The group of saints we have today are commonly called the Martyrs of Uganda, led by Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions. They met their destiny in 1886. In this era of ours we tend to look for witnesses that are coherent in their Christian following. The story of Saint Charles is the story of so many people today. Attend to the narrative:

King Mwanga of the Baganda in Uganda was a cruel and capricious ruler. One of his first acts, after becoming king at the age of eighteen, was to order the murder of James Hannington, the newly appointed Anglican bishop. The Christian missionaries, he believed, were the advance guard of encroaching European powers; they were tempting his people to abandon their traditional ways and thus posed a threat to his own rule. What is more, they also reproached him for demanding sexual favors from the young men who served as his pages.

In May 1886 Mwanga summoned all his pages and ordered the Christians among them to step forward. Fifteen of them approached, including the eldest, twenty-four-year-old catechist Charles Lwanga, as well as the youngest, a boy of thirteen whom Charles had baptized only the night before. After declaring that they were Christians and intended to remain so, the king ordered them put to death.

The group was marched to an execution spot on Lake Victoria, more than sixteen miles away. There they were wrapped in reeds, stacked on a pyre, and set aflame. The martyrs offered no protest, but simply murmured their prayers. Lwanga’s last words were “My God.”

Reports of these deaths, and many more in succeeding weeks, spread quickly, resulting in many conversions. The martyrs were canonized in 1964 by Pope Paul VI, who made a pilgrimage to their shrine.

St. Charles Lwanga said, “Poor, foolish man . . . you are burning me, but it is as if you were pouring water on my body.”

Credit: Give us our daily bread