Tag Archives: Philippines

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.

A good politician

Many people, especially here in Honduras, say politics is dirty. Even though politics is seen by the church as a way to promote the common good, many still see politics as unredeemable.

This is understandable when when we see so many corrupt politicians who only seek their own good or who have narrow visions that demonize opponents and refuse to seek the good of the poor.

And so when we see a good politician we are in awe – and sometimes canonize them before their deaths.

But there are good politicians who have a heart set on the good of the community and who are willing to commit their lives to justice for the poor.

One of those, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, was shot and killed on August 21, 1983, as he got off a plane in Manila.

He had been imprisoned in the 1970s by the Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. After seven years in prison he was released for medical care in the US after a heart attack but was forbidden to return to his native land.

He however decided to return. When the plane landed, soldiers entered took Benigno out of the cabin and shot him.

Three years later a nonviolent movement, spearheaded by the church, including Cardinal Sin and the base communities, overthrew Marcos.

In his testimony to a US House of Representatives committee barely two months before his death, Aquino explained his nonviolence:

“One can fight hatred with greater hatred, but [former Filipino president Ramón] Magsaysay proved that it is more effective to fight hatred with greater Christian love. . . .

“I have decided to pursue my freedom struggle through the path of nonviolence, fully cognizant that this may be the longer and the more arduous road. If I have made the wrong decision, only I, and maybe my family, will suffer. . . .But by taking the road of revolution, how many lives, other than mine, will have to be sacrificed?…

“I refuse to believe that it is necessary for a nation to build its foundations on the bones of its young. . . . Filipinos are still killing each other in ever increasing numbers. This blood-letting must cease. This madness must cease.

“I think it can be stopped if all Filipinos can get together as true brothers and sisters and search for a healing solution in a genuine spirit of give and take. We must transcend our petty selves, forget our hurts and bitterness, cast aside thoughts of revenge, and let sanity, reason, and, above all, love of country prevail during our gravest hour.”

Would that we had more politicians with such a vision, with such faith in God, and such a willingness to give himself for the common good.