When he beatified and canonized Ruiz, he repeatedly pointed to him as a key to evangelization in the Philippines.
St. Lorenzo Ruiz could be called an “unexpected” martyr. He certainly didn’t plan on sacrificing his life for the Catholic faith, but when he was given the chance, he didn’t have a moment’s hesitation.
Ruiz was a family man, married to a woman named Rosario, and father to three children. Catholic faith permeated his family and they lived a relatively ordinary life.
However, when he was falsely accused of murder, his life was turned upside down and he had to make a choice. He joined several missionaries to set out on a journey, where he waited in Japan until the charges were cleared.
This didn’t go as planned, either, as he and his companions were captured and sentenced to death by local Japanese rulers. They would set him free if only he renounced his Christian faith.
Instead of renouncing his faith so that he could live another day, Ruiz stayed rooted in his Christianity. He reportedly said the following statement before his martyrdom.
Had I many thousands of lives I would offer them all for him. Never shall I apostatize. You may kill me if that is what you want. To die for God—such is my will.
When John Paul II beatified Ruiz, he pointed to him as a prime example of Christian sacrifice.
The example of Lorenzo Ruiz, the son of a Chinese father and Tagala mother, reminds us that everyone’s life and the whole of one’s life must be at Christ’s disposal. Christianity means daily giving, in response to the gift of Christ who came into the world so that all might have life and have it to the full. Or, as so aptly expressed in the theme of my visit to this country: To die for the faith is a gift to some; to live the faith is a call for all.
The first martyr of the Philippines, Lorenzo Ruiz
John Paul further hoped that Ruiz’s example would fan the flames of evangelization in the Philippines, “to animate all the Christians of the Far East and to spread the word of the Lord. In a special way I say this to you Filipinos, who form the only predominantly Catholic nation in the eastern part of the continent of Asia. It is an invitation that I also extend to the other Christians of the nearby lands that border the Pacific Ocean.”
This evangelization, however, begins in the family, as John Paul II mentions in his canonization homily.
May this task of evangelization begin in Philippine families, following the example of Lorenzo Ruiz, husband and father of three children, who first collaborated with the Dominican Fathers in Manila, and then shared their martyrdom in Nagasaki, and who is now the first canonized Filipino saint…may the example and intercession of the new Saints help to extend Christian truth and love throughout the length and breadth of this vast continent!
Ruiz remains a beacon of hope for all Filipinos and reminds them to foster the Catholic faith in their families, allowing it to take root so that it may branch out to others in the region.
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