Anthony de Mello

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The Reverend

Anthony de Mello

Born(1931-09-04)4 September 1931
Died2 June 1987(1987-06-02) (aged 55)
Occupation(s)Jesuit priest, author
Known forSpiritual writings and teachings
Ignatian spirituality

Anthony de Mello, SJ, also known as 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 storytelling which drew from the various mystical traditions of both East and West.


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.

At the age of 16, de Mello entered the Society of Jesus at the seminary of Vinalaya on the outskirts of Bombay. In 1952, he was sent to Spain to study philosophy in Barcelona before undertaking ministry. He then returned to India to study theology at De Nobili College in Pune and was ordained to the priesthood in March 1961. After his return to India, he spent several years working in seminaries, and in 1968 he was made rector of the seminary of Vinalaya.[2][3]

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.[4] Some of his peers noted that his experience in Spain led him to broaden his perspective and to lose much of his rigidity.[3]


In 1972, he founded the Institute of Pastoral Counselling, later renamed the Sadhana Institute of Pastoral Counselling, in Poona, India.[2][5] 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.[6] It popularized various mindfulness and contemplative practices in the United States for his readers and for those who attended his lectures.[7]


De Mello died of a heart attack in 1987, aged 55, in New York City.[8] Bill De Mello, a brother of Tony's, recounts in his book Anthony deMello: The Happy Wanderer that Tony's body was found by Fr. Frank Stroud, S.J. According to Fr. Stroud, de Mello's body was curled up in a fetal position.[9] His official death certificate lists the immediate cause of his death as "Atherosclerotic coronary artery disease with recent thrombosis of left circumflex branch."

Posthumous controversy[edit]

In 1998, 11 years after de Mello's death, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) under the leadership of its Cardinal-Prefect, Joseph Ratzinger[10] (who later became Pope Benedict XVI), conducted a review of de Mello's work and released a comment stating that while "his works, which almost always take the form of brief stories, contain some valid elements of oriental wisdom . . . [which] can be helpful in achieving self-mastery, in breaking the bonds and feelings that keep us from being free, and in approaching with serenity the various vicissitudes of life," some of de Mello's views, expressed particularly in his later work, "are incompatible with the Catholic faith and can cause grave harm." In particular, the CDF wrote that while "especially in his early writings, Father de Mello, while revealing the influence of Buddhist and Taoist spiritual currents, remained within the lines of Christian spirituality," they understood de Mello's view of Jesus as "a master alongside others," objected to the idea that "the question of destiny after death is declared to be irrelevant; only the present life should be of interest," and expressed further concern that "the author's statements on the final destiny of man give rise to perplexity."[11][12] The Indian magazine Outlook saw this as an attempt by Rome to undermine the clergy in Asia amid widening fissures between Rome and the Asian Church.[13] De Mello's books are available in many Catholic bookshops in the West, but sometimes include an advisory that they were written in a multi-religious context and are not intended to be manuals on Christian doctrine.[14]


A number of de Mello's works were published posthumously as collections or based on notes or recordings of his conferences.[15]

  • Sadhana: A Way to God, 1978. ISBN 0-385-19614-8
  • Wake Up! Spirituality for Today, 90 minutes of talks given before a live audience
  • The Song of the Bird, Image, 1982. ISBN 0-385-19615-6
  • Wellsprings, 1984. ISBN 978-0-385-19617-8
  • One Minute Wisdom, Image, 1985. ISBN 0-385-24290-5
  • The Heart of the Enlightened, Doubleday, 1987. ISBN 0-385-24672-2
  • Taking Flight, Image, 1988. ISBN 0-385-41371-8
  • Awareness, Image, 1990. ISBN 978-0-385-24937-9
  • Contact with God, Loyola Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8294-0726-X
  • The Way to Love, 1992. ISBN 978-0-385-24939-3
  • One Minute Nonsense, Loyola University Press, 1992 ISBN 0-8294-0742-1
  • More One Minute Nonsense, Loyola University Press, 1993 ISBN 0-8294-0749-9
  • Call to Love, Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1996
  • Rooted in God, St Pauls, 1997
  • Awakening, Image, 2003. ISBN 978-0-385-50995-4
  • A Way to God for Today, RCL Benziger, 2007
  • Seek God Everywhere, Image, 2010 ISBN 978-0-385-53176-4
  • The Prayer of the Frog Vol. 1 & Vol. 2. In the English printing, these are titled Taking Flight and The Heart of the Enlightened


  1. ^ de Mello, Bill (2013). Anthony Demello SJ: The Happy Wanderer. Orbis Books. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-62698-020-4.
  2. ^ a b Kononenko, Igor (2010). Teachers of Wisdom. Dorrance Publishing. p. 344. ISBN 978-1-4349-5410-7.
  3. ^ a b "Anthony de Mello - Jesuits Ireland". Jesuits Ireland. 31 May 2017. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  4. ^ Nazareth, Malcolm. "Here and Now with Anthony De Mello". Archived from the original on 21 February 2009.
  5. ^ Wicks, Robert J. (1994). Handbook of Spirituality for Ministers, Volume 1. Paulist Press. p. 274. ISBN 978-0-8091-3521-9.
  6. ^ "Anthony De Mello: Be Aware! Be Alive! Be in Love!". America Magazine. 25 February 2010. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
  7. ^ Traub, George W., ed. (2008). An Ignatian Spirituality Reader. Loyola Press. p. 113. ISBN 978-0-8294-2723-3.
  8. ^ Biography, by Bill deMello Archived 24 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ DeMello, Bill (2013). Anthony Demello SJ: The Happy Wanderer. Orbis Books. ISBN 978-1-60833-286-1.
  10. ^ "The Last 20th-Century Pope | Charles J. Reid, Jr". 12 February 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  11. ^ Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. "Notification Concerning the Writings of Fr. Anthony de Mello, SJ". Retrieved 26 March 2017. 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.
  12. ^ Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. "Notification Concerning the Writings of Fr. Anthony de Mello, SJ". EWTN Global Catholic Network. Archived from the original on 15 November 2006. Retrieved 26 March 2017.
  13. ^ "Gospel According To De Mello | Saira Menezes | Nov 16,1998". Retrieved 30 December 2015.
  14. ^ "About". Anthony de Mello Resource. 20 October 2007. Retrieved 1 June 2017.
  15. ^ "CDF – Writings of Fr. De Mello, SJ". Archived from the original on 15 November 2006. Retrieved 30 December 2015.

Further reading[edit]


Online resources[edit]