The Martyrdom of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz
Few of us have access to this extremely precious primary historical text about the martyrdom of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz which forms part of the Positio or the official document presenting his Cause for Beatification and Declaration as Martyr. I requested Father Robert Godding, S.J. who is head of the Bollandist Society and our professor at Loyola School of Theology for a copy of the document which he has graciously granted.
Here I offer a rather rough translation from the Spanish: 1.) of the preliminary paragraphs describing the document and its importance and 2.) an excerpt from the actual court interrogation at the time when Lorenzo Ruiz is brought in. Here we see the stark reality of his struggle in the face of torture and death, in which the sterling witness of martyrdom shines through.
As we celebrate the memorial of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz, may he ever remind us of our truest identity among our many identities....
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The Martyrdom of the priests, Friar Miguel, Friar Thomas, Friar Vicente, Friar Antonio, of the Order of Preachers and of Lorenzo Ruiz, a native of Manila, who came from Manila and arrived at Nagasaki on September 13, 1637. (Manuscript copy of the Portuguese original in the Roman Archives of the Society of Jesus [ARSI] Jap. Sin., 64, fols. 208r-214v.)
The extraordinary importance of this document calls for a detailed study of the manuscript, its origins, its authors, its date of redaction and its historical value.
1. The Manuscript
Up to now, it has been impossible to locate the original autograph, although it was probably in Manila for some time. The only available document today is a copy of the manuscript found in the Jap Sin collection of the Roman Archives of the Society of Jesus. All the documents in this collection, related to the history of the missions of the Society of Jesus in Japan and China, are from the 16th and 17th centuries. This particular document is found in Volume 64 of the documents ranging from 1582-1669, between an “Annual of Japan in the year 1632.” (fols. 205-207) which bears the signature of Father Antonio de Sousa, S.J. and another “Annual of the Province of Japan in the year 1644” (fols. 216-232), written entirely by Father Antonio Ferreira, S.J.
How did this document end up in the Archives of the Society of Jesus?
2. The Authenticity of the Copy
This copy was made by “the same hand” that wrote many laters addressed by Father Manuel Dias, visitator of the Jesuit Province in Japan who was resident in Macau, to the Superior General beginning in 1635 that are to be found in the same archive, Jap Sin., vols 18 I, 18 II. Father Diaz carried out the task [of writing letters] himself from 1635 up to 1639, when in his “old age” he would only sign these letters, which would henceforth be written by his assistant or secretary. The copy of the manuscript that we are studying is also the work of this assistant scribe.
The interest that Father Dias took in this document is obvious. The news about the apostasy of the Vice-Provincial of Japan, Father Cristobal Ferreira, which happened in October 1633 and was sent to Macau later in a confusing manner, was the cause of alarm among the Jesuits and of scandal among the people of Macau and Manila. Father Dias sought all means at his command to establish the veracity of the report and to secure the repentance of his subject. In 1635, he sent a letter to Ferreira through Major Captain Gonzalo de Silveira and the Portuguese who made the annual voyage that year and received more certain news from them. The following year, he made the same request and received more concretely informed and definitive confirmation. Thus, on 2 November 1636, Ferreira was officially declared expelled from the Society. Between 1637 to 1643, a number of Jesuits went to Japan with the intention of speaking to Ferreira, to work for the faith and die as martyrs as an act of expiation. The first to do this was Father Marcello Mastrilli in 1637, who was martyred shortly after his arrival in 17 October of the same year.
All these data are enough to explain why Father Manuel Dias had particular interest in the account that we are studying. In it are given information about the encounter and dialogue of our Servants of God with Father Ferreira in the tribunal of Nagasaki. They were the first religious to see Ferreira, for whom the Servant of God, Antonio Gonzales carried a personal letter, whose contents are unknown to us, which Gonzales gave to the apostate in the same tribunal.
The history of the document can be reconstructed in this manner. In mid-November 1637, six commercial ships came to Macau carrying news about the martyrdom of our Servants of God and of the Jesuit Marcello Mastrilli. With it came this document intended for the Dominican Fathers of Manila. Father Dias, having learned this, did not waste the opportunity to instruct his assistant or secretary to make a copy to be transmitted to the Superior General in Rome. The original went as intended to Manila, where it arrived in a package from Macau in 27 December 1637. This original served as the source for the Relatio made by Father Domingo Gonzales published in 1638. Meanwhile, the copy of the manuscript from Macau had to be sent to the Superior General of the Society of Jesus in 1638 through Fr. Antonio Cardim, S.J., who was elected Procurator of the Province of Japan in Rome and left Macau towards the end of this year through the Portuguese route, at the same time when the Assistant of the Procurator, Fr. Raimundo Gouvea, made his way through the Spanish route. In this way, while the original has been lost, the copy of the manuscript was able to be preserved in the Roman Archives of the Society of Jesus. There can be no doubt regarding its authenticity.
3. The authors
The authors who signed this account are “Pero Roiz” and “Antonio Carvalho,” both Portuguese names. As to “Roiz,” there can be no doubt that it is an abbrevation of the surname “Rodrigues.” Both persons held the office of jurabaça, an archaic Portuguese term, which in this case is clearly defined for us by the witnesses to the Process in Macau. The jurabaças were the interpreters of the Xoya (Shoya), that is to say, the Governor of Nagasaki.
Pedro Rodrigues and Antonio Carvalho were two lapsed Christians who successfully held office as interpreters of the governors of Nagasaki between the years 1635 and 1634, at least. In 1635, the daikwan of Nagasaki, Hiyetsugu Heizo wrote a letter to the representatives of the Portuguese ships anchored in their port, describing the exact requirements of the decrees of the Shogun that forbade any assistance to the missionaries. The letter was not signed by Heizo but by Antonio Carvalho, Antonio Nerete and Pedro Rodrigues, about whom the historian Boxer rightly comments: “These were the Portuguese names of the official Japanese interpreters in Nagasaki. The real name of Antonio Carvalho was Namura Hachizayemon.”
Thus, the authors of this document were Japanese with Portuguese names, interpreters of the Government and “persons of credibility and great faith.” They were lapsed Christians but not ex-priests, so that, besides no report [of them being such] in any document, they did no understand the dialogue in Latin between the Servant of God, Miguel de Aozaraza and the lapsed priest Tomas Araki in the tribunal of Nagasaki. They clearly have a Christian background and cannot even hide their admiration of the fortitude of the martyrs that they did not have. Here are some phrases of Christian sentiment: “our holy faith,” “Our Lady of the Rosary,” “Our Lord who called us to himself,” in the pits the Servants of God were reciting “psalms,” and “in this way they endured their glorious martyrdom”; the judges and executioners were called several times with the name “Pharisees.” Their long period of service to the Government proves that the authorities had confidence in them, who were at the same time charged to look after the affairs of the merchants from Macau.
The document was written in Portuguese, a language that they managed with some competence, but with many grammatical defects and confusion with Spanish words. That is to say, they spoke the two Iberic languages indistinctly, but more of Portuguese. Hispanisms are abundant in the text, like “chiquilhos” (chiquillos), “barça” (balsa), “acertou” (acerto), “colgar” (ahorcar). And more especially, these interpreters, in a laudable effort to be exact about the interrogation of the tribunal, wrote in Spanish many phrases as spoken by our Servants of God, but this time, the phrases bear the marks of Portuguese orthography.
4. Date of Redaction
The document is undated, but it is possible to establish with some certainty that it was written shortly after the martyrdom to be sent to Macau through the Portuguese merchants in the annual voyage of 1637. The martyrdom occurred on 29 September and the ships left Nagasaki on November 6. The interpreters had to write this document between these dates. The ships arrived in Macau “in 15 November,” as noted by the Visitator of the Society of Jesus, Father Manuel Dias. In 1638, the text of the document was already in Manila because it was used by Father Domingo Gonzales for the Relatio that he wrote concerning the martyrdom of the Servants of God.
5. Historical Value of the Document
Certainly, the testimony of these two interpreters, Pedro Rodrigues and Antonio Carvalho, lacks the canonical bearing of depositions from an ecclesiastical process and the official character of a judicial act. Neither is it a sworn personal declaration or made in the first person. It is a historical account of events known and experienced by two eyewitnesses, writing at the request of others or by their own initiative. A careful examination of the document reveals signs of complete honesty and historicity. First of all, as lapsed Christians, they have to be considered impartial witnesses, even if in their language there is a hint of Christianity and admiration for the fortitude of the martyrs. Secondly, as interpreters, they respected their craft, and it is worth noting that more than once they transcribed another dialogue of Father Vicente dela Cruz, the only Japanese priest in the group. Thirdly, the form and style is sterling for its simplicity, brevity and conciseness, unadorned with personal reflections, maintaining constantly the dialogical form of the interrogations, retaining various phrases literally in the language in which they were pronounced, that is, in Spanish, but with understandable grammatical deficiencies, indicating the chronology from the time of the arrival of the Servants of God in Nagasaki, with one of the interpreters revealing his identity at one point of the interrogation as “A.C.” (Antonio Carvalho). The document has all the necessary requirements to be considered an authentic historical source.
On the other hand, always assuming the role of interpreters, the authors limited the document almost entirely to the acts of the trial. Few are their remarks about what occurred in the prison but sufficient to attest to the death of Father Antonio Gonzales in glorious martyrdom. They also speak about the procession of the Servants of God on the way to martyrdom, which agrees with what some Portuguese who witnessed the procession saw. The account concerning the death of the five other Servants of God, though brief, is direct, clear and trustworthy because these interpreters were there until the last moment, when they were taken out from the pits to be gutted, the services of the interpreters being needed all the time.
A few more observations may be made about the testimony of these witnesses. The details that are mentioned in the document about the background of the Servants of God, their Superiors, their departure from Manila, etc. are all accurate. The authors are only mistaken about one data, the roots of Padre Antonio Gonzales, which they say is Valencia in Leon. Father Guillermo Courtet is always referred to as Friar Tomas, a sign that he was registered upon arrival with his religious name, Fray Tomas de Santo Domingo. Padre Vicente de la Cruz speaks in his native tongue, which explains his apparent silence in the document. Two things are clearly said about Father Vicente: that “he fell,” that is to say, he fell away in the beginning and when they were on their way to martyrdom “he was redeemed” that is, that he was able to take back his apostasy. The interventions of Lorenzo Ruiz are well described, with fine psychological points. This Servant of God wanted to know if, denying his faith, they would spare his life; a curiosity that may be called a hesitation or a temptation, but immediately he regains his presence of mind to publicly and courageously declare that he was ready to give a thousand lives for God and for his Christian faith. As regards Lazaro, there is a problem that we cannot overlook.
7. The Problem of Lazaro
The last Servant of God in this group is a Japanese lay man (el japonés seglar), called such consistently by the interpreters Pedro Rodrigues and Antonio Carvalho. In other historical sources, he is known as Lazaro.
He is the only one among the six who is not mentioned in the title of the document. The interpreters expressly affirm that, a short time before he was brought before the tribunal, Lazaro apostatized and say that the motive was “fear” of the tortures. Despite his apostasy, the judges continued subjecting him to torture in the hope that they will be able to extract a confession about his motives of going with those religious, about persons who helped them or about possible complications with the Portuguese in Macau. But Lazaro had nothing special to declare to the satisfaction of the judges.
What is not made clear in the document is whether Lazaro, before he died, revoked his apostasy. Because the interpreters, in referring to the march to the place of martyrdom, say literally: “We are not aware whether the Japanese lay man who had fallen had risen.” We are not aware, that is to say, we can neither affirm nor deny, we do not know, we are not informed. We can conclude that the interpreters were witnesses of his death, because they saw him dead, but they are not witnesses of his martyrdom.
To establish his martyrdom, it is necessary to refer to other testimonies. As we shall see later in the Relatio of Domingo Gonzales, based on them and other witnesses of the martyrdom, it is categorically affirmed that Lazaro repented in prison and “he suffered the other tortures with Christian faith and for Christ, like his other six companions, without faltering again, and they were glorious martyrs of the Lord.” Based on this, the reconciliation happened in the prison. The interpreter-authors of this document, while knowing what was happening in the court interrogation did not know everything that happened in the prison. And otherwise, the sources that affirm his martyrdom do not bear the least contradiction in three centuries of uninterrupted tradition concerning his fame of martyrdom.
8. This text
The Portuguese original of the manuscript copy is difficult reading because it has many abbreviations, because it is in archaic Portuguese and because of the linguistic limitations of its authors. Its interpretation in modern orthography has been made by Ms. Maria Luisa Falcão, who has a Licentiate in Germanic Languages from the University of Lisboa, after many attentive readings. The Spanish version is from Fidel Villaroel, O.P., member of the Academia Filipina de la Lengua Española, who sought to offer a translation as literal as possible, even at the expense of literary perfection, divided into paragraphs to facilitate reading.
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[The Statements of Lorenzo Ruiz]
Father Friar Antonio being withdrawn from the torture, they bring in the native, who, being summoned for the torture, said:
- I would like to say that I know nothing of this. Why am I going to be tortured? Hear me first and do not proceed in this manner. I am a native (indio), the son of a Chinese father and a native mother. I am married and have two sons and one daughter. I cannot go to Manila because I have a pending case with a Spaniard. I came with these Fathers without knowing where they were going to escape from Manila, and as soon as we arrived in Japan, I wanted to leave in the very same boat (champan). And because they told me that the boat was going to the island of Formosa, I decided to stay with the Fathers because they are going to hang me in the island of Formosa.
The governors (buguios) said to him:
- Therefore, should we spare your life, will you deny your faith? – He responded:
- Certainly not, because I am a Christian, and I shall die for God and for him I shall give many thousands of lives if I had them. And so do what you want.
The governors ordered that they should not torture him. The Father Friar Antonio told him while on his way to the torture.
- Son, if you have anything to say against us, choose to say it and save your life. – This precisely, they say, is what proves the constancy of his faith. To this he responded that he knew nothing, and that he was willing to die because he no longer desired [to save] his life.