Take care, take care, never to close your heart to anyone. —Peter Faber, SJ
August 2, 2021 — Today is the feast of St. Peter Faber, SJ, one of the most underappreciated Jesuit saints. Here are six important things to know about him:
- Faber co-founded the Society of Jesus.
Faber was born in 1506 to a peasant family in the Upper Savoy region of France. In 1525, he traveled to Paris for his studies, where he met Francis Xavier and Ignatius Loyola. Together under the leadership of Ignatius, they and four other companions would form the Society of Jesus.
- He was a spiritual director par excellence.
Ignatius considered Peter, a man of great gentleness and openness, the person best suited to direct others in the Spiritual Exercises, a series of meditations, prayers and other contemplative practices developed by Ignatius for spiritual growth.
“Like Francis De Sales after him, wherever Faber went he made new friends across all strata of society,” writes Fr. Charles Morris. “His deep desire was to bring each person he met to a closer friendship and loved to engage in conversation.”
- Working in a time of great strife between Catholics and Protestants, Faber stressed peaceful encounter.
The period after the Reformation was violent and tense, and Peter found himself in the middle of the conflict. He always approached those on the other side of arguments with charity and patience, even praying for them.
- Faber was a man on the move and a man of deep prayer — a model of a “contemplative in action.”
Over seven years of ministry, Faber crisscrossed more than 25 European cities preaching a Catholic renewal. As he went, he composed his “Memiorale,” a spiritual autobiography. “It is a remembering of God’s deeds in Faber’s life, a continuing dialogue with God as the primary partner and sometimes also with the saints, the angels (to whom he had a special devotion), his Jesuit brethren and the ‘spirits’ of the cities he passed through,” writes Jesuit historian John Padberg, SJ. “Faber’s side of the conversation exhibits his desires, the spiritual ‘motions’ he experienced, discernment of their meanings and requests for enlightenment.” Faber didn’t travel 15,000 miles on foot and muleback because of his own ambition or ego. He was deeply in touch with the Holy Spirit, who guided his vision.
- Faber is Pope Francis’ favorite Jesuit and the saint’s approach inspires the Holy Father’s own ministry.
Pope Francis has long admired Faber for 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.” He canonized Faber as a saint on December 17, 2013 — Pope Francis’ own 77th birthday.