VATICAN CITY – Cesar Willy De Vroe had lost everything. He no longer had any contact with his three siblings, he had no worldly possessions, and his health had deteriorated. But Cesar, a homeless man who lived in Rome, was given a Requiem Mass at the Vatican yesterday. His body was laid to rest in the cemetery of the Teutonic College within the walls of the Vatican.
Cesar spent most of his life seeking refuge. He referred to himself as “God’s tramp”. His journey started at a young age. Cesar’s mother was a prostitute, so he found a home with Father Daniele Bisato, a pastor of San Agostino in Ventimiglia. Since September 2017, he lived with the Missionaries of Charity in Rome.
When he was 47 years old, Cesar had an encounter with the Lord and became a member of the Catholic Church. He didn’t let his poverty stop him from living a generous life for the Lord. Even in the harshest of conditions, he would give the little he had away to those who needed it more. “Even though people don’t believe me, every time I give, or give something away, I have the same or get back twice as much that same day,” he once said when asked about his generosity.
Cesar passed away on January 4, 2018 – just before the feast of Epiphany. In his funeral homily, Monsignor Smet said Cesar and the three kings were not that much different. They were all “vagrants of God,” seeking “fullness of life and happiness.”
“The three Magi,” Monsignor Smet said, “are men of all colors and races, of all convictions and religions, of all classes, learned and simple, big and small, rich and poor, tramps and sick.”
There are many lessons to be drawn from Cesar’s life and the feast of Epiphany. “The three Magi are us,” continued Monsignor Smet. “And like the Magi of the Gospel, we too are looking at a star that guides us towards the Child of Bethlehem, an incarnation of God’s infinite love for us.”
Cesar’s body was laid to rest beside Willy Herteleer. In 2015, Willy was the first homeless man to be buried in the Vatican cemetery in many years. Willy spent his time on earth as a street missionary, asking pilgrims, “When did you last go to confession? Are you going to communion? Do you go to Mass?”
Cesar and Willy both lived in the margins of society. But their lives are a testament of the power of faith, hope, and love.