KAMPALA, Uganda (ChurchMilitant.com) - An African prelate is imploring the intercession of the Ugandan Martyrs for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, a century after their beatification.
The archbishop was assisted by various priests, including Fr. Vincent Lubega, the parish priest of Namugongo Martyrs' shrine, it was reported. Administrative secretary of the shrine Fr. Francis Muwonge, chancellor of the archdiocese Fr. Pius Male, and other priests identified as the relatives of Uganda Martyrs were also in attendance.
The priests wore red vestments symbolizing the blood of martyrs and the fire of Pentecost. Some priests carried relics of the martyrs.
Words from the Gospel of St. John (12:24–26) were read:
Amen, amen I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, itself remaineth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world, keepeth it unto life eternal. If any man minister to Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there also shall My minister be. If any man minister to Me, him will My Father honor.
"With the Uganda Martyrs filled with faith and hope, we shall overcome," the archbishop declared.
Referring to Ugandan homes as "domestic churches," he urged Christians to strengthen them by reciting morning, evening and other prayers daily.
Archbishop Lwanga acknowledged that the pandemic is also challenging family life and again advocated praying for peace through the intercession of the Uganda martyrs.
The service was broadcast online for those who could not attend in person this year. Previous 99 celebrations brought thousands of pilgrims, sometimes close to 1 million pilgrims, from all over the world.
The Uganda Martyrs refer to a group of 45 Roman Catholic and Anglican male martyrs — most were in their teens and 20s — who were executed between 1885 and 1887 by a king of Buganda (now Uganda). They all died painful deaths — some being burned alive — for their belief in Christ and for refusing the sexual demands of their handlers.
The 22 Catholic martyrs were beatified by Pope Benedict XV in 1920 and canonized by Pope Paul VI on Oct. 18, 1964.
Pope St. John Paul II visited the shrine in 1993 and said, referring by name to one of the martyrs:
This is the place where Christ's light shone on your land with a particular splendor. This was the place of darkness, Namugongo, where Christ's light shone bright in the great fire which consumed St. Charles Lwanga and his companions. May the light of that holocaust never cease to shine in Africa!
A sign outside the shrine says: "The blood of the Uganda Martyrs is the seed of our faith."
The miracles that led to the canonization of the Uganda Martyrs involve the healing of two nuns who had contracted the bubonic plague and for whom their medical doctors — one a Muslim and another a Protestant — had given up hope. Nonetheless, a novena in honor of the Blessed Martyrs was immediately started in St. Mary's Cathedral Rubaga for their cure. The martyrs' relics were also placed on the dying nuns. Three days later, to the doctors' amazement, both were completely cured.
Archbishop Lwanga has directed the faithful to this prayer:
Let us Pray O, Lord Jesus Christ, you have wonderfully strengthened the holy Martyrs of Uganda, and have given them to us as examples of faith and fortitude, chastity, charity and fidelity. We beseech you that by their intercession, the same virtues may increase in us, and that we may deserve to become propagators of the true Faith, who lives and reigns forever and ever, Amen.
The archbishop initiated a Novena to the Holy Martyrs' of Uganda this year, which commenced on Ascension Sunday, May 24 and ended on June 3. Novena prayers and the litany of the Uganda Martyrs are available online.