-Excerpts from “My Life with the Saints”, Rev. James Martin, SJ, pp 319-323, Loyola Press, © 2006.
“Christian missionaries…arrived in the interior of Africa during the late nineteenth century…The largest and most powerful of the local ethnic groups was the Baganda…(accounts of) the Baganda were that they were among the richest and most advanced tribes in Central Africa…Yet the civilization also had a cruel side…with both rulers and subjects having the reputation of being ‘unnaturally cruel’.
Mutesa, the ruler of the Baganda, exemplified this cruel streak. When he took the throne in 1860, to ensure his own political survival, he buried his brothers alive – all sixty of them.
Conversion to Christianity among the Baganda meant a rejection of the traditional religions…(but was tolerated under Mutesa).
With the accession of Mutesa’s son, Mwanga, to the throne, the situation altered dramatically. Mwanga was also a practicing pedophile, and upon discovering the the young men who converted to Christianity were beginning to reject his sexual advances, he grew enraged.
In January of 1885, Mwanga had three Christians, whom he referred to as “those who pray”, dismembered and their bodies burned. In October of the same year, the newly arrived Anglican bishop…was murdered. Mukasa, a senior advisor to the king, reproached Mwanga for not allowing the bishop the customary opportunity to defend himself. In response, Mwanga had Mukasa beheaded.
Mukasa’s successor, Charles Lwanga, now was in danger. Upon witnessing Mukasa’s death, Charles, went to the Catholic mission and immediately had himself baptized along with the other catechumens. Among those baptized was Kizito, age fourteen.
The next day Charles, Kizito, and their companions were summoned into the royal court. Mwanga demanded all the young men confess their allegiance. All but four of them, including Charles and Kizito, did. Baffled by this refusal, Mwanga put off their executions until the next day.
A fire forced the royal court to relocate to a lodge on the banks of Lake Victoria. During this time, Charles protected several of the young men from Mwanga’s violent sexual advances. Mwanga finally sentenced twenty-six Christians to be burned alive.
On June 3, Charles was wrapped tightly in a reed mat and was throne into a pyre. Eventually, a total of forty-five Christians were burned alive.”
Prayer in Honor of Sts Charles Lwanga, Kizito, and companions
Father, you have made the blood of the martyrs the seed of Christians. May the witness of Saint Charles Lwanga and his companions and their loyalty to Christ in the face of torture, mistreatment, and cruelty inspire countless men and women to live sincerely and faithfully the Christian life.
“If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love,…if I let them take my body and burn it, but have not love, it will do me no good whatever.” -1 Cor 13: 1,3
“Perfect love casts out fear.”
-cf 1 John 4:18