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Saint Lorenzo Ruiz

Saint Lorenzo Ruiz was born on November 28th, 1594 in Manila to two Catholic parents - One Chinese and one Filipino. He grew up learning to speak both Chinese and Tagalog. Saint Lorenzo earned the title escribano (scrivener) and was educated by the Dominican friars. He joined the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary , married and had two sons and a daughter. One night his life was forever changed when, according to a Dominican statement:

“he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him.”

Saint Lorenzo took refuge aboard a ship with three Dominican priests on June 10th, 1636. Only once they left port and began their journey did Saint Lorenzo learn of their destination - Japan. Aboard with the three priests (Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet, Miguel de Aozaraza) was a Japanese Priest (Vincente Shiwozuka de la Cruz) and a layman leper (Lazaro). The ship arrived at Okinawa where Saint Lorenzo was given the option of leaving for Formosa but decided to stay with the priests.

This was an extremely bloody time for Christians in Japan, as the Tokugawa Shogunate was currently persecuting, arresting and executing Christians. The priests began serving the Catholic population as best they could but were quickly identified and arrested. For two years the priests and Saint Lorenzo sat in prison. After two years of extremely poor prison conditions, the group was brought to Nagasaki.

In Nagasaki, the Japanese officials attempted to get them to recount their Christian faith via various means of torture, including forcing water into their mouths and out their noses. All refused to recant, even under these severe conditions. The torture killed Father Gonzalez, and the other two Dominican priests came close to breaking under bamboo torture (bamboo needles were placed underneath their fingernails).

On September 27th, 1637, Saint Lorenzo and his companions were taken to Nishizaka hill. Here they were hung upside down over a pit, leaving one hand untied to allow them to recant their faith. This torture is known as tsurushi in Japanese and is extremely painful. Saint Lorenzo's final words were:

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.)

For two days Saint Lorenzo was subjected to this torture before dying from blood loss and suffocation. The Japanese authorities had his body burned and ashes thrown into the sea.

Saint Pope John Paul II beatified Saint Lorenzo during his papal visit to the Philippines and canonized him in Vatican City on October 18th, 1987 among the 15 Martyrs of Japan. Saint Lorenzo was the first Filipino Saint.

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