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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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Nativity of St. John the Baptist: Jesus called John the greatest of all those who had preceded him: “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John....” But John would have agreed completely with what Jesus added: “[Y]et the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28). 
<p>John spent his time in the desert, an ascetic. He began to announce the coming of the Kingdom, and to call everyone to a fundamental reformation of life. </p><p>His purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. His Baptism, he said, was for repentance. But One would come who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. John is not worthy even to carry his sandals. His attitude toward Jesus was: “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30). </p><p>John was humbled to find among the crowd of sinners who came to be baptized the one whom he already knew to be the Messiah. “I need to be baptized by you” (Matthew 3:14b). But Jesus insisted, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15b). Jesus, true and humble human as well as eternal God, was eager to do what was required of any good Jew. John thus publicly entered the community of those awaiting the Messiah. But making himself part of that community, he made it truly messianic. </p><p>The greatness of John, his pivotal place in the history of salvation, is seen in the great emphasis Luke gives to the announcement of his birth and the event itself—both made prominently parallel to the same occurrences in the life of Jesus. John attracted countless people (“all Judea”) to the banks of the Jordan, and it occurred to some people that he might be the Messiah. But he constantly deferred to Jesus, even to sending away some of his followers to become the first disciples of Jesus. </p><p>Perhaps John’s idea of the coming of the Kingdom of God was not being perfectly fulfilled in the public ministry of Jesus. For whatever reason, he sent his disciples (when he was in prison) to ask Jesus if he was the Messiah. Jesus’ answer showed that the Messiah was to be a figure like that of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah (chapters 49 through 53). John himself would share in the pattern of messianic suffering, losing his life to the revenge of Herodias.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us pray to Our Lady, that she may protect us. In times of spiritual upset, the safest place is within the folds of her garments.

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