Another memorable moment that has been etched in my heart during my short visit to the Philippines was on July 26 when my friends brought me to step foot onto the parish grounds of today’s Saint: San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila and his companions whose canonization by Saint John Paul II was held in Manila, the first of its kind outside of Vatican City in the mid 1980s. He is the Philippine’s First Filipino Saint.
Lorenzo was sacristan at this parish right outside mainstream Manila. There he was also an altar boy, a scribe who recorded baptismal records, and a family man. He was raised by the Dominican priests. He was brought to Japan where his faith would be tested.
The Japanese tortured Lorenzo in a variety of ways. One of which was tying him up, filling his body with water and placing a board over his stomach in order to squeeze the water out of his eyes, nose, ears, and mouth. He was later hung upside down and died a glorious death.
Glorious death? All of this would be a senseless gruesome death if it was simply a man dying without a purpose. Yet Lorenzo’s persecutors gave him the ultimatum, “Would you renounce your faith in God if we let you live?” To which Lorenzo bravely responded, “If I had one thousand lives, I’d give it all to Jesus. I would never deny my faith even if it costs my life.”
San Lorenzo Ruiz gave his everything to Jesus which led to his martyrdom that planted the seed of faith for the people in Japan. We are called to be like Lorenzo, we are called to be Christian. We are called to be Christians and not be concerned about popularity, fame, or esteem because the cross is not about popularity, fame, or esteem.
Lorenzo did not die with hundreds gathered around him as fans to witness his death, he was not there to receive a plaque for his achievements and contributions to the Church. Lorenzo was tortured for a whole year with his companions, never shaking his faith and was martyred with his companions in a way that made the invisible God visible. This is a glorious death!
Remember Lorenzo’s famous words, “If I had one thousand lives, I’d give it all to Jesus. I would never deny my faith even if it costs my life.” How about us? We do not have a thousand lives. We only have one! If God called you to the gift of martyrdom, would we find in ourselves the same courage of Lorezno to give all to Jesus.
What will we do with this one life? We may not be called to blood martyrdom, but we are called to live out the kerygma in its entirety. A message that is ever ancient yet ever new. A call to holiness is a call to live out this one life given to us by Christ and for Christ in the joy and evangelization of his love. After all, he is the end goal of all humanity. Happy Feast Day to my Filipino Brothers and Sisters and to all of us because Lorenzo belongs to all who profess the same faith he joyfully gave witness to in his blood.