Pope Francis celebrated Mass Jan. 3 in thanksgiving for the Jesuit saint Peter Faber, praising his “lofty desires” to be centered in God and to evangelize at the “peripheries.”
“An authentic faith always implies a deep desire to change the world,” Pope Francis said in his homily at the Church of the Gesu in Rome.
“And this is the question we should pose ourselves: do we too have great visions and zeal? Are we bold too? Do our dreams fly high? Are we consumed by zeal? Or are we mediocre and satisfied with our theoretical apostolic plans?”
He said that the Church's strength is not in its organizational capacity but rather is “concealed in the deep waters of God” that “agitate our desires” and these desires in turn “expand our hearts.”
Pope Francis celebrated the Mass on the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus at Rome's Church of the Gesu. The home church of the Society of Jesus hosts the relics of the saint.
In his homily, the first Jesuit Pope noted Faber's saying that the heart's first movement must prioritize seeking God.
“Faber experienced the desire to let the center of his heart be occupied by Christ. Only when centered in God is it possible to go out towards the peripheries of the world!”
He said the saint was “consumed by the intense desire to communicate the Lord.”
“If we do not have the same desire, then we need to pause a while in prayer and, with silent fervor, ask the Lord, through the intercession of our brother Peter, that we might again experience the fascination of the Lord who led Peter in his 'apostolic follies.'”
Pope Francis effectively canonized Peter Faber on Dec. 17. Faber was the first companion of the Jesuit founder St. Ignatius Loyola and the first to be ordained a priest for the Society of Jesus, which the two co-founded with St. Francis Xavier.
Peter Faber, also called Pierre Favre, was born in 16th century France. He served across Europe before his death in 1546. Pope Pius IX beatified him in 1872.
Pope Francis recognized the sainthood of Peter Faber on Dec. 17, authorizing his enrollment in the catalogue of the saints. This differed from the normal canonization process, which seeks a second recognized miracle attributed to the saint's intercession.
On Jan. 3 the Pope said St. Peter Faber had a “restless, indecisive spirit, never satisfied.” Under St. Ignatius of Loyola, Faber learned to unite this restlessness with decision-making. When he was faced with difficult tasks, “he demonstrated the true spirit that sets into action.”
Faber had “the true and deep desire to open up in God.” His centeredness in God allowed him to go everywhere in Europe” and to “enter into dialogue with everyone, with gentleness, and to proclaim the Gospel.”
During his remarks, Pope Francis also reflected on the problems some people have in evangelizing.
“I think of the temptation that perhaps we experience, to which many people succumb, to link the proclamation of the Gospel with inquisitionary bludgeoning and condemnation,” he said. “No, the Gospel must be proclaimed with gentleness, in a fraternal spirit, with love.”
The Pope encouraged Catholics to “pray to desire and desire to expand your heart,” adding that without desires, “one cannot go forth, and this is why we must offer our desires to the Lord.”
Concelebrants for the Pope's Jan. 3 Mass included Father Adolfo Nicholas, the Jesuit superior general, and seven young Jesuit priests. Also concelebrating were Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, vicar general of Rome Cardinal Agostino Vallini, and Bishop Yves Boivineau of Annency, France, the home diocese of Peter Faber.