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Ordinary Time: June 3rd

Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, martyrs

Other Commemorations: St. Clotilde (RM)


June 03, 2004 (Readings on USCCB website)


Father, you have made the blood of the martyrs the seed of Christians. May the witness of St. 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, God, for ever and ever. Amen.


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King Mwanga of Uganda launched persecutions of Christians in response to their opposition to his homosexual and corrupt court. St. Charles was martyred with twelve companions on June 3, 1886; others were killed later. Some of the victims, almost a hundred in all, were very young or newly baptized. They were the first black Catholic martyrs of Africa and were canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1964.

St. Charles Lwanga and Companions
Charles was one of twenty-two Ugandan martyrs who converted from paganism. He was baptized November 1885, a year before his death, and became a moral leader. He was the chief of the royal pages and was considered the strongest athlete of the court. He was also known as "the most handsome man of the Kingdom of the Uganda." He instructed his friends in the Catholic Faith and he personally baptized boy pages. He inspired and encouraged his companions to remain chaste and faithful. He protected his companions, ages 13-30, from the immoral acts and homosexual demands of the Babandan ruler, Mwanga.

Mwanga was a superstitious pagan king who originally was tolerant of Catholicism. However, his chief assistant, Katikiro, slowly convinced him that Christians were a threat to his rule. The premise was if these Christians would not bow to him, nor make sacrifices to their pagan god, nor pillage, massacre, nor make war, what would happen if his whole kingdom converted to Catholicism?

When Charles was sentenced to death, he seemed very peaceful, one might even say, cheerful. He was to be executed by being burned to death. While the pyre was being prepared, he asked to be untied so that he could arrange the sticks. He then lay down upon them. When the executioner said that Charles would be burned slowly to death, Charles replied by saying that he was very glad to be dying for the True Faith. He made no cry of pain but just twisted and moaned, "Katonda! (O my God!)." He was burned to death by Mwanga's order on June 3, 1886. Pope Paul VI canonized Charles Lwanga and his companions on June 22,1964. We celebrate his memorial on June 3rd on the Roman Calendar. Charles is the Patron of the African Youth of Catholic Action.


This photograph was taken a year before their martyrdom. St. Charles is number 13. (For the full size image right click "view image" on the photo below; image from Ite Ad Joseph.)

Patron: African Catholic Youth Action; Catholic youth; converts; torture victims; Courage Apostolate

Things to Do:

  • Learn more about Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria. See what the Catholic Relief Services are doing and how you might help. Visit the Missionary Childhood Association to find out more about mission work in Africa and to find activities and prayer services.

  • These Christian martyrs refused to give in to the homosexual demands of the king. They are saints who respected their bodies and loved the commandments of God. Pray today to be strong in times of temptations against purity. Read the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's document, Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons.

St. Clotilde
St. Clotilde was Queen of the Franks, born in Lyons France, probably around the year 470. In 492 or 493, she married Clovis, king of the Franks, converting him to Christianity on Christmas Day. When Clovis died in 511, Clotilde had to deal with feuds and murders conducted by her sons: Clodomir, king of Orleans; Childebert I, king of Paris; and Clotaire, king of Soissons and the Franks. When Clotaire killed two of his nephews, who were the brothers of St. Clodoald (Cloud), Clotilde left Paris and resided thereafter in Tours.

—Excerpted from Our Sunday Visitor's Encyclopedia of Saints by Matthew Bunson, Margaret Bunson, Stephen Bunson

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