St. Charles Lwanga and companions

FATHER GEORGE W. RUTLER

Last week the Church celebrated the feast of the Martyrs of Uganda.

St. Charles Lwanga
1860 or 1865 to 886

In the late nineteenth century, French and English missionaries were welcomed by King Mutesa I of Buganda in the southern part of modern Uganda.  His successor, Mwanga II, however, was a youth who became a persecutor of Christians and all foreigners.  He especially opposed Christian morality, as it contradicted his affinity for unnatural vice which was abhorred by the local Buganda culture, but which he is said to have learned from Arab tradesmen.  The young male pages of Mwanga's court were Christian converts and refused the king's attempts at seduction.  This disobedience to the king was considered treasonous, and Mwanga exercised what he considered his right to destroy any life at will, according to the saying, Namunswa alya kunswaze — meaning "the queen ant feeds on her subjects."  Mwanga soon decreed the execution of converts Yusufu Rugarama, Makko Kakumba and Nuwa Sserwanga on January 31, 1885.  A senior advisor to the king, Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe, was beheaded on November 15, 1885, and there were many martyrdoms in the following year, climaxing on June 3, 1886, with the torture and burning alive of twenty-six at Namugongo, including their leader, Charles Lwanga, a recent convert himself and majordomo of the royal household. Pope Paul VI canonized them in 1964.  An icon of St. Charles Lwanga is in our sanctuary.

When Pope Paul went to Uganda as the first pope to make an apostolic journey to sub-Saharan Africa, he said, "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 civilized life wherein the higher expressions of the mind and better social conditions prevail."

Alas, the infamous crime of which the Holy Father spoke is now paraded as a civil right in our decaying culture, and some states are making it quasi-sacramental.  Our current president promotes it, along with his defense of infanticide, which even King Mwanga II would have found degrading.  Pope Francis recently said that one cannot be a Christian if one is not willing to be a martyr.  In New York today, Catholics may not face beheading or burning, but their political incorrectness could subject them to the subtle ignominy of social scorn and discrimination.  Ours has become a neo-pagan culture, and that can be even worse than a simple pagan culture.  Pagans did not know about Christ, while neo-pagans do know about him and reject him, so their defense is the malice of a cynic.

 

 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Father George William Rutler. "St. Charles Lwanga and companions."  From the Pastor (June 9, 2013).

Reprinted with permission of Father George W. Rutler.

THE AUTHOR

Father Rutler received priestly ordination in 1981. Born in 1945 and reared in the Episcopal tradition, Father Rutler was an Episcopal priest for nine years. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1979 and was sent to the North American College in Rome for seminary studies. Father Rutler graduated from Dartmouth, where he was a Rufus Choate Scholar, and took advanced degrees at the Johns Hopkins University and the General Theological Seminary. He holds several degrees from the Gregorian and Angelicum Universities in Rome, including the Pontifical Doctorate in Sacred Theology, and studied at the Institut Catholique in Paris. In England, in 1988, the University of Oxford awarded him the degree Master of Studies. From 1987 to 1989 he was regular preacher to the students, faculty, and townspeople of Oxford. Cardinal Egan appointed him Pastor of the Church of Our Saviour, effective September 17, 2001. 

Since 1988 his weekly television program has been broadcast worldwide on EWTN. Father Rutler has published 17 books, including: Cloud of Witnesses — Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive, Coincidentally: Unserious Reflections on Trivial Connections, A Crisis of Saints: Essays on People and Principles, Brightest and Best, Saint John Vianney: The Cure D'Ars Today, Crisis in Culture, and Adam Danced: The Cross and the Seven Deadly Sins.

Copyright © 2013 Father George W. Rutler




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