Saint Charles Lwanga

and Companions

Feast Day: June 3rd

19th Century


Saint Charles Lwanga and his companions lived in the area of Central Africa called Uganda. Never had anyone spoken the name of God in that land, and the devil ruled there by means of slavery, sorcery and cannibalism. One day in 1879, Father Lourdel and Father Livinhac, two members of the White Fathers’ Society, arrived amid these poor natives. At once they introduced themselves to King Mutesa, who welcomed them peacefully and granted them permission to reside in his kingdom.

The dedicated missionaries were all to all, and they rendered service any way they could. Less than seven months after they opened a catechumenate, they selected some individuals worthy of preparation for Baptism. King Mutesa took an interest in what the Fathers were preaching, but before long their words aroused the anger of the jealous witch doctors and of the Arabs, who were engaging in slavery.

Anticipating a persecution, Fathers Lourdel and Livinhac baptized the natives who were already prepared and then withdrew south of Lake Victoria with a few men they had bought out of slavery. A smallpox epidemic decimated the population of that area, and the missionaries baptized great numbers of dying children.

After they had been three years in exile, King Mutesa passed away. His son, Mwanga, who was in favor of the new religion, asked them to return. On July 12, 1885, the inhabitants of Uganda, who had not forgotten the multiple benefits they had received from the missionaries, gave Fathers Lourdel and Livinhac a triumphant welcome. Those they had baptized before their departure had baptized others in turn; their apostolate promised to be a flourishing one. However, the new king’s minister felt intimidated by the Christians’ success, especially that of the leader of the pages, Joseph Mukasa, who opposed the prevalent immorality.

On November 15, 1885, Mwanga had Joseph Mukasa burned to death after the king feared that the Christians were after his throne. The tyrant boasted, After I’ve killed that one, all the others will be afraid and will abandon the religion of the priests. Contrary to this prediction, however, conversions continued to abound.

On May 25th, 1886, the king returned from a hunt and summoned one of his pages, Dennis, age 14. Mwanga questioned him and learned that he was studying catechism with Mwafu, a baptized boy. He flew into a rage and thrust his poisoned spear through the boy’s throat. The executioners completed the task the following day, May 26th, on which the despot officially declared open persecution against the Christians. Mwanga assembled all the Christian pages and gave orders for them to be led to the pyre in Namugongo and burned alive

Saint Charles Lwanga, a young man of great strength and agility, had been appointed by the king to direct a group of pages; he had taught them catechism in hiding, and often protected them from Mwanga’s sexual advances. He was now separated from his companions to be burned in an especially terrible manner. The torturer lit the fire in such a way as to burn the feet of his victim first. You’re burning me, said Charles, but it’s like water you’re pouring to wash me. When the flames reached the area of his heart, just before he expired, Charles murmured, My God! My God.

There are twenty-two officially canonized Catholic martyrs, whose deaths occurred between 1885 and 1887.


Youth - Catholic Action




1 January 1860
Kingdom of Buganda (Uganda)


3 June 1886 (Age 26)
Namugongo, Kingdom of Buganda


18 October 1964 (Pope Paul VI)


Namugongo, Wakiso, Uganda Munyonyo, Kampala, Uganda


Saint Charles Lwanga and his companions suffered persecution from an unjust king. Charles taught the young people of the kingdom and defended them from the king's sexual advances. He and his 21 companions died as martyrs after not renouncing Christianity.