San Lorenzo Ruiz is the first Filipino Saint and martyr.  He was a layman, married, and had 3 children.  He was born circa 1600 in Binondo, Manila, and he was educated in Dominican schools.  In his younger years, San Lorenzo served at the convent of Binondo church as a sacristan.  Not only did he learn Spanish there but also catechism.  After several years, San Lorenzo Ruiz earned the title of "escribano" or notary. He became an active member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, an organization devoted to the Blessed Virgin.

In 1636, he was falsely accused of murder and sought asylum on board a ship with three Dominican priests, Saint Antonio Gonzalez, Saint Guillermo Courtet, and Saint Miguel de Aozaraza, a Japanese priest, Saint Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Saint Lazaro of Kyoto, a leper. The boat landed at Okinawa and the group was arrested on basis of their Christian religion.

At that time, there was a wide scale persecution of Christians.  All those who professed faith in God and served as missionaries were jailed and even put to death.  Their lives were to be spared if they would renounce their Christians faith.  But thousands of those Christians chose death rather than renouncing their belief in God. And San Lorenzo Ruiz was among those who underwent excruciating forms of persecution.  On September 27, 1637, he was hung upside down from the gallows with his body falling into a pit.   After two days of agony, he died of bleeding and suffocation.  His body along with other martyrs were set on fire and the ashes carried out of the Nagasaki Bay and thrown into the sea near the little island of Io-Juma, to prevent their veneration by the Christians.

When the San Lorenzo was being interrogated and asked whether to grant him life if he renounced his faith, he replied with these noble words: "I am a Christian, and this I profess until the hour of my death and for God I shall give my life…and had I many thousands of lives, I shall offer them for Him.  And so, do with me as you please."

San Lorenzo Ruiz was proclaimed "Blessed" in February 1981 at Luneta, together with 16 other companions, in connection with Pope John Paul II's papal visit to the Philippines.  He was canonized and declared a "Saint" on October 18, 1987 in Rome.  Their feast day is September 28.

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  By Tim Pedrosa

"If anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven" (Mt 10: 32).