Ex Umbris Et Imaginibus Saturday, June 4, 2011
Fr John Hogan, OCDS
Today in Ireland we celebrate the feast of St Charles Lwanga and his companions, the martyrs of Uganda. We are a day out from the rest of the Church because on the 3rd June we mark the memorial of St Kevin of Glendalough, so St Charles has been moved.
Charles is a saint to whom devotion should be growing, a young man whose witness is of profound relevance to all Christians in these times. You know his story: he and a number of companions, all men and servants of Mwanga, the king of Bukanda, were martyred by their king when they refused to participate in homosexual activities with him. Indeed, they reminded him that such acts were morally wrong. For their heroic stance he had some hacked to death, and others burned alive.
St Charles was in charge of the pages of the royal court, and he heroically protected them from the evil desires of the king. He led many of them into the Church, and in the hours before their martyrdom, he baptised the catechumens among them in preparation for their deaths. He was not the protomartyr of the group, but for his heroism his name heads the list.
A year or so ago I discovered that there was a photograph of many of these martyrs with other Catholics with two missionary priests who ministered to them, St Charles included. So above you will see a original photograph of St Charles himself - he looks like a capable and strong young man, indeed a pure soul. See the full photo here with the martyrs marked.
I first discovered the martyrs of Uganda in my teens, and have had a bit of devotion to them. Of the group St Charles and St Matthias Kalemba have interested me the most - their stories are fascinating, particularly St Matthias' journey to the Catholic faith. When in Rome I was given relics of these two, ex ossibus, and I cherish them.
As I said above, St Charles and his companions are necessary witnesses for our time as Christians today face a persecution from militant homosexualists. As the governments of our nations are becoming more and more like pawns in the hands of gay groups, those who profess the orthodox Christian faith are now the target of laws which are, in essence, anti-Christian and destroying religious freedom. The tyranny of the gay king Mwanga is alive and well in the 21st century.
That said, my devotion to St Charles was strengthened after I started helping Courage, a Catholic organisation which ministers to men and women with same sex attraction. It is a marvellous organisation peopled with saints - men and women struggling but with faith in Christ, relying on the sacrament of confession and prayer, and making much better Christians than this priest here (The link does not appear but here we can put as an example the apostate James Martin)! Pray for them today, and for our various countries.