Possessing topic 

A couple of years ago, it seemed like there wasn’t a week that went by without a new vampire book, movie and TV show being announced. Zombies and werewolves are among the creatures that have also had their share of the limelight. 

What’s the next hot trend? This time, it may well be those warding off creatures — of the demonic variety. Judging from two recent events, exorcists appear to be in vogue right now.  

  •  Earlier this month, Discovery Channel claimed it had teamed up with the Vatican to produce a series titled “The Exorcist Files,” which will re-create possessions based on cases investigated by the Church. (Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, however, stated that “neither are the Vatican nor the Catholic Church involved in this project,” leading Discovery officials to release a statement saying they met with Vatican staff members about the series “in an unofficial capacity.”) The series will debut some time in the spring; an exact date has not been announced.  
  •  On Jan. 28, New Line Cinemas will release “The Rite.” Based on the 2009 book “The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist,” by Matt Baglio, the movie is about a skeptical young seminarian who attends “exorcism school” at the Vatican and comes under the influence of a priest (Anthony Hopkins, above), who, according to the film’s synopsis, “introduces him to the darker side of his faith.” OSV has not seen “The Rite,” but given the eerie, chantlike music and ominous overtones in the trailer, we’re guessing the film takes quite a bit of artistic license with the acclaimed nonfiction book on which it’s based. 

Whether or not either of these productions deepens Americans’ understanding of the ancient rite remains to be seen.


Contemplating the holy 

St. Catherine’s Monastery in Mount Sinai, Egypt, is the repository of some of the greatest icons ever created. 

Sister Wendy Beckett, an art historian who gained fame from BBC and PBS shows several years back, takes readers with her to this ancient place and other holy sites in “Real Presence: In Search of the Earliest Icons” (Orbis, $25), examining icons of Jesus, Mary and saints for their religious and artistic meanings.  

It’s clear from Sister Wendy’s text that the former category has the most significance: “Icons are in a peculiar position. Incontrovertibly, they form part of the body of art history. ... Yet this seems to me a sort of by-product, not their day job, as it were. Their day job, their real meaning, is the same today as it was in the sixth century: They draw us from the limitations of our own pressured world into the Kingdom of God.”



Are you feeling guilty because you should know more about bioethics, particularly as it relates to emerging technologies, but find official Church documents on the subject dry and inaccessible? 

Best-selling author Brian J. Gail has the answer for you. “Motherless” (Human Life International, $19.95) is a rollicking, plot-rich novel that serves as an adept delivery device for the Catholic vision of the dignity of the human person, no matter what state or stage in life. 

“Motherless” is the second book in a trilogy, following the release of “Fatherless” last year. (The final book, “Childless,” is expected next year.) While a dominant plot line of the first book centered on the dangers of artificial birth control, this sequel looks particularly at embryonic stem-cell research, and imagines, with some credibility, a brave new world in which humans are viewed as little more than commodities. 

The book has received high praise from Church leaders and pro-life activists.