Anthony De Mello Biography

Anthony de Mello, an Indian Jesuit priest and psychotherapist, was a renowned religious teacher, public speaker, and writer. Born into a Roman Catholic family in pre-independence India, he dedicated his life to the priesthood from a young age. Initially conservative in his beliefs, he later expanded his horizons by exploring other religions and incorporating mystical traditions from both the East and West. Through his books, spiritual retreats, and conferences, de Mello left a lasting impact on spirituality and challenged conventional notions of priesthood.

Quick Facts

  • Indian Celebrities Born In September
  • Died At Age: 55
  • Quotes By Anthony De Mello
  • Spiritual & Religious Leaders
  • Died on: June 2, 1987
  • Place of death: New York City

Childhood & Early Years

Anthony de Mello was born on 4 September 1931 in the outskirts of Mumbai, India, into a Catholic family. His father, Frank de Mello, was a railway worker from Goa, and his mother was Louisa de Mello. Anthony, lovingly called Tony, was the eldest of his parents’ five children. Despite the expectation for him to join the Indian Railways like his father, Tony was spiritually inclined from a young age and desired to become a Jesuit priest. He was attracted to the order because of the discipline it offered.

In the Order

Tony was admitted to Stanislaus High School, where he excelled academically and displayed great social skills. However, his desire to join the Jesuit order remained strong. He even prayed to God for another son so that he could pursue his goal without the burden of being the eldest and only son. His mother, in her forties at the time, didn’t think much of it. But in 1943, she conceived and gave birth to Tony’s younger brother Bill. This relieved Tony, as it meant he could pursue his calling without guilt.

In July 1947, Anthony de Mello joined the Society of Jesus in the seminary of Vinalaya, on the outskirts of Bombay.

Ordained Into Priesthood

After being ordained into the priesthood in March 1961, De Mello was sent to Loyola University in Chicago to study psychology and counseling. He received his Master’s degree in pastoral counseling in 1964. During this time, he was influenced by the works of psychologists Carl Rogers and Fritz Perls.

Upon his return to India, De Mello began working at Jesuit seminaries and took on various responsibilities. He became known for guiding the Jesuit novitiate during their retreats and later became a retreat director. He also started counseling the novitiates, which was not a common practice in Jesuit circles at the time.

Opening Up

From the mid-1970s, De Mello began to explore other religions, particularly Buddhism. He questioned the theological training he received and pondered upon the human predicament and the various religious responses to it. Despite his exploration, he remained loyal to his Catholic faith.

In 1978, he published his first book, ‘Sadhana – A Way to God,’ which incorporated spiritual principles and exercises from both Saint Ignatius and eastern religions. This book became very popular, and De Mello gained recognition as a public speaker.

Major Works

De Mello published several more books, including ‘One Minute Wisdom’ (1985), which contains parables and lessons on living a simple and fulfilling life. His works emphasized the importance of inner transformation and contemplation.

Death & Legacy

In June 1987, Anthony de Mello passed away from a heart attack while in the United States conducting seminars on spirituality. Eleven years after his death, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith reviewed his works and determined that some of his beliefs were incompatible with Catholic faith. However, De Mello’s legacy continues through the Sadhana Institute of Pastoral Counselling, which he established and which works for the betterment of mankind.

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