St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs of Uganda (d. 1886-1887)
Chaste servants of the true King. Charles was a catechumen when he entered into the services of the royal household, serving as an assistant to the head of the court pages, St. Joseph Mkasa. When King Mwanga had a group of Christians with their Anglican bishop killed, Joseph spoke out against this evil of the king as well as the king’s sexually immoral conduct. For this, King Mwanga had Joseph beheaded, and thus began a period of intense persecution of Christians in a land where the Gospel was just starting to take root. Charles was baptized the night of Joseph’s martyrdom, and he took over Joseph’s position as head of the court pages. Now, King Mwanga would use the court pages for his own sexual pleasure, but this was something the Christian pages refused. One day, on calling for a page, Mwafu, King Mwanga discovered he had been being catechized by the page St. Denis Sebuggwawo. The king’s fury burst. King Mwanga had Denis summoned and thrust a spear through his throat. The royal house was then put into lockdown that night. Knowing they were in grave danger, Charles baptized four of the court pages who were still just catechumens. All the court pages were summoned in the morning, with the Christians being told to separate themselves. On given the option, these Anglican and Catholic court pages (all between the ages of thirteen and twenty five) choose death rather than to renounce their Christian faith. So they were sent to Namugango, where they were burned alive. Within a year, the number of catechumens in the kingdom rose from 800 to 3,000.
O God, who have made the blood of Martyrs the seed of Christians, mercifully grant that the field which is your Church, watered by the blood shed by Saint Charles Lwanga and his companions, may be fertile and always yield you an abundant harvest.