Anthony de Mello

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Anthony de Mello
Born (1931-09-04)4 September 1931
Bombay, British India
Died 2 June 1987(1987-06-02) (aged 55)
New York, New York
Occupation Jesuit priest, author
Known for Spiritual writings and teachings
Ignatian spirituality

Anthony "Tony" de Mello (4 September 1931 – 2 June 1987) was an Indian Jesuit priest and psychotherapist. A spiritual teacher, writer and public speaker, De Mello wrote several books on spirituality and hosted numerous spiritual retreats and conferences. He continues to be known for his unconventional approach to the priesthood and his storytelling which drew from the various mystical traditions of both East and West.

Life and work[edit]

De Mello was the oldest of five children born to Frank and Louisa née Castellino de Mello. He was born in Bombay, British India, on 4 September 1931.[1] He was raised in a Catholic family and dreamed of one day joining the Jesuit order. As a teen, he entered the Society of Jesus in Bombay.[2] He was ordained into the priesthood in March 1961.[2]

De Mello was first attracted to the Jesuits for their strict discipline. Those who knew him during his earlier years in the order described him as somewhat conservative in his theology and reluctant to explore other religions. According to Malcolm Nazareth, a fellow Bombay Jesuit:

Tony's theology of religions was primitive at that time. Having made my preliminary explorations into Hindu religion and spirituality, I approached him with my questions about Christology. [Tony] provided me with a set of answers that were most unsatisfactory. I told him so. I walked away from him knowing that Tony hadn't yet dared to encounter any non-Christian religion with openness and vulnerability. His Catholic Christian theological conditioning was blocking his spiritual progress, if I may presume to say so.

It was sometime in the mid-'70s that Tony opened his heart and mind to vipassana meditational practice. I'm inclined to think that this was a major turning point for Tony as he slowly began to move into a [new] phase. After seriously practicing vipassana and thus exposing himself to Buddhist spirituality, Tony dared to confront the theology which he had learnt in theological school with, what now seem to me to be the vital existential questions for our time.[3]

De Mello's first published book, Sadhana - A way to God, was released in 1978. It outlined a number of spiritual principles and "Christian exercises in eastern form" inspired by the teachings of Saint Ignatius.[4] Other books published during his lifetime include The Song of the Bird, One Minute Wisdom and Wellsprings. The first two were collections of stories and the last a collection of exercises similar to Sadhana.

In 1972, he founded the Institute of Pastoral Counselling, later renamed the Sadhana Institute of Pastoral Counseling, in Poona, India.[2][5]

Death and posthumous controversy[edit]

De Mello died suddenly of a heart attack in 1987, aged 55, in New York City.[6]

In 1998, 11 years after de Mello's death, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the leadership of its Cardinal-Prefect, Joseph Ratzinger[7] (who later became Pope Benedict XVI), conducted a review of de Mello's work and released a lengthy comment expressing their theological concerns. In particular, notification argued that de Mello believed, "Jesus is not recognized as the Son of God, but simply as the one who teaches us that all people are children of God". While the group showed appreciation for many of de Mello's writings, they determined some of his positions to be "incompatible with the Catholic faith".[8][9] In response to the statement, the Indian magazine Outlook claimed it was an attempt by Rome to undermine the clergy in Asia and indicative of widening fissures between Rome and the Asian Church.[10]


A number of de Mello's works were published posthumously as collections or based on notes or recordings of his conferences.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ de Mello, Bill (2013). Anthony Demello SJ: The Happy Wanderer. Orbis Books. p. 8. ISBN 9781626980204. 
  2. ^ a b c Kononenko, Igor (2010). Teachers of Wisdom. Dorrance Publishing. p. 344. ISBN 9781434954107. 
  3. ^ Nazareth, Malcolm. "Here and Now with Anthony De Mello". Archived from the original on 2009-02-21. 
  4. ^ Traub, George W. (editor) (2008). An Ignatian Spirituality Reader. Loyola Press. p. 113. ISBN 9780829427233. 
  5. ^ Wicks, Robert J. (1994). Handbook of Spirituality for Ministers, Volume 1. Paulist Press. p. 274. ISBN 9780809135219. 
  6. ^ Biography, by Bill deMello Archived 24 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ 02/12/2013 12:31 pm EST. "The Last 20th-Century Pope | Charles J. Reid, Jr". Retrieved 2015-12-30. 
  8. ^ "Vatican: the Holy See - Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith - Notification Concerning the Writings of Fr. Anthony de Mello, SJ". Retrieved 29 December 2010. The specific quote being, "With the present Notification, in order to protect the good of the Christian faithful, this Congregation declares that the above-mentioned positions are incompatible with the Catholic faith and can cause grave harm.".  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  9. ^ "EWTN Global Catholic Network". Archived from the original on 15 November 2006. Retrieved 24 November 2006. 
  10. ^ "Gospel According To De Mello | Saira Menezes | Nov 16,1998". Retrieved 2015-12-30. 
  11. ^ "CDF - Writings of Fr. De Mello, SJ". Retrieved 2015-12-30. 

External links[edit]