Sunday, December 12, 2010
The Rite by Matt Baglio
The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist by Matt Baglio is both very informative, and completely terrifying. I have always been very interested in different cultures' stories of demons, ghosts and monsters, but given my own religious persuasion, the Devil with a capital D is something that I have always believed existed. Regardless of your own opinion, this book will definitely make you wonder.
Basically, it deals with a recent Catholic decision that every Diocese must have an official Exorcist. As a result, Rome began offering classes on Exorcism and the Catholic doctrine of the Devil. The book follows Father Gary Thomas as he attends the course and is then apprenticed to an Exorcist in order to learn the trade.
One thing that is remarkable about the book is it's relaxed, informal approach to the subject. This is not a sensationalist, religious manifesto about the power of darkness vs. the power of God. It is a simple, informative look at how the Catholic church perceives Exorcism: what possession is, how a demon may be evicted, and what the impact on human life is. As a result, the book is divided between education on the history of Exorcism, and the church's view of Angels and Demons, and a more journalistic approach to Father Gary's education.
His apprenticeship with Father Carmine is interesting because it emphasizes the lack of Hollywood theatricality about the act. There are certainly some frightening and bizarre things that occur (there are documented cases of possessed people vomiting up insects or dislocating their limbs), but more often than not, the possessions simply manifest as fits of coughing or anger.
Also of interest is the revelation that the Catholic Church does not believe a demon inhabits a person, so much as it habitually uses a person as a conduit for its destructive impulses. As a result, an exorcism is frequently a lengthy process that can take months or even years in order to deny a devil his familiar home ground.
Regardless of your religious upbringing or beliefs, The Rite is a fascinating look at a little understood but extremely famous part of Catholic theology.