Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Summer Reading...

Books on summer reading lists tend to receive less attention when one researches for and writes a dissertation. But now that I am on retreat and spending some time with my family, I can allow myself to pick up a few volumes that have patiently waited in the cue.

I wrote earlier about Ron Hansen's enjoyable collection of essays, A Stay Against Confusion. This week I finished rather quickly Matt Baglio's The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist. I have not seen the Anthony Hopkins-starred movie based on this book which seems to get mixed results: thumbs down from professional reviewers and thumbs up from believers. The book certainly gets an enthusiastic approval from me. Often when an author writes on a topic dealing with Catholicism he or she fumbles mightily and I cringe at all the inexact phrasing and vocabulary. But Mr. Baglio, self-described as having been raised Catholic but not a strong practitioner of the faith, does get it. He understands the lingo and more importantly conveys the inner-workings of both the Church and the spiritual life in a fair and accurate light. The lack of cheap jabs at the Church and her life makes it easy for me to overlook the lower-case spelling of "mass" and the lack of footnotes (an increasingly more frequent curse upon the reading world).

While the main thread is the telling of the true story about a California priest sent to Rome to be trained as an exorcist, the book also touches upon the theology behind the ritual of exorcism, the history of its use and is therefore a beautiful reflection on the spiritual life, the role of prayer and sacraments for Christians. Yes, the book is filled with exorcism scenes but it also drips with solid spiritual wisdom which any reader can appreciate.

Professionally the book gave me much to ponder - assumptions of evil in our world, the particular attitude priests and bishops have toward demonic actions, etc. Personally my attention perked whenever I saw the Casa Santa Maria mentioned. It housed the main character while he studied in Rome just as it does me during these years.

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