Will the Real San Lazaro, Please Stand Up!

This article is written in response to a request from one of our readers to differentiate between the Canonized Saint Lazarus and San Lazaro, a popular religious figure in the Cuban culture.
by Arnold Castro | Source: Catholic.net
In today's times, Saints are venerated but they are hardly household names. In fact, The Roman Martyrology which was last released by the Vatican on December 4, 2004 (1), lists some 6,500 saint names.

I investigated one Saint recently who seemed to have a dual identity, one that I'm sure has confused a lot of Catholics. According to Catholic tradition, there is only one Lazarus that has been canonized. That saint is Lazarus of Bethany.

On December 17th, 72 AD, Lazarus of Bethany, who was by this time the Bishop of Marseille, was beheaded for his belief in Christ and converting many people to become Christians. Lazarus, as you may know, was made known to us in the Book of John, Chapter 11. Jesus, upon hearing the news of the death of his close friend, raised him from the dead after being expired for 4 days.

After Lazarus' resurrection and six days before Passover, Jesus was in Bethany visiting with Lazarus and his family hosted by Martha who catered the dinner. Many Jews, by this time, were turning away and believing in Jesus because of the miracle of rising Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus' life, as well as that of Jesus, were in danger as threats were being made against them. Depending on which tradition you believe, Lazarus fled for Cyprus to protect himself from the Jewish people that were threatening his life. It was there that he lived for the next 30 years where he was killed and buried.

The dual identity I refer too is that of San Lazaro. San Lazaro is a Cuban religious figure that is highly venerated by the Cuban culture. He is also compared to another Cuban religious figure called Bablu' Aye' . In fact, when mentioning Babalu' Aye' and San Lazaro in Cuban circles, you are generally referring to the same person, albeit from two different cultures, Cuban and Afro-Cuban. 

I came across a documentthat explains in very great detail the history and confusion of Saint Lazarus, who the Roman Catholic Church has canonized and that of San Lazaro who has never been canonized and is in fact the same person referred to in the bible as Lazarus. Confusing I know but after reading this document, I had a much clearer understanding on why there are two Saint Lazaro's and how the one culture may be venerating the wrong Saint. It is also interesting to note that both Saints, Lazarus and Lazaro are patron saints of the poor and sick.

To view the document, you will have to be able to view it in PDF format as the site that hosts it, defaults to that document style. If you have trouble reading it, go here to download the latest version of Adobe Reader. 

(1) The Roman Martyrology Book, 2004

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