This last Friday, September 28th, we celebrated the feast of one of our patrons, Saint Lawrence Ruiz, at Little Flower Catholic Church. Though he is not the official patron of our parish, his historical significance as the proto-martyr and patron of the Phillipines gives him a home here at our parish as an example to all of us.
For those who do not yet know, Saint Lawrence of Ruiz was born around the year 1600 in Binondo, Manila in the Philippines. Raised Catholic by his Chinese father and Filipino mother, he served happily in his parish church. As he grew older, he joined the Dominican Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary, eventually marrying Rosario, and raising three children in the Catholic faith.
His ordinary life was turned upside down when, in 1636, Lorenzo was accused of murder. To protect himself and his family, he fled home and found refuge on board a ship with three Dominican priests and a leper, bound for Okinawa.
His troubles were not yet over. Arriving in Japan, the group of five was greeted with an awareness that Christians were being persecuted. He was arrested for the crime of being Christian and ordered to deny Christ and his Christian faith. Refusing to do so, he was imprisoned for two years. He was then taken to Nagasaki to be tortured. He refused, despite horrible persecutions, to deny Christ.
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. His beatification was held in the Phillipines on February 18th, 1981, and on October 18th, 1987, he was canonized a Saint.
His feast day is on September 28th. Following the novena said in his honor, we celebrated a Mass with our celebrant Fr. James Valenzuela, the first Filipino-American priest ordained for the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. Afterwards, we went over to our parish hall where we enjoyed traditional Filipino food, dancing, and entertainment. A big “thanks” to all those who made the event possible with months of hard work.