Blessed Be the Upsetter of Hearts

book cover of "Peter Faber: A Saint for Turbulent Times" and photo of author Jon M. Sweeney

We share this excerpt in honor of St. Peter Faber’s birthday, April 13.

“Desire what is essential and original,” Faber writes in Memoriale. This sentence gets at the psychological brilliance of the Exercises and how they specifically transformed Peter’s life.

Faber discovers that desires are good, not bad, and that finding what’s essential in the heart comes only when we find God there. As Pope Francis said in his homily about him on January 3, 2014, “Faber could discern God’s voice in his desires.” Finding God’s will is possible when we accept that God has a unique plan—an identity, purpose, and destiny—that’s ours alone.

Every person who attempts to follow Christ with faithfulness feels desolation, loneliness, anger, and other upsetting emotions throughout the average day. To deny these and put on a happy face is to miss the purpose of emotions entirely.

When there is a knot in your stomach from nervousness, God is close by. We see this beautifully in this passage that Faber writes in a letter to a king: “Blessed be the upsetter of hearts.” Precisely when you cannot see the right way to go, God is present. Stop and look carefully. And in your joy as well as your sadness, God is there. God is in our turmoil and our desires. These are not the simple, pious messages of a man seeking private peace. A truly spiritual life doesn’t aim at that. Rather, it aims at holiness before God and with one’s neighbors.

—Excerpted from Peter Faber: A Saint for Turbulent Times by Jon M. Sweeney


  1. 13th April is also my granddaughter’s birthday.
    “Blessed be the upsetter of hearts”. We were travelling overseas when Sophie was born and my one desire was to meet her. So, the remainder of our journey, until our homecoming, was with mixed emotions.

  2. I like this. We know that life brings sadness and euphoria…..sometimes on the same day! Our knowledge that God is near in both states saves us a lot of heartache.

  3. Thank you for this excerpt. I shared it with my friends. The road to finding out the “sweet spot” in my relationship with God is at times, often riddled with deadly sins. God is there. God knows of my struggles and Faber’s share is reassuring to me that even when I tell myself I’m on the wrong track, God is there, if I pray and invite him. I thought I had only a few of the deadly sins to contend with, do battle with but alas I’ve got all seven. With prayer I over come them, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. All the time I believe God is with me. Thank you for this meditation.


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