Every 28 September, Filipinos celebrate the Feast of San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila.
Lorenzo Ruiz is considered to be the patron saint of overseas Filipino workers and migrants in general.
The first Filipino Saint was born on 28 November 1594 in Binondo, Manila. Lorenzo was only 42 years old when he died.
Lorenzo Ruiz was executed in Nagasaki, Japan, on 29 September 1637 by the Tokugawa Shogunate, who, during that time, persecuted Japanese Christians.
Lorenzo Ruiz was born of a Filipino mother and a Chinese father who were both Catholic. His mother taught him Tagalog while his father taught him Chinese.
When Lorenzo was young, he served as an altar boy at the Binondo Church.
Lorenzo married Rosario, a native, and they later had two sons and a daughter. Their family led a generally peaceful, religious and content life.
Whilst employed as a clerk for the Binondo Church in 1636, Lorenzo was falsely accused of killing a Spaniard. With the help of Dominican fathers, he sought asylum on board a ship. Along with other companions, he sailed for Okinawa on 10 June 1636.
Since at the time the missionaries arrived in Japan, Tokugawa Shogunate was already persecuting Christians. They were arrested and thrown into prison. Two years later, the group was transferred to Nagasaki to face trial by torture. They endured many and various cruel methods of torture.
On 27 September 1637, Lorenzo and his companions were taken to Nishizaka Hill, tortured by being hung upside-down over a pit. He died two days later.
Despite Lorenzo’s suffering, he refused to renounce Christianity and died from eventual blood loss and suffocation. His body was cremated, with the ashes thrown into the sea.
According to the Latin missionary accounts sent back to Manila, Lorenzo declared these words upon his death: Ego Catholicus sum et animo prompto paratoque pro Deo mortem obibo. Si mille vitas haberem, cunctas ei offerrem. (I am a Catholic and wholeheartedly do accept death for God; Had I a thousand lives, all these to Him shall I offer.)
Lorenzo’s beatification and canonization
Spanish historian Fidel Villarroel wrote the cause of the beatification of Lorenzo Ruiz. The central document found to exhibit Ruiz’s martyrdom was an eyewitness account by two Japanese ex-priests from the Society of Jesus. Villaroel rediscovered it at the Jesuit Generalate archive in Rome, an unlikely location as Ruiz was of the Dominican order. Lorenzo was beatified during Pope John Paul II’s papal visit to the Philippines in 1981. It was the first beatification ceremony to be held outside the Vatican in history. Lorenzo was canonised by the same pope in the Vatican City on 18 October 1987, among the 16 Martyrs of Japan, making him the first Filipino saint.
A miracle supported Lorenzo’s canonisation in October 1983, when Cecilia Alegria Policarpio of Calinog, Iloilo, was cured of brain atrophy when she was two years old. The miracle happened after Cecilia’s family and supporters prayed to Lorenzo for his intercession. She was diagnosed with the condition shortly after birth. She was treated at the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center.
This year is the 34th anniversary of Lorenzo’s canonisation.
The Filipino Catholic Chaplaincy of Melbourne headed by Msgr Joselito ‘Litoy’ Asis celebrated it with a Holy Mass (watch the video below).
Books about Lorenzo Ruiz
- The Glory of Lorenzo Ruiz by Paul Baldauf (Kindle edition)
- Martyred: Story St Lorenzo by Susan Tan (Paperback)
- The Making of the First Filipino Saint by Antonio C. Delgado (Kindle edition)