SAINT LAWRENCE RUIZ and COMPANIONS (c.1600-1637), martyrs
Today, the Church honors Saint Lawrence (Lorenzo) Ruiz and his fifteen companions, who preferred to give their lives for the sake of the Gospel rather than apostatize, rather than denying their faith in Jesus Christ.
Lawrence was born in Manila in the Philippines around the year 1600 of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother who were both Christians. He learned both the Chinese and Tagalog languages from them, plus Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as an altar boy and sacristan.
He became a professional calligrapher and a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican support. He married and became the father of two sons and a daughter.
For unknown reasons, Lorenzo was accused of murder. He sought asylum on board a ship with three Dominican priests, Fathers Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet, and Miguel de Aozaraza, as well as a Japanese priest, Father 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.
Lawrence stayed with the missionaries as they landed at Okinawa. The group was soon exposed as Christian, arrested, and taken to Nagasaki. They were subjected to unspeakable forms of torture for several days. When Lawrence finally stood before his tormentors, guided by the Holy Spirit and speaking of Christ, he responded, “Had I a thousand lives, I would gladly offer them all for Him. Never shall I apostatize! You may kill me, if that is what you want. To die for God – such is my will.”
Lawrence and the five missionaries he came with, plus ten other companions, died between September 29th and 30th in the year 1637. They were tortured to death while hanging upside down for three days. Their bodies were then burned and their ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean. Lawrence, himself, became the protomartyr (the first martyr) representing the Philippines.
When Lawrence was beatified in 1981, Pope St. John Paul II stated in his homily in Manila, “The example of Lawrence Ruiz…reminds us that everyone’s life and the whole of one’s life must be Christ-directed. For this is what it means to be a Christian: to offer oneself daily in response to the gift of Christ, who came into the world so that all might have life and have it to the full.”
Blessed Lawrence and his fifteen companions were canonized as saints by Pope St. John Paul II on October 18, 1987.
We commemorate their joint feastday on September 28.
(From vatican.va/news_services, saints.sqpn.com, americancatholic.org, catholicculture.org and holyspiritinteractive.net)
(The following prayer is from the Roman Breviary from the Proper for Saint Lawrence Ruiz and Companions)
“Lord God, in our service to You and to our neighbor, give us the patience of the holy martyrs, Lawrence and his companions; for those who suffer persecution for justice’s sake are blessed in the Kingdom of Heaven.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”