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The Rite: The Making of a Modern Day Exorcist | Critique

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Anthropology
Wordcount: 1691 words Published: 26th Apr 2018

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Reading The Rite was an intriguing experience for me since as young as I can recall I have gone to church, so the concept of Lucifer and demons is far from new to me. While reading this book by Matt Baglio the resounding question that crept into my head was what was his purpose for writing this book? There are enough movies out there satiate people’s hunger for exorcisms, I didn’t think anything new would come of it, but as I read I realized that Baglio’s perspective was no ordinary approach. When I read of his account about studying exorcisms I was surprised to hear that there was a University class to textbook study the science which really caught my interest. After doing some research myself I learned that there was a need for Exorcists, and in America alone there should be 200, but we have only 50 in America, so the Vatican created a course for people interested to become Exorcists. I came to learn that Baglio’s purpose for writing The Rite was to write the truth about Exorcisms and give an accurate representation about them since the media has embellished exorcisms. As I read about Father Gary Thomas’ under goings I learned that exorcisms often aren’t accomplished and finished in one fell swoop. Hollywood has put people under the impression that an exorcism is a onetime event that frees the person from a demon in some dramatic and climatic fashion, but that is not how it works. The afflicted individual undergoes numerous exorcisms, resulting in temporary liberations which eventually can cause a demon to flee. Present day that is a screening process that happens before someone is exorcised with psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists involved because the Church has come to realize that a lot of people are mentally afflicted and need help. Another reason Baglio wrote The Rite is to convey the idea of personal responsibility and how it is up to us to make the right choices in our lives. He tries to convey to us the reader that we’re in control, the free will that we possess, and how we cannot ignore this concept of evil because evil is real so we cannot simply ignore it. Yet don’t let the fear of evil consume you and become obsessed by it.

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Which leads to Baglio’s thesis of The Rite which is to diminish fear and to talk about exorcisms in a way that people could put the concept of evil into a theological context. The reader learns throughout the book that demons often exhibit similar behavior when manifesting. Yet sometimes behaviors are unexpected. This is where the array of experiences among the exorcists is especially useful when developing the Church’s and individual’s knowledge of the subject matter. Baglio didn’t want to over-dramatize anything and give an accurate account. When reading The Rite, I learned that supernatural occurrences happen during exorcisms but that is not a common occurrence and during the writing of The Rite Father Gary did not witness it himself but other exorcists have like stuff flying across rooms, speaking is other tongues, and the afflicted throwing up objects that then liquefy. On one occasion Baglio describes the disparity of experience by different people present at the same exorcism, “During the exorcism, Father Gary had the overwhelming sensation that the room was suffocatingly hot, while the priest from Indianapolis smelled a terrible ‘over-powering’ stench,” (page 149). It’s details such as these that Baglio wanted to convey to the reader to give an accurate account to write the truth, but keep it in a theological context while not over-dramatizing the occurrences while still maintaining objectivity. As one reads The Rite it’s clear that Baglio is a serious journalist as he examines what popular culture takes as truth and corrects misconceptions. As well, he thoroughly examines many of the questions that occur to any logical person when faced with the idea of demons and possession in modern times. To this end, he interviews psychologist, doctors, and other specialists for information. All of this is told without ever inserting himself into the book which allows the focus to stay on the subject and on Father Gary, whose journey yielded spiritual growth in several ways. That is what Baglio is trying to convey.

One of the main observations I made while reading The Rite is the concept of trying to be a good person which Baglio conveys relies heavily on the choices you make as an individual. Baglio’s accounting of the information from classes amounts to a brief catechism of Church teachings about anything to do with this subject including among other things angels, free will, God’s power, and human ailments. As a priest, Father Gary learns that one must be understanding and forgiving. “While it’s technically true that any priest can perform an exorcism, not every priest should. Guideline thirteen of the Ritual states that the bishop can only nominate a priest who is ‘distinguished in piety, learning, prudence, and integrity of life.’ In addition, ‘The priest […] should carry out this work of charity confidently and humbly under the guidance of the Ordinary,” (page 72). We as the reader get a peek into the mind and teachings of an exorcist and even though an Exorcist can perform exorcisms as they please, they learn just how sacred and important undergoing such an act can be, and they must remain humble and understanding of a situation before they move forward and perform the exorcism. A second observation I made while reading The Rite is how Baglio goes about to shed light on the truth about Exorcisms. The Rite helps us realize just how thoroughly our popular notions of exorcism have been fashioned via cinema and fiction. Exorcisms often aren’t accomplished in one fell swoop. Instead, the process may take years of repeated encounters and prayers and this surprises some, “‘People don’t understand what we do,’ says Father Gramolazzo. ‘People come to see us expecting to be healed right away. […] Instead, as Father Gramolazzo explains, exorcism is more akin to a journey, with the exorcist acting as a kind of ‘spiritual director’ helping the victim to ‘rediscover the grace of God’ through prayer and the sacraments […] Getting people to see it this way is not always easy for the exorcist. ‘Half the battle is to change their whole purpose so they don’t see it in the light of getting rid of a problem, but see it in the light of being more fully converted or being converted at all,” says English exorcist Father Jeremy Davies,” (page 167). Baglio’s work examines pop-culture misconceptions-about exorcism, demons, the church and more-by countering them with probing questions to psychologists, doctors, and other specialists; and the focus remains well-centered on Father Thomas, and the spiritual growth that the priest has experienced in his journey. The third observation I made is the fact that a person or exorcist is still unsure and not one hundred percent convinced about everything occurring throughout The Rite; that the doubt and skepticism still exists. While reading, we can notice that in Father Gary Thomas, and how there is still a lot of mystery about the matter; how suspicion grows about the people who are one hundred percent certain about the exorcisms. The exorcists are just like a guy and they hope what God is doing is real but they just rely on faith and leave it to God.

This book relates to Anthropology 55 in many ways. As we reviewed earlier there is no uniform anthropological theory of religion and Baglio states that the concept of demons, exorcisms, and the afterlife date back to the dawn of time. This concept is not new and is applicable across all faiths. This plays a factor as to why there cannot be a uniformed anthropological theory of religion. As well everything we see and touch, feel and experience is only one path. There is an unknown but we cannot reach it or channel it. That is where exorcisms come into play, and studying that can help anthropologist better understand religion. The exorcist acts as a medium, the middle point to help exorcise the demons which we cannot channel or sense. Studying exorcists and exorcisms can help anthropologist better understand the concept of faith because the study of exorcism is not a science but also plays heavily on faith, so it is not something everyone can learn. Exorcisms can also be defined as rituals and the reasons why we practice rituals can be applied as to why people study and practice exorcising. When they feel they have tempted fate, to diminish negative feelings, and bring about a sense of peace and comfort. Rituals are beneficial for helping us feel a sense of peace and familiarity in a world where we can feel very unfamiliar with and have a hard time maintaining our sense of peace. Since exorcisms can be called a ritual since rituals and exorcisms share many traits they can relate back to anthropology.

The Rite helped me better understand the concept of demons and other worldly supernatural phenomena. I use to be a Christian due to my parents when I was younger but when I came of age and could make my own decisions about my life I questioned a lot of Church’s teachings. Reading Baglio’s book gave a much-appreciated insight into the life of an Exorcist because I doubted that what was portrayed in film was what occurred in real life, more so I thought that the concept of exorcising was an old-world practice and wasn’t taught and executed today. Contrary to what I believed reading Baglio’s book showed me otherwise.


Baglio, Matt. The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist. New York: Image , 2010. Print.


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