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The Rite's Real Life Exorcist to Explore Ritual's Myth and Reality


Father Thomas will speak on campus Tuesday, April 10.

Posted:  2012-03-08

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Father-Gary-Thomas-smallSTEUBENVILLE, OH—Hollywood-style exorcisms usually involve spinning heads, thrilling special effects, and verbal showdowns between priests and demons. But in Matt Baglio's book, The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist, on which the popular 2011 film The Rite was based, the true experience of the Catholic ritual is revealed.

Baglio's book recounts real exorcisms performed by Catholic priests in Rome—but mostly, it follows the faith journey of Father Gary Thomas, who will speak at Franciscan University of Steubenville about this supernatural Catholic rite.

Father Thomas will give a talk at the University. On Tuesday, April 10, at 7:00 p.m., he will speak on "Exorcism: Myths, Facts, and Mystery" in the Tony and Nina Gentile Gallery of the J.C. Williams Center, exploring the reality of exorcism versus popularized conceptions of the rite. The talk is free and open to mature audiences aged 13 and up.

In 2005, Father Thomas was sent to Rome by his bishop to take a course on exorcism in response to the Vatican's request that local churches begin to name official exorcists. Though somewhat hesitant, Father Thomas went. It was here, at the "Exorcism and the Prayer of Liberation" course at the Ateneo Pontifico Regina Apostolorum, a Vatican-affiliated university, that he met young journalist Matt Baglio. Entranced by the spiritual rite—and by the inexperienced Father Thomas' struggles with skepticism, exorcism, and demonic forces—Baglio was inspired to write his book.

In the film version of The Rite, for which Father Thomas served as an advisor on the set, Colin O'Donoghue portrays young seminarian Michael Kovak (based on Father Thomas), who apprentices himself to a seasoned exorcist (played by Anthony Hopkins) during a training course in Rome. The story documents real exorcisms witnessed and performed by Father Thomas in Rome, and his discovery of the actual presence of demonic forces, how they are manifested, and, ultimately, how they are driven out.

“Paganism and idolatry are becoming more mainstreamed by the sheer frequency of usage by people who either have a thin optic of faith in God or no faith in God at all,” Father Thomas said.

Father Thomas currently serves as the pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Saratoga, California, and is the mandated exorcist for the diocese. Baglio's book will be available for purchase in the University Bookstore during normal business hours. Father Thomas will be available to sign books after his talk, which is sponsored by the departments of Psychology, Sociology and Social Work, and Theology.
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