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Saint César de Bus: The catechism for all

Marie Anne Torres

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Blessed César de Bus will be canonized on May 15, 2022. Used with permission from the Fathers of Christian Doctrine.
During his life Saint César de Bus demonstrated his love for two things especially – the catechism and those on the outer reaches of society.
Through his example, he reminds us to go out to the peripheries, to the marginalized, as Pope Francis so often calls us to do.
But more than this, Saint César de Bus also shows us how to share the Word of God in totality while meeting each person where they are – not just physically but also spiritually. Despite living centuries ago, his passion to explore ways to make the catechism simple and familiar to all makes him a saint relevant to the Church today.
“Are you going to crucify me again?”
César de Bus was born on February 3, 1544, in Cavillon, France. He was the seventh of thirteen children. Raised in a Catholic home and attending a Jesuit school, he lived his faith devoutly as a child.
As a young adult, however, his life was rocky. He was plagued with indecisiveness and struggled to find his place and purpose in the world.
Alternating between a career in the French Army or as a writer and painter, he eventually settled on the military, only to have his hopes dashed at the onset of a serious illness.
From there, no doubt lost and disappointed, he travelled to Paris and caved in to a lifestyle of partying and chasing after worldly pleasures.
One night, headed to yet another party, he heard the words in his soul, “Are you going to crucify me again?” Shaken, he returned home and spent the night in prayer.
Months later, his conversion now in progress, he found himself at a ball. Unamused, he left the festivities and went wandering around the streets alone. Stumbling upon a convent, in which he could hear nuns singing aloud, he reportedly exclaimed: “What a wretch I am! These nuns get up at night to praise God, while I, at night, go to offend Him.”
From then on his life changed irreversibly.
“The little ones”
In 1557, he was ordained a priest. During a two-year hermitage filled with prayer and study, he encountered the life and works of St. Charles Borromeo, igniting a lifelong devotion to catechesis, similar to that of the saint.
The Word of God also became fundamental for him. He meditated upon Scripture daily.
When his hermitage was complete, inspired with a mission to share the Word of God with “the little ones”, he ventured out to the peripheries – to the poor and marginalized in remote areas.
As César de Bus taught the faith, he used simple, familiar language in order to make the catechesis easy to understand. This drew people in.
While preaching, he enjoyed connecting the Word of God to concrete, daily experiences. He often looked for innovative ways to present Scripture, such as painting images by hand on tablets, or songs.
Whether for a child, an entire family, or someone who had never learned to read or write, he made the faith within reach.
One could say that for César sharing the catechism was not simply a task but rather a lifestyle.
He profoundly penned, “Everything in us must catechize, we must become a living catechism.”
When other men desired to share in this life, he founded an order of priests called the Fathers of Christian Doctrine. This was followed by an order for women, the Daughters of Christian Doctrine.
On April 15, 1607, in Avignon, he died of natural causes.
Today, the Fathers of Christian Doctrine operate in Italy, France, Brazil, Burundi, and India. His charism has grown into a Doctrinarian Family Movement, as well as a Doctrinarian Fraternity of the Word.
The call for each of us
César de Bus’ saintly witness calls us to root our lives in the Word, as he did.
Furthermore, he reminds us to go to the peripheries to seek out “the little ones” and to find new ways to evangelize and to present the faith in accessible, relatable forms.
He lived so long ago, yet his life embodies all that we are called to live in our Church today. Whatever our mission or vocation in life, as we seek to pass on the faith to new generations and new witnesses, we can call on his intercession.
St. César de Bus, pray for us!

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