Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Initial Reactions to The Rite

Here it comes: a week of nightmares!

Pea soup, anyone?
Today JC and I went to see The Rite, starring Anthony Hopkins. I was interested enough to overcome my usual aversion to horror flicks only because I had interviewed the author of the book, Matt Baglio, for the National Catholic Register.

Apart from the deeply disturbing spectacle of seeing a possessed pregnant woman, what stood out for me the most were the mind games that the demon(s) played on the exorcist and the seminarian. It's one thing if an orc-like monster with bulging eyes and blackened, clawlike nails jumps out of the shadows and seizes the good guy by the neck. But it's another to see the subtle ways he infects his victims with self-doubt, fear, remorse, guilt, and the whole gamut of debilitating, paralyzing emotions. It's another form of warfare altogether.

And it makes sense. The devil is a spiritual being, not just a lumbering oaf with horns and hooves. He is subtle and astute, a clever deceiver who has turned his immense gifts to the service of himself, excluding God, love, and all things good and beautiful. He is a corrupt genius who delights in his own perversions, exulting in the harm he can do to others. And the deepest harm he can do is not to the body: it's to the soul, to the mind, to that part of us that seeks truth and love with blind longing, like a vulnerable shoot seeking the sun. With words like acid, he can sear and wound the heart, darken the mind with despair, make lies swarm in like... well, like flies.

Depression is so common these days. There are so many young people with dysfunctions of various kinds. It would be facile to say the devil is involved in every case. But what about that inner monologue that some people experience, that constant running commentary in the mind that blames, recriminates, paralyzes...?  What about young women with eating disorders who starve themselves into skeletons and still hear a voice saying, "How fat and ugly you are. No one will love you"?  How much of that interior damage was caused by a whispered suggestion here or there, like the invisible hand that sets a ball rolling down a hill and then lets it fall by its own momentum?

It made me wonder. If we could strip away the veil of materiality that stands between us and a purely spiritual vision of things, how many shadowy actors would we see on the margins of our lives, or in the midst of the lives of our loved ones?  How much sway does the devil really have in our communities and neighborhoods? 

So much is hidden from us now. One day we'll see everything as God sees it. For now, it's a quiet but urgent reminder to stay rooted in grace, to make prayer my best defense for myself and my loved ones, and to stay close to the One whose victory defeated sin, death, and evil forever.


Fr Matthew Green said...

Well said!

How would you rate the film itself, on a scale of 1 to 10?

Trish Bailey de Arceo said...

Well, maybe like an 8. Anthony Hopkins makes the movie.

Rebecca said...

Trish!! You are so eloquent!! I am afraid to see the movie but wonder if I should take my adult kids...might keep them focused!! Love your blog..will keep me informed! God Bless you guys!

Seaf said...

Was the church and priesthood portrayed in a positive light?

Trish Bailey de Arceo said...

Well, the priests in the movie were presented as real people, and as authentic, faithful priests. They were very human, but in endearing ways. The Church was not portrayed negatively.

HOWEVER... there were some things amiss with the theology (in my uninformed opinion):

1. As far as I know, priests are the only ones who can perform the rite of exorcism. They had a seminarian doing it.

2. They made it look like possession is somehow contagious, as if one of the characters (won't say who!) "caught" it by being too close to the devil.

3. There was the typical Hollywood dramatization of the demon-possessed person grabbing the good buy by the throat, leaping out of hte shadows, etc.

Overall, though, I'd say it was pretty respectful for a Hollywood flick.