St. Wenceslaus, martyr; St. Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, martyrs

Today is the optional memorial of St. Wenceslaus, martyr and St. Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions, martyrs.

Saint Wenceslaus is the patron of both the Czech Republic and of Slovakia. He was born to a Christian duke and a pagan mother in 903 and was educated by his Christian grandmother, Saint Ludmilla.

When his father died, his mother took control of the Duchy and began to oppose Christianity. The people urged Wenceslaus to take power. He did so and protected and strengthened the Church.

Wenceslaus, well known for his Christian virtue, responded to a call to live a consecrated life and made a vow of virginity.

In 935, his mother and his brother, Boleslaus, plotted to kill him and take power. Wenceslaus was ambushed on his way to Church and hacked to pieces by his brother and his followers. Three days later his brother repented and had Wenceslaus' body buried in the Church of St. Vitus in Prague.

Saint Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized martyr of the Philippines, and was canonized along with 15 companions - nine Japanese, four Spaniards, one Frenchman and one Italian - all of whom were on mission in Nagasaki, Japan, to evangelize and minister to the Japanese Christian community who were suffering the persecutions of the Japanese feudal Lords. Thirteen of the martyrs were Dominicans and three were Dominican Tertiaries.

Lorenzo Ruiz was born in about 1600 to a Chinese Christian Father and a Tagala Christian mother in Manila, Philippines. He was a devoted and active Catholic, involved in a Rosary Confraternity and became a husband and father of three.

In 1637 he was falsely accused of murder and forced to leave his country. The Dominican fathers who knew Lorenzo arranged to have him take a ship to Japan.

Soon after arriving in Japan, Lorenzo was captured for being Catholic and brought to Nagasaki, where he was tortured. He was promised safe passage back to his family if he renounced his faith, but he refused, reportedly saying that if he had a thousand lives he would die a thousand times for God. He was finally killed on September 29, 1637 by an infamous Japanese torture tool known as "the pit." All his companions were martyred in the same manner.

On February 18, 1981, Lorenzo Ruiz became the first person beatified outside the Vatican, when Pope John Paul II beatified him in the Philippines. He was canonized on October 18, 1987, in Rome.


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