August 1st: Blessed Peter Favre, SJ

Blessed Peter Favre, SJ

Born: April 13, 1506
Died: August 1 , 1546
Beatified: Sept 5, 1872

Peter Favre was born in Savoy, France and as a youth, he shepherded his father’s flock on the Alps. He had no education but was gifted with an extraordinary memory where he could hear a sermon in the morning and then repeat it verbatim in the afternoon to other children. He longed to go to school and wept himself to sleep every night until his parents finally gave in to his wishes and sent him to a small school operated by the parish priest seven miles away. The 10-year old Peter learnt to read and write and the following year went to La Roche, 12 miles away where he remained until he went to the University of Paris in 1525.

In Paris, Peter resided at the College of Sainte-Barbe where his room-mate was Francis Xavier. Both studied philosophy and later theology. In 1529, they accepted another room-mate, Ignatius of Loyola. Peter was Ignatius’ guide in academic matters and Ignatius served as Peter’s guide in spiritual matters. And it was under Ignatius’ influence that Peter decided to become a priest, and shortly before his ordination Ignatius led him through the 30 days spiritual exercises.

Peter was the first among Ignatius’ 6 companions to be ordained in 1534. While waiting for their journey to the Holy Land, the group placed themselves at the disposal of the Pope. When their journey to the Holy Land was aborted because of imminent war with the Turks, Peter was appointed to assist Cardinal Ennio Filonardi in preaching reform in Parma where the clergy had become lax and the faithful neglected of their religion. Through his teachings, the Parmesan were again attending church. After a year, Peter was instructed to accompany Dr Pedro Ortiz, Emperor Charles V’s representative to the religious colloquy between Catholics and Protestants at Worms, Germany and later in Radisson. In view of the numerous requests from priests, prelates and princes to make the spiritual exercises available to them, he wrote to Ignatius that there was enough work for 10 more Jesuits.

After the collapse of the colloquy, Peter returned to Spain where he gave missions and sermons and retreats to the clergy, paving the way for more Jesuits to come to Spain. Between 1542 and 1544, Peter took on many assignments from the Pope and the King including an appointment as Theologian in the Ecumenical Council at Trent. All these appointments involved travel on foot which greatly weakened his health and he suffered from frequent bouts of fever. Before leaving for Trent he decided to visit Ignatius in Rome whom he had not seen for 7 years. There fever attacked him and though only 40 years old, Peter knew his end was coming. On August, 1546, he heard Mass and received the Last Sacrament. That afternoon, in the company of Ignatius, the gentle Fr Peter Favre went to God in the company of angels, to whom he was singularly devoted. He was buried in the Church of Our Lady of the Way in Rome, but his remains were re-interred in the Church of the Jesu in 1569.

Fr Favre was much loved and revered in his native Savoy. He was beatified by Pope Pius IX on September 5, 1872