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September 28

St. Lorenzo Ruiz

St. Lorenzo Ruiz

Lorenzo Ruiz was born in the 1600s in Binondo, Manila in the Philippines o a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both devout Christians. He learned Chinese and Tagalog from his parents, and Spanish from the Dominicans where he served as sacristan and altar boy. He was also a calligrapher who could transcribe documents with beautiful penmanship. He was a member of the Dominican-founded Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. He married a Filipino woman, Rosario, and had two sons and a daughter.

Everything seemed to go well for Lorenzo until he was accused of murdering a Spaniard in 1636. To avoid possible arrest, he fled home and found refuge on board a ship with three Dominican priests Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet, and Miguel de Aozaraza. With them was Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, a Japanese priest and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. The priests allowed him to accompany them. But Lorenzo, when they were already at sea, knew that they were going to Japan where the Tokugawa Shogunate was persecuting Christians. The ship departed the Philippines on June 10, 1636.

Steadfast Amidst Suffering

The group landed in Okinawa. Though Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, he decided to stay with the priests for fear that the Spaniards would hang him there. Not long after, they were found out, arrested and taken to Nagasaki.

In 17th century Japan, Japan was undergoing a period of political and social upheaval Christians in Nagasaki and other parts of Japan were subjected to harsh treatment, including torture, imprisonment, and execution. Many Christians were forced to renounce their faith and were heavily fined or exiled. Some were even crucified. This period of persecution lasted for several decades and claimed the lives of many Christians. Records recount that there were around 50,000 Catholics who once lived there but were either dispersed or killed by the persecution.

Lorenzo and his companions would be among those numbers.

After they were arrested, Lorenzo and his companions were subjected to cruel tortures. Huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, then they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards stepped on the ends of the boards, making the waterto spurt forcibly from their mouths, noses and ears.

After days of suffering, the superior Fr. Gonzalez died. Fr. Shiwozukaand Lazaro broke under torture, which included inserting bamboo needles under their fingernails. However, both men were brought back to courage by their equally suffering companions.

Lorenzo, in his suffering, asked the interpreter if he could be spared if he apostatized. However, in the ensuing hours, Lorenzo felt his faith grow strong. He became fearless before the interrogators.

Crowned with a Martyr’s Victory

Utterly weak and suffering, the five were sentenced to death by the infamous gallows-and-pit torture. Boards fitted with semi-circular holes were fitted around their waists. To increase pressure, heavy stones were put on top. They were bound tightly, ensuring slow blood circulation and preventing a speedy death. They were hanged for three days. Both Lorenzo and Lazaro died by that time. The three priests, however, were still alive. They were then beheaded.

On October 18, 1987, Pope John Paul II canonized these six and 10 other martyrs: Asians and Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith int he Philippines, Formosa, and Japan. The liturgical feast of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions is celebrated on September 28.

Five Interesting Facts About St. Lorenzo Ruiz

  1. St. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first Filipino saint and protomartyr to be canonized.
  2. The beatification of St. Lorenzo Ruiz by Pope John Paul II on February 18, 1981 was held in Manila. This was the first beatification ceremony ever held outside the Vatican!
  3. St. Lorenzo Ruiz is the patron saint of Filipino youth, the Philippines, people working overseas, and altar servers.
  4. When he was offered to recant his faith and to be spared, St. Lorenzo Ruiz told his interrogators, “Had I many thousands of lives I would offer them all for him. Never shall I apostatize. You may kill me if that is what you want. To die for God, such is my will.”
  5. The major church dedicated in honor of St. Lorenzo Ruiz is the Minor Basilica and National Shrine of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, formerly known as Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish, in his hometown Binondo, Manila.

Prayer to St. Lorenzo Ruiz

O most merciful and almighty God, You bestowed as gift to Lorenzo Ruiz The strength to withstandThe overpowering forces of death For the sake of his faith in You.Through his prayers,Help us to follow his exampleBy overcoming all life’s trialsAnd eventually, increaseOur hope and love in You.O St. Lorenzo Ruiz,You brought honor to your country,Having been a level-headedAnd prudent father of the family,A witness of Christ in your lifeUntil your death.

We present all our petitions to to God through your help so that by our actions, We may know more and love moreJesus our Lord and Savior.We humbly imploreYour intercession O dear St. Lorenzo,For the infinite glory of GodAnd in honor of your triumphAs a martyr of ChristAnd defender of Christianity. Amen.