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The Rite: The Story Behind the Film View Comments
By By Matt Wielgos and John Feister

Father Lucas (Anthony Hopkins, left) administers the Rite of Exorcism for Rosaria (Marta Gastini) as seminarian Michael Kovak (Colin O’Donoghue) apprehensively looks on.

This month The Rite opens at movie theaters across the United States. It’s the gripping tale of a San Jose, California, priest, Father Gary Thomas, who at his bishop’s request went to Rome to study exorcism.

Matt Baglio, an American journalist in Rome, wrote a book based on Father Gary’s story. The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist was published in 2009 by Doubleday (with an audio version shortly thereafter by St. Anthony Messenger Press). The film is based on Baglio’s book.

Baglio, living in Rome, spent time with Father Gary during his exorcist training in 2005, while Father Gary was apprenticing with an Italian priest at over 80 exorcisms. In Italy, exorcism is a ritual that never really left the public eye.

St. Anthony Messenger interviewed Matt Baglio twice in recent years for our radio program, American Catholic Radio. Our most recent interview was last November, as the film was being completed. Radio producer Matt Wielgos, on his way to a pilgrimage in Assisi, talked to Baglio in Rome in a piazza over a cup of coffee.

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Matt Wielgos is manager of the media production department at St. Anthony Messenger Press (SAMP). He holds a B.A. in mass communications and theology from the Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. John Feister is general editor of periodicals at St. Anthony Messenger Press.

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Elizabeth of Portugal: Elizabeth is usually depicted in royal garb with a dove or an olive branch. At her birth in 1271, her father, Pedro III, future king of Aragon, was reconciled with his father, James, the reigning monarch. This proved to be a portent of things to come. Under the healthful influences surrounding her early years, she quickly learned self-discipline and acquired a taste for spirituality. Thus fortunately prepared, she was able to meet the challenge when, at the age of 12, she was given in marriage to Denis, king of Portugal. She was able to establish for herself a pattern of life conducive to growth in God’s love, not merely through her exercises of piety, including daily Mass, but also through her exercise of charity, by which she was able to befriend and help pilgrims, strangers, the sick, the poor—in a word, all those whose need came to her notice. At the same time she remained devoted to her husband, whose infidelity to her was a scandal to the kingdom. 
<p>He, too, was the object of many of her peace endeavors. She long sought peace for him with God, and was finally rewarded when he gave up his life of sin. She repeatedly sought and effected peace between the king and their rebellious son, Alfonso, who thought that he was passed over to favor the king’s illegitimate children. She acted as peacemaker in the struggle between Ferdinand, king of Aragon, and his cousin James, who claimed the crown. And finally from Coimbra, where she had retired as a Franciscan tertiary to the monastery of the Poor Clares after the death of her husband, she set out and was able to bring about a lasting peace between her son Alfonso, now king of Portugal, and his son-in-law, the king of Castile.</p> American Catholic Blog In the name of the Father, use my mind to bring you honor, and of the Son, fill my heart to spread your word, and of the Holy Spirit, strengthen me to carry you out to all the world. Amen.

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