Blessed Pierre Favre
Favre to be declared a saint in December
Blessed Pierre (Peter) Favre, one of the first Jesuits and a close companion of St Ignatius, is due to be canonised next month, according to reports in the Italian Press. The Catholic newspaper Avvenire has reported that the process for his cause in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints is complete and all that now remains is for Pope Francis to issue the Bull of Canonisation that will proclaim him a saint.
"This is a great joy for many of us Jesuits," writes Fr Tim Byron SJ in his blog Schola Affectus (link below). "He is often quoted as being one of the favourite first companions, but relatively unknown outside of the Society of Jesus. It seems that Pope Francis shares his fellow Jesuits' affection for this great man."
Favre was born in the Upper Savoy region of France in 1506 and was regarded very highly by St Ignatius as the companion he trusted the most to give the Spiritual Exercises as well as being a great preacher. He died in Rome in 1547 just a few weeks before he was due to attend the Council of Trent and was beatified in September 1872.
Pope Francis will be following what is known as "equivalent canonisation" for this process which is when the pope omits the judicial procedure and ceremonies involved and formally acknowledges the sanctity of a figure whom people have long been venerating. It is a process which was used by both his predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
In the famous interview that Pope Francis gave to Jesuit publications including Thinking Faith in October he said this about Favre:
"[His] dialogue with all, even the most remote and even with his opponents; his simple piety, a certain na´vetÚ 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."
Fr Byron says Favre "had a remarkable skill in what we call 'spiritual conversation'. [He was] a great preacher and [had] a remarkable ability to reconcile warring factions, particular families that were divided. This 'spiritual skill set' which would be valuable at any time was especially needed in the spiritual fractious times of the Reformation. He was sent by St Ignatius to be an expert at the Council of Trent. His reputation grew so fast that the he was missioned directly by popes and sent into flash points in Germany such as Speyer, Mainz, and Cologne, where Catholic Bishops were teetering towards Lutheranism."
Irish Jesuit Fr Brian O'Leary SJ described Pierre Favre as "both simple and sensitive who can be equally at his ease with royalty and peasantry, with the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant. It is notable that Favre's greatest successes in apostolate came through the personal contacts of giving the Spiritual Exercises and holding spiritual conversations with people from all walks of life. Ignatius himself said that of all the early companions, Favre gave the Exercises best. He has absorbed them so completely himself that he had become almost an alter ego to Ignatius: but he also possessed that gift of communicating what he believed and lived, without at the same time allowing his personality to get in the way of the working of the Holy Spirit." The Way Books 1979/2006
The Way: article on Favre by Michel de Certeau
Pope Francis on Thinking Faith