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Feast of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz

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Today is a special day for Filipino Catholics as the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint and martyr.3

Lorenzo was born in Binondo on November 28, 1594, and was among the many Filipino at that time in whose veins blended the mixture of two oriental blood – Filipino on his paternal side and Chinese from his maternal ancestry. Being of mixed parentage, he had the advantage over many children of his age for he could speak both Tagalog and Chinese. He also learned Spanish from the Dominicans who were in charge of the parish of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in Binondo, and from there he also learned the fundamentals of the Christian faith.

It was also in the parish church in Binondo that Lorenzo Ruiz became a devout Catholic. In his younger years, he served as sacristan and later on became an “escribano.” Lorenzo got married to a fine young woman and was blessed with three children. Having been brought up in a Christian atmosphere, he led his family towards an abiding love of God. The family would attend Sunday Mass together and would often pray the rosary in the evening.

On one occasion, however, he accidentally quarreled with a Spaniard and not long after he was accused of homicide. No one knew how true the accusation was but Lorenzo feared for his life so he sought to escape from Manila. He sought asylum on board ship with three Dominican priests – Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet, and Miguel de Aozaraza – a Japanese priest Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro of Kyoto, a leper. Only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan during a time of intense Christian persecution.

As they landed in Okinawa, they were detected by government forces and the group was soon arrested, and taken to Nagasaki, Japan, where they were tortured in several ways for days. According to the record of his death, Lorenzo’s last words were, “I am a Christian and wholeheartedly do accept death for God. Had I a thousand lives, all these to Him I shall offer. Do with me as you please.”

Lorenzo was beatified by Pope John Paul II on February 18, 1981. The beatification ceremony was held in the Philippines making it the first beatification ceremony ever held outside the Vatican. His canonization took place at the Vatican on October 18, 1987.

Such great and unwavering faith in God is not only inspiring but worth emulating. Saint Lorenzo Ruiz’ determination to remain a Christian until his death was his response to his experience of God’s love in his life. He had experienced the love of God in many ways and this experience led him to be faithful to God to his last breath. The love of God brought him to profess his faith even if it meant giving up his life.

Let us pray to God to send us men and women like Saint Lorenzo Ruiz who remained firm in his faith in God until his last breath. Let us ask God to make us bold in our witnessing to the gospel of Jesus Christ which is a gospel of life and love.

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