On September 19, the Filipino Catholic community in the Triangle gathered at St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Apex to honor St. Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint. The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge was principal celebrant and homilist at a bilingual Mass (English/Tagalog) on the occasion; concelebrating were Fr. Julian Jagudilla, O.F.M., Parochial Vicar at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Raleigh; and Fr. Pius Wekesa, Pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Roanoke Rapids.
St. Lorenzo Ruiz was born in Binondo, Manila, Philippines to a Chinese father and a Filipina mother about 1600. He grew up and was educated under the influence of the Dominican Fathers, serving as an altar boy and later as a clerk sacristan in the Church of Binondo. He married and became the father of two sons and a daughter, practicing his faith devoutly and joining the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary of Our Lady.
In 1636, he was wrongly implicated in the murder of a Spanish colonist. With the advice and help of the Dominicans, he left Manila for Japan to avoid prosecution. In Japan at that time, however, it was a crime to be Christian. St. Lorenzo and 15 companions were all captured, imprisoned, and tortured in Nagasaki. The authorities offered to spare his life if he would denounce his faith, but he replied, “I did not come to Japan to be a martyr, but if I had thousands of lives I would gladly give them all up for Christ.”
On September 29, 1637, he was martyred with his companions. His body was cremated and his ashes thrown into the sea. All 16 Filipinos were canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 18, 1987. The feast of Saint Lorenzo is celebrated on September 28, and it is said that Pope John Paul II called St. Lorenzo Ruiz a patron saint of immigrants.
Bishop Burbidge praised the example of St. Lorenzo in his homily. “He imitated the love of Christ,” the Bishop said, “faithful, sacrificial and never counting the cost.... Most likely we will not be asked to give the ultimate sacrifice, but we are asked to give all we have to Christ and the proclamation of His Gospel.”
Reminding those in attendance that it was Catechetical Sunday, the Bishop said, “We are being invited today to rededicate ourselves to Christ, to prayer and to the study and practice of our faith. We are asked to continue to celebrate our diversity and always the unity that is ours in Christ Jesus. We are asked to be filled with renewed wonder and awe for the precious gift of the Eucharist, ever convinced that it is Jesus alone who sustains and nourishes us.”
Above: Member of the Filipino community placing statue of St. Lorenzo Luiz at the altar prior to celebration of Mass honoring the first Filipino saint.
Above: Altar servers assisting at Mass commemorating St. Lorenzo Ruiz.
Above: Filipino community attending Mass at St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Apex.