Life without faith would have been without value
Saint Lorenzo Ruiz (ca. 1600 – 29 September 1637), also known as Laurentius Ruiz de Manila or San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila, is the first Filipino saint venerated in the Roman Catholic Church; he is thus the protomartyr of the Philippines. He was killed for refusing to leave Japan and renounce his Roman Catholic beliefs during the persecution of Japanese Christians under the Tokugawa Shogunate in the 17th century.
Saint Lorenzo is patron saint of, among others, the Philippines and Filipinos.
Close- up of statue of Lorenzo Ruiz in procession, Santo Domingo Church, Quezon City
St. Lorenzo Ruiz
Feastday: September 28
Beatified By: Pope John Paul II
Canonized By: Pope John Paul II
Lorenzo Ruiz is the first Filipino saint. He is also the first Filipino martyred for the Christian Faith. Lorenzo Ruiz was a layman, married, and had two sons and a daughter. Born in Binondo, Manila, about 1600’s, he was educated in the school of the Dominicans there. He served as an altar boy and later was a helper and clerk-sacristan in the church of Binondo. He was a member of the Confraternity of the Rosary. He made his living probably as a calligrapher, one who renders documents in beautiful penmanship for private or official use. To be sure, that work denoted an accomplished and educated person, especially at a time when many an illustrious personage were far from excelling in this art. An adverse event made him leave the Philippines in 1636.
When he was in his late twenties or early thirties, he became involved or was accused of being involved in a criminal case, the circumstances of which are far from clear. Whether he was involved or not, one thing was clear, he was afraid that, as a consequence of a trial or mistrial, he might be given a death sentence. Upon landing in Japan where Christians were being persecuted, he was arrested and imprisoned together with his companions. He underwent inhuman tortures and valiantly confessed his Christian Faith. Refusing to renounce his Faith, he told his executioner that he was ready to die for God and give himself for many thousands of lives if he had them. On September 27, 1637, he was hung from a gallows by his feet, his body falling into a pit. After two days of agony, he died of bleeding and suffocation. His body was cremated and the ashes thrown into the sea. He and fifteen companions, martyred in the same persecution, were beatified by Pope John Paul II in Manila on February 18, 1981 and elevated to full honors of the altar by canonization on October 18, 1987 in Rome. Their feast day is on September 28th.
San Lorenzo Ruiz and San Pedro Calungsod : Two Filipino Saints
In the Roman Catholic religion, the path to Sainthood involves a tedious 4-step investigative process. Not going into details, the candidate must satisfy different sets of criteria in order to pass the four stages to Sainthood and earn its corresponding titles – “Servant of God,” “Venerable,” “Blessed,” and finally “Saint.” The Philippines is the only Asian country with a predominantly Roman Catholic population. It has produced two officially-canonized saints in a span of 25 years.
The first Filipino to be canonized as a saint is San Lorenzo Ruiz. Beatified (proclaimed “Blessed”) in February 1981 by Pope John Paul II, the same Pope would canonize Lorenzo Ruiz in 1987. San Lorenzo Ruiz was born in Manila ca. 1600. His father was Chinese, his mother was Filipina. He first served as an altar boy, then as a clerk at the Binondo Church. In 1636, he went to Japan together with other Dominican priests; this was not the best time to be in that country because Christians were being persecuted there. San Lorenzo and his companions were arrested, imprisoned, and tortured. The Japanese offered them freedom if they would renounce their Catholic faith. They refused and their torture continued which subsequently caused their death. Pope John Paul II canonized San Lorenzo Ruiz, together with 15 other Martyrs on Oct. 18, 1987. The saint’s feast day is Sept. 28.
San Pedro Calungsod
The second Filipino saint is San Pedro Calungsod. Beatified in March 2000 by Pope John Paul II, Calungsod was canonized just 2 weeks ago, on Oct. 21, 2012 by Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican. Sept. 2 is the feast day of San Pedro Calungsod, this being the date of his death. San Pedro Calungsod was a sacristan and a missionary cathechist. Born in 1654 in the Diocese of Cebu, Pedro was quite very young when he, together with some Spanish Jesuits traveled to the Mariana islands to spread the Gospel. Later he and a missionary priest, (Blessed) Diego Luis de San Vitores would proceed to Guam. On Sept. 2, 1672, the two would be killed by a hostile Chamorro for baptizing the latter’s newborn baby girl. Pedro was only 17 at the time of his death. The next possible Filipino saint could be Felipe Songsong, a Jesuit missionary from Macabebe, Pampanga. He is a candidate for Beatification in Rome. He was a contemporary of San Pedro Calungsod, although he was 43 years older than the Visayan saint. [Here is an interesting trivia – Felipe was born in May 1, 1611; the University of Santo Tomas (the Philippines’ and Asia’s oldest university) was officially founded on April 28, 1611. The U.S.T was only 3 days old when Felipe was born.]
On September 29,1637, San Lorenzo Ruiz professed his faith by martyrdom. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Manila and later canonized on October 28,1987. San Lorenzo Ruiz holds the distinction of being the first person beatified outside the Vatican. He also holds the honor of being the first Filipino saint, the “most improbable of saints,” as Pope John Paul II described him during the canonization ceremony.
Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint, was the kind of man who could die for God and religion a thousand times if he had to. Lorenzo Ruiz was was a layman who worked as a calligrapher for the Dominican parish of Binondo, Manila. As an “escriba,” he was exceptionally gifted, and the Dominican friars relied on him to transcribe baptismal, confirmation and marriage documents into the church’s official books. He was also an active member of the Marian confraternity, a man the Dominicans described as someone “they could trust.”
The son of a Chinese father and Tagala mother who lived in the Parian district outside the city walls of Manila, Lorenzo Ruiz married a Tagala like his mother and had three children — two sons and a daughter — whose descendants are currently residents of the same area where the original Ruiz family lived.In 1636, Ruiz was implicated in a murder. He sought help from his Dominican superiors who believed in his innocence. In order to escape what they believed would have been an unjust prosecution for their protege, the Spanish friars immediately sent Ruiz on a missionary expedition outside of the Philippines. Initially, Ruiz thought he was being sent to Taiwan, where he believed his Chinese roots would enable him to start a new life. Little did he know that he and the missionary expedition led by Fray Domingo Ibanez was actually headed for Nagasaki, Japan, where feudalism was fanning the flames of Christian persecution. Lorenzo Ruiz was headed straight into the arms of death.
He was arrested almost immediately upon his arrival in Japan in 1636, and subjected to torture by his Japanese captors for more than a year. Tied upside down by his feet and dropped into a well where sharp stakes lined the bottom, his torturers would stop just before he would be impaled, and thereupon try to convince him to renounce his faith.
“Deny your faith and we will spare your life,” his persecutors said.
To which Lorenzo Ruiz answered, “I will never do it. I am a Catholic and happy to die for God. If I have a thousand lives to offer, I will offer them to God.”
Existing documents attest that the Japanese promised him a safe trip back home where he could be reunited with his loved ones, but Ruiz staunchly chose to remain faithful to his religion.
On September 22, 1637, Ruiz, Fray Domingo and their 14 companions were led up a hill overlooking the bay of Nagasaki. There they were hung upside down with their heads inside the well. Their temples were slit open to let blood drip slowly until they died either from loss of blood or asphyxiation. Many died after several days. Ruiz died last, on September 29,1637.
“The Lord gives us saints at the right time and God waited 350 years to give us this saint,” the Holy Father then said. “It is the heroism which he demonstrated as a lay witness to the faith… which is very important in today’s world. The witness of San Lorenzo is the testimony we need of courage without measure to show us that it is possible. Faith and life for Lorenzo was synonymous and inseparable. Life without faith would have been without value…he proved that sanctity and heroism are there for anybody and the final victory is made to size for each one of us.”
The best single resource we have found on the Saints of Asia is the book “Saints of Asia” by our friend Father Vincent J. O’ Malley, C.M.
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