Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Demonology Studies: The Rite - Book & Movie

Last fall I purchased, read and studied (twice) a book that I found to be very helpful in my always continuing demonology studies.  It is entitled The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, and was written by Matt Baglio. It is a book I recommend to anyone wishing to further their studies in this field. 

Prayer; the spiritual disciplines; scripture memorization; constantly reading and studying the Bible; reading and studying books and articles by exorcists and demonologists; talking and working with leading people in the field such as Keith Johnson and Bishop James Long; and my own field experiences in demonic cases are all a part of what I do to learn and grow, so I can be effective for those who reach out for my help. My team and prayer support group is a constant source of learning for me also, as we sharpen one another as "iron sharpens iron." My main purpose and energy however, is simply to practice my faith and grow stronger the tie that exists between Christ the Lord and myself.  There comes a balance that must be found in this work, between being and doing.  Faith, strong faith, is the key to confronting the evil one.  It is a struggle between good and evil in which knowledge, truth, and power are manifested in many kinds of encounters.  It is truly a humbling, challenging, and utterly exhausting work.  It is mind and soul bending, it is weighty, but yet it is thoroughly rewarding.  It is indeed, a calling.  He bids select ones of us to come take our place in the battle line, this cosmic battle of good and evil.

In The Rite, the book, Baglio accompanied Father Gary Thomas to Rome and had full access to him as Father Gary trained in the rite of exorcism.  Father Jose Antonio Fortea, whose books I also have studied, called The Rite "one of the best books ever written on the topic of exorcism.  I have read very few books that give a description as appropriate, as precise, or as detailed."

Now, The Rite has been made into a movie, starring Academy Award winning actor Sir Anthony Hopkins. The movie takes a bit of artistic license, but in many ways stays true to the book.  It was released early this year, and is set to be released on DVD and Blu-ray on May 17, 2011.   Recently Father Gary Thomas, the priest whose experiences the movie is loosed based upon, commented on the movie.

Photo on Left: The real Father Gary Thomas, who is with Sacred Heart Parish in Saratoga, California.

In an interview with CNA on Jan. 19, Fr. Thomas – who currently serves as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Saratoga, California –  explained that he served as a consultant for the film,  particularly the scenes featuring exorcisms.  For a week in June last year, he said he was on the movie set working with cast members and producers. The priest added that “to their credit,” the directors and producers wanted the exorcism scenes to be as accurate as possible. “The environment of that movie set was very reverential towards the Church,” Fr. Thomas said. “The producer and the director and the cast whom I worked with at the time were very open.” Fr. Thomas said he recently saw a screening of the film alongside Anthony Hopkins at a New Line Cinema studio in Los Angeles.

In his words, the movie has a “loose” basis in Baglio's book. One discrepancy Fr. Thomas pointed out was that he went to Rome as a 50-year-old seasoned priest with a desire to learn more about the rite of exorcism  – hardly a cynical seminarian in the midst of a faith crisis. Despite the differences, however, he called the film “very good.” “The human side of the priesthood is very well developed,” he said, adding that the portrayal of “the institutional Church comes out very positively.” Fr. Thomas said that given the reality of the subject matter, the experience was very powerful and even frightening for many involved in the movie. He said that Hopkins, a professed Christian, and O'Donoghue – a practicing Catholic who serves as a lector at his parish in Dublin – “very much” believe in the existence of evil and feared possible demonic attacks as a result of working on the film. “The producer and the two key actors all asked me privately if they could be attacked by doing this movie,” he said. “I said, I can't absolutely say yes or no – which lead me to say  'possibly.'”  “I do think that a person can get attacked, and I don't know if they did but they were afraid,” he said. “I just tried to reassure them.”

Fr. Thomas also said that the intensely eery trailers for the film are “deceptive” in the sense that they make it look like a “horror movie,” which he says is inaccurate. “There's some very riveting scenes – I wouldn't say they're scary, but they're a little startling.” Ultimately, however, “this is a movie about faith,” said Fr. Thomas. “People are going to be very surprised.”

It's certainly refreshing in an age where many (most?) Americans have lost their understanding of true evil as personal beings (Satan and fallen angels), to discover that Hopkins and O'Donoghue are traditional Christians.  A great read on that unfortunate reality is Andrew Delbanco's The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost the Sense of Evil.  To see the official trailer of the movie The Rite, click here:  THE RITE:  TRAILER

1 comment:

  1. I purchased the book off of ebay to read before I watch the movie. It was VERY,VERY informative and gave me great insights. I have on one occasion experienced someone possessed but it was not to do an excorcism nor was one performed on that person @the time. It truly helped to give me some much needed information in the event I ever encounter that again. Even as a Christian just coming that close to that experience it bothered me. I remembered praying inwardly asking God to protect me and wandering whether my faith was strong enough to withstand any personal attacks that may be cast towards me. I was relieved when the preachers and laymen of the different denominations chose NOT to act on impulse. I do remember having a headache the rest of the afternoon and wandering Why God would allow me to experience that encounter to start with. This book helped bring much needed clarity. Thanks Mike!