South Bay Priest, Vatican Exorcist, Basis of New Movie

Members of his church, who call him Father Gary, will soon see their reverend on the big screen.

Father Gary Thomas is a well-known and much-beloved priest at the Sacred Heart Parish Church in Saratoga, but he is about to get a whole lot more well known thanks to a movie that is about to hit theaters.  Sir Anthony Hopkins plays the South Bay priest who is rare Vatican-certified exorcist.

"The Rite" loosely tells the story of Thomas' life, training and on-the-job of exorcisms.

Father Gary is a Bay Area native. He graduated from Serra High School in San Mateo. He became an embalmer at a local mortuary before joining the priesthood. The San Jose Mercury News reported that he was tapped for exorcism training while working at St. Nicholas Church in Los Altos in 2005.

That same year while training in Rome, Thomas met author Matt Baglio, who chronicled his journey from doubter to true believer in the practice.  He is one of fewer than 100 exorcism trained priests in the United States.

Baglio wrote the book, "The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist." The book got picked up by a production company and a suspense thriller was born. 

"There's nothing in the movie I'm ashamed of," Thomas told the Mercury News. "You walk out of there with a sense of hope."

Thomas said while on the set in Budapest, Hopkins and others asked him privately if they were opening the doorway to demons by making the movie. He said he told them the truth; that it was a possibility.

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting Q&A with Thomas that included the question where he ever addressed a demon directly.

The last thing you want to do is talk to the demon because they’ll lead you on a wild goose chase. You don’t want to have fun with them, or strike up a friendship or ask to work it out. You just ask what their name is and say, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to leave.”

Thomas said what he hopes that the movie will help the viewers believe in the power of God.

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