Visita Iglesia (2023): Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz (Binondo, Manila)

Good Friday is the day when we commemorate the suffering and death of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Now, a certain Philippine president ridiculed Jesus because he let Himself be crucified. That president, who only knows of worldly power, is ignorant of the power of Jesus' sacrifice. Through his sacrifice many Christians were inspired and strengthened to take up their cross, face persecution, and die like Him. One of such men who saw the power of Jesus on the cross is San Lorenzo Ruiz and I will be featuring his shrine in Binondo for the fifth day of my virtual Visita Iglesia.

Binondo Church

San Lorenzo Ruiz is a son of a Chinese convert and a native Filipina Catholic. His life is intimately connected with Binondo Church because he served as a sacristan, educated by Dominican friars, joined the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary and became a clerk of the church.

In 1636, he was falsely accused of murdering a Spanish tax collector. To escape the Spanish colonial authorities, Lorenzo joined the Dominicans in their mission to Japan. He left his wife and children without realizing that he will never see them again.

Lorenzo and companions arrived in Japan in the period of extreme persecution under the Tokugawa Shogunate. They were captured, imprisoned for two years, and then were sent to Nishizaka Hill in Nagasaki to be tortured to death.

The Martyrdom of San Lorenzo Ruiz
(Source: AnaStPaul)

Lorenzo and his companions experienced painful forms of torture, such as waterboarding and insertion of bamboo needles under fingernails. Those who managed to stay alive during the ordeal were made to undergo the tsurushi — an execution method in which the victim is hanged upside down then lowered into a pit filled with excrement. The temple of the victim is cut so as to break their will or eventually kill them. Those who apostatized or denied Jesus Christ were released.

Lorenzo Ruiz did not betray our Lord. He even told his torturer these words: "I am a Catholic and I wholeheartedly accept death for God. If I had a thousand lives, I would offer them all to Him".

Lorenzo Ruiz followed the path of martyrdom as his Lord. A common man bore his heavy cross and in the end he received the crown of glory from his Master and Lord.

San Lorenzo Ruiz in Binondo Church

The current parish priest of Binondo said in his homilies that those in Binondo are fortunate because they walk in the aisle where San Lorenzo Ruiz once walked. They looked at the same altar where the first Filipino saint once served.

Binondo Church before the Renovation
Binondo Church before the renovation.

Binondo Church was recently renovated and looks a little different to how it looked many years ago.

The facade was fixed and was highlighted with red paint.

Renovated Binondo Church

The interior was also renovated. The old gray color scheme was replaced by somewhat pinkish palette.

Interior of Binondo Church

The altar was also repainted.

Altar of Binondo Church

My favorite painting of Saint Michael on the ceiling above the altar is still there and the other paintings on the ceilings were also restored.

Painting of the Glorious Mysteries on the ceiling of Binondo Church

At the side of the church is the image of Nuestra Señora del Pronto Socorro or Our Lady of Prompt Succor. This Marian image is not only a religious relic but also a cultural treasure. According to the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), the image of Nuestra Señora del Pronto Socorro is believed to be the remaining painting of a Chinese artisan dating to the 16th Century.

Nuestra Señora del Pronto Socorro

Nuestra Señora del Pronto Socorro was first venerated in the Church of the Holy Kings in the first parian or Chinatown of Manila, which is located in the area occupied by the Manila Central Post Office and Metropolitan Theater. The Marian was later transferred to Binondo Church in 1598.

Our Lady of Prompt Succor

The Chinese who painted the Marian image copied the European version but integrated it with Oriental artistic style. The face of Mary in this image is more Chinese than European. The arrangement of Mary's cape is similar to that of Chinese goddess Kuan Yin.

We can say that the Binondo Church's Nuestra Señora del Pronto Socorro is a fusion of European and Chinese art styles.

Nuestra Señora del Pronto Socorro
(Source: Encyclopedia of PH Art)

The Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz is steeped in history. I already talked about the old Chinese tombs in the church, particularly of Juan Dionicio Coqua. A look at the floor at the entrance of Binondo Church and you will see the broken tombstones or piedra china.

Broken Chinese Tombstones in Binondo Church

Binondo Church is a testament of the victory of the Lord through his martyrs. The sacrifices made by our Lord on the cross strengthened Christians like San Lorenzo Ruiz. The horrible and shameful death of our Lord, which is ridiculed by many, is actually the source of strength that brings many people to heaven. May all us emulate San Lorenzo by cleaving to our Lord even if we are persecuted or even at the point of death.

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Visita Iglesia is a Catholic tradition of visiting seven or fourteen churches during Maundy Thursday. For each day, this Holy Week, I will feature one church as a sort of virtual Visita Iglesia.

Read about the churches that I visited this year

Palm Sunday: Immaculate Conception Church in Concepcion Uno, Marikina

Holy Monday: Santo Niño de Paz Chapel in Greenbelt, Makati

Fig Tuesday: Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Chapel in SM Makati

Spy Wednesday: Santa Rosa de Lima Church in Santa Rosa, Laguna

Maundy Thursday: Saint John Paul II Chapel in NAIA Terminal 3

Good Friday: Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz in Binondo, Manila

Black Saturday: Quiapo Church in Manila

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