Pope Francis on Saturday celebrated the feast of St. Peter Favre, the first follower of the founder of the Society of Jesus.
St. Peter was the first of St. Ignatius’ followers, as Ignatius set the foundations for what would become the Society of Jesus.
Some compare Pope Francis, the first Jesuit Pope, to St. Peter Favre. For his part, Francis has noted his own devotion to the saint, and as Pontiff, dispensed with some of the requirements of the canonization process in order to declare him a saint.
The Jesuit Pontiff marked Saturday’s Feast of St. Peter Favre with a Mass to which several young Jesuit priests were invited.
“Pope Francis came like a brother, another brother Jesuit, to celebrate the Mass,” Jesuit Fr. Franciscus Wawansitiadi of the Philippines told Vatican Radio.
Born in the Rhône-Alpes region of eastern France in 1506, the French Jesuit met Ignatius while the two were college roommates at the University of Sorbonne in Paris, along with St. Francis Xavier, another future Jesuit.
After ordination, Fr. Favre spent most of his ministry preaching Catholicism in Germany and elsewhere during the Protestant Reformation. In 1546, he died.
Pope Francis has spoken of the influence the Jesuit has had in his life, noting how he initiated dialogue with “even the most remote” and “even with his opponents.”
In an interview with the Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, the Pontiff praised the now saint’s “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.”
Many note that Fr. Favre and Pope Francis have many characteristics in common and share many of the same ideas. Like Francis, Fr. Favre supported Catholic reform and was a pioneer of ecumenism.
St. Ignatius used to say he was “someone who can squeeze water from a rock” and regarded him as the most efficient spiritual leader of all his followers. He also said Father Favre had “a gift for guiding people’s souls towards God” and wanted to appoint him as the Society of Jesus’ top representative in Rome.
Fr. Favre became a canonized saint through the process of “equivalent” canonization, which Pope Francis used also for now Saint John XXIII, canonized this April 27.
“Equivalent” canonization is a rare procedure, meaning popes can declare that someone who has enjoyed widespread reverence over time deserves veneration by the universal Church without having to go through the usual canonization steps. These steps include proving two miracles attributed to the candidate’s intercession. With “equivalent” canonization, the Pope can override the two miracle requirement enabling the individual to become a canonized saint.