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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Deliver Us From Evil

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Eric Bana and Joel McHale star in a scene from the movie "Deliver Us From Evil."
As exorcism movies go, "Deliver Us From Evil" (Screen Gems) is better than most.

Though sensational at times, director and co-writer Scott Derrickson's screen version of Ralph Sarchie's memoir "Beware the Night" (written with Lisa Collier Cool) does at least treat faith seriously. That's hardly a surprise, however, given the sober tenor of Derrickson's earlier take on the subject, 2005's "The Exorcism of Emily Rose."

Even so, its dark subject matter and some intense -- and bloody -- interludes suggest a cautious approach toward Derrickson's latest dance with the devil on the part of all but the most resilient screen patrons.

The film's credibility and effectiveness derive in large part from the profile of its main character. A no-nonsense New York City police officer and lapsed Catholic, Sgt. Sarchie (Eric Bana) is the last person to attribute the depraved behavior he encounters every day to supernatural causes.

So it's all the more remarkable when Sarchie's investigation of a series of peculiar crimes taking place on his beat in the South Bronx eventually leads him to suspect that more than ordinary evil is at work in them. He's helped to that conclusion by Father Joe Mendoza (Edgar Ramirez), a priest whose ties to the church are frayed, but whose spiritual outlook is orthodox enough.

Father Mendoza's freelancer status and checkered past, the latter described at some length in the dialogue, may not sit well with some Catholic moviegoers. Yet, as Derrickson's script, written with Paul Harris Boardman, suggests, who better to battle Satan than someone with demons of his own that he's managed to vanquish?

At any rate, Sarchie gradually comes to accept the fact that his main suspect, Iraq War veteran Mick Santino (Sean Harris), is indeed possessed. But not before the evil emanating from Santino has begun to affect Sarchie's wife, Jen (Olivia Munn), and young daughter, Christina (Lulu Wilson). Later, Santino's shadow will fall over Sarchie's sardonic partner, Butler (Joel McHale), as well.

Whatever his earlier shortcomings, Father Mendoza certainly takes his priesthood seriously. He insists, for instance, that to be properly armed for his forthcoming struggle with the forces of darkness, Sarchie must humble himself before God, preferably by going to confession.

That Sarchie, for all his initial scoffing, does so indicates that "Deliver Us From Evil" is not just out to evoke chills. It's also, in the strictest sense, a conversion story as well as an exploration of the reality of superhuman malevolence. In the face of such iniquity, the movie suggests, only an active and trusting faith will suffice.

The film contains mature themes, occasional gory violence, about a dozen uses of profanity, frequent rough and crude language and an obscene gesture. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988.</p> American Catholic Blog God is great. God is good. And God, in his fatherly love, has a plan for our lives that will work out for our benefit and salvation. All we have to do is trust and obey.

The Blessing of Family

 
CATHOLIC GREETINGS
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