With a plethora of exorcism movies available for viewing consumption, the subject itself has always been viewed as either an archaic act of old world superstitious wizardry or a scream feast with friends while watching one of those said movies. Matt Baglio's The Rite was a very enlightening and informative read that demystified preconceived perceptions that I, as a reader, had, primarily that the rite is the last step taken in a long medical odyssey. When all options, psychiatric and otherwise fail, then the rite of exorcism is involved and the name of Jesus Christ is invoked, the ultimate exorciser. Due to a rapid increase in exorcism and deliverance (the latter of which can be performed by any nondenominational faith-filled Christian) demands, the church, specifically the Catholic Church, found itself woefully ill equipped to help people in their struggles; ironically, members of the clergy were just as skeptical and dismissive of the rite as the secularist public at large was. But that all changed when an exorcism course was offered at the North American College (NAC), the largest American Catholic seminary on international ground. The course was taught in the division of the Continuing Theological Education. One American priest, a former funeral director named Fr. Gary Thomas, was one of the new students to partake in this academic offering; it was not his choosing but rather an appointment or nomination of him by his bishop. Seeing the sabbatical to Rome, Catholicism's epicenter, as a rejuvenating and reminding grace of his priestly ordination, Fr. Gary did not fully know what he was in for. On entering the campus, which was decked out with the most updated technology and ergonomically correct furnishings, for him, the school was outfitted more for the power suites of Silicon Valley than for monks, nuns and clerics. Trying to get settled in and overcoming the language barrier, he gradually learned that exorcisms and deliverances were performed almost daily in the side offices of priests in Rome and in the outskirts. The frequency was quite astonishing, like an in/out procedure whereby people on their lunch breaks would go for a minor shock operation to the soul which exorcism is supposed to provide. Bit by bit, Fr. Gary learned that the best way to fully understand exorcism is to get apprenticed by a senior one whose had years of experience. Ultimately, he learned under Capuchin Fr. Carmine De Filippis who had been doing the rite since 1987. In a tiny area near his office, a waiting line develops. When Fr. Carmine is ready, he invites the victim into his space and starts off with a very simple prayer. If that prayer elicits a violent reaction accompanied by other signs that only an experienced exorcist can discern (through the eyes), the rite is followed through with. At the beginning, Fr. Gary was extremely underwhelmed, for the whole procedure seemed so mundane and organized, and the reactions of the possessed did not mirror anything as portrayed in The Exorcist. Over time, he learned of the causes and effects of demonic possession and of how the names Satan and Lucifer do not necessarily connote lone entities but rather a grouping of minions who fall under that heading. He learned of curses, the stages leading to full-on possession, starting with infestation, oppression, obsession, et cetera, occult practices, that black and white magic is satanic in origin and onward. He also learned that God allows possession to happen, but that the outcome will always have a greater goodness that will result, a result that will be beyond full human comprehension; the primary benefit is that people will go back to the sacraments. Additionally, as part of his training, he too met one-on-one with the possessed. One riveting account was of a women, who, before birth, was dedicated to Satan; her life from the very get-go, was one of struggle and interior darkness. Another particular case that was briefly mentioned was too disturbing and gross to be mentioned on a public forum. Suffice it to say, it involved a bucket and what was vomited into it. Some of the people had been exorcised for years but with minimal results to show for it. However, results at least showed, something that doctors could unfortunately not claim. Also, there were married victims and even possessed clergy. The last category, as explained in the book, is supposedly not too surprising, for the religious who are closest to God are always intensely attacked. Look at the examples of Saints Padre Pio and Gemma Galgani. Lastly, Fr. Gary learned that when he established his exorcism ministry in CA he should assemble a team of medical doctors to comb through the symptoms with meticulous care before a religious assessment can be applied, for science and medicine must work in tandem with religion. More often than not, the cases are psychological and out of the range of experience of the priest. But in The Rite, the demonically verified cases that are profiled, each one, from the mundane to the extreme, were very chilling and hard to turn your intellect away from. It can make you come away and say, Yes, this is genuinely possible. Matt Baglio's book was very informative and casual, if not slightly disturbing and off the cuff with day-to-day normality. He wrote it with an investigative eye and ear, doubtful at first but more open-minded in the end. His experience with the unknown, his moment with the Odor of Sanctity, was very moving and human. Forget Hollywood and their dramatic interpretation, using excessive ceremonial opulence and fanfare, for truth really is stranger than fiction. Definitely a good and compelling read.