Book: The Making of a Modern Exorcist

The Rite - The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio published by Simon & Schuster

This book is a real pager-turner, though not one to read late at night.

In 2005, Rome's Regina Apostolorum University, run by the Legionaries of Christ,  held a two-month course for exorcists. It included a study of law, psychology,  and the history of satanism and its context in the Bible. It was attended by 120 priests from around the world. Journalist Matt Baglio, writes this account of one of them: Californian Fr Gary Thomas - who also spends some time as an 'apprentice' to an Italian priest -  who performs exorcisms and blessings in a room at the Scala Santa church in Rome (unbeknownst to the thousands of pilgrims who also visit there each year.)

Baglio begins the book emphasising that exorcisms are extremely rare, and mostly nothing like the depiction in Hollywood movies. He stresses that practitioners need to be able to distinguish between a mental illness and a demonic possession.

But he soon goes on to describe in lurid detail, case after case of quite terrifying demonic possessions - people foaming at the mouth, vomiting strange stuff, eyes rolling and near the end of the book -  a horrific scene where a woman's face turns into an adder. 

His style is quite formulaic: chapters open with scene-setting descriptions of Rome's streets - teaming with priests swirling along in long black soutains, flashbacks and references to archaic and modern religious texts, followed by neat pen portraits of the main protagonists. (Police criminologist Dr Marco Strano is 'a brooding bald man with an intense gaze made more pronounced by thick black eyebrows.'..  With his 'thinning but neatly trimmed brown hair and gold circular wire framed glasses Fr Gary has the unassuming appearance of someone content to put others at ease.')
It reads like an outline for a film - and of course that's exactly what it is. The publisher's blurb tells us that a film adaptation is being developed and will star Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Although it is a gripping read, personally I'm not sure this book is the best approach to the subject. A short appendix in 'Healing the Greatest Hurt' by Mathew Linn, Dennis Linn and Sheila Fabricant, (Paulist Press) 'Praying for Family Occult Involvement' , says it better for me.   While strongly acknowledging the existence of Satan and need for exorcism, it points out: "Follow up after a deliverance from the occult should stress the power and love of Jesus Christ rather than the presence of demons everywhere."

"The best way to maintain a deliverance from the evil one is to be delivered into the love of Jesus.  The more the person is filled with the love and light of Jesus, the less the evil one can find a home in that person."

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