Blessed Andrew, known as the ‘Protomartyr of Vietnam’, was born in the province of RanRan (Phú Yên) around 1625, and was gifted with intelligence and a good heart. 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 was baptized in 1641, when he would have been about 15 years of age. Andrew became 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 purge the Christians from his kingdom. Fr de Rhodes, unaware of this, paid the King 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. He was told he must leave the country and no longer teach Christian doctrine to the Cochin-Chinese. Because they 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 soldiers were sent to Fr de Rhodes’ house, where they found young Andrew. 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 Mandarin Ong Nghe Bo , who tried in various ways to make Andrew ‘desist from that foolish opinion of his, and give up the faith’. But Andrew replied that he was a Christian and most ready to undergo any suffering rather than abandon the law that he professed. The Mandarin ordered that he be taken to prison.
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, along with many Portuguese and Vietnamese Christians and 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.
At the time of his death in 1644, Andrew was 19 or 20. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 2000.