Saint Lorenzo Ruiz was born around the year 1600 in Binondo, Manila in the Philippines. He was the son of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. Both were Christians and took care to raise Lorenzo as a Catholic. He served happily in his parish church as an altar boy and calligrapher.
As a young man, Lorenzo joined the Dominican Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary.
Later, he married a woman named Rosario. The happy couple had three children, two sons and one daughter. By all accounts, the family was ordinary and happy.
In 1636, Lorenzo was accused of murder. Allegedly he killed a Spaniard. However, to protect his safety at the time, he fled home and found refuge on board a ship with three Dominican priests and a leper. There are no details of this alleged crime other than a journal entry by two Dominican priests, that he joined their group to escape possible arrest. The ship departed the Philippines on June 10, 1636, bound for Okinawa.
A shock awaited the holy passengers when they arrived in Japan. At the time of their arrival, the rulers of Japan, the Tokugawa Shogunate, were persecuting Christians. Prior to this persecution, the Christian population of Japan was thought to number 50,000 souls.
Now Lorenzo was arrested by Japanese officials for the crime of being a Christian and ordered to recant his faith. When he refused he was imprisoned for two years. On September 27, 1637, Lorenzo and his companions were taken to Nagasaki to be tortured and killed if they would not recant their faith.
Lorenzo and his companions were tortured by water, which was forced into their mouths and down their throats and out their noses and ears. Despite the painful torture, the men refused to do so.
Following this, Lorenzo was hanged upside down, with a rope around his ankles. This method of torture was known as tsurushi, or "gallows and pit." The torture forces a person to be hanged upside down with a gash cut in their forehead to prevent too much blood from gathering in the head. The gash also causes the victim to bleed to death over an extended period of time.
Those who have survived the torture have said it is unbearable.
One hand is left free so the victim can offer an agreed symbol that will represent their desire to recant their faith. Those few who recant are spared and allowed to live. But few people ever recanted, choosing instead to die for their faith.
Lorenzo refused to recant. According to the record of his death, his last words were, "I am a Catholic and wholeheartedly do accept death for God. Had I a thousand lives, all these to Him I shall offer. Do with me as you please."
His traveling companions were all killed, steadfast until the end.
Lorenzo was beatified by Pope John Paul II on February 18, 1981. The beatification ceremony was held in the Philippines making it the first beatification ceremony ever held outside the Vatican.
A miracle attributed to his intercession occurred in 1983. A two-year-old girl, Alegria Policarpio, suffering from hydrocephaly, a condition she had since birth, was miraculously cured.
His canonization took place at the Vatican on October 18, 1987.
Saint Lorenzo Ruiz is the patron saint of Filipino youth, the Philippines, people working overseas, and altar servers.
His feast day is September 28.
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