On Sunday, September 25, 2011, the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge joined with the Filipino community in the Diocese of Raleigh to commemorate the Feast of St. Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino Saint. Bishop Burbidge was the Principal Celebrant and Homilist of the Mass celebrated at Holy Cross Church in Durham. Father Raymond Donaldson, S.J., Pastor of Holy Cross, Father Ryan Zamora Carnecer, CICM, Parochial Vicar of St. Eugene Church in Wendell, and Father Julian Jagudilla, OFM, former Parochial Vicar at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Raleigh, concelebrated.
The ceremony began with a procession around Holy Cross of about 400 members of the Filipino community singing and carrying lit candles. 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.
Noting Saint Lorenzo’s strong faith, Bishop Burbidge said, “In the midst of torture and the heaviest of crosses, he repeated his ‘yes’ to the Lord and to the faith he professed. Nothing would deter him from being the person he promised.”
St. Lorenzo Ruiz and his 15 companion martyrs were canonized by Blessed Pope John Paul II on October 18, 1987. In proclaiming September 28 as his feast day, Pope John Paul II called St. Lorenzo Ruiz a Patron Saint of Immigrants.
“Saint Lorenzo found his strength by listening to God’s Word; by receiving the graces of the Sacraments and by turning to our Blessed Mother for her protection," Bishop Burbidge said in his homily. “Perhaps today, the Lord is not asking us to say ‘yes’ to any specific work but only ‘yes’ to His invitation to draw closer to Him and to rely on the divine assistance He offers.”
This was the second year a Diocesan Mass was held in honor of Saint Ruiz. A reception was held after the Mass to continue the celebration.
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Read Bishop Burbidge's homily
Above: Members of the Filipino community at procession prior to annual Mass celebrated at Holy Cross Church in Durham.
Below: Bishop Michael F. Burbidge reflecting on the strong faith of Saint Lorenzo during homily commemorating his feast day.