May 14 – Sixth Sunday of Easter

Spoiler: this has absolutely nothing to do with Mother’s Day—that’s for the homily.

A couple weeks ago I went to the movie theater (yes, they still exist) to watch the movie Nefarious with my fellow Companion of Christ Fr. Max. Now, I very rarely watch horror movies because they’re typically a gross exercise in the fascination with evil on top of the other forms of visual immodesty that numb us to the grotesque and pornographic. However, this year is the 50th anniversary since the showing of The Exorcist, so there are several exorcism movies hitting the theaters these days. I wasn’t planning on partaking in the usual Hollywood exaggerations until I heard a review from an actual exorcist (a Catholic priest, of course) who deals with this stuff on a daily basis. He pooh-poohed The Pope’s Exorcist unsurprisingly because it was made by, well, Hollywood…and I think it’s safe to say that Hollywood doesn’t really care about the truth of things.

According to this exorcist, however, the creators of Nefarious did their homework. While it portrays a possessed man dialoguing with an atheistic psychologist, the movie is much like a visual version of C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters where we get a convincing and convicting glimpse into the mind of the enemy. If anything, the movie held back!—further convincing me that the producers cared more about faith than fireworks. Remember, the devil is not a threat to God’s omnipotence. The devil is just a rabid dog on a chain and can only do what God permits him to. God leaves us and the angels free to follow Him or not, but as one person put it rather brazenly, “If you play the devil’s stupid games, then you’ll win his stupid prizes.”

Nevertheless, we often think that the devil’s extraordinary activity like possession and puking up Nickelodeon slime is all that he really does. Nefarious reminds us that the devil is very much alive in the world today and that we need to “be sober and vigilant,” because “[our] opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Witchcraft, wicca, and other new-age materials had their own giant section at the Barnes and Noble in Naperville the last time I strolled in—probably because they’re selling! Likewise, most people don’t realize that Freemasonry is directly antithetical to our Catholic faith and needs to be formally renounced—even if your grandpa just showed up to the local lodge for the fraternity and business contacts. (Feel free to email me if your family has a history of Freemasonry.)

I was certainly shaken at one point in the movie, not because of any gross excesses, but because of how accurately the movie portrayed the evil of abortion—all without showing a drop of blood.  The movie is R for a reason, and I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. But if you are going to watch it, just remember that the Creator is always infinitely more powerful than any of His creatures. Jesus Christ conquered Satan on a tree, just as Adam was conquered by the serpent on a tree. In Jesus Name, we can be free from any hold the enemy has on our lives, so long as we are willing to repent, surrender to Jesus, forgive others, renounce the enemy’s lies, and cling to our good, holy, true, and beautiful God.

PS the last ten minutes of the movie were out of place. The writing was solid up until that point when they reverted to the kind of unrealistic preachy-dialogue that makes some Christian movies painful to watch. Besides that, bravo!

Father James