The following is the 50th chapter in, “AWARENESS: A de Mellow Spirituality Conference in His Own Words” by Fr. Anthony de Mello, S.J. edited by J. Francis Stroud, S.J., Copyright © 1990 by the DeMello Stroud Spirituality Center.
“One red-letter day in my life occurred in India. It was a great day, really, the day after I was ordained. I sat in a confessional. We had a very saintly Jesuit priest in our parish, a Spaniard, whom I had known even before I went to the Jesuit novitiate. The day before I left for the novitiate, I thought I’d better make a clean breast of everything so that when I got to the novitiate I’d be nice and clean and wouldn’t have to tell the novice master anything. This old Spanish priest would have crowds of people lined up at his confessional; he had a violet-colored handkerchief which he covered his eyes with, and he’d mumble something and give you a penance and send you away. He’d only met me a couple of times, but he’d call me Antonie. So I stood in line, and when my turn came, I tried changing my voice as I made my confession. He listened to me patiently, gave me my penance, absolved me, and then said, ‘Antonie, when are you going to the novitiate?’
“Well, anyway, I went to this parish the day after my ordination. And the old priest says to me, ‘Do you want to hear confessions?’ I said, ‘All right.’ He said, ‘Go and sit in my confessional.’ I thought, ‘My, I’m a holy man. I’m going to sit in his confessional.’ I heard confessions for three hours. It was Palm Sunday and we had the Easter crowd coming in. I came out depressed, not from what I had heard, because I had been led to expect that, and, having some inkling of what was going on in my own heart, I was shocked by nothing. You know what depressed me? The realization that I was giving them these little pious platitudes: ‘Now pray to the Blessed Mother, she loves you,’ and ‘Remember that God is on your side.’ Were these pious platitudes any cure for cancer? And this is a cancer I’m dealing with, the lack of awareness and reality. So I swore a mighty oath to myself that day: ‘I’ll learn, I’ll learn, so it will not be said of me when it is all over, ‘Father, what you said to me was absolutely true but totally useless.’
“Awareness, insight. When you become an expert (and you’ll soon become an expert) you don’t need to take a course in psychology. As you begin to observe yourself, to watch yourself, to pick up those negative feelings, you’ll find your own way of explaining it. And you’ll notice the change. But then you’ll have to deal with the big villain, and that villain is self-condemnation, self-hatred, self-dissatisfaction.”