Lorenzo Ruiz: “Fading” Saint?

Albert Benedict B. Soliman IV – St. Andrew
Blessed John Paul II went to the Philippines in 1981 to beatify outside the Vatican (for the 1st time) 16 men and women, one of them being Lorenzo Ruiz. He then quenched the Filipino’s thirst for a countryman-saint. We were even more satisfied when on October 18, 1987, he was canonized at the Vatican. For this, every Filipino should be proud that one of their countrymen was inscribed in the official list of the Catholic Church’s saints. (By the way, another Filipino became a Saint last October 21, 2012 and that was Saint Pedro Calungsod.) But why write an article about him? I wrote this as a response to an informal survey which I conducted, gathering 100 impressions and bits of knowledge about Lorenzo from randomly-picked students and faculty members within the campus. I know that some answers are lame, but they are what they answered and I respect that. Anyway, here were the results: I don’t know him. – 19 He is the 1st Filipino Saint. – 17 “If I had a thousand lives, gladly would I give it to God.” – 5 There are schools named after him. – 3 His feast is on September 28. – 2 He was killed for the Faith. – 16 I know that he is male in gender. – 2 He went to Japan. – 6 He was an escribano (calligrapher). – 1 I did this survey to test my hypothesis, which has been proven true, that “due to modernism’s effect on tastes (food, clothing, style), art, music and manners, some of the youth gradually loses knowledge and, in due time, interest on their faith.” This article is entitled “fading”, because if the Filipino youth would forget about Lorenzo, it is like extinguishing the flame of faith among the Filipinos. This article aims to refresh your mind about St. Lorenzo Ruiz, the 1st Filipino Saint. So, for those who don’t know him, the following text will serve as a biography. For those who responded the survey with bits of knowledge, they are all correct; if that is what you only know, this serves as a supplement. For those who knew stuff about him but not surveyed, please see if it is correct. If there are any other clarifications or anything not mentioned here, please inform me, for the biography is written on the way I understand it and summarized in the best way I can. BIOGRAPHY Lorenzo was born between 1600 and 1610 in Binondo, to a Chinese father and a Tagalog mother. When he was still young, he was sheltered by the Dominicans serving to the faithful in Binondo due to an uprising which occurred there. In return, he served to them both as a sacristan and errand boy. He also studied at their convent school. Since Lorenzo was, for an indio (native), extremely bright, he was given many important lay positions in the parish, like being an escribano. He was also an official member of the Cofraternity of the Holy Rosary of Our Lady, whose members pledge to recite the 15 mysteries of the Rosary each week. Some time later, he got married and had two sons and a daughter. In 1636, he was accused of a crime – the murder of a Spaniard. (This is the most controversial part of his journey to sainthood.) In those days, a Filipino had no chance in the courts of justice if his opponent is a Spaniard. The indio, guilty or not, would certainly be punished. Lorenzo was so terrified that his friend advised him of joining a secret missionary expedition bound for Japan if his family is willing to let him go. Lorenzo remembered of some news that in Japan, persecution against the Christians raged, torturing and killing them inhumanely. He joined the "chosen ones”, but it is not the divine call that mattered. His concern is going out of the country and escaping from unjust hands. After all, he had no choice. The group, aside from himself, was composed of four Dominican priests (Fr. Antonio Gonzales, OP, Fr. Guillamme Courtet, OP, Fr. Miguel de Aozaraza, OP, Fr. Vicente Shiwozuka dela Cruz, OP) and a Japanese layman (Lázaro of Kyoto). Since the King of Spain He was raised, most of his life, by Dominicans. – 4 He had a family. – 3 He was tortured for the Faith. – 8 He was beatified in Luneta. – 1 There is a statue of Lorenzo at Luneta. – 1 He is simply a Filipino. – 7 He is dedicated to remain Christian. – 3 He was an altar server. – 2

decreed that all missionaries in Spanish territories are banned from going to Japan, the small group secretly rode on a sampan (a fragile boat in Japan) from Bataan. Lorenzo thought that the boat would pass through Macau, since that is where ships commonly dock before going to Japan, where he planned to work as an escribano. To his disappointment, it went on a northern course straight to Japan. He wished to be left behind on the boat upon arrival on July 10, 1636 at Okinawa but he joined the missionaries when the captain informed him of going to Formosa (now Taiwan) for provisions. Back then, Formosa was a Spanish colony and strict military justice prevailed in the land. These turn of events made him realize that he merely leapt from one danger to another. In Japan, the missionaries lost no time attending to the spiritual needs of the Japanese Christians, but they were captured by the authorities a few days later and languished in prison for almost a year. In 1637, they were all sent to Nagasaki in two groups, one ahead of the other, to be tried and tortured for the Faith. The first batch was composed of Fr. Guillamme, Fr. Miguel and Fr. Vicente, while the other group was composed of Fr. Antonio and the laymen. During the first torture session (Sept. 13), Fr. Vicente thought of renouncing (turning down) the Faith but he reconsidered his decision after two days (Sept. 15). When it was the second group’s turn (Sept. 21), Lázaro apostatized as he witnessed Fr. Antonio being tortured. He is then maltreated as their informant. The judges finally asked Lorenzo if he would do the same. Lorenzo replied,” Sir, I am a Christian and I will remain so until the hour of my death… I am willing to give up my life for God… you can now do with me as you please.” So he was also tortured. Fr. Antonio and the laymen met the first batch in prison after the session and altogether, except Lázaro, they thanked God for giving them courage and endurance. The next day (Sept. 22), Lorenzo was tried again. The famous dialogue which carried his catch phrase follows below: Judge: Who are you, stubborn infidel? Lorenzo: I am a Filipino, as you know. I am the son of a Chinese and a Tagala. I am married to a Tagala with whom I have two sons and a daughter. I had to leave Manila because I had a dispute with a Spaniard and the Spanish authorities were after me. So I escaped with these kind priests, hoping that the boat would pass Macau, but it went straight to Japan. I tried to be left behind on the boat but captain told me that it would pass by Formosa, and I might be caught and hanged there. So I decided to stay here with the Fathers. Judge: You are, therefore, not obsessed with your faith. IF WE LET YOU LIVE, WILL YOU THEN RENOUNCE YOUR FAITH IN GOD? Lorenzo: NEVER. I AM A CHRISTIAN AND I’LL DIE FOR GOD. IF I HAD A THOUSAND LIVES, I WOULD GIVE THEM ALL TO HIM. DO WITH ME AS YOU WISH!!! This profession of Faith made the judges angry and he was tortured again with his companions, but still, they did not apostatize at all. Lázaro still did not gave the pagans information, for he was terrified. On the evening of September 23, he decided to regain the Faith. The group rejoiced, but also in sorrow because Fr. Antonio, on the dawn of September 24, succumbed to his fever and died. His body was then immediately cremated and the ashes, with the dust covered with his blood and body, thrown into the sea, near the Nagasaki harbor. Torture then resumed for the Christians and finally, they were given the death sentence. On September 27, 1637, the remaining five martyrs were brought to Nishizaka Hill, the site of thousands upon thousands of recantations and martyrdoms. Upon arrival, they were bound tightly like a cocoon to slow down blood circulation. They were hanged upside down on low wooden gallows, under which is a 6-foot deep hole, the lower limbs seen by the spectators, the rest inside the pit. It is then closed by wooden boards to adjust the waist and heavy stones were put on top of the boards to add the down pressure of the body. Only their right arms were freed so that, if they want to apostatize, they will just push the boards. Also, slight slashes were made on the forehead and temples so that the blood will not accumulate on the head. After three days (September 29), the judges ordered that the martyrs be taken out of the pit and beheaded. Only the priests were beheaded, for the laymen were already dead. All of their remains were treated in the same way as that of Fr. Antonio’s. That is why there are no relics from the body of Lorenzo himself. The interpreters of the trial were so impressed about the martyrdom of the six missionaries that they wrote memoirs of these events, finishing it on the 1st week of November, 1637. Two weeks later, the Portuguese convoy arrived in Macau, carrying the memoirs and eyewitnesses to the martyrdom. A canonical inquiry was organized at once about the martyrdom and 19 reliable witnesses were requested to stand before the Ecclesiastical Tribunal of Macau concerning the same issue. The news on the martyrdom reached Manila on December 27 of the same year. At once, Manila rejoiced and on that afternoon, a Te Deum was sung and bells were rung in a jubilant mood in the presence of civil and ecclesiastic officials. The process for the beatification of Lorenzo, together with his five companions and ten others before them, started already in 1663, when the report of the inquiry in Macau and other related documents were submitted to the Vatican, during the pontificate of Pope Alexander VII. It was, however, delayed for 330 years, for reasons that fall beyond the limits of the articles submitted. It was revived through the initiative

of Antonio C. Delgado, former Ambassador to the Holy See. The revival of the Cause bore fruit when, on February 18, 1981, Lorenzo and his fifteen companions were beatified at Rizal Park by Bl. John Paul II, breaking established Vatican traditions to do beatification and canonization rites only in the Vatican. As a memorial of the event, a huge bronze statue of Lorenzo was left at Luneta as the Pope’s gift to the Filipino people and as a memorial of the event. Eventually, on October 18, 1987, they were canonized by the same Pope, this time, at St. Peter’s Square in Rome. His feast is celebrated annually on the 28th of September. Such is the story of a common Filipino who attained a dignity even higher than the Pope if he only entrusts his life to God. Q-&-A There are some things that are not mentioned in the biography. If you noticed it, then you might think that it is incomplete. So I thought of three questions that you might ask about the biography. Do you have any other questions aside from the following? Please do tell it to me. Q1: Why are there no exact dates (birth, baptism, etc.) and names (his Chinese name, his parents, his wife, etc.) not included in the biography? A1: Every data about him was burned, along with the church of Binondo, by the retreating Japanese soldiers in February 1945, during the liberation of Manila by the onrushing Americans. What we only know about him today was written in the memoirs of the interpreters. Q2: Who were the other 10 martyrs who are now saints as well? A2: They are Fr. Domingo Ibañez de Erquicia, OP, Bro. Francisco Shoyemon, OP, Fr. Jacobo Kyushei Tomonaga de Sta. Maria, OP, Miguel Kurobioye, Fr. Lucas Alonso del Espíritu Santo, OP, Bro. Mateo Kohioye del Rosario, OP, Magdalena of Nagasaki, Marina of Omura, Fr. Jacinto Jordán Ansalone de San Esteban, OP and Fr. Tomás Hoiji Nishi de San Jacinto, OP. The first six died in 1633 while the rest died in 1634. Q3: What was the miracle attributed for their canonization? A3: In 1983, a 2-year old child, Cecilia Alegria Policarpio, was completely cured of brain atrophy without any effective therapy after a group dedicated to Lorenzo, with her family, agreed to beg his intercession to cure her. The miracle was recognized by Blessed John Paul II on June 1, 1987. CLOSING To end, I want to share with you a portion of what John Paul II said on Lorenzo’s canonization: “The Lord gives us saints at the right time and God waited 350 years to give us this saint. 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.” Christ is “the Way, the TRUTH and the Life (Via, VERITAS et Vita).” Lorenzo and his 15 companions endured torture and death, testifying that the Christian Faith is the TRUTH. So as a final greeting to all, I would like to use the catch phrase of Radio Veritas to end their programs: SUMAINYO ANG KATOTOHANAN. (MAY THE TRUTH BE WITH YOU.)

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