St. Charles Lwanga and companions

Friends in Christ, today is the feast of St. Charles Lwanga and his 21 Companions. They are Martyrs of Uganda, Africa, in 1886.
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Priests known as the White Fathers had only been in Uganda 6 years, but had already baptized many Catholics. A number of them worked in the court of the African King.
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Now the King was a violent ruler, and he was known for his homosexual actions, forcing himself on boys who served in his court. The Christians working there tried to protect them from the King. Their leader was Joseph Mukasa.
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Once, when the King had murdered a missionary, Joseph confronted him, and demanded that he change his homosexual lifestyle. The King ordered him killed, and when the executioners went to tie Joseph’s hands, he told them that it was not necessary, because a Christian is not afraid to die.” He forgave the King and was burned alive.
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Charles Lwanga took over the leadership of the Christian community – and they continued to try protecting young boys from the King. But the King’s anger flared again at another Christian, Denis, so he thrust a spear into his throat. The king called his court and said, “Whoever does not pray, come over by me. To the others he asked: Do you intend to remain Christian? They all answered ‘yes,’ and so they were forced onto a 37 mile walk to be executed.
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One Fr. Lourdel remembers hearing these martyrs laughing and chattering; he says that he almost fainted in seeing the courage and joy of these condemned young people. When one man named James was ordered killed, he said, ‘Goodbye, I am going to heaven.’ As Fr. Lourdel gave him absolution, James smiled broadly, and raised his tied hands pointing to his goal: heaven.
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When one official asked why God does not rescue them, a lad named Matthias said: ‘God will rescue me. But you will not see how he does it, because he will take my soul and leave you only my body.” On June 3, they were brought out wrapped in reed mats, and burned to death on the fire. At their death they called on the Name of Jesus and proclaimed: “You can burn our bodies, but you cannot harm our souls.”
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Today, the Church in Africa is very young and growing; there are 13.6 million Catholics today in Uganda, 42% of the entire country.

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