A Gentle Saint: St. Peter Faber

Faber Friday - text over image of Peter Faber as seen on Peter Faber: A Saint for Turbulent Times cover - book by Jon M. Sweeney

Editor’s note: We commemorate the August 2 feast day of St. Peter Faber with Faber Fridays this month, inspired by Jon M. Sweeney’s book, Peter Faber: A Saint for Turbulent Times.

St. Peter Faber, companion of St. Ignatius Loyola and co-founder of the Jesuit order, is marked by the consistent description of gentle. It is an adjective I am drawn to, especially in a world that seems anything but gentle. Harsh, critical, and unkind are the words that close in on me these days. So St. Peter Faber sounds like just the saint I’d like to meet.

Faber was born in 1506 in the territory of Savoy, which is now nestled where France, Italy, and Switzerland all meet. He was a shepherd, tending to his father’s flock. The family was poor, and Faber ached to learn. He was able to persuade his parents to send him to school six miles away (Sweeney, 10), where he learned quickly. Eventually he attended the University of Paris, where he met Francis Xavier and Ignatius Loyola, and they pledged their friendship to each other and their lives and souls to Jesus.

But it is Faber’s gentleness that I return to. It may have begun in his early life when he spent hours, perhaps days, outside with the sheep, just as King David had. Solitude brews a quiet attention to the holy. As he tended to his sheep, he could no doubt recall all the references to sheep in Scripture. It was in those fields where his faith first blossomed and took root. He was said to have a simple faith with a great love for Mary.

I’ve traveled through what was Savoy on train. The landscape is so breathtakingly magnificent, I could think only of God and his glory as we passed though. Each snow-capped mountain, billowing cloud, and lake the shade of blue I had never seen before brought tears to my eyes. I watched the landscape pass by the windows of the train, wishing I could stop and breath it in.

Did this gentle landscape seep into Faber’s soul? He carried this gentleness in friendship with Francis and Ignatius and others. There are over 150 letters that survive (John W. Padberg, “The Gentle, Grace-Filled Life of Peter Faber”), marked with a sense of tenderness. Faber’s friendships were not self-centered but sought the good of the other.

During the Reformation, Faber worked with Protestants, seeking to understand and foster unity. His work was diplomatic, marked by openness and charity. “Take care, take care, never to close your heart to anyone,” he said. I long for this model of kindness, open to dialogue and unity in a world that is so divided.

Faber’s humility and desire to bring glory to God ring through his tender prayer:

I beg of you, my Lord,
to remove anything that separates
me from you, and you from me.
Remove anything that makes me unworthy
of your sight, your control, your reprehension;
of your speech and conversation,
of your benevolence and love.

Take from me every evil
that stands in the way of my seeing you,
hearing, tasting, savoring, and touching you;
fearing and being mindful of you;
knowing, trusting, loving, and possessing you;
being conscious of your presence
and, as far as may be, enjoying you.
This is what I ask for myself
and earnestly desire from you.
Amen. (Sweeney, 143)

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Shemaiah Gonzalez
Shemaiah Gonzalez is a freelance writer who holds a B.A. in English Literature and a M.A. in Intercultural Ministry. She thrives on moments where storytelling, art, and faith collide. Published on Busted Halo and America Magazine among others, she is obsessed with being well-rounded as she jumps from Victorian lit to Kendrick Lamar, from the homeless shelter to the cocktail party. A Los Angeles native, she now lives in Seattle with her husband and their two sons.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for the information about this so holy man. God bless and I wish we could take and use his example. These are very troubling times and praying God will help us all. I have just been listening and watching Mas on line here in Australia. It had been so long since I have been inside our parish Church , due to my disability. So I am very grateful for being able to get as much spiritual guidance as I can. For this I thank you most gratefully.Also praying that my computer doesn’t go of-line again. A.M.D.G.

  2. He indeed sounds like a saint we need for today. I’m inspired to read more about him and hope to emulate his gentleness and kindness. Thanks for sharing.

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