Saint Brigid Religious Education
100 Mayflower Street
West Hartford, CT 06110
St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions
Feast day: September 28
Lawrence (Lorenzo) was born in Manila of a Chinese father and a Filipino
mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them
and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and
sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents
in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of
the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons
and a daughter.
His life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing
further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that "he was
sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was
present or which was attributed to him."
At that time three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo
Courtet and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of
a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente
Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo,
having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only
when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan.
They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he
reported, "I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards
would hang me there." In Japan they were soon found out, arrested and
taken to Nagasaki. The site of wholesale bloodshed when the atomic bomb
was dropped had known tragedy before. The 50,000 Catholics who once
lived there were dispersed or killed by persecution.
They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge
quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to
lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then
stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently
from mouth, nose and ears.
The superior, Antonio, died after some days. Both the Japanese priest
and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo
needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage
by their companions.
In Lorenzo's moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, "I would like
to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life." The interpreter
was noncommittal, but Lorenzo, in the ensuing hours, felt his faith grow
strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators.
The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards
fitted with semicircular holes were fitted around their waists and
stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to
slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang
for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. The three
Dominican priests, still alive, were beheaded.
Pope John Paul II canonized these six and 10 others, Asians and
Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith in the Philippines,
Formosa and Japan. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr.