Lorenzo Ruiz was born to a Chinese father and a Filipino mother on Nov. 28, 1594, in Binondo, near Manila. His mother taught him Tagalog while his father taught him Chinese. During his childhood, he served as an altar boy at the Binondo church.
Ruiz studied under the Dominican Friars and earned the title of escribano or scrivener thanks to his excellent writing skills. As a young man, he joined the Dominican Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary.
He married a woman called Rosario and had three children – two sons and a daughter. They lived an ordinary, happy, and pious Catholic life.
In 1636, while working as a clerk in Binondo, Ruiz was falsely accused of murdering a Spaniard. To protect himself, he fled home and boarded a ship with the help of three Dominican priests.
The ship bound for Okinawa, Japan, left the Philippines on June 10, 1636. However, Japan offered no respite for Ruiz and the missionaries as the country’s Christian community had been facing a deadly bout of persecution from the Tokugawa Shogunate rulers.
The layman along with his companions was arrested upon their arrival as being a Christian was labeled as a serious offense in Japan. They were imprisoned for two years. On Sept. 27, 1637, the prisoners were taken to Nagasaki to be tortured and killed if they would not recant their faith.
Lorenzo Ruiz and his companions had water forced into their mouths and down their throats, and out of their noses and ears. Despite the excruciating pain, they refused to renounce their faith.
Then, the tormentors put Ruiz into another severe form of torture known as tsurushi (gallows and pit) which involved entangling his ankles with ropes and hanging him upside down. The layman remained defiant.
Amid the atrocities, he expressed his unflinching loyalty to Jesus Christ and his Catholic faith by saying: “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.”
He eventually died from the prolonged torture due to heavy blood loss and suffocation on Sept. 28, 1637. His body was cremated and thrown into the sea.
In the Philippines, popular devotion grew around Lorenzo Ruiz and the church opened the cause of his canonization. During his visit to the Philippines, Pope John Paul II beatified him on Feb. 18, 1981. It was a historic event as it was the first beatification ceremony held outside the Vatican.
In 1983, a miracle was attributed to his intercession. Alegria Policarpio, a two-year-old baby girl, was cured of her hydrocephaly thanks to prayers to him. Pope John Paul II made him a saint in the Vatican on Oct. 18, 1987.
Saint Lorenzo Ruiz is the patron saint of Filipino youth, overseas workers, and altar servers. The minor Basilica and the National Shrine of St. Lorenzo Ruiz in Binondo are major pilgrimage sites for Filipino Catholics.
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