3rd June. Ss.Charles Lwanga and companions

The Ugandan Martyrs | America Magazine

When Pope Paul VI canonised these Ugandan saints in 1964 the language used was of its time and seems odd now. But he prayed particularly for those Anglicans who were martyred with them, and also for a rebirth for Africa as African nations found their freedom. There was a new tone to his prayers that fitted with the renewal of the Catholic Church itself taking place in the Vatican II Ecumenical Council which was being held at that time, a tone of both inclusion and of recognition of the respect due to all members of the Church and beyond. The martyrdom of these young men had taken place in the late 19th century, but they came to represent something both for Africa and for the whole Church. The Catholic Church, though it has made great strides, is still struggling to find a way to welcome some groups of people equally, as is so much of society. Racism was a major question at the time, as it is now, though with some changes in appearance. These were times when apartheid was getting into its stride, desegregation was struggling in US, and here in England we are finding out more and more about the life of then recent immigrants from the West indies and the ‘new Empire’ colonies (a story that has yet, sadly, to be fully told or resolved fairly, if that can ever actually happen justly in our system.) The canonisation of St. Martin de Porres in 1962, whose statue appeared in many a grandmother’s sitting room under a plastic dome at the time, was a move to underline, celebrate and respect the role of those who were not white in the Church. The Ugandan martyrs’ canonisation was to some extent part of this movement. For those of us who believe in asking the saints for their help, perhaps these are the saints we might pray to as events unfold in US and across the world.

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