An Interview with Fr. Bryan Lobo, S.J.

by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism



Dr. Knight: Would you please share with us your early Catholic formation.

Father Lobo: I come from a traditional Catholic family from Mangalore but born and brought up in the city of Mumbai. My parents saw to it that I received a good grounding in the Catholic Faith. I was sent for catechism classes before my first Holy Communion. I was also sent to Sunday school which sometimes was boring. My parents made sure that my siblings and I participated in the Parish activities. I was an Altar boy and then a member of the Legion of Mary. We would visit the sick and do a lot of charity work as members of the Legion of Mary. Since my whole family was involved in the Legion of Mary, the Rosary was the most important prayer of the family which was prayed together practically every day with arms outstretched especially for the sorrowful mysteries. I went to a Catholic school (run by the Mumbai diocese). I then joined the Jesuit College in Mangalore – St. Aloysius College.

Dr. Knight: Please tell us the significance of your high school years in formation.

Father Lobo: My high school years were more of fun, study, games and even mischief with my companions. I was an all-rounder, participating in sports, elocution and debate competitions which stood me in good stead later on in life. I would spend quite some time reading story books, comics, novels like Sherlock Holmes and Hardy Boys and even playing cricket with my friends, having matches on weekends and sometimes getting into fights with those who cheated. I would also sneak off sometimes with my friends to see movies especially those that would be prohibited for boys below 18. These experiences helped me to understand the youth better when I worked with them as a Jesuit.

Dr. Knight: You went to college and joined the seminary. How did you make that decision?

Father Lobo: I wanted to join the seminary right after my High school but my mother said it would be better that I join after my graduation. In hindsight, I presume, she realized that I was joining more because of a certain attraction to the life of the Priests in the Parish who would sometimes come home for a meal and were good friends of my parents. They would always have their cassocks on which seemed to me different and even attractive. She perhaps was right in noticing a certain superficiality in my vocation which needed to be radicalized. So I joined college but then I got interested in girls and I felt that seminary life, especially celibacy, would be a big problem for me. I even had a friend who had returned back after joining the minor seminary. He was a discouragement sometimes. Subsequently, therefore, In my college years I lost my vocation. I started thinking of doing well in the world marrying a beautiful girl and having a good family. While I was finishing my college I started feeling a certain emptiness whenever I thought about the “worldly” pursuits. I would think about Jesus who had given his life for me right from childhood but it did not hit me then when it hit me while I was finishing college. The following statement made such radical sense to me at the end of my college years: “If Jesus gave his life for me, then I will give my life for him”. It was just this statement that put things in perspective and then there was no looking back.

Dr. Knight: You were called by God to be a Jesuit. What is the significance of your call to be a follower of Ignatius and Christ?

Father Lobo: I think in my case, it was very simple. As I mentioned earlier, “if Jesus gave his life for me I will give my life for him”. This statement sums up the significance of my vocation to be a follower of Ignatius and Christ. Whatever comes in the “package” will be accepted. It was this presupposition that helped me to understand at once the “Principle and Foundation” of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. After doing the exercises and filled with the love for Jesus, I wanted to bring other people to experience this love which was so liberating.

Dr. Knight: You spent formation finding out your abilities and gifts through discernment. How was your discernment helpful to you personally?

Father Lobo: I would not be in agreement with the first part of this question because for me discernment is not really trying to find out my abilities and gifts which I could even do without the classical “discernment”. Furthermore, I did not spend my formation finding out my abilities and gifts through discernment. Discernment was trying to find out what God wants me to do. It would, nevertheless, involve my abilities and gifts, but it goes way beyond that. There was a moment when I really felt that God wanted me to go ahead given my abilities in a certain direction and my Provincial thought otherwise. I obeyed and then realized that it has actually revealed facets in me which I was oblivious of before and is seeming useful in my apostolate leading to a lot consolation.

Dr. Knight: Do you think/feel that your life is somewhat a mosaic of your different gifts?

Father Lobo: In a way yes and in a way no. Yes, because my gifts are helping me in my apostolate. No, because my weaknesses which I would categorize as “non-gifts” are tools through which God is working his will in a more radical way.

Dr. Knight: What do you want the readers to understand after reading this interview about being a Jesuit? About living in community?

Father Lobo: If the reader thinks that a Jesuit is “simply” a man in love with Jesus and will do what it takes to live up to that love with all the weaknesses, strengths, mistakes and blunders that would be done on the way, then I think the reader has understood well at least this interview.

In regard to living in a community, it can be a great blessing with moments of consolation and desolation, and both these moments can finally become stepping stones to a fruitful life for oneself and others.

Dr. Knight: What are some of the challenges of the future Church?

Father Lobo: I think ecumenism, interreligious interaction and vocational fidelity of the Religious and Clerics are some of the challenges of the Church today and for the future. Ecumenism, because I think it is high time the Christians of the world give up their egocentric issues whether theological, psychological and ecclesial and come together realistically under the banner of Christ and this is not easy. Interreligious interaction, because today other religions that surround the Church all over are offering assurances, hopes and perspectives to the Christians that seem more acceptable and sometimes even “empowering” than the Christian Faith. Vocational fidelity of the Clerics, Religious men and women, because the scandal of the abuse of minors, of finances and other forms of corruption among the Religious and Priests is growing and that must stop

.

Dr. Knight: What are some of the joys you’ve experienced as a Jesuit follower of Christ?

Father Lobo: As a Jesuit follower of Christ, for me the first joy is that I am unconditionally loved by the Lord. On this foundation, I find the companionship that I share in the community with other Jesuits as very helpful. It gives me great joy to have personal chats with the Superiors which we call the manifestation of conscience; to be with and learn from older Jesuits who have loads of experience in spiritual and apostolic life and still remain so humble.

Dr. Knight: As a Jesuit what are some of the duties that you perform/pray?

Father Lobo:

Well again, if you are in love with Jesus, your whole life can be prayerful. But formally the mass, the rosary, the breviary (for me however I have received special permission from the Superior to substitute the breviary with half an hour of silent meditation – a decision made after a personal discernment and years of praying the breviary faithfully), the examen of conscience or consciousness, are my prayerful daily duties. There would be times when I may not be able to fulfill a duty, but I have managed to maintain the rhythm of these daily duties and it bears much fruit personally and interpersonally as well.

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