Sts Charles Lwanga & Joseph Mkasa, Martyrs of Uganda
In the interior of central
Africa the first Catholic missions were established by Cardinal Lavigerie's White Fathers in 1879.
In Uganda some progress was made under the not unfriendly local ruler, Mtesa; but his successor,
Mwanga, determined to root out Christianity among his people, especially after a Catholic subject,
St. Joseph Mkasa, reproached him for his debauchery and for his massacre of the Protestant
missionary James Hannington and his caravan. Mwanga was addicted to unnatural vice and his anger
against Christianity, already kindled by ambitious officers who played on his fears, was kept alight
by the refusal of Christian boys in his service to minister to his wickedness.
Joseph Mkasa himself was the first victim: Mwanga. seized on a trifling
pretext and on November 15, 1885, had him beheaded. To the chieftain's astonishment the Christians
were not cowed by this sudden outrage, and in May of the following year the storm burst. When he
called for a young 'page' called Mwafu, Mwanga learned that he had been receiving religious
instruction from another page, St. Denis Sebuggwawo; Denis was sent for, and the king thrust a spear
through his throat. That night guards were posted round the royal residence to prevent anyone from
St. Charles Lwanga, who had succeeded Joseph Mkasa in
charge of the 'pages', secretly baptized four of them who were catechumens; among them St Kizito, a
boy of thirteen whom Lwanga had repeatedly saved from the designs of the king. Next morning the
pages were all drawn up before Mwanga, and Christians were ordered to separate themselves from the
rest: led by Lwanga and Kizito, the oldest and youngest, they did so—fifteen young men, all under
twenty-five years of age. They were joined by two others already under arrest and by two soldiers.
Mwanga asked them if they intended to remain Christians. "Till death!" came the response. "Then put
them to death!"
The appointed place of execution, Namugongo, was thirty-seven miles away, and the convoy set out at once. Three of the youths were killed on the road; the others underwent a cruel imprisonment of seven days at Namugongo while a huge pyre was prepared. Then on Ascension day, June 3, 1886, they were brought out, stripped of their clothing, bound, and each wrapped in a mat of reed: the living faggots were laid on the pyre (one boy, St Mbaga, was first killed by a blow on the neck by order of his father who was the chief executioner), and it was set alight.
spread and Protestants as well as Catholics gave their lives rather than deny Christ. A leader among
the confessors was St Matthias Murumba, who was put to death with revolting cruelty; he was a
middle-aged man, assistant judge to the provincial chief, who first heard of Jesus Christ from
Protestant missionaries and later was baptized by Father Livinhac, W.F. Another older victim, who
was beheaded, was St Andrew Kagwa, chief of Kigowa, who had been the instrument of his wife's
conversion and had gathered a large body of catechumens round him. This Andrew together with Charles
Lwanga and Matthias Murumba and nineteen others (seventeen of the total being young royal servants)
were solemnly beatified in 1920. They were canonized in 1964.
When the White Fathers were expelled from the country, the new Christians carried on their work, translating and printing the catechism into their nativel language and giving secret instruction on the faith. Without priests, liturgy, and sacraments their faith, intelligence, courage, and wisdom kept the Catholic Church alive and growing in Uganda. When the White Fathers returned after King Mwanga's death, they found five hundred Christians and one thousand catchumens waiting for them.
Join the new media evangelization. Your tax-deductible gift allows Catholic.net to build a culture of life in our nation and throughout the world. Please help us promote the Church's new evangelization by donating to Catholic.net right now. God bless you for your generosity.
|Print Article||Email Friend||Palm Download||Forums||Questions||More in this Channel||Up|
Write a comment on this article|