December 17, 2013 — More than 140 years after being named “Blessed,” Jesuit Father Peter Faber was canonized by Pope Francis today, the pope’s 77th birthday, in a decree of “equivalent canonization.” Pope Francis has long admired Faber, one of the first Jesuits and a close companion of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus.
For Faber’s “equivalent canonization,” the pope adds the name of the new saint to the universal calendar of saints, without verifying that a miracle was performed through his intercession and without holding a formal canonization ceremony.
In a groundbreaking interview with Jesuit publications this fall, the pope singled out for praise the man often called the “Second Jesuit.” He said he admired Faber’s “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.”
Faber was born in the Upper Savoy region of France in 1506 and was said by St. Ignatius to be the man best suited to direct others in the Spiritual Exercises. Faber — whose story is not nearly as well known as those of his two college roommates, Ignatius Loyola and Francis Xavier — spent a great deal of his Jesuit life working with Protestants during the explosive time of the Reformation. Faber died in Rome in 1547 a few weeks before he was due to attend the Council of Trent. He was beatified in September 1872.
Jesuit Father Marc Lindeijer, promoter of Jesuit sainthood causes, said that “more or less right after his election” in March, Pope Francis asked that the process be started for the canonization of Blessed Faber. For modern Jesuits, the canonization would be another step forward in recognizing that the Society of Jesus was founded by a group of companions and not only by St. Ignatius, according to Fr. Lindeijer.
Cardinal members of the Congregation for Saints’ Causes met this month to vote to recommend that the pope declare Faber a saint by decree.
In America magazine, Jesuit Father James Martin writes that despite Faber’s relative obscurity, many Jesuits are devoted to this humble spiritual master. For a short biography of Faber, see this excerpt from “Jesuit Saints and Martyrs,” by Joseph Tylenda, SJ. [Sources: Vatican Insider, British Jesuits, Catholic News Service, America Magazine]