“Instructions for Those Going on Pilgrimage,” Pierre Favre (1543)

In 1543, Pierre Favre provided the following instructions to two Spanish royal chaplains who had joined the Society of Jesus the year before. Favre had sent the new Jesuits on pilgrimage as part of their formation. The following instructions reveal much about how and why Jesuits conducted pilgrimages just three years into their order’s existence. Ever since the Frenchman helped establish the Jesuits in 1540, Favre was constantly on travel himself, “a pilgrim, a perpetual traveler,” according to his biographers. A theologian by training, he ministered throughout Europe until his death in 1546. Pius IX beatified Favre in 1872, and Pope Francis canonized him on December 17, 2013.



Father Favre, at Mainz, when he was asked for instructions for the pilgrimage[, wrote as follows]:


Some persons want to be delivered from their woes—poverty, hunger, toil, and the like—by turning immediately to creatures in order to find help in them. Others turn to creatures, but do it through God, asking him that they be helped by creatures and through them delivered from their woes, as with persons who in time of need pray thus to the Lord for deliverance: “Lord, give us bread; give us this or that; move this man or that man, and similar petitions.” But there are others, walking more perfectly, whose desire is not to be delivered from their woes but to receive strength in the midst of them directly from the Lord. These persons ask him to grant them patience and courage, to take away their fear and similar emotions, so that they can bear their woes bravely. Their concern is for their interior woes; they care not for the outward ones and cast aside all worry about them, as Christ has taught us. At the same time they take care to guard against anything that smacks of tempting God.


Sometimes timidity and weakness of spirit can weaken our bodies. Conversely, robustness of mind can make our bodies robust. Hence, in our toils we ought to throw aside all fear, timidity, and so forth. The spirit will bear up our bodies.


When eating, drinking, and conversing with others, we ought to aim not at winning their approval but at edifying their consciences. There are some who pay regard to other people’s characters and behave in such a way as to get their approval as affable and good-natured; these do not so truly edify others’ consciences. Those who are concerned about their consciences, on the other hand, strive to live in such a way that they will always be pleasing both to God and to anyone who at all times could not but express approval of what is right and good.


Entering any city or town, we should call upon the angels, archangels, saints, and patrons of that city or town. We should greet them and call on them to assist us, just as we would in paying visits to men. We should converse with them and pray to them on behalf of the city or town placed in their charge. We should ask them to rule and guide it and on its behalf to beseech the Lord to move the hearts of its inhabitants to repentance and the like. We should also give thanks for the blessings that have been bestowed on those territories: the crops, the river, and so forth. As we consider how many enjoy these gifts and how few acknowledge them, we ought to render thanks in the name of all.


Seeing strangers on the road, even if they are soldiers or other men, we should not allow ourselves to have any suspicions against them. Our thought should be that they are good people, and we should pray for their good and should in a way unite ourselves to them with a bond of charity and love. Thus we will rid ourselves of fear, rash judgments, and the like. And if anything untoward does befall us, we should take it as coming not from man but from God; for nothing can happen to us apart from his will. Taking it in this spirit, as from the Lord’s hand, we ought to bear it patiently and calmly.


Our words are of three kinds. They may represent our ideas, as when a person expounds in words some idea or insight he has had; these we could label “thought words.” Again, some words serve to explain other words, as in the exegesis of Scripture and the like; these we could call “word words.” Finally, some words recount things that we or others have done, to the praise of God; these we could call “deed words” or “action words.” Now, while it is true that people generally take pleasure in the first and second kind of words, which nourish our minds, still, since what people want most is to act, they get more pleasure from the third kind and find them more useful for life, because through them they learn ways, methods, and procedures by which they can act.


Speaking of students, he [Favre] used to say that they should not take it ill to go back to learning the elements of Latin or basic logic, and the like. People would find it even harder to have to go back and learn how to speak their mother tongue, how to think at all and so forth; yet that is just what God did. He became a baby and over a period of time acquired a mother tongue and began to know and understand by what is termed experiential knowledge. More than that, he went so far back as to have his feet, hands, and other parts of his body grow larger little by little. Rightly seen, this is an amazing thing even in ourselves—how much more in God!


He used to say that in all of God’s gifts we should consider three aspects: the gift itself, the one who gives it, and his motive in giving. This will bring us to have a high regard for each and every gift, as is the case in our dealings with human beings when these three elements are present. It is by not directing our minds to these three things that we often get a reputation for ingratitude, because we fail to value the gift as we ought.


He used to say that just as in any major or difficult undertaking we carefully plan out its execution beforehand, eager to perform it as perfectly as possible; and then after its execution look back with regret on any mistakes we have made, thinking, “Here or there I went wrong”—and similarly even with our conversations—in the same way we ought to plan out our prayer beforehand, saying, “I am going to make this prayer at such and such a time,” filled with anticipatory eagerness to perform it with attention and devotion and to have it heard by God and so forth. And when it is over we should examine any faults we may have committed and rue our mistakes. In this way we will eventually reach the point of praying with fruit. He used to say it was amazing what care we take about things we are going to do or say, and how negligent we are in the matter of prayer, even though prayer is more important than anything else we say or do, however good. We go to prayer negligently and we leave it cold.


Simplicity and goodness should eventually get the upper hand over our natural way of thinking. That is to say, though on a natural level we might think it right to be angry or depressed over something, nevertheless goodness and simplicity ought to put up with it. Sometimes we are interiorly anguished; and though this spirit may speak what is true, reproving us for our many failures, nevertheless if it robs us of our tranquility it is not the good spirit. The spirit of God is peaceful and gentle even in reproof.



Original Source (English Translation):

The Spiritual Writings of Pierre Favre. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996, “Instructions for Those Going on Pilgrimage,” pp. 340–342.

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