Michael Ho-Dinh Hy

                                                                                                             Vietnamese Version
 
Michael Hy Ho-Dinh (Vietnamese: Micae Hồ Đình Hy) (1808-1857) was the youngest of the five remaining twelve
children, he was married to a Christian from another family and had two sons and three daughters. Like other Christians at the time, they practiced their faith in private. At age of 21, he obtained the Fifth rank mandarin and appointed Superintendent of the Royal silk mills afterward. He was one of the few trusted officials who traveled abroad to conduct trades with other countries like Singapore and Malaysia. At the height of Christian persecution, when his eldest son requested to become a priest, he arranged to have him studied in Indonesia. After his remaining son died at the age of 12, Michael Hy Ho-Dinh declined to have his elder son returned home, according to Confucian traditions, citing he could not protect his own faith. During his years at the king's post, he performed many charitable acts to local unfortunates and helped to transport French and Portuguese missionaries on the waterways through his region under the guise of official business. His quick thinking helped the missionaries to travel through Vietnam discretely and safely. The memoirs wrote that he personnally traded his official robe as payment when the ship that transported the bishop of Society of Foreign Missions of Paris accidentally caused damages to a local merchant ship. He also offered clemency to robbers of the Royal silk mill, when they were captured. He was entrusted to guard missionaries' written records. He did not practice the faith publicly until late in life, becoming protector of the Christian community, which irked his fellow mandarins.
 

Late in Life

Unlike other unnamed Vietnamese Martyrs whose lives and deeds were orally recorded, parts of his life could be found in memoirs of Fathers of Foreign Missions (Society of Foreign Missions of Paris), France. As he reached retirement age, Michael Dinh-Hy Ho petitioned to Emperor Tu Duc for his resignation.  The Emperor, citing his loyalty and honesty, refused his resignation and commanded him to remain at his post.  Michael Hy Ho-Dinh was certain the Emperor would look more kindly on him, if his Christian activities were to be discovered.  Soon afterward, a local magistrate, discontented after Michael Dinh-Hy Ho denied him access to the Royal silk mill, petitioned to the king for his arrest based on his Christian activities and he suffered beheading by royal decree. He was the last high ranked official to be executed under the Nguyễn Dynasty.

Death

During his imprisonment and torture, he played a gambit with the local magistrates by signing a confession that he was involved with the French government, who would not favor the Vietnam courts persecuting Christians. The gambit did not work. The bishop of Society of Foreign Missions of Paris secretly requested that he recant his confession because it only resulted in more persecutions and France would not justified her presence in Vietnam based on religious persecutions. He repented and signed a corrected confession, but it never made to the king's court. His last days were spent in repentance and humility.

At the king's decree, he was beheaded after suffering public humiliation, and all of his possessions were confiscated by the local magistrates. Some witnesses accounted that he refused his last meal and chose to die near his birth place instead of at the execution site. He also chose to wear his official robe instead of prisoner garb on his last day. The memoirs of Fathers of Foreign Missions (Society of Foreign Missions of Paris) mentioned he received last rites discretely by local priests and was survived by his wife and a married daughter. His remains were buried at the Cathedral of Phú Cam and his birth place.  Witnesses accounts also indicated the executioner botched the job when delivering the deadly blow.  Michael Hy suffered multiple swings to his jaws and neck, before the final blow.

During his imprisonment and years after his death, Michael Hy Ho-Dinh were criticized for his written confession as means for further Christian persecution. Twenty five years after his death, his eldest son, a retired priest, returned from Indonesia and justified his father's gambit. His written confession named him and his immediate family, along with non-existent people in the surrounding towns as Christians. As a result, his parents, in-laws and other relatives were spared from his fate. Other Christian towns and villages, while were raided, ended up with no further arrests.

Canonisation

He was petitioned to the Vatican for sainthood in 1867 by Father Louis Pallard of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris. He was beatified in 1900 by Pope Leo XIII in the Fortissimorum Virorum Seriem. Pope John Paul II canonized him in 1988 along with other 116 Vietnamese Martyrs
 
His relics are kept at the Vatican and divided among his descendants.  The relics in Vatican include his official robe and a large cloth cover of the chair that he once used during his days in the Royal court.  The relics distributed among his descendants are smaller pieces of the same chair cover.

To commemorate his beatification in 1900, a historian, Phước Môn Nguyễn Hữu Bài, educated under the Vietnam court, summarized his life as followed:

Traditional characters Modern translations
Tự Đức ngự đề văn khổ khắc,
Đức Lêo châu điểm nét tiêu diêu
 
Emperor Tự Đức condemned his earthly life,
Pope Leo glorified him in the After Life.
Several churches were dedicated to St. Michael Hy, including the Cathedral of Phu Cam, Vietnam, and in Maryland, US. 
 
References
  1. Catholics Online
  2. The Persecutions of Annam: A History of Christianity in Cochin China and Tonking
  3. The holiness of the church in the nineteenth century: saintly men and women
  4. Butler's Lives of the Saints
  5. A New Dictionary of Saints: East and West
  6. Mandarins and martyrs: the church and the Nguyen dynasty in early nineteenth