Tag Archives: Nagasaki Martyrs

St. Lorenzo Ruiz and the Nagasaki Martyrs

September 25, 2020

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Between 1633 and 1637 sixteen Christians were martyred for their faith in Nagasaki, Japan. All sixteen were related to the Dominican Order in some way: nine Dominican priests, two Dominican brothers, two consecrated virgins, and three Dominican tertiaries, lay persons who belong to the Third Order of St. Dominic. They belonged to five different nationalities: nine were Japanese, four Spaniards, one Frenchman, one Italian, and one Filipino, St. Lorenzo Ruiz.

St. Lorenzo Ruiz (1600-1637), also known in English as St. Lawrence Ruiz, is named first on the list of sixteen, even though a lay person, because he is the protomartyr or the first martyr from the Philippines. He was canonized by Pope St. John Paul II in Manila on October 18, 1987 and is the patron saint of both the Philippines and the Filipino people. Numerous miracles have been attributed through his intercession and there is a widespread devotion to him among Filipinos.

St. Lorenzo Ruiz was born in Manila in 1600 to a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. His family lived in Binondo, the Chinese section of Manila. Young Lorenzo was raised in the faith by his parents, both who were Christians. He became fluent in three languages, Chinese from his father, Tagalog from his mother, and Spanish from the Dominican friars who were his schoolteachers. As a youth, he was a sacristan and altar server at his parish, and because of his close association with the Dominicans, he became a member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary, a society with a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother Mary and St. Dominic. They are passionate advocates for the value of the Rosary. He was married and the father of three children, two sons and one daughter.

His life took a dramatic turn for the worse when he was falsely accused of a murder. He learned that some Dominican priests were about to set sail, Spanish Fathers Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet, and Miguel de Aozaraza; Japanese Father Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz; and a layman, Lazaro. He asked to join them to flee the country. He learned only after they had departed that they were headed to Japan where a severe persecution was underway under the regime of the cruel anti-Christian ruler Tokugawa Yemitsu.

Shortly after their arrival in Japan, he and the others were apprehended and forcibly transported to Nagasaki. Christians were ordered to trample upon an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the child Jesus, and if they refused, they were subjected to heartless torture. Bamboo needles were inserted under their fingernails. They were made to drink large amounts of water, made to lie on their backs, a board was placed over their stomachs, guards stomped on the boards, and water gushed through their mouths, noses, and ears.

St. Lorenzo Ruiz was called before the Japanese magistrates. They demanded that he renounce his faith. He vacillated momentarily and asked, “If I apostatize, will you spare my life?” His question was met with silence. He paused, prayed, and with amazing courage replied defiantly, “I am a Christian. I shall die for God, and for him I would give many thousands of lives. So do with me as you please.” He, Lazaro, and the three priests were hung upside down over a burning pit. After being suspended for three days, he and Lazaro died. The three priests were still alive and subsequently beheaded. All five gave their lives for Christ on September 28, 1637.

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