Please love to be scared! Perhaps our appreciation and enjoyment of horror films and roller coasters result from our broken human nature. Maybe, our fear stems from the desire of the “evil one” who also enjoys it when we live in fear! Jesus however gives us a remedy when He declares, “Be Not Afraid!”
Courage! Isn’t that what people of faith are supposed to have, especially the Church’s ministers? Then why did my recent view of the movie, “The Rite” starring Anthony Hopkins and Colin O’Donoghue give me some chills? In a nutshell, it’s because I know the devil is real and is someone that I should be so scared of that I run to God (in prayer) whenever I sense that something is wrong. But the movie “scared” me in another way because it got some messages and symbols very wrong!
Let’s say a few things about what movie did get right. First, this movie affirmed two truths: (1) That the devil is real! and (2) Hollywood doesn’t really understand the Catholic Faith and the interior workings of the Church!
Both of these “frighten” me in a way, because the devil sometimes uses Hollywood’s arrogance, ignorance, and even atheistic agendas to “hide” and go unseen. The influence of Hollywood is sometimes greater than the Gospel, especially for younger generations who will watch this movie and think it’s either all true or either all false. Both extremes are the devil’s temptations!
That’s why I’m blogging about this movie. From a pastoral perspective I offer these thought for our Grace Before Meals families.
Ultimately I have to say (from a personal opinion) that I liked the movie enough because of the genuine message that highlighted the struggle and championship of good over evil. It highlights the reality that even priests, and other people of faith can be “tempted” by the devil. Yes, people of faith can even experience doubt. It realistically showed some of the inherent properties concerning the ancient Rite of Exorcism, such as the devil’s knowledge of hidden things, the ability to manifest supernatural powers, and the craftiness and lies that devil incarnates in people who are possessed. It rightly describes some of the prayers of the Rite, as well as authentic “confusion” that people have regarding the spiritual life. There were some redeeming qualities in the movie. For me, the best image of the exorcist’s power came in the final scene when the young priest exercised his real authority of evil in the Sacrament of Confession.
However, there were some other things that annoyed me when watching this film. For example: the fact that the movie shows a “seminarian” dressed like a deacon and offering absolution and a final blessing (something reserved for a priest); the fact that this same “seminarian” – despite his doubts – is the “golden child” sent to Rome to study the ritual after one “5 minute” conversation with his superior; the fact that this “seminarian” performed an exorcism without any authority given to him by his Bishop. All of that is hogwash and not how things happens!
On a stylistic level, I didn’t like the fact that the seminarian put on a priest’s stole; how they made the nuns and other priests look kinda’ scary, strict, and somehow distant from reality. Fact is, I know plenty of religious men and women who smile joyfully and are very much in touch with the “real world” . I was also perturbed how the movie suggests that people of pious faith can be possessed, while not making distinctions between being possessed and being tempted.
I’m being picky. But as you can see the one ongoing criticism I had dealt with the movie’s exercise of the “Rite” by someone who did not receive official hierarchical authority. Granted, the Exorcism Rite is NOT a sacrament. Technically anyone can pray it. But to remove the factor of the Church’s approval to exercise of this Rite makes quite a stretch and could suggest to viewers that they have the “authority” and “power” to fight the devil ‘mano a mano‘.
DON’T BELIEVE THAT FOR A MINUTE!!!!
Do not provoke the devil with doubt. But, do not provoke the devil with an emboldened courage that you exercise alone. In other words, if you EVER experience any supernatural problems (and yes, these things do happen), contact your parish priest immediately and don’t have an arrogant attitude that would somehow provoke the spirits. A foolish interpretation of this movie would be, “Come on devil, I ain’t scared of you – bring it!”
Admittedly, I’m rather critical when Hollywood produces any film that deals with the Catholic Faith. But in this case I offer my critique to suggest a topic for a family to discuss at dinner.
What! Am I serious? Fr. Leo wants our family to talk about devils, possessions and exorcisms at the dinner table?
YOU BETCHA! (I just returned from North Dakota, so hopefully you can still hear my accent when I said that)
If we do not voice our fears to the right people – namely our guardians, our pastors, and to God in prayer – we may be “limiting” the grace to help us overcome our fears. Parents ought to realize that young people are the biggest targets for the devil. But unlike this movie, the temptations and possessions are much more “attractive” and less frightening. A dinner discussion about the different ways evil manifests itself in the world can help a young person make distinctions and good life decisions; having a conversation about good versus evil can give young people courage through a “healthy” and “humble” fear of the supernatural.
Ultimately, your dinner discussion should end with messages of hope, as it did in this movie: Good will always conquer evil! Faith is needed at all times! The Sacrament of Confession is one of the greatest forms of “exorcism” as it releases the penitent from the burden of the sins provoked by the temptation of the devil!
Would I recommend this movie? I suggest you do a google search and hear what others say about the movie before you watch it. Instead, I would suggest that if you do watch this movie that you also read a little about what the Church teaches about exorcism so that you go in realizing that a Hollywood film – as scary or creepy as it is – cannot capture the true essence of the Ritual.
This movie reminded this priest about the overwhelming reality of evil. It also made me extra thankful for the Church’s ability to discern and effectively respond to evil through this prayer graced with God’s power and love.
I don’t want to give away too many points, because I don’t want to ruin it for you, but there was an ironic statement that slowly bled throughout this movie. It was a statement of faith, “You will never be alone.” That is true! God said it about His ongoing Presence in the life of the Believer. And in the movie, the devil said it too.
This one line in the movie gave me both fear (when applied to the devil) and hope (when applied to God!)
What did you think of this movie? Do you talk with your family about these “frightening things” on days other than Halloween? Please post your comments below.
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