Saints Joseph Mkasa, Charles Lwanga and 20 martyrs of Uganda (died 1886). These relatively modern-day saints and martyrs—mostly children—died for their faith with joy, as observed by witnesses of their martyrdom. Their courage and conviction reminds us that unquestioning trust in the Lord and the faith of a child are attributes to aspire to, even in the midst of our “adult” priorities, worries, and preoccupations.
“the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” For many Ugandan Christians, the seed of their Church is the blood of these 22 young men.
“A Christian who gives his life for God is not afraid to die. Tell Mwanga, that he has condemned me unjustly, but I forgive him with all my heart.” The executioner was so impressed with Mukasa that he beheaded him swiftly before tying him to the stake and burning his body. His powerful witness inspired what happened next.
"Yes, 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." Matthias was cut up on the road and left to die with Andrew and Kizito -- it took him at least three days to slowly bleed to death from his injuries.
"You are burning me, but it is as if you are pouring water over my body." He then remained quietly praying. Just before the end, he cried out in a loud voice "Katonda! (My God!).”
"You can burn our bodies, but you cannot harm our souls."
"Goodbye, then. I am going to Heaven, and I will pray to God for you." On his way to death, he passed by one of the White Fathers, Father Lourdel, who recorded many of the events leading up to the execution. Upon sensing the sadness of the White Father, James smiled, pointed to heaven, and stated, "Why are you so sad? This is nothing to the joys you have taught us to look forward to."
John Maria Muzeeyi
Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe
Following these deaths, missionaries working in Uganda were expelled, and forbidden to re-enter the country until King Mwanga’s death. However, fueled by the courageous deaths of the martyrs, underground Christianity spread throughout the country, and upon the return of missionaries, an active faith community emerged.
"The African martyrs add another page to the martyrology – the Church’s roll of honor – an occasion both of mourning and of joy. This is a page worthy in every way to be added to the annals of that Africa of earlier which we, living in this era and being men of little faith, never expected to be repeated.
In earlier times there occurred those famous deeds, so moving to the spirit, of the martyrs of Scilli, of Carthage, and of that “white robed army” of Utica commemorated by Saint Augustine and Prudentius; of the martyrs of Egypt so highly praised by Saint John Chrysostom, and of the martyrs of the Vandal persecution. Who would have thought that in our days we should have witnessed events as heroic and glorious?
Who could have predicted to the famous African confessors and martyrs such as Cyprian, Felicity, Perpetua and – the greatest of all – Augustine, that we would one day add names so dear to us as Charles Lwanga and Matthias Mulumba Kalemba and their 20 companions? Nor must we forget those members of the Anglican Church who also died for the name of Christ.
These African martyrs herald the dawn of a new age. If only the mind of man might be directed not toward persecutions and religious conflicts but toward a rebirth of Christianity and civilization!
Africa has been washed by the blood of these latest martyrs, the first of this new age (and, God willing, let them be the last, although such a holocaust is precious indeed). Africa is reborn free and independent.
The infamous crime by which these young men were put to death was so unspeakable and so expressive of the times. It shows us clearly that a new people needs a moral foundation, needs new spiritual customs firmly planted, to be handed down to posterity. Symbolically, this crime also reveals that a simple and rough way of life – enriched by many fine human qualities yet enslaved by its own weakness and corruption – must give way to a more civilized life wherein the higher expressions of the mind and better social conditions prevail.”
O God, by whose providence the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church: Grant that we who remember before you the blessed martyrs of Uganda, may, like them, be steadfast in our faith in Jesus Christ, to whom they gave obedience, even unto death, and by their sacrifice brought forth a plentiful harvest; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."