ON Ascension Day, 1886. a page in the household of the Kabaka, King of Buganda, was slowly burned to death. He was Charles Lwanga, lay apostle and leader of the Martyrs of Uganda who in 1920 were beatified by Pope Benedict XV.
BI. Charles was tall, strong and good-looking. a skilled wrestler. At 16 he sought instruction from the few Christians who had received baptism.
Missionaries who had been exiled were recalled by Kabaka Mwanga in 1885. But the king turned again against the Christians, and Bl. Joseph Islukasa, his majordomo, was the first to lay down his life for Christ.
On the night following the first martyr's execution Charles Lwanga was baptised, and since, even as a Catechumen, he had helped Mukasa to teach others, he became the recognised leader of the Catholic pages.
He had to protect the Christian pages from their master. The youngest, 13-year-old Kizito, told Charles how he dreaded the prospect of martyrdom, however ardently he longed for it.
Charles encouraged him, promised to stand by him. He went frequently to Mass and Holy Communion until it became too danger. Otis.
Accused of disloyalty, Charles Lwange answered: "The religion which the missionaries teach commands me to serve you loyally. . . . I am still ready to lay down my life in your service."
Throughout their trial Charles was the spokesman of his companions. He baptised Kizito and three others.
His last words to his friends as he was put aside to be burned over a slow fire were: "Good-bye, my friends, I am to stay here. We shall meet an hour hence, in Paradise."
The Holy Father in 1953 declared Bl. Charles patron of all Catholic Action in Africa.