Ordinary Time: June 3rd
Memorial of Sts. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs; Ember Saturday after Pentecost
Other Commemorations: St. Clotilde, Queen (RM)
Today is the Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions (d. 1886), the companions numbering twenty-one other Ugandan martyrs. They are the first martyrs of Sub-Saharan Africa and true witnesses of the Christian faith. Charles Lwanga, a catechist and a young leader, was martyred in 1886 with a group of Catholic and Anglican royal pages, some of whom were not yet baptized. King Mwanga, who despised the Christian religion, gave orders that all the Christian pages in his service be laid upon a mat, bound, placed onto a pyre and burnt. This took place at Namugongo, just outside Kampala.
The Roman Martyrology commemorates St. Clotilde, queen (475-545). With her husband King Clovis (c. 466-511) she founded the Merovingian dynasty, which ruled the Franks for over 200 years. They were married in 492 or 493, and she converted him to Christianity in 496. When Clovis died, Clotilde retired to Tours. Her sons' quarrels caused her great sorrow. She died at the tomb of St. Martin of Tours and was buried in Sainte-Genevieve in Paris, a church that she and Clovis founded.
Today is Ember Saturday of the Summer or Pentecost Embertide. This is the Ember Week's thanksgiving day. Ember Saturday was originally a nocturnal Vigil, a Vigil with a rich collection of Lessons and prayers, as preparation for Sunday's ordinations. The twelve Lessons in use before the time of St. Gregory the Great were reduced by him to six. Some are connected with Pentecost; the rest with the feasts of the Ember days. For the Offertory a tithe is brought from the past quarter year (in certain communities and parishes wheat for the altar bread is presented) and joyously voice our gratitude over the spiritual harvest marking the close of Easter time.
The two principal reasons why the traditional liturgy of today stresses gratitude are: 1) it is harvest time; 2) the Lord has also led us out of Egypt (at Easter) into a land flowing with milk and honey (the kingdom of God). We offer the first fruits of the land and "feast in all the good things the Lord has given us" (the Eucharist: 3rd Lesson).
God's promises to Israel were destined to be fulfilled perfectly only in the Church. If we are God's obedient children, then prosperity, wine and bread will be ours in abundance (the Eucharist: we will enjoy peace and overcome our enemies. "I will set my tabernacle in the midst of you...I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people" (4th Lesson) (Adapted from Fernand Cabrol and Pius Parsch).
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.)
Patronage: African Catholic Youth Action; Catholic youth; converts; torture victims; Courage Apostolate
Highlights and 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.
- Read more about St. Charles and his companions:
- Uganda Martyrs Shrine
- See Catholic Cuisine for some food ideas for this feast.
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
Highlights and Things to Do:
- Read this longer biography of St. Clotilde by Fr. Butler.
- Read more about St. Clotilde:
Ember Saturday after Pentecost
Station with San Pietro in Vaticano (St. Peter's in the Vatican): We celebrate this closing and thanksgiving day of Ember Week "in the house of Peter." It is the night between Saturday and Sunday as in the spirit of the ancient Church we gather at St. Peter's, the station for all Christendom. For the Offertory we bring our tithe from the past quarter year (in certain communities and parishes wheat for the altar bread is presented) and joyously voice our gratitude over the spiritual harvest marking the close of Ember Week.
For more on San Pietro in Vaticano, see:
For further information on the Station Churches, see The Stational Church.