When first hearing about this person, I had no clue who they were or anything else. The only thing I figured out was that he was Vietnamese.
But, there’s actually many interesting things about this inspiring person. He is said to be the protomartyr, the first martyr, or the country of Vietnam.
Andrew came from his baptism name, and Phu Yen is the district where he came from. He was a student of Fr. Alexandre de Rhodes, and helped the Jesuit missionaries while they were in Vietnam.
How did Andrew come to be a martyr? It’s actually an interesting story, the Mandarin had went to the house of Fr. Alexandre de Rhodes, but they did not find Fr. Alexandre, only Andrew. Interestingly enough, Andrew self-confessed that he was a Christian, and so the Mandarin took him to prison when he refused to deny his Catholic faith.
They then decided that Andrew would have to be executed. When word reached Fr. Alexandre of Andrew’s upcoming execution, Fr. Alexandre went and bought a new traditional rug for Andrew to kneel on when he would be beheaded. But, Andrew refused to do so saying, “Let my blood soak into the soil of the Vietnam.”
When he was beheaded, he did not die the first time being struck, but an audible “Giesu, Maria, (Jesus, Mary)” was heard. The second time, Andrew Phu Yen repeated it, but still did not die, yet. The soldier striking Andrew was upset at this moment and struck Andrew the third time, and as Andrew slowly died, a soft “Giesu, Maria” could be heard from the mouth of Andrew.
He was beatified by Pope Saint John Paul the II on March 5, 2000. His feast day is July 26.
What an inspiring young man who died at the age of 19-20. His life story resonates in the hearts of many Vietnamese Americans who know or have heard of the struggles of Christian persecution in Vietnam. On this feast day of St. Andrew Dung Lac and companions, let’s all try to hope to have faith strong enough to choose our faith and not fear death.