Andrew of Phú Yên
|Blessed Andrew of Phu Yen|
|Protomartyr of Vietnam|
Phu Yen Province, Vietnam
|Died||1644 (aged 19)
Ke Kham, Vietnam
|Beatified||5 March 2000, Rome by Pope John Paul II|
Blessed Andrew of Phu Yen (1624 – 26 July 1644) is known as the "Protomartyr of Vietnam." Baptized in 1641, he was a dedicated assistant to Jesuit missionaries and was thus arrested in the purge of Christians launched in 1644. After refusing to abjure the faith, he was put to death in Ke Kham. Andrew was beatified by Pope John Paul II on March 5, 2000. His feast day is July 26.
Bl. Andrew came from the province of RanRan (Phú Yên), today in Viet Nam, and was gifted with intelligence and a good heart. On the insistence of his mother, Fr. Alexander de Rhodes, a French Jesuit missionary, agreed to include him among his students. Andrew soon surpassed his fellow pupils. Together with his mother, he received Baptism in 1641. He would have been about 15 years of age, having been born in 1625 or 1626. At the time of his death in 1644, he was 19 or 20. In 1642 Andrew become one of Fr. de Rhodes' closest co-workers and, after a year of further formation, he joined the Maison Dieu ("House of God") catechist association which Fr. de Rhodes had instituted. Its members made a public promise to spend their entire lives serving the Church by helping priests and spreading the Gospel.
Before the end of July 1644, Mandarin Ong Nghe Bo returned to the province which he governed and where Andrew was living. He had orders from the King of Annam to prevent the expansion of Christianity in his kingdom. Fr. de Rhodes, unaware of the Mandarin's intentions, paid him a courtesy visit, but was quickly informed that the King of Annam was angered at the great number of Cochin-Chinese who were following the Christian faith. Fr. de Rhodes must therefore leave the country and no longer teach Christian doctrine to the Cochin-Chinese; since the latter were the subjects of the King, they would incur the most severe penalties.
Fr. de Rhodes left the palace and went directly to the prison where an elderly catechist was already incarcerated. Meanwhile the Mandarin had sent soldiers to Fr. de Rhodes' house in search of another catechist, but he had left on an apostolic mission. They found young Andrew instead. In order not to return empty-handed to Ong Nghe Bo, they beat Andrew, bound him and transferred him to the Governor's palace.
On 25 July 1644 Andrew was taken to the Mandarin, who tried in various ways to make Andrew "desist from that foolish opinion of his, and give up the faith". But he replied that he was a Christian and most ready to undergo any suffering rather than abandon the law that he professed. Indignant at Andrew's inflexibility, the Mandarin ordered that he be taken to prison. The young Andrew was so serene and joyous at being able to suffer for Christ that people who came to see him recommended themselves to his prayers. He would not hear of this, but asked them to pray that God might give him the grace to be faithful to the end and to "respond with fullness of love to the infinite love of his Lord, who gave his life for men, by giving his own life".
The next day, 26 July, Andrew was taken to the Governor's public audience, where he was sentenced to death. In the afternoon, a captain led Andrew down the streets of Ke Cham to the place of execution, a field outside the city. Fr. de Rhodes, many Portuguese and Vietnamese Christians, and even pagans followed the procession and witnessed the killing. Andrew exhorted the Christians to remain firm in their faith, not to be saddened by his death, and to help him with their prayers to be faithful to the end. He was executed with some blows of a lance and, finally, when he was about to be beheaded with a scimitar, he cried out the name of Jesus in a loud voice. Andrew accepted the sacrifice of his life for the faith and love of Christ.
Andrew was beatified by Pope John Paul II on March 5, 2000. In Blessed Andrew’s beatification homily, Pope John Paul II preached “The words he repeated as he advanced on the path of martyrdom are the expression of what motivated his whole life: ‘Let us return love for love to our God, let us return life for life.’
July 26, the date of his martyrdom, is Blessed Andrew of Phu Yen’s feast day.