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From the Pastor 09/23/18

On September 26 we will celebrate the Optional Memorial of SS. Cosmas and Damian, Martyrs. Little is known of the lives of these two saints except that they suffered martyrdom in Syria during the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian. Being prominent practitioners of medicine, it would have been hard for them to have remained unnoticed.

A church erected on the site of their burial was enlarged by the emperor Justinian. Devotion to the two saints spread rapidly in both East and West, and a famous basilica was erected in their honor in Constantinople. Their names were placed in the Roman Canon probably in the sixth century.

Legend says that they were twin brothers born in Arabia who were both skilled doctors. They were among those who are venerated in the East as the “moneyless ones” because, purportedly, they did not charge a fee for their services.


Image: A verger’s dream: Saints Cosmas and Damian performing a miraculous cure by Transplantation of a leg. Oil painting attributed to the Master of Los Balbases, ca. 1495.,

For a long time, it seems, we have been very conscious of Jesus’ miracles as proofs of his divinity. What we sometimes overlook is Jesus’ consuming interest in simply healing people’s sickness, whatever other meaning his actions had. The power that “went out from him” was indeed a sign that God was definitively breaking into human history in final fulfillment of his promises; but the love of God was also concrete in a very human heart that was concerned about the suffering of his brothers and sisters. It is a reminder to Christians that salvation is for the whole person, the unique body-spirit unity.

Saints Cosmas and Damian are the Patron Saints of barbers, pharmacists, physicians, and surgeons.

On September 28 of this week we celebrate the Memorial of SS. Dominic Ibañez, Lawrence Ruiz and Companions, Martyrs.

St. Dominic Ibañez and his companions were martyred between 1633 and 1637 in Japan. This is the fourth of the four groups of Japanese martyrs, historically speaking, and of these 16 martyrs is included the first Filipino martyr, St. Lawrence Ruiz, who was a husband and father as well as a member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary.

In the words of St. Guillermo Courtet, they went to Japan “only to preach faith in God and to teach salvation to little ones and to the innocent and to all the rest of the people.”

These Japanese martyrs came mostly from the Philippines (or from Spain through the Philippines) to Japan. When St. Dominic Ibañez first arrived in Japan in 1623, Christianity was tolerated because a powerful shogun was supportive of it. However, subsequent shoguns weren’t. This led to a resurgence in the persecutions that had started back in 1587 with the “Edict of Expulsion of all Missionaries.” As a result, the Dominicans ended up working in secret, until they were found out and martyred by crucifixions, beheadings, water torture, and the “gallows and hole” torture, which often lasted for days. The Second Reading for Matins on this feast, by St. Dominic Ibañez, is particularly detailed when it comes to describing the martyrdoms:

Last month, many were burned alive and about thirty were sawed in two. As horrible as these were, the tortures by which they tried to force the sufferers to renounce the faith were even more cruel. They slowly boiled some in water mixed with sulphur, resin, oil, and other things to increase the pain; they crucified others, some they submerged in freezing water, others they buried up to the waist and sawed them in half slowly, so that the pain might be dragged out over seven or eight days. Up to this point, they have only executed the religious by burning them alive while suspended over a pit, so that since the flames did not encircle the body they might die slowly.

Let us then pray for the Church in Japan and look to the martyrs as an example of fidelity and faithfulness to the spread of the Gospel. As Pope St. John Paul II said in his canonization homily,

“The Holy martyrs speak to the Church in Japan, particularly to the Archdiocese of Nagasaki, to the Church in Taiwan and in Macao and to all Christ’s followers in Asia: may the example and intercession of the new Saints help to extend Christian truth and love throughout the length and breadth of this vast continent! ” O Lord, give us the perseverance of your blessed martyrs Dominic, James, Lawrence, and their companions, in service of you and our neighbor; for they who suffered persecution for the sake of justice now reign with you among the blessed. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.

A blessed week to all,

Rev. André-Joseph LaCasse, O.P., Pastor