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Casting out demons
The Rite is another Hollywood Primer on subject
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In the end times, we all know too well, the demons will rise up in droves.

The gates of Hell will open wide, and the underworld will vomit out untold multitudes of fallen angels, hell-bent on infesting, obsessing and possessing millions of unfortunate souls.  And in fact all this seems to be coming true.

During the past twenty-five years, I’ve encountered innumerable cases of people claiming to be haunted, stalked, accursed, shadowed over, under attack and even fully possessed.  In some cases, I’ve been convinced that they’re right.  And so it has seemed useful for me to study the phenomena.

With the steady diet of exorcism movies pumping out from Hollywood, we have every opportunity to entertain ourselves with what, for many, is such a threatening and at times deadly tragedy.  The sheer multiplication of these guaranteed-to-appeal dramas reflects a heightened awareness of the Devil.

While “The Rite” earned the proverbial thumbs-down from some reviewers (“if you’ve seen one [exorcist movie from Hollywood], you’ve seen ’em all,” writes Ed Symkus of GateHouse News Service), on the other hand, it brought some new light to the bizarre warfare of darkness and light which becomes so visible whenever a true exorcism takes place.  For this reason, I decided to add the latest film to my long list of movies about this combat.

I’d been leaving the downtown cinema following another feature when a group of youth yelled from across the lobby.  “Father Dean!  We need you to come with us!”  Turns out they were entering theater number 6, where at midnight The Rite was going to debut.  An employee ushered me along, so I ended up alongside a bunch of trembling kids and young adults.  But with the unfolding of the movie, I felt proud and grateful to be there.  Yes, the film repeats what we’ve often heard before, and no, it’s not going to win the Oscars, but nevertheless, it’s a great introduction to Rome, to the art and science of exorcisms, and to the struggle of altogether-too-human men who are called to serve God and the Church though priestly consecration.

I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not you’ll view the movie.  Aside from the mildly gruesome beginning, the rest is a healthy human drama of how one young man deals with the traumas of childhood and his struggle with the God who allows bad things to happen.  If his skepticism gets very old very fast, his eventual redemption makes the viewer’s frustration worth it all.  And if Hollywood’s portrayal of the possessed seems once again too fabricated, please believe me that the real experience can actually be worse.

In the end, I left the theatre appreciating more than ever the power of prayer and of the priesthood.  Strange: I also felt the same way, ironically, after seeing “Season of the Witch.”  It is prayer, and prayer alone, which ultimately has the power to dislodge Satan and liberate souls from demonic activity.   That’s why our ministers need our support and our intercession.

That’s why we all need to live more consciously in the light of Christ, with the anointing of the Holy Spirit, under the protection of the holy angels.