One of 22 Ugandan martyrs, Charles Lwanga is the patron of youth and Catholic action in most of tropical Africa. He and his companions were pages in the court of Mwanga, the Bagandan ruler. He protected his fellow pages, aged 13 to 30, from the immoral demands of Mwanga, and encouraged and instructed them in the Catholic faith during their imprisonment for refusing the ruler’s demands.
For his own unwillingness to submit Mwanga’s demands and his efforts to safeguard the faith of his friends, Charles was burned to death on June 3, 1886, by Mwanga’s order. Charles knew well Saint Paul’s instruction to Timothy in today’s first reading: “If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him.” Even though St. Charles and his friends died for their faith, as did St. Paul, they received the unfading glory of the martyrs in the kingdom of God.
How are we called upon to stand up for others and protect each other from the immoral onslaughts of our own time and place? Witnessing to what is right and good is often inconvenient, and for those like St. Charles, sometimes dangerous. But that is what disciples do. That is our ministry, the work to which we have all been called.