Pope Francis: Peter Faber, ‘Reformed Priest’ and Silence

“Peter Faber (1506-46) from Savoy, He was one of the first companions of St Ignatius-in fact the first-with whom he shared a room when the two were students at the University of Paris. The third roommate was Francis Xavier. Pius IX declared Faber Blessed on September 5, 1872, and the cause for his canonization is still open.”

Pope Francis writes, “Ignatius is a mystic, not an ascetic. It irritates me when I hear that the Spiritual Exercises are ‘Ignatian’ only because they are done in silence. In Fact, the exercises can be perfectly Ignatian also in daily life and without silence. An Interpretation of the Spiritual Exercises that emphasizes asceticism, silence, and penance is a distorted one that became widespread even in the Society, especially in the Society of Jesus in Spain. I am rather close to the mystical movement, that of Louis Lallement and Jean-Joseph Surin. And Faber was a mystic.”

Pope Francis is saying that silence is not always necessary to hear God. That is revolutionary. I remember John Paul II being asked where is your favorite place to pray and he answered, “On the Subway.” 

I remember working with Mother Theresa in the Summer of 1992 in Calcutta. I would join the sisters for morning mass and holy hour in the morning and join them for another holy hour in the evening. I remember the windows being wide open and all the noise of Calcutta flooding into the room where we were having the mass and holy hour.

I believe that the noises of the buses, horns, traffics were all part of the holy hour. The purpose of contemplative prayer is to unite us to the world. The noise of the city was the stuff of prayer.

It is because of that experience in Calcutta that I can pray with tons of noise. I enjoy praying my rosary at the coffee shop. When I pray in the midst of the world, I feel that my prayer is part of the heart beat of the world. 

I think Pope Francis is saying something quite revolutionary, and that maybe the need for ‘silence’ is overrated in our search for God. This is good news for moms and dads who often don’t have a moment of silence. The cry of their children becomes the singing of the angels.


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