Patti Armstrong is an award-winning author and was the managing editor and co-author of Ascension Press’ bestselling Amazing Grace series. Her latest books are: Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories From Everyday Families and Dear God, You Can’t Be Serious. She has a B.A. in social work and an M.A. in public administration and worked in both those fields before staying home to work as a freelance writer. Patti and her husband live in North Dakota, where they are still raising the tail end of their 10 children.
Message to the Director of the Movie ‘The Exorcist’
To William Friedkin:
I read in the Agence French Presse (AFP) that you recently filmed a real exorcism at the Vatican in May. They reported that you told a masterclass at the Cannes film festival that that it was remarkably similar to the one you portrayed in your epic 1973 film.
As a famous Hollywood director, your comments were noteworthy: “I don’t think I will ever be the same having seen this astonishing thing. I am not talking about some cult. I am talking about an exorcism by the Catholic Church in Rome.”
Even though the Vatican reportedly denied it, a spokesperson told AFP that you might simply be confusing another Catholic initiative with the Vatican. At any rate, it seems that you witnessed and filmed an actual exorcism. It certainly must have been a remarkable event for someone such as you that made “exorcism” a household word.
Since you were raised Jewish, I found it interesting that you believe in Jesus’s teachings and in the validity of the exorcism that served as a basis for your movie. AFP quoted you as saying: “When I started I thought I was making a horror film and then the priest, who was the president of Georgetown University (in Washington DC), let me read these diaries and I knew that it was not a horror film.” It is perplexing to me, however, Mr. Friedkin, that you have not become Catholic by now. At 80 years old, the time is more than ripe for you to do so.
On Halloween in 2013, 40 years after The Exorcist was released in an interview with Prairie Public Broadcasting, you expressed that you found the teachings of Jesus profoundly moving. “So I didn't enter this job as a doubting Thomas,” you said. ”I believed in the teaching, and I still believe very strongly in the teachings of Jesus.”
In an interview with The Quietus, published several years ago, when asked if you were religious, you replied: “I don't think that any one religion has the answer in preference to the others. I think there is a lot of good inherent in all of them. I just don't think one has the answer exclusive of any other.”
Mr. Friedkin, that was the wrong answer. Think about it. Why didn’t you make a movie about a Protestant pastor doing an exorcism? There is a difference. I interviewed an exorcist once who told me that when a priest walks into the room to perform an exorcism, the devil doesn’t see the priest, he sees Jesus. And if you like Jesus so much, then for God’s sake (and yours) pin this Jesus thing down better.
Find the Church that he started, that has kept his teachings intact for over 2,000 years. Follow the trail where exorcisms lead: the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.
Exorcisms Associated with Catholicism
Exorcisms are not something the Catholic Church flaunts yet the world seems to understand, and certainly Hollywood does, that if the devil shows up, your next best move is to call a priest. Even Protestant Pastors will often call a priest. For instance, in April 2012, Fr. Michael Maginot of St. Stephen Martyr Church in Merrillville, Ind. was asked by a Methodist minister to help save a family from demons.
Father Vincent Lampert, designated exorcist for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis told me in a previous interview for the Register, that half of the people who come to him for help are not even Catholic. During his three months of training in Rome in 2006, Father Lampert assisted in more than 40 exorcisms with longtime Italian exorcist Father Carmine De Filippis. He worked alongside Father Gary Thomas, whose experiences became the basis of the book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist and inspired the fictionalized movie.
Father Lampert said he was surprised by some of what he saw in Rome. “I saw someone levitate once,” he said. “I saw foaming at the mouth, bodily contortions, superhuman strength, speaking in strange languages and howling like wild animals.”
He described such visual shows from the devil as “parlor tricks” meant to scare or distract.” The Catholic rite of exorcism is the real deal, as you know; going head to head with evil. And winning.
Yet, exorcisms are rare according to Father Lampert. He has personally performed only five, but he receives 10-12 calls a week from people seeking relief from demonic harassment. Even though half are not Catholic, they know where to go to fight evil. “I try to connect them with someone in their own area and with a church community,” Father Lampert said, noting that Mass attendance and reception of Holy Communion are powerful in combating the devil.
Having read the true story behind The Exorcist and now having watched a real one, it would seem, Mr. Friedken, that you would want to be on the same team as Catholic exorcists. Excuse me for getting personal, but I’m wondering if you were ever even baptized? If not, you have the opportunity to not only have original sin washed away, but every sin you ever committed, and every punishment due those sins. Do you realize what a priceless gift that is? Especially at your age. Your soul will be wiped as clean as a newly baptized infant’s.
So Mr. Friedkin, we’d love to have you join us. Please do. You are already halfway there with your love of Jesus Christ and belief in exorcisms. When you learn the rest of the story, it will change your life even more than witnessing a real exorcism.