Tomorrow, Wednesday, 28th September, is the (optional) Memorial of St. Lawrence Ruiz, the Patron Saint of the Philippines and a saint much loved by our Filipino community. Catholicism reached the Philippines in the 1520s and today Catholics comprise 85% of the population, making the Philippines the largest Christian nation in Asia. Born in suburban Manila in 1594 to a Chinese father and a Tagala mother, St. Lawrence, a married man with two sons and a daughter, was a calligrapher. Unjustly accused of murder, he escaped on a ship to Japan, on which there were also Dominican missionaries. However, at the very time in Japan, the persecution of Christians was reaching a peak. When they landed, they were found to be Christians and immediately taken to the city at Nagasaki. It was there on this day in 1637, he and fifteen companions were cruelly tortured for their faith and martyred. When he was offered his life in return for renouncing his Catholic faith, he said: Had I a thousand lives, I would gladly offer them all for Him. You may kill me if that’s what you want. To die for God, such is my will.
There is a statue of St. Lawrence at the back of the Cathedral in Portsmouth, near the west door. Tomorrow would be a good day to pray for all our Filipino brothers and sisters in the Diocese, and especially for Fr. Claro Conde their chaplain.