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Peter Faber

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For the jazz drummer of the same name, see Pierre Favre (musician).
For the environmental chemist of the same name, see Peter Faber (chemist).

Blessed Peter Faber (French Pierre Lefevre or Pierre Favre, Latin Petrus Faber) (April 13, 1506 - August 1, 1546) was a French Jesuit theologian and a cofounder of the Society of Jesus. He was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church on September 5, 1872.[1] [2]


Peter Faber (the Latin and English for French-named Pierre Favre), grew up in far east central France. He was born in the village of Villaret, Savoy, in the modern town of Saint-Jean-de-Sixt (Haute-Savoie). In his early life, he was a shepherd in the high pastures of the French Alps (in the Savoy region). As a child, while he tended his father's sheep during the week, on Sunday he taught catechism to other children. The instinctive knowledge of his vocation as an apostle inspired him with a desire to study. At first, he was entrusted to the care of a priest at Thônes and later to a neighbouring school at La Roche-sur-Foron. Although without any definite plans for the future, he resolved to go to Paris, France.

His parents consented to the separation, and in 1525, Peter arrived in Paris. Here he acquired the learning he desired and found, quite unexpectedly, his real vocation. He was admitted gratuitously to the College of Sainte-Barbe, University of Paris. He shared lodging of a student from Navarre, Francis of Xavier, the future saint, in a tower which still existed in 1850. Faber and Xavier became intimately attached to each other, receiving the degree of master of arts on the same day in 1530. At the university, Peter also met Ignatius of Loyola and became one of his associates. He tutored Ignatius in the Greek philosophy of Aristotle while Ignatius tutored the former shepherd in spiritual matters.

Faber was ordained in 1534, the first priest for the later formed Society of Jesus and received at Montmartre, on August 15 of the same year, the vows of Ignatius and his five companions. To these first six volunteers, three others were to attach themselves.

After Ignatius, Peter Faber was the one whom Xavier and his companions esteemed the most eminent. He merited this esteem by his profound knowledge, his gentle sanctity, and his influence over souls. After graduation, these three, together with other Paris graduates, undertook a process of communal discernment. Ignatius appointed them all to meet at Venice, and charged Faber to conduct them there. Leaving Paris November 15, 1536, Faber and his companions rejoined Ignatius at Venice in January, 1537. Ignatius then thought of going to evangelize the Holy Land, but concluded God had destined him for a vaster field of action. They decided to bind themselves together in an apostolic community that became the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuit Order.[1]

Faber then moved to Rome, and after some months of preaching and teaching, the Pope sent him to Parma and Piacenza, where he brought about a revival of Christian piety.

Recalled to Rome, Faber was sent to Germany to uphold Catholicism at the Diet of Worms. In reality the diets which the Protestants were enabled to hold through the weakness of Charles V accomplished no good. From the Diet of Worms, convoked in 1540, he was called to the Diet of Ratisbon in 1541. Faber was startled by the unrest which Protestantism had caused in Germany, and by the state of decadence presented by Catholicism; and Faber saw that the remedy did not lie in discussions with the Protestants, but in the reform of the Roman Catholic — above all, of the clergy. For ten months, at Speyer, at Ratisbon, and at Mainz, he conducted himself with gentleness and success. It was above all by the Spiritual Exercises, that he accomplished most of his conversions. Princes, prelates, and priests revealed their consciences to him, and people were astounded by the efficacy of an apostolate accomplished so rapidly. Recalled to Spain by St. Ignatius, Faber tore himself away from the field where he had already gathered such a harvest, and won Savoy, which has never ceased to venerate him as a saint; but he had hardly been in Spain six months when by order of the Pope he was again sent to Germany.

This time for nineteen months, Faber was to work for the reform of Speyer, Mainz, and Cologne — a difficult task. However, he gained the ecclesiastics little by little, changed their hearts, and discovered in the young many vocations. That he decided the vocation of St. Peter Canisius is in itself sufficient to justify his being called the Apostle of Germany. The Archbishop of Cologne, Hermann of Wied, was already in favor of Lutheranism which he was later publicly to embrace. It was also at Cologne that Faber especially exercised his zeal. After spending some months at Leuven, in 1543, where he implanted the seeds of numerous vocations among the young, he returned to Cologne. But he was forced by obedience to leave Germany in August, 1544, going at first to Portugal, later to Spain.

At the court of Lisbon and that of Valladolid, Faber was an angel of God. He was called to the principal cities of Spain, and everywhere inculcated fervor and fostered vocations. Let it suffice to mention that of Francis Borgia, which he, more than anyone else, was the means of strengthening. Faber, at forty, was wasted by his incessant labours and his unceasing journeys always made on foot. The pope, however, thought of sending him to the Council of Trent as theologian of the Holy See; John III of Portugal wanted him to be made Patriarch of Ethiopia.

He was instrumental in establishing the Society of Jesus in Portugal, and was appointed by Pope Paul III to be one of the papal theologians at the Council of Trent, but he only made it to Rome on his way to the Council. Faber, weakened by fever on his journey, arrived there July 17, 1546, to die in the arms of St. Ignatius in Rome, on August 1, 1546, at the age of 40.

Historical Context

Strangely, John Calvin was going through his own trials at the University of Paris during the same time Faber (Favre), Xavier and Ignatius were laying the foundation of the Jesuits. The Society of Jesus and Calvinists long accused each other of stealing ideas from the other. Scholars believe this to be because of the similar backgrounds and philosophies of both groups.

Faber became an effective preacher and giver of the Spiritual Exercises, working in Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Germany. Much of his ministry was in Germany. There he drew up guidelines for ecumenical dialogue with Lutherans, but unfortunately these were hardly put into practice. He was known, among the early companions of the Jesuits to be the finest guide for those making the Spiritual Exercises.

Posthumous recognition

Francis Xavier, Peter Faber and Ignatius of Loyola all became roommates at the University of Paris and are recognized by the Catholic Church's Jesuits as founders of the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuit Order.

Those who had known him already invoked him as a saint. Saint Francis de Sales, whose character recalled that of Faber's, never spoke of him except as a saint. Peter Faber was beatified on September 5, 1872. His feast is kept on August 8.

He is being honored as part of the 2006 Jesuit Jubilee Year which celebrates the spirit of the founders of the Society of Jesus on three special Jesuit anniversaries:

  • 500th anniversary of the birth of Francis Xavier - born April 7, 1506
  • 500th anniversary of the birth of Peter Faber - born April 13, 1506
  • 450th anniversary of the death of Ignatius Loyola - died July 31, 1556

The jubilee year officially began December 3, 2005 [3]

These anniversaries were celebrated in the Jesuits Jubilee year 2006. Lecture series, publications, art and music events marked these anniversaries throughout 2006 at Regis University and within Jesuit institutions around the world.[1]


External links

This article incorporates text from the entry Bl. Peter Faber in Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913, a publication now in the public domain.cs:Petr Faberja:ピエール・ファーヴル no:Peter Faberru:Фавр, Пьер Эмиль Лазар fi:Pierre Favre sv:Pierre Favre

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