St Pierre Favre: "Truly a Companion of Jesus"
Saturday 2 August is the Feast of St Pierre Favre SJ – the first since he was canonised by Pope Francis last year. One of the original Companions alongside St Ignatius Loyola and St Francis Xavier, it was Favre who was ordained first and presided over the Mass at Montmartre at which they committed themselves to founding the Society of Jesus. When Pope Francis announced his ‘equivalent canonisation’ last December, the Jesuit Superior General Father Adolfo Nicolás said: “Today we recognise in his life and legacy a way of proceeding that is genuinely Ignatian and profoundly rooted in the person of our Lord; Favre (also known as Peter Faber) was truly a companion of Jesus.”
For much of his life, Favre devoted himself to dialoguing with those who had broken away from the Church of Rome—in particular, Lutherans. He covered more than 12,000 miles by foot and by mule, giving lectures, preaching, hearing confessions, engaging in spiritual conversations and guiding many through the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius. Above all, he made a point of never condemning the so-called ‘heretics’, saying: “We must love them in deed and in truth. We need to win their goodwill so that they will love us and really confide in us. We must first seek to establish concord by dwelling on the things that unite us, rather than on matters which give rise to conflicting opinions.”
As a respected theologian, Favre was invited to take part in the Council of Trent, called by the Pope in 1545. However, he fell ill in Rome and died with Ignatius close by on 1 August 1546.
Father General Nicolás described Favre as “a man of the Ignatian charism, moulded by the method of the (Spiritual) Exercises, disposed to look for and find God in all things, and always creative when the opportunity arose for ‘providing a method and order’ for prayer to quite different people in the most diverse situations.
“His conversation bore fruit because it sprang from an inner life inhabited by the presence of God,” Fr Nicolás continued. “Any circumstance, place, or moment was an occasion for an encounter with God. Master Favre (Faber) was, above all but without claiming to be so, a Master of prayer. He understood that his friendship with Jesus was based on the mysteries of the Life of Christ, ‘lessons of the Spirit’ for his vocation and his Christification, which he contemplated piously and from which he knew how 'to reflect on so as to obtain some benefit'."
Shortly before announcing his intention to canonise Favre, Pope Francis spoke of his “dialogue with all, 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.”