We are used to celebrating saints who have been missionaries or who have been martyrs because the authorities did not approve of the Christian Faith they were spreading. Kings and Emperors felt that their power was being threatened by the fact that many of their subjects were being baptized and becoming Christians.
St. Charles Lwanga was not one of these missionaries. He was one of the young men who were converted to Christianity by these missionaries. In fact, while he was growing up he had never heard of Jesus!
Then the White Fathers, a society of missionary priests, came to the village in Uganda where he was born and where he lived. They started teaching the people about Jesus and His love for us. Charles followed the teachings of these missionaries and he became a Christian.
He had grown into a handsome strong athlete, a young man with the qualities of a leader. He was taken to serve King Mwanga at court and eventually he was put in charge of other young men who were pages and attendants of the KIng. There he started to teach these young men about the Christian Faith, preparing them to be baptized. He also stood up for these young men, protecting them from the king’s evil acts, a king who abused them and treated them cruelly and harshly. King Mwanga then found out that Charles and the young men under his care were studying about the Christian Faith.
He ordered Charles and his companions to stop and to renounce the Faith. They all stood firm. They were tortured, then tied together and made to walk 37 miles to the place where they were burned to death. They were 22 young men, some of whom were Anglicans, who had also refused to renounce their Faith in the One True God. Charles was 26 years old while the youngest of the group, Kizito, was only 13 years old. It was the 3rd June 1886. The last word of St. Charles Lwanga as he was dying, was “Katonda!” ~ “My God!”
He is still venerated as the Patron Saint of African Youth.