San Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr; the liturgical feast of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions is celebrated on September 28.
Lorenzo was born in Manila of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them, and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons and a daughter.
Lorenzo's life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that “he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him.”
At that time, three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet, and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo, having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan.
They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he reported, “I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards would hang me there.” In Japan they were soon found out, arrested, and taken to Nagasaki. The site of wholesale bloodshed when the atomic bomb was dropped had known tragedy before. The 50,000 Catholics who once lived there were dispersed or killed by persecution.
They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently from mouth, nose and ears.
The superior, Fr. Gonzalez, died after some days. Both Fr. Shiwozuka and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage by their companions.
In Lorenzo’s moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, “I would like to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life.” The interpreter was noncommittal, but in the ensuing hours Lorenzo felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators.
The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards fitted with semi-circular holes were fitted around their waists and stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. Still alive, the three priests were then beheaded.
In 1987, Pope John Paul II canonized these six and 10 others: Asians and Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith in the Philippines, Formosa, and Japan.
He was born in Medford, WI, in 1941. He entered the Conventual Franciscan Friars’ Minor Seminary in Crystal Lake, IL as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1968 (He was born Michael and given the religious name Casimir in the Franciscan Order).
After serving as a parish priest in Rockford, IL, and Hermosa Beach, CA, he received permission to fulfill his long-time dream: serving as a missionary.
Arriving in Honduras in 1973, Friar Casimir lived and ministered in the remote, rugged state of Olancho—the “Wild West” of Honduras. A little more than a year later, he was caught up in violent unrest. Oppressed peasant farmers (or “Campesinos”) had been organizing land reform, angering the ruling military dictatorship and its wealthy, land-owning supporters.
The Catholic Church supported this struggle for justice, leading to nation-wide persecution. The military searched retreat and catechetical centers throughout the country, seized radios, and arrested priests, religious, and laypeople working with the Church.
On June 25, 1975, Fr. Casimir drove his pickup truck into the City of Juticalpa for repairs, unaware that the National Union of Campesinos had organized a demonstration that day for better implementation of land reform legislation.
Hearing gunshots, Fr. Casimir ran toward the commotion. Knowing that he was a priest, soldiers arrested him. He was stripped in the town square, ridiculed, and beaten. Along with another priest, Fr. Ivan Betancort, two of Fr. Ivan’s companions, and ten Campesino leaders, Fr. Casimir was brutally tortured and executed. His body and those of the others killed with him were thrown into a deep well and dynamited in an attempt to cover up the massacre. He was only 34 years old.
This night of diabolical violence is known in Honduras as the “Los Horcones” (or “Pitchforks,” after the name of the ranch on which the killings took place) massacre.
A true son of St. Francis, his life was characterized by simplicity, personal poverty, and a good sense of humor. He painted, wrote poetry, and loved serving the poor and disadvantaged. May his example inspire us to love and serve Christ in the poor and marginalized!
Polish. Martyrs of Peru. Missionaries who ministered to rural mountain villages in the Diocese of Chimbote and were greatly loved by the locals. Killed by ‘Shining Path’ terrorists because of their ministry and influence with the poorer members of society, preaching hope for a brighter future.
ST. ITA CHURCH
5500 North Broadway
Chicago, IL 60640
Saturday Vigil: 5:30 PM
Sunday: 8:30 AM, 10:30 AM (live cast and in church), 12:30 PM (Spanish live cast and in church), 5:30 PM
Weekdays and Saturdays: 8:00 AM (live cast and in church)
Mondays through Thursdays: 4:45 PM (Adoration), 5:15 PM (Vespers) and 5:30 PM Mass
Confessions: After daily 8 AM Mass and every Saturday from 3PM - 5PM
ST. GREGORY THE GREAT CHURCH
5545 North Paulina Street
Chicago, IL 60640
Saturday Vigil: 4:30 PM
Sunday: 9:30 AM (live cast and in church)
Every second Wednesday: 7 PM (Our Lady of Perpetual Help)
ST. THOMAS OF CANTERBURY CHURCH
4827 North Kenmore Avenue
Chicago, IL 60640
Sunday: 8:00 AM (Vietnamese/Lao), 11:30 AM (English)
Weekdays and Saturdays: 8:30 AM
Eucharistic Adoration: All day every Tuesday (9 AM- 7 PM)
Confessions: After daily 8:30 AM Mass