Rorate Caeli

Saint Peter Faber and the way to deal with scruples and temptations

The (equivalent) canonization of Peter Faber was one of the most memorable acts so far of the Bergoglio Pontificate. From the moment when he met Loyola and became the first Companion, and then the other Founders (including Xavier) in the University of Paris; to the founding of the Company (the "Society", as its Latin name would become when finally approved by Rome) in Montmartre, when he, as the only ordained member, celebrated Holy Mass; to his own death in Rome just 14 years later, following years of intense apostolic work: the life, doubts and hesitations of Faber would closely reflect the life, doubts and hesitations of the new group.

Faber's Memorial is one of the first modern journals and autobiographies. Having been born in that crossroads of French, Provençal, Italian and German that was the Duchy of Savoy, Faber's biographers usually declare that his native language was French - but, despite the loss of the original manuscript, it is known that the journal was written in Spanish (the language he usually used with Loyola), with some parts penned in Latin - our translation below is from one of the Italian versions.

Below, Faber narrates his meeting with Saint Ignatius in the halls of the Collège Saint-Barbe, one of the main colleges of the University. This was shortly after the beginning of the Protestant rebellion, and the University, strongly influenced by the recent reforms of the late founder of the Collège de Montaigu, Fr. Jan Standonck, still was the meeting-point of great Catholic thinkers from all over Europe:

In the year 1529, at the age of 24, I was made a Bachelor [of arts] on January 10, and, after Easter, I achieved my License under the guidance of Juan de la Peña, now a Medical Doctor. May the divine goodness allow me to recall with gratitude and put to use the many benefits, of body and spirit, that he granted me during those three and a half years. And I think in particular of a master and companion that I found in his shared room - that is, I refer in a very particular way to master Francis Xavier, who now belongs to the Society of Jesus.

In that year, Ignatius came to be lodged in that same College Saint-Barbe, and in our same chamber, because he intended to begin [classes] on Saint Remigius [i.e. January 13]. And it was the same master of whom I spoke above that took him under his care. May Divine Providence be praised forever, for ordaining things in this way for my good and salvation! Because God having disposed that it should be me to teach that holy man, I first managed to achieve his confidence, first on external matters, then on internal ones.

We were always together, sharing our chamber, our table and our resources; and then he became my teacher of spiritual life, granting me the possibility of moving up in the knowledge of divine will and of my own. It was thus that we became as one in our desires, in our will, and in the firm purpose of choosing the life we all now share, those of us who are or will be part of this Company [Society], of which I am not worthy.

May the Divine Mercy grant me the grace of well recalling in my memory and ponder the benefits that the Lord gave me through this man. Above all, in fact, he first granted me the knowledge of my conscience, of temptations and scruples, of which I had been a prisoner, with no provisions, no intellectual light, no hope on the path in which I could find peace.

The scruples came to me from the feat of not having confessed my sins well for a long time, and they tormented me to such a degree that I had willingly, freely, resolved to go to a desert and eat only herbs and roots.

And the temptations consisted in obscene and impure images of the flesh, subtly presented to me by the spirit of fornication.
In a second moment, Ignatius counseled me to make a general confession with Doctor [Juan de] Castro [a Spanish scholar in Paris who would later enter the Valldecrist Charterhouse in Segorbe, Spain], and then to confess weekly, making the effort, to achieve this, to make an examination of conscience and to receive the Eucharist daily. In fact, he did not wish to place me in further exercises, even though the Lord inspired in me great desire for them. We spent four years together in this close friendship and we kept the same state of spirit also with others.

Saint Peter Faber was ordained to the Holy Priesthood in 1534, and his equivalent canonization by Pope Francis took place and was made public on Dec. 17, 2013. [Image: Vow of Montmartre, August 15, 1534. St. Peter Faber celebrated Mass at the occasion, in the Chapel of the Martyrs, part of the Benedictine Royal Abbey of Montmartre, confiscated, sold and mostly destroyed during the Revolution.]