About the Saints and Martyrs:
SS. Charles Lwanga and his companions were martyrs of Uganda in 1886. Charles was a minister of King Mwanga. When the king found out Charles was a Christian, he had Charles and his friends killed. Many Christians, Catholic and Protestant, were killed by the Ugandan king Mwanga. Some of them as Saint Charles were servants in the king’s palace or even his personal attendants. Most of them were burned alive in a group after being tortured.
Within a year of their deaths, the number of catechumens in the country quadrupled. St Charles Lwanga is the patron of Catholic Action and of black African youth, and the Ugandan martyrs’ feast day is a public holiday in Uganda. A basilica was built in their honor.
Collect of the Day:
You have made the blood of the martyrs
the seed of Christians.
May the witness of Saint Charles and his companions
and their loyalty to Christ in the face of torture
inspire countless men and women
to live the Christian faith.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The First Reading: I Maccabees: 7:1-2. 9-14: We are prepared to die rather than break the laws of our ancestors.
The Gospel: Matthew: 5-1-12: Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in Heaven.
A sermon by Pope Paul VI; at the Canonisation of the Saints and Martyrs.
The glory of the martyrs – a sign of rebirth
The African martyrs add another page to the martyrology – the Church’s roll of honour – an occasion both of mourning and of joy. This is a page worthy in every way to be added to the annals of that Africa of earlier which we, living in this era and being men of little faith, never expected to be repeated.
In earlier times there occurred those famous deeds, so moving to the spirit, of the martyrs of Scilli, of Carthage, and of that “white robed army” of Utica commemorated by Saint Augustine and Prudentius; of the martyrs of Egypt so highly praised by Saint John Chrysostom, and of the martyrs of the Vandal persecution. Who would have thought that in our days we should have witnessed events as heroic and glorious?
Who could have predicted to the famous African confessors and martyrs such as Cyprian, Felicity, Perpetua and – the greatest of all – Augustine, that we would one day add names so dear to us as Charles Lwanga and Matthias Mulumba Kalemba and their 20 companions? Nor must we forget those members of the Anglican Church who also died for the name of Christ.
These African martyrs herald the dawn of a new age. If only the mind of man might be directed not toward persecutions and religious conflicts but toward a rebirth of Christianity and civilisation!
Africa has been washed by the blood of these latest martyrs, the first of this new age (and, God willing, let them be the last, although such a holocaust is precious indeed). Africa is reborn free and independent.
The infamous crime by which these young men were put to death was so unspeakable and so expressive of the times. It shows us clearly that a new people needs a moral foundation, needs new spiritual customs firmly planted, to be handed down to posterity. Symbolically, this crime also reveals that a simple and rough way of life – enriched by many fine human qualities yet enslaved by its own weakness and corruption – must give way to a more civilised life wherein the higher expressions of the mind and better social conditions prevail.
Holy Martyrs and patrons, protect our lands which you have blessed by the shedding of your blood. Renew in these days our Catholic faith which you helped to establish in our lands.
Bring all our fellow citizens to a knowledge and love of the truth. Make us zealous in the profession of our faith so that we may continue and perfect the work which you have begun with so much labor and suffering.
Pray for our homes, our school, our missions, for vocations, for the conversion of sinners, the return of those who have wandered from the fold, and the perseverance of all the Faithful. And foster a deeper and increasing unity among all Christians. Amen.