missionaries, the grace to be fervent believers, authentic witnesses, and committed agents of the new evangelization.
  • Holy martyrs, models of the virtue of charity, obtain for us the grace of purity and chastity.
  • Holy martyrs, firm in your fidelity to the true Church of Christ, obtain for us the grace of being always faithful to the church of Christ

Lets us Pray

Oh Lord Jesus Christ, you have wonderfully strengthened Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions, and have given them to us as examples of faith and fortitude, chastity, charity, and fidelity. We beseech you that by their intercession, the same virtues may increase in us and that we may deserve to become propagators of the true faith. Who lives and reigns forever and ever, AMEN.

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