Monday, February 14, 2011

SAN LORENZO RUIZ DE MANILA: The Filipino Proto-Martyr

c. 1600-1637
The Filipino Proto-Martyr

San Lorenzo was born in Binondo, a suburb of Manila, the Philippines around the beginning of the seventeenth century from a Chinese father and a Filipina mother.  He was an errand boy who did various jobs in the church and convent of San Gabriel in Binondo, and at the same time an altar boy or little sacristan in the church.  Lorenzo acquired a good knowledge of three languages, namely, Tagalog and Chinese from his mother and father and Spanish from the Dominican Fathers with whom he has personal and continuous contact.

Sometime in 1636, Lorenzo became implicated in a crime, the circumstances of which are unclear.  Fearing the death penalty if caught, he fled to the Provincial of the Dominican Order, to whom he was well known , and begged for help.  The Provincial arranged to have him board a Chinese sampan that was leaving secretly for Japan, carrying five chosen missionaries to the aid of the persecuted Christians there.  They set sail on June 10, 1636 and landed in Okinawa a month later.  At this point, Lorenzo, still fearful of being apprehended by Spanish authorities, decided to remain with the priests.  Arrested almost immediately, they were brought to Nagasaki on September  1637 for trial.  Lorenzo, the glory of the Church here in the Philippines, proudly declared:

                        “I am a Christian, and this I profess until the hour of my death; and for God I shall give my life; and although I did not come to Japan to be a martyr but because I could not stay in Manila, however, as a Christian and for God I shall give my life.  And so do with me as you please.”
There they staunchly upheld their Christian faith and underwent hideous torments with great constancy and joy.  Lorenzo, offered his life and his freedom in exchange for his faith, once again declared:

                                                “I am Christian, and I shall die for God, and for Him I will give many thousands of lives if I had them.  And so do with me as you please.”

They gave up their souls to God on September 29, 1637.  Pope John Paul II beatified Lorenzo and companion martyrs on February 18, 1981 at the Luneta, the first beatification to be held outside of the Vatican.  He also approved their canonization on October 18, 1987.  San Lorenzo Ruiz is the first Filipino to be raised to the honors of the altar.

                        O God, your ineffable mercy was proclaimed by word and with the shedding of the blood by Saint Lorenzo and his companions; grant, through their intercessions, that we may grow in your wisdom and, abounding in every good work, may we walk in your presence following the teachings of the Gospel.  This we ask you through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

FEASTDAY:  SEPTEMBER 28                    

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