The story behind Pierre Faber

Peter Favre

On Sunday it was reported that Pope Francis would canonise Peter Faber.  For many Catholics the response was probably, 'Who?' For most Jesuits, though, the response was probably, 'Finally!', writes James Martin SJ.

For Pierre Favre has been a Blessed since...1872. In the Pope's recent interview in America magazine, he singled out for praise the man often called the 'Second Jesuit.'  The interviewer, Antonio Spadaro, SJ, asked the pope the reason for his devotion to this 'First Companion' of St Ignatius of Loyola.

“[Pierre Favre's] dialogue with all,” said the pope, 'even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain naïveté perhaps, his being available straightaway, his careful interior discernment, the fact that he was a man capable of great and strong decisions but also capable of being so gentle and loving.'

Favre spent a great deal of his Jesuit life working with Protestants during the explosive time of the Reformation; and, as the Pope intimated, he always did so with great openness and charity--during a time when they were called 'heretics.'  One of my favorite quotes from Pierre--no, my favorite--is: 'Take care, take care, never to close your heart to anyone.'

Favre was said by St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, to be the man best suited to direct others in the Spiritual Exercises.  But, surprisingly, Favre's story is not nearly as well known as those of his two famous college roommates, Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier.

(When I once asked an elderly Jesuit why Favre was still a Blessed and not a saint, he said, 'Even in heaven he is humble!  He doesn't want to place himself on par with Ignatius and Xavier.')  Many Jesuits are devoted to this humble spiritual master: the new Jesuit residence at Boston College for men in formation is named after him--though they may have to sandblast the 'Blessed' on the stone sign in front of the house.  But he still languishes in relative obscurity.

Or will for another month.  Indeed, that so many writers can't even agree on a standard way of referring to the man--you will see, variously, the original French 'Pierre Favre,' the somewhat modified Anglo-French 'Peter Favre,' and the totally Anglicised 'Peter Faber'--is an indication of the lack of attention given him.  

FULL STORY Who was Pierre Favre?