On Sunday, September 25, Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and 14 other Filipino saints were celebrated at Holy Cross Parish in Durham. The event began with a procession around the church property led by the altar servers. Approximately 400 members of the Filipino community followed the procession with lit candles, singing hymns in their native language, Tagalog.
The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge was the Principal Celebrant and Homilist of the Mass. Monsignor David D. Brockman, Vicar General of the Diocese, and Father Andrew Santamauro, O.F.M., Conv., concelebrated, while Deacons Phil Rzewnicki and John Wetsch served.
The clergy wore red vestments because Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino Saint, was a martyr. Maria Romp, coordinator of the celebration hand made the vestments, decorated with an embroidered image of Saint Lorenzo. She also made the mitre Bishop Burbidge wore at the Mass.
"The celebration of the Feast of San Lorenzo Ruiz and his martyr companions promotes strong bond of faith not just from the Filipino Community but among the different ethnic groups in our Diocese," said Maria Romp. "We live in a very diverse world and it is our Catholic faith that nourishes us to become strong and united just as we all come and gather in communion with God."
Saint Lorenzo was a married layman with a wife and three children. He was born in Binondo, Manila, to a Chinese father and a Filipina mother in the early 1600s. He grew up and was educated under the influence of the Dominican Fathers.
In 1636, under the advice and help of the Dominican Fathers, Saint Lorenzo left with several friends for Japan to avoid prosecution for an alleged crime. Immediately upon their arrival, they were captured, imprisoned, and later tortured. Saint Lorenzo was given the opportunity to save his life if he would reject his faith. Saint Lorenzo replied that he would gladly give up thousands of lives for God if he had them. On September 29, 1637, he was put to death. His body and those of his martyr companions were cremated and thrown into the sea.
“What a model and example we have in Saint Lorenzo, who despite the most unthinkable of torture, continued to profess his faith even to the point of offering the ultimate sacrifice,” said Bishop Burbidge in his homily. “He understood the words from the Book of Sirach today: ‘Accept whatever befalls you...be steadfast....trust God and he will save you.’”
Saint Lorenzo will have a place of honor as one of the statues of saints to be placed in the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral donated by the Filipino community. “I am most excited that our new cathedral will have over 20 statues of saints, including Saint Lorenzo,” said Bishop Burbidge. “They are images that remind us of what St. John Paul II said----sanctity is there for all of us. In fact, that is what we are called to become—saints.”
The Mass was followed by a reception celebrating Filipino food and culture.
photos courtesy of Rodolfo O. Paus, Jr.