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September 29, 1637, Lorenzo Ruiz, the First Filipino Saint, was Hung Upside Down to Death in Nagasaki, Japan

Today, Sept. 29, 2020 is Saint Lorenzo Ruiz’s 383rd death anniversary. The first Filipino saint, also known as San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila, died as a martyr on September 29, 1637 at the age of 34. He was hung upside down in a pit by his tormentors until he suffocated to death in Nagasaki, Japan.

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Saint Lorenzo Ruiz was born around the year 1600 in Binondo, Manila in the Philippines. He was the son of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. Both were Christians and took care to raise Lorenzo as a Catholic. He served happily in his parish church as an altar boy and calligrapher.

As a young man, Lorenzo joined the Dominican Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary.

Later, he married a woman named Rosario. The happy couple had three children, two sons and one daughter. By all accounts, the family was ordinary and happy.

In 1636, while working as a clerk for Binondo Church, Ruiz was falsely accused of killing a Spaniard. He sought asylum on board a ship with three Dominican priests: Saint Antonio Gonzalez; Saint Guillermo Cortet; Saint Miguel de Aozaraza, a Japanese priest; Saint Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz; and a lay leper Saint Lazaro of Kyoto. Ruiz and his companions left for Okinawa on June 10, 1636.

His boat landed at Okinawa at the time when the Tokugawa shogunate was persecuting Christians. The missionaries were arrested and thrown into prison, and later transferred to Nagasaki to face trial by torture.

Ruiz was subjected to water torture. Needles were inserted through his finger nails and was beaten until unconsciousness.

Despite the torture inflicted on him, Ruiz did not renounce his Christian faith.

It was written that a tormentor asked Ruiz, “If we grant you life, would you renounce your faith?”  Lorenzo answered: “That I will never do, because I am a Christian, and I shall die for God and for Him I would give many thousands of lives if I had them. And so do with me as you please.”Lorenzo died from bleeding and suffocation. His body was cremated and the ashes were thrown into the sea.

He was beatified by Pope John Paul II during his papal visit in Manila on February 18, 1981, the first beatification ceremony outside the Vatican. On October 28, 1987, he was canonized by Pope John Paul II, describing him as “the most improbable of saints.”


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