“The Exorcist” and the Priesthood


“Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7

On Wednesday, spurred by advance notice of that night’s topic on Think Tank – a weekly vlog hosted by Wilson Orihuela on Vericast – I finally found time to watch The Exorcist, the famous film from 1973.

The movie revolves around an irreligious, divorced woman and her daughter, who becomes possessed by a demon. The mother looks to science and medicine, but finds no true answer. Eventually, like the woman in Mark 7:25, the mother “whose little daughter had an unclean spirit” seeks the assistance of Christ, and two priests perform an exorcism.

As I have seen The Rite several times, I anticipated that I would be pretty prepared for any sights of demonic activity, regardless of intensity. I was wrong.

The Lord’s name was blasphemed many times, a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was desecrated, a crucifix was used by the possessed to injure herself, and so on. I presumed that much of this would happen, but for some reason, the way in which it was presented made it especially disturbing. I actually crossed myself with holy water twice over the course of the movie.

Expectedly, Wilson’s take on the movie was passionate and thoughtful. He has mentioned before that this film single-handedly perked his interest in the Faith and led him to return to the Church.

This is why the exorcism genre is special. When handled properly, it provides a powerful insight into one of Christianity’s most mysterious and misunderstood rituals, and it leads to an increased affinity and appreciation for the holy priesthood.

The novel that The Exorcist is based on was written by William Peter Blatty, a devout Catholic who even supports a canon law petition against the “Catholic” Georgetown University. I think that he, too, understands the spiritual need for this genre.

Priests do so much for the Church: they handle petty disputes, say Mass almost every day, lend us general direction, and sometimes sit in confessionals for hours, just waiting for someone to show up. They live out Matthew 10:8 – “Freely you received, freely give.”

Proper movies of the exorcism genre highlight the sacrificial attitude that is inherent to and codified in the heart of the priesthood – and that inevitably leads more souls to the Church. For this, we can be grateful to the typically hostile Hollywood.

My favorite part of The Exorcist was at the end, when the formerly-possessed girl spotted a priest, recognized what two other priests had done for her in her time of great need, and appreciatively hugged him and kissed him on the cheek. Let us take our cue from her, and love our priests.

(All verses are from the NASB translation.)

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About Matthew Olson

Matthew Olson is a college student in the Diocese of Little Rock. He was raised in multiple Protestant denominations before eventually converting to Catholicism on 7 April 2012. His primary interests are theology, Church history, and ecumenism. He is privately discerning the possibility of God calling him to the priesthood. He has a blog, Answering Protestants. He also has a Twitter account, @crucifixwearer.