|Icon of the martyrs at the Shrine|
In graduate school I first became friends with students and priests from Uganda who greatly enriched my appreciation for the Uganda Martyrs. 22 Catholic martyrs of the late 19th century were canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1964. They are commemorated on June 3, the anniversary of the burning-to-death in 1886 of St. Charles Lwanga and eleven fellow Christian servants of the Ugandan Kabaka (King). There are ten other Catholic martyrs during this period who are also grouped into today's feast. Each one has an awesome story that was carefully recorded from eyewitness testimony for the beatification proceedings in the early twentieth century.
It is unfortunate that the stories and even the names of their Anglican companions in this dramatic ecumenical gesture of common witness have been lost, as the Anglicans didn't have the kind of rigorous investigative process for beatification or the emphasis on individual saints that is so prominent in the Catholic tradition. The Catholic martyrs, after the collection of the testimony of numerous still-living witnesses, were beatified in 1920. Last October 18 marked the 50th anniversary of their canonization, and the Catholic Church in Uganda dedicated the whole year of 2014 to a renewal of faith for millions of people who stand today as the heritage of the martyrs.
|St. Joseph Mukasa|
This led to further executions of prominent Christians, and finally to the young men and boys who served the King. In addition to being pathologically obsessed with his own power, Mwanga was also a serial sex predator and pedophile. The Christians, led by Charles Lwanga, resisted the King's abuse and protected others from it. King Mwanga demanded that they renounce this faith that opposed his desire to turn his servants into a caged harem of boys subjected to his every lustful whim and brutal fantasy. In fidelity to God and His truth, they refused the King and were subjected instead to death for the glory of their newly found Lord, Jesus.
|Bishops and pilgrims 2014 (from The Observer,|
Online news and opinion journal from Uganda)
|The Shrine of the Uganda Martyrs|
Denis Kamyuka was present at the beatification of his companions and friends in 1920, and it is said that he wept for not being among them. But he was spared so that the whole world might know the story of the witness that was given on that day. You can read the story here. There is a litany of the Uganda Martyrs that is published by the Shrine; a profound and powerful prayer for the multitude of pilgrims who come from all over East Africa (and the world) to honor and seek help from these saints who are their forebearers in the faith. Click here for the litany and the invocations.