Fr. Horace Rozario SJ: Guided by the Holy Spirit

By Subhasis Chattopadhyay –

The Desert Fathers pointed out that only a fool has himself for a spiritual director. In other words, the primacy of the ministry of spiritual direction is more important than many other apostolates which are more public. It is also difficult to find a person who knows the distinction between ‘good spirits’ and ‘evil spirits’. And only few wo/men are endowed with the gift of non-judgment. The ideal spiritual director is one who does not interfere in the growth of the person seeking spiritual guidance and yet can see through the façade of self-aggrandizement most of us have. A spiritual director is not a counsellor nor is spiritual direction counselling.

Further, the relationship between a spiritual director and the seeker is one of friendship and trust. A good director of souls does not look down on the directed as someone inferior. The bond is not sacramental, but it is no less a bond. St. Ignatius of Loyola mandated his spiritual sons to be adept in guiding others to find God in their stations in life. The Ignatian Exercises cannot be done without proper guidance though one can do them alone. But their full effect is evident only when a spiritual director adept in Ignatian spirituality supervises the retreatant.

For example, without spiritual direction one might think one is doing the work of God while in fact this work may be unknowingly helping minions of the Father of Lies. Not for nothing the Desert Fathers and St. Ignatius insisted that all of us receive spiritual direction from wo/men perfected and tested long in austerity and self-abnegation. Saint Teresa of Calcutta in one of her letters asks her sisters to seek out Jesuits matured in spirituality for helping them overcome acedia or the noon day devil. Mother Teresa’s spiritual directors were mostly Jesuits of the Calcutta Province.

Fr. Horace Rozario S.J. was in public life an editor of The Herald, the mouthpiece of the Archdiocese of Calcutta, and the Rector of the community at St. Xavier’s School & College, Kolkata. Further he was also in charge of Chitrabani, a Jesuit media outreach of the Calcutta Province of the Jesuits in India. In private life he was an adroit spiritual director and a bibliophile. One the one hand he transformed media and new-media apostolates of the Catholic Church in Bengal and on the other hand he guided Jesuit tertians, fully professed Jesuits and Hindus like this author. I used to visit him once a week and spoke to him over the landline at a fixed time every week; detailing to him those areas of life I had imagined I had succeeded in overcoming myself and in those areas, I had been unable to make progress. But this sense of progress and retrogression were all chimeras created by my mind; Fr. Rozario mostly held his peace and allowed me to chatter on.

Sometimes I felt I had made no progress in any sphere of my life for long stretches of time; Fr. Rozario never judged me or made me do anything which is against my innate nature. One of the Jesuits he had directed had told this author that his experiences are the same as this author’s. And when I was with him I never knew he was an editor of The Herald or he had a decisive role in Catholic media outreach in Kolkata. He kept himself out of the spiritual direction process.

Only after his death I got to know that Fr. Horace’s brother was also a Jesuit and he had joined the Society of Jesus through either Fr. Jorris or Fr. Turmes or Fr. P.J. Gomes. I do not know who exactly one day in the morning asked him to join the Jesuits when he was a boarder at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. But he did mention to me one evening at one of our scheduled sessions that he was asked to join the Society by one of these Fathers. I know nothing of his family or work career except that at one point he had to fight against petty people who would not allow him to re-make The Herald in tandem with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. One important aspect of his spiritual direction was that one must intellectually bolster one’s faith in God. Because according to him, an academically untrained mind howsoever holy will falter down the line if not moulded by serious study. In a sense he advocated a form of the Renaissance trivium.

He insisted that I read Evelyn Waugh, Muriel Spark and Graham Greene as well as Karl Rahner and Hans Küng. More importantly he asked me to study the works of Edward Schillebeeckx. If I am not wrong Fr. Edward’s brother was a priest teaching at Morning Star Major Seminary at some point. It was Fr. Rozario who introduced me to the works of Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

In our sessions he made it a point to discuss these theologians and sometimes in his room at St. Xavier’s came a guest whom I loved. It was Fr. Joseph Remedios S.J. who had a great influence on the life of Shashi Tharoor. Tharoor mentions Fr. Remedios in his memoirs. That time Fr. Remedios lived at St. Lawrence’s School, Kolkata. These two Jesuits have burnt themselves in my memory for their kindness to a boy who was bored with regular studies and was coming to terms with a world which is arrogant and revolves on quid pro quos and money. Had Fr. Rozario not been there I would have given up on the Roman Catholic Church. He made it a point to make me understand that lived religion is a humdrum affair with no jazz in it.

Fr. Rozario spent his life in his room at St. Xavier’s and only once I saw him really disturbed: his diabetes was not detected early and that bothered him much. I learnt a very valuable lesson: to be on guard against bodily illnesses since our bodies are temples of YHWH. Fr. Rozario never shied away from controversies and only once when I was bluffing with him he lost his cool. He told me that if I am not willing to listen to him, why waste both our times? I was very contrite, and though he saw through the sham he never said anything further about my frivolity and till the day he died from old age we palavered on Catholic theology.

His room was filled with books and he was erudite. There was the theologian, the then retired Fr. Timmermans S.J. in the third floor of the Jesuit Residence at St. Xavier’s and Fr. Horace would accompany me to his room where this taciturn tall and thin professor of systematic theology would speak on some of the sore points in theology. That time in Indian Catholic circles there was a great debate about the orthodoxy of the Jesuit Fr. Anthony de Mello and all books by Fr. de Mello carried a warning from Cardinal (now Pope) Ratzinger. Fr. Pedro Arruppe, the Jesuit Superior General then, along with all the theologians mentioned above had been censured by St. John Paul the Great for being too enthusiastic in their response to the Second Vatican Council.

It was in the room of Fr. Timmermans that I decided to study the Bible in some detail to see how these Catholic theologians interpreted the Holy Bible vis-à-vis the teachings of the Catholic Church. This I could only do when I had secured a permanent post as an Assistant Professor in English. But the love for literature and Christian theology was born in me through the direct influence of one of Calcutta’s greatest spiritual directors. Fr. Rozario had never been through formative-spirituality courses but I think now when he is no more, that he was guided by the Holy Spirit to guide innumerable people of many faiths. All this was done with no ado and no public acclaim. After Googling him for this blog-post I have found out that he was very active in the Anglo-Indian community in Bengal and Kolkata. He must be glad that another Anglo-Indian is at the helm of the Calcutta Jesuits, Fr. Raphael Hyde S.J.

Incidentally, there’s a Fr. Horace Rozario S.J. Award for Journalism instituted in his honour.

Subhasis Chattopadhyay is a blogger and an Assistant Professor in English (UG & PG Departments of English) at Narasinha Dutt College affiliated to the University of Calcutta. He has additional qualifications in Biblical Studies and separately, Spiritual Psychology. He also studied the Minor Upanishads separately. He remains a staunch Hindu. He had written extensively for the Catholic Herald published from Calcutta. From 2010 he reviews books for the Ramakrishna Mission and his reviews have been showcased in Ivy League Press-websites.