By Christina Hermoso
The Binondo Church (San Lorenzo Ruiz Minor Basilica) in Manila is inviting the faithful to join a pilgrim walk at 5 a.m. Saturday, September 28, from the church to the Rizal Park (Luneta), to mark the Feast of San Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint.
A wreath-laying ceremony will be held in front of the bronze statue of San Lorenzo, which was a gift from Saint John Paul II who beatified the saint in Luneta on Feb. 18, 1981.
The last of the nine-day novena masses that began last September 20 will be held at the church at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
On Sunday, September 29, Manila Archbishop Emeritus Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales will celebrate a high mass in honor of San Lorenzo at 8:30 a.m. It will be followed by a solemn procession. Holy masses will also be held at 5:30 a.m., 7 a.m., 10 a.m., 4 p.m., 5:30 p.m. (to be followed by a procession), and at 7 p.m.
Popularly known as the patron saint of the Philippines, Chinese-Filipinos, the Filipino youth, and overseas Filipino workers, San Lorenzo was born around the year 1600 in Binondo to a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. He served as an altar boy at the Binondo Church and was educated by the Dominican friars for whom he worked as a stenographer (escribano).
San Lorenzo was an active member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary. He was married to a Filipina who bore him two sons and a daughter.
In 1636, after being falsely accused of killing a Spaniard, he fled with Dominican missionaries to Japan at a time of intense Christian persecution. When they reached Okinawa, San Lorenzo and his 15 companions were brought to Nagasaki where they were horribly tortured. They were later brought to the Mountain of Martyrs where they were hung upside down in a pit.
San Lorenzo defied his tormentors by refusing to renounce his faith. When one of his tormentors asked, “If we let you live, will you renounce your faith?” His answer was, “That I will never do. I am a Christian and I will die for God. If I had a thousand lives, I will give all of them to Him and so, do with me as you please.”
According to stories, San Lorenzo died from hemorrhage and suffocation. His body was later cremated and his ashes thrown into the sea.
Saint John Paul II, who beatified him at the Rizal Park in Manila, the first to be beatified outside the Vatican, called San Lorenzo “the most improbable of saints.” He canonized the first Filipino saint on Oct. 18, 1987.