A reluctant martyr

Perhaps it’s because he was a lay Filipino father of a family who was martyred in Japan in 1637, but something about Saint Lorenzo Ruiz intrigued me.

DSC01297When I was in Rome in February, 2013, I happened upon his statue in the church of Santa Prassede.

But reading the short biography of Saint Lorenzo in Saint of the Day: Updated and Expanded by Leonard Foley, OFM. I found myself fascinated by this reluctant martyr.

Lorenzo, an accomplished calligrapher, was married and a father of four. He was a member of the Dominicans’ Confraternity of the Rosary.

Finding himself accused of murder in the Philippines, he fled for protection with some Dominicans who just happened to be leaving for a mission in Japan. He joined them but didn’t realize that they were going to Japan until they were at sea.

At this time, it was dangerous to be a Christian in Japan and many were brutally martyred for their faith.

When the ship docked at Okinawa, Lorenzo could have left but decided to go ahead with the priests, perhaps fearful that he would be tried and hanged for murder in Okinawa.

Soon after they reached Japan, they were arrested and taken to Nagasaki and subjected to torture.

At one point Lorenzo asked the interpreter if his life would be spared if he apostatized and denied the faith. He did not receive a clear answer but, as Saint of the Day reports, “Lorenzo, in the ensuing hours, felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators.

He finally died on September 28 after three days of torture.

He is the first Filipino canonized saint.

What strikes me is that his martyrdom was not sought; in fact, his death seems like an accident, a bit of bad luck, with a few mixed motives.

But, despite this, God worked through Lorenzo and Lorenzo responded – although reluctantly.

God calls us in the midst of our lives and we can respond in many ways, even reluctantly. But in the end, it’s God’s grace that enables us to respond in love.

May the example of St. Lorenzo open us to see God calling us in ways we might never expect and helping us to be firm in faith, even in the face of trials.

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