The Courage to Overcome

Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs


“In the world you will have trouble,

but take courage,

I have conquered the world” (John 16:33b).


I imagine that, in some way, those words (or something like them) have echoed in the ears and hearts of every man, woman and child who has been a martyr for Christ.

St. Charles Lwanga and his companions, the Martyrs of Uganda, were young people of extraordinary courage.  They were also new to the Christian faith.  Some were baptized only days before they were martyred.

The king of that time was a man with absolute power over his subjects.  He abused that power in different ways, including sexually abusing the children and youth who served in his court. 

St. Joseph Mkasa denounced the king for his perversion and his abuses.  The king killed him. Charles and his companions then refused to accede to the king’s desires. So he had them marched through the jungle, tortured and burned alive. 

Tertullian, of our early church fathers, said that “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”  Today the church of Uganda is thriving. Over 80 percent of Ugandans are Christian. Ugandan priests and religious serve in countries throughout the world, including in the USA.

The Holy Spirit is powerful, giving us courage when we are afraid, strength when we are weak, hope when we want to give up, victory over infirmity, and life in the face of death. 

As we approach Pentecost, we pray, “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and renew the face of the earth!”   

St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, pray for us! –JC