28 September 2009

St. Lawrence Ruiz and his Companions

The mixed-race child of a Chinese father and a Filippino mother grew up to marry a nice girl.  They had three children, and lived a simple life on his modest salary as a clerk working for the local parish.  What they lacked in material things they more than made up for in their deep Catholic faith.  Living something of an anonymous life, known only to their immediate circle of family and friends, life was good but not extraordinary.  That is, not until a false accusation was made.  And then, life as Lawrence Ruiz and his wife knew it, no longer existed.  Everything was turned upside down as he made the nearly-impossible decision to run from his accusers.  He was completely innocent, but he paid a very heavy price, which involved leaving his beloved wife and children and the only home he knew. 

Lawrence made his way to a ship which was headed for Japan, and his travelling companions were three Dominican priests, a Japanese priest, and a layman who suffered from leprosy.  They arrived in Okinawa and made no secret of their Catholic faith.  And for that, they were arrested and tortured mercilessly.  They were dragged off to Nagasaki, where further sport was made of Lawrence and the others, in an attempt to get them to deny Christ.  They remained steadfast in professing their love for God and His Church.  Lawrence had already had a false accusation made against him, but this accusation - that he was a Catholic - was an accusation he was happy to confirm, no matter what the consequences.  And the consequences were brutal.  He and his companions were hung upside down while having heavy stones tied to them; they were held under water until the moment before they would drown; they had wood splinters driven under their fingernails.  But through it all, their hearts were filled with love for God and forgiveness for their persecuters. 

When they finally died from their tortures, the bodies of Lawrence and his companions were burned and the ashes were thrown into the sea.  Their faithful witness, however, fed that great burning fire of God's love, which continues to burn to this day.

O Almighty God, by whose grace and power St. Lawrence Ruiz and his Companion Martyrs triumphed over suffering and were faithful even unto death: Grant us, who now remember them with thanksgiving, to be so faithful in our witness to thee in this world, that we may receive with them the crown of life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.