Immersed in Christ. One Body. One Mission.

San Lorenzo Ruiz Mass & Santacruzan Procession

Who is San Lorenzo Ruiz?

Saint Lorenzo Ruiz was born around the year 1600 in Binondo, Manila in the Philippines. He was the son of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. Both were Christians and took care to raise Lorenzo as a Catholic. He served happily in his parish church as an altar boy and calligrapher.  As a young man, Lorenzo joined the lay Dominican Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary.  Later, he married a woman named Rosario. The happy couple had three children, two sons and one daughter. By all accounts, the family was ordinary and happy.

In 1636, Lorenzo was accused of murder. Allegedly he killed a Spaniard. However, to protect his safety at the time, he fled home and found refuge on board a ship with three Dominican priests and a leper. There are no details of this alleged crime other than a journal entry by two Dominican priests, that he joined their group to escape possible arrest. The ship departed the Philippines on June 10, 1636, bound for Okinawa.

A shock awaited the holy passengers when they arrived in Japan. At the time of their arrival, the rulers of Japan, the Tokugawa Shogunate, were persecuting Christians. Prior to this persecution, the Christian population of Japan was thought to number 50,000 souls.  Now Lorenzo was arrested by Japanese officials for the crime of being a Christian and ordered to recant his faith. When he refused he was imprisoned for two years. On September 27, 1637, Lorenzo and his companions were taken to Nagasaki to be tortured by water, which was forced into their mouths and down their throats and out their noses and ears. Despite the painful torture, the men refused to refute their faith.

Following this, Lorenzo was hanged upside down with a rope around his ankles. This method of torture was known as tsurushi, or "gallows and pit." The torture forces a person to be hanged upside down with a gash cut in their forehead to prevent too much blood from gathering in the head. The gash also causes the victim to bleed to death over an extended period of time.  Those who have survived the torture have said it is unbearable.  One hand is left free so the victim can offer an agreed symbol that will represent their desire to recant their faith. Those few who recant are spared and allowed to live. But few people ever recanted, choosing instead to die for their faith.

Lorenzo was one of those who refused. According to the record of his death, his last words were, "I am a Catholic and wholeheartedly do accept death for God. Had I a thousand lives, all these to Him I shall offer. Do with me as you please."  His traveling companions were all killed also, steadfast until the end.

Lorenzo was beatified by Pope John Paul II on February 18, 1981. The beatification ceremony was held in the Philippines making it the first beatification ceremony ever held outside the Vatican.  His canonization took place at the Vatican on October 18, 1987.

Saint Lorenzo Ruiz is the patron saint of Filipino youth, the Philippines, people working overseas, and altar servers.  His feast day is September 28.



What is Santacruzan?

The Filipino celebration of Santacruzan (from the Spanish Santa Cruz, "Holy Cross") is a ritual pageant held on the last day of the Flores de Mayo. It honors the finding of the True Cross by St Helena of Constantinople (known as Reyna Elena) and her son, Constantine the Great. Its connection with the month of May stems from the May 3 date of Roodmas, which Pope John XXIII eliminated in the 1960s due to the trend at the time to abolish holy days that were either duplicates or dedicated to ahistorical saints. The Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14, which commemorates the recovery of the relic by Emperor Heraclius from the Persians instead of the finding by Saint Helena, combines that occasion with Roodmas in the present General Roman Calendar.

 The Filipino community, adults and children, will participate in the procession wearing the symbols of the various Marian titles below.  Each figure in this group refers to a title of the Virgin Mary in the Litany of Loreto, or to a figure associated with her. They are preceded by adolescent or adult ladies dressed in a white ball gown to represent an angel, each holding a letter of the Angelical salutation Ave Maria.

The Titles:

  1. Reina Abogada(Queen Advocate/Lawyer) – She is the defender of those who are poor and those who are oppressed, she wears a black mortarboard cap and graduation gown, and carries a large book. Her appearance is a representation of Mary, Help (Advocate) of Christians. Some processions add the Reina Doctora ("Queen Doctor") as another title connected with a degree-holding profession, and may allude to the title "Mary, Health of the Sick".
  2. Reina Justícia(Queen Justice) – She is a personification of the title "Mirror of Justice" (Speculum Iustitiæ), her attributes are a Scale of Justice and a sword.
  3. Divina Pastora(Divine Shepherdess) – She bears a shepherd's crook or an image of a lamb or young sheep. She is the representation of the care of Jesus Christ to his flock of Christians.
  4. Reina de los Ángeles(Queen of the Angels) – She bears a bouquet or garland of white and/or colored flowers, and is escorted by adolescent or adult ladies dressed in white ball gowns.
  5. Luklukan ng Karunungan/Asiento de la Sabiduría(Seat of Wisdom) – She carries the Bible, and represents Mary as Sedes Sapientiæ.
  6. Susì ng Langit/Clavé del Cielo(Key of Heaven) – She bears two keys, one gold and the other silver, adapted from the Papal arms. It is also a representation of the title "Porta Coeli" ("Gate of Heaven") where Mary welcomes mankind to the Kingdom of God.
  7. Reina de las Estrellas(Queen of the Stars) – She holds a wand or baton topped with a star. It can be taken as an allusion to the title Stella Maris ("Star of the Sea"), where Mary has been invoked by sailors for her protection.
  8. Rosa Mística(Mystical Rose) – She bears a bouquet or garland of roses, a single rose, or preferably, the Barra Alta. She is the representation of the crown of roses given to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
  9. Pusò ni María/Corazón de María(Heart of Mary) – She is the representation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She holds a pink heart or the image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
  10. Reina del Santísimo Rosario(Queen of the Most Holy Rosary) – She carries a large rosary, symbol of devotion to Mary. The Philippines is also called Pueblo Amante de María or People in the Love of Mary because of their devotion to Our Lady.
  11. Reina Luna(Queen Moon) – She is the representation of the moon, the footstool of Mary as the Woman of the Apocalypse. She carries a wand or baton topped with the crescent moon.
  12. Reina Candelaria(Queen of Candles) – She carries a long, lit taper, symbolising the Purification of Mary, or sometimes the menorah, a symbol of Judaism, with seven small candles, representing the Seven Sacraments, Seven Virtues or Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
  13. Reina de la Paz(Queen of Peace) – She carries a dove, symbol of World Peace or the Holy Spirit.
  14. Reina de los Patriarcas(Queen of Patriarchs) – She bears a wooden rod or staff, symbol of Authority or Superiority. The Patriarchs are the ancestors of the Israelites who lived serving God.
  15. Reina de los Profetas(Queen of Prophets) – she holds an hourglass or clock, symbol of the Time: the past, the present, and the future. Mary is the Queen of Prophets because God introduced her to the people of God a long time ago.
  16. Reina de los Confesores(Queen of Confessors) – she holds a scroll, whether open or closed, or a purple candle, symbol of confession, one of the Seven Sacraments.
  17. Reina de los Mártires(Queen of Martyrs) – she bears the Crown of Thorns or a pierced heart, as a second representation of the Mater Dolorosa. She is the representation of the Martyrs who faced death for the sake of their faith.
  18. Reina de los Apóstoles(Queen of Apostles) – she holds the Palm of Martyrdom, symbol of triumph of Apostles and Martyrs who chose death for the sake of their faith rather than renunciation of the Christian faith.
  19. Reina de los Santos(Queen of Saints) – She bears a golden wreath, symbol of the Crown of the Saints; often accompanied by two ladies dressed in white ball gowns.
  20. Reina del Cielo(Queen of Heaven) – She holds a flower; often accompanied by two ladies dressed in white ball gowns.
  21. Reina de las Vírgenes(Queen of Virgins) – She carries a rosary or lily, the latter signifying chastity; also escorted by two ladies dressed in white ball gowns.

Other Prominent Titles:

  1. Reina de las Flores(Queen of Flowers) – She is The Queen of the Flowers of May (Flores de Mayo). She walks under an arch festooned with the blossoms of flowers and she carries a grand bouquet of flowers.
  2. Reina Elena(Queen Helena) – She is the representation of Saint Helena herself, whose symbol of the finding of the True Cross is the cross or crucifix that she bears in her arms. This very prestigious role is often awarded to the most beautiful girl or most important matron in the pageant. Some communities keep the identity of the chosen Reina Elena a closely guarded secret, revealing her identity at the Santacruzan itself. Other places are more accommodating, allowing three women to be Reina Elena.  
  • Constantino- the escort of Reina Elena, representing her son, Constantine the Great (272 – 337 AD). Despite the Emperor having been an adult when his mother found the True Cross, this role is almost always played by a young male or even an adolescent or adult male in princely or royal garments.
  1. Reina Emperatríz(Queen Empress) – She is always the last member of the procession, a representation of Saint Helena of Constantinople, specifically her title Augusta ('empress' or 'queen mother'), which she received from Constantine in 325 AD. It is wise to take note that it is best to omit the title reina emperatriz because having so will duplicate the representation of Saint Helena in the procession. A belief commonly held as to the origin of the two titles existing is the possibility of two women wanting to portray the most important role in the procession, thus creating the title Reina Emperatriz.

The procession is accompanied by the steady beat of a local brass band, playing and singing the Dios Te Salve (the Spanish version of the Hail Mary). Devotees bear lighted candles and sing the prayer as they walk. Due to modernization and the unavailability of a brass band, the procession is sometimes accompanied by a speaker-truck playing songs from an app like TikTok or Spotify. It is customary for males participating in the Santacruzan to wear traditional Barong Tagalog, suits or tuxedos, while females wear any Filipiniana-inspired dress or a Renaissance- or Baroque-inspired queen's dress.