Author: Matt Baglio
Pages: Paperback, 247
Opening Lines: "The thirty-five-year-old woman lay on a padded massage table, her arms and legs held by two men. She wore a black Puma sweat suit and her dark brown hair was pulled back tightly into a ponytail."
"Written with an investigative eye that will captivate both skeptics and believers, The Rite is a uniquely intimate glimpse into the chilling world of a real-life Roman Catholic exorcist. Father Gary Thomas was working as a parish priest in California when church leaders asked him to travel to Rome for training in the rite of exorcism. In Rome, as an apprentice to veteran Italian exorcists, his eyes were opened to a side of the Catholic faith he had never known, and he came to see the battle between good and evil in a whole new light. Journalist Matt Baglio had full access to Father Gary over the course of his training, and the astonishing story he found reveals that the phenomena of possession, demons, the Devil, and exorcism are not merely a remnant of the archaic past, but remain a fearsome power in many people's lives even today."
~ Jacket copy
Thoughts: After watching The Rite, I was curious about reading the book is was based on. I was fairly skeptical as to whether this book would actually be a work of fiction or if it would be something else. What I found was an excellent scholarly work that gives an interesting glimpse into exorcism. While Baglio is a Catholic, I felt that it was not biased one way or the other. On the contrary, I felt it was informative and based solely on research and his dealings with the Catholic exorcists in Rome.
Being a Christian, I have not issues accepting the existence of Satan and demons. After a lot of the stuff I have seen in my life, I have believe in the reality of demonic possession. Strangely enough, I am drawn to the literature and movies that deal with this issue. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this book! It follows the story of Father Gary. After completing his time at San Altos parish in California, he decides to go on a sabbatical to Rome and study at the Catholic universities. Knowing that he is going, he is approached by his bishop and asked to take part in the exorcism course offered by the Vatican. It was the hope that every diocese would have an exorcist. According to the book, there has been a rise on occult activity; therefore, more people have been searching out the help of Catholic priests. Many priests in the U.S. had been practicing as exorcists while they were untrained in the rite. Wanting to combat this problem, the church opened a class in 2004 called "Exorcism and the Prayer of Liberation."
During the later half of the course and Father Gary's time in Rome, he apprenticed under Father Carmine and sat in on over 60 exorcisms. He learned a great deal about his faith and the reason for exorcisms.
In the process of creating this course, it was agreed that psychiatrists and criminologists would be involved with teaching sections of the course. Several times the author discusses that mental illness and demonic possession have been misdiagnosed. Many of the exorcists suggest working hand in hand with an open-minded medical doctor and psychiatrist. Several of the exorcists recommend that the person being afflicted seek attention from these other specialist before they enter into an exorcism. In addition, they are also extremely mindful of the people seeking attention and those who truly are afflicted. At one point, Father Carmine tells Father Gary not to mention to the person that they are possessed, because it could very easily damage their psyche. The point is liberation, not fear.
The thing that struck me the most about this book is the Catholic view on demonic possession. While it is something that most people never want to experience, the church views it as a way to return to Christ. Since the priests try to have people partake in the Sacraments after exorcism and to keep the demon from returning, they see it as God allowing a possession in order to turn people back to a righteous path. It forces them to seek out God. The other interesting thing I learned from this book is that demonic possession appears to be more common in women. However, they are unsure why this is the case.
I also found it interesting that exorcisms are not this "wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am" and you're cured. According to the book, exorcisms could last over a number of years. (That might be the only connection to the movie!)
While I should find it surprising, many of the priests did not believe in Satan or demons. They viewed it more as a metaphor for sin and something used to scare people. For that reason, many exorcists got a lot of flack and they were not taken seriously. Father Gary himself was challenged in his unbelief.
This book was though provoking, thorough, and fascinating. I felt that the writing style was smooth and the diction was excellent. The book was not written to scare people. On the contrary, I felt it was meant to be an informative work. The author wanted to lift the veil on something that is shrouded in mystery and only seen on the Hollywood silver screen. Even though I am a Christian and believe in demonic possession, this book really opened by eyes to things I never knew and misconceptions. In short, this is an amazing book! If you're curious about this subject, I suggest reading this book.
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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