Saint Charles Lwanga and his Companions

3rd June

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.

You might take the opportunity to guide the children locate Uganda on a world map. It is very probable that for the children Uganda might be a very remote place!

Even today remote villages in Uganda lead a very difficult life and Christians as well as missionaries are still persecuted for their Faith. (It is worth searching for sites on the Internet for “Life in a village in Uganda”)

Point out the courage of the White Fathers who left Algiers in North Africa to go to Uganda (show on world map!). It was a time when missionaries endured great hardships as they travelled by ship and then overland by means of caravan journeys.

St. Charles Lwanga was not only courageous in standing firm in his Christian Faith, but he also stood up for what is right against the powerful king and his evil acts when he protected the young men under his care. This is the virtue of moral courage.

It can prove to be quite challenging for us as parents and guardians to impart this value to our children. But, it is never too early to start.

Children want to be accepted by friends sometimes even if they will get into trouble. The need to be accepted will become stronger in teenage years and eventually will continue to be a need even as adults. It will add up to a decision what role they will be taking ‘a bystander or upstander.’

Make time to discuss with the children examples of experiences, when they would be ‘asked’ to stand up for what is right. What would they do if:

  • friends are mocking a classmate with special needs
  • shoving, pushing another boy/girl for ridicule
  • somebody is being blamed for something they didn’t do.
  • (for older children) caught in conversations of gossip that could harm another person, or unchristian mobile messages.

Let them share their own experiences. Talk about what would they do: Join in? Keep silent? Take action? If yes, what?

For Family Prayer Time: Pray to St. Charles to help us keep strong to stand up for what is right.

Ask Jesus to continue giving strength to:

  • Catholics who are being tried for their Faith and for what they believe is right,
  • missionaries who continue to strive to evangelize

Thank God for so many comforts we take for granted when there are so many people who do not have the bare necessities.

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Saints of the Church. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the holy life, helping you to connect the saints to daily life in a meaningful way.