Saint Favre of Villaret
First Jesuit Priest
Born in 1506 of poor Savoyard shepherds, Peter placed himself under the protection of the Blessed Virgin. At his earnest request, he was sent to school, and in later years to the University of Paris. There he became acquainted first with Saint Francis Xavier, then with Saint Ignatius Loyola and his other first companions. Ordained in 1534, it was he who received their vows at Montmartre on the day of the Assumption, 1534. He joined them and was sent first by the Pope to two cities of Italy, then to Germany, where he supported the Faith with gentleness and founded several secondary schools.
Until the end of his brief life he was ever on the front lines of the Church’s battles with falsehood and sin. Facing the ravages of heresy in Germany, he labored primarily through the Exercises of Saint Ignatius to arouse the dormant faith and charity of Catholic courts in Catholic lands. The odor of Blessed Peter’s virtues drew after him into religion the Duke of Gandia, Francis Borgia, and a young German student, Peter Canisius, both of whom became canonized Saints like their master.
Pope Paul III had chosen Blessed Favre to be his theologian at the Council of Trent, and King John III of Portugal was hoping to send him as patriarch and apostle to Abyssinia. Sick and worn with his labors in Germany, Portugal and Spain, but obedient unto death, the good priest hastened to Rome, and there his last illness came upon him. He died in his fortieth year, as one would wish to die, in the arms of his best friend and spiritual father, Saint Ignatius. His companions called him Blessed at once and invoked him. Saint Peter was formally beatified by Pope Pius IX in 1872.
Reflection: As the body sinks under fatigue unless supported by food, so external works, however holy, wear out the soul which is not regularly nourished by prayer. In the most crowded day we can still make time secretly to lift our soul up to God and draw new strength from Him.
Les Petits Bollandistes: Vies des Saints, by Msgr. Paul Guérin (Bloud et Barral: Paris, 1882), Vol. 9; The Catholic Encyclopedia, edited by C. G. Herbermann with numerous collaborators (Appleton Company: New York, 1908); Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).