Thursday, June 3, 2010

Saint Charles Lwanga and his 12 companions

Today, the Church celebrates Saint Charles Lwanga and his 12 companions who were brutally tortured and killed because they would not renounce their Faith in Christ.

Saint Charles and his friends came from the region of Africa whch is now known as Uganda. They were courtiers for King Mwanga II, who, fearful of the growing influence of Christianity among his subjects, declared the “new” religion to be illegal. However, the Faith continued to grow, despite threats and legal sanctions.

Charles and his friends were only catechumens when they were compelled to give public witness to the Faith – a witness that would cost them their lives. They might have lived quietly, enjoying the benefits of their royal appointment, if not for the decadent proclivities of King Mwanga. Mwanga abused the young men of his court to satisfy his sexual desires. When Charles was summoned before the king and commanded to provide young men for this purpose, he refused, insisting that his Faith prohibited such decadence.

Charles and the 12 other courtiers were given a choice, renounce their Christian Faith and submit to the demands of the king or face execution. Charles and his 12 friends chose to renounce their allegiance to Mwanga, rather than betray Christ.

Since its beginning, the Church has positioned itself in opposition to worldly powers. In the earliest days of the Church’s life, the choice was Christ rather than Caesar, for Charles and his friends it was Christ rather than the despot Mwanga.

Our Faith is not politically neutral or culturally indifferent. It is not merely a private affair that can be sequestered away from politics and culture. We can respect the authority of government, but we must first raise our voices when that authority claims for itself power that only properly belongs to the Lord or is contrary to the Lord’s will. We can participate in all the benefits of a culture, but our Faith compels us to manifest our opposition when a culture refuses to recognize the divinely ordained dignity of the human person.

The martyrs remind us that to believe in Jesus Christ means that we not only stand for something, but we stand against something as well. When the moment comes for our own testimony, may the witness of Saint Charles Lwanga and his friends inspire us to be courageous – whatever the circumstances might be and whatever the cost."

(Courtesy of Word on Fire Blog)

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