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Dispelling the darkness: Another take on The Rite

February 8, 2011
Reporting for S+L, I enjoy a unique vantage point of the subjects we cover. Only once did I feel uncomfortably close to the story.
It was during my last assignment in Rome that I met journalist Matt Baglio, who had just released a book titled "The Rite". Baglio documents his experiences accompanying a priest who was learning the rite of exorcism. The book has since inspired the new Hollywood film.
He agreed to an interview, which we filmed in a church just steps away from St. Peter’s Square. San Lorenzo in Piscibus is known for its joyful liturgies with the World Youth Day Cross. But the stark 12th century interior provided a chilling backdrop as Baglio recounted the exorcisms that he witnessed. (Watch the video above for clips from the interview; more will appear in a future S+L program.)
Unlike Baglio, I was a few degrees removed from these spiritual battles. Yet as I spoke with him, I wondered if I was better off not knowing about them, as if my ignorance might offer a measure of protection against the reality of evil. Similarly, one of my colleagues won’t even watch the film—not because she thinks the Hollywood adaptation is too fictional, but because she fears it’s a little too real. One can argue that we should give a wide berth to evil and avoid unduly focusing on it.
The world’s exorcists, however, have less choice in the matter, as they accept their mission in obedience to their respective bishops. “The Rite” testifies to the courage and service of these priests. While relatively few clerics ever perform a major exorcism, all priests wage the same fight against evil as they minister in persona Christi. Priests are heroes. And “The Rite” communicates this truth with conviction—arguably more than any Hollywood production in years.
Solely judging its entertainment value, “The Rite” has met mixed reviews (as evidenced by another colleague’s post on this blog). But it’s worth noting that of the six Catholics with whom I attended the film, all found it to be refreshingly realistic and reverent. To the relief of some and the disappointment of others, it was not terribly frightening, either--I confess I was more shaken by my conversation with the author in that dimly-lit church. Unlike the norm of the horror genre, “The Rite” lets the light pierce through the darkness.
Footage courtesy: New Line Cinema
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