Monday 11th April, 2022
Anthony de Mello, The Song of the Bird (Image Books, 1984), 49.
Image: Alex Povolyashko, unsplash.com/alex_povolyashko
Today's quote is from Anthony de Mello's The Song of the Bird (Image Books, 1984), xv: see here. It was chosen for the Monday of Holy Week in 2022, not for what it speaks about silence, but rather as an invitation to a way of engaging with the narrative of Holy Week and on into Easter Day. Anthony de Mello (1931-1987) was a Jesuit priest and a psychotherapist. Born in India to a Catholic family, from being a small boy he had dreamed of becoming a Jesuit and entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Bombay when he was just 16. After having been sent to study philosophy in Spain in the 1950s, he returned to India to continue in theological education, finally becoming ordained to the priesthood in 1961. In the early 1970s de Mello founded the Institute of Pastoral Counselling (today called the Sadhana Institute: see here) in Poona, India, and which, decades after his death continues to offer psychospiritual support and training to people in India and beyond. Perhaps unsurprisingly, for someone living in India, Tony, as he was often called, was widely known for his openness to working with people from different spiritual traditions and using the wisdom contained within them to help people grow and mature in their spiritual journey. Today, his legacy is continued by the work of the DeMello Spirituality Centre in New York: see here. Acclaimed as a spiritual teacher in his lifetime, de Mello was, however, not keen on recordings being made of his teaching. Perhaps, as with St Teresa of Avila, living under the time of the Spanish Inquisition, and many others who have been heralded as 'mystics' in their lifetime, he was very aware that his teaching around awakening to a deeper spiritual journey was challenging to the institutions of the Church, who might therefore try to restrict or otherwise renounce his work. However, you can access a few (quite grainy) video recordings at the bottom of the page, here. His caution was later found to be justified when the Roman Catholic Church, under Ratzinger, condemned many of his works as potentially harmful and there was a period when his works were all published with a disclaimer that they were outside of the official teachings of the Church. Today, his writings, and especially his collections of spiritual stories, remain very popular across the world, offering deep spiritual truths in easily accessible form. For a full list of his books, see here.