A Catholic’s guide to Star Wars

“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”

These words flash in blue across the screen, and the epic John Williams score echoes, almost instinctively, in the mind of any Star Wars fan. Come Dec. 20, these words will appear once more in theaters all around the world as the hugely anticipated next entry in the revered Star Wars series, The Rise of Skywalker, is finally released. A grueling two-year wait since 2017’s The Last Jedi has left Star Wars fans both casual and die-hard speculating about what shocking revelations The Rise of Skywalker will bring with it, and soon, all will be revealed.

If you’re a Star Wars fan, then you already know what to expect. However, if you’ve never seen a Star Wars film before and are curious about the buzz, read on to find out why you need to watch Star Wars.

Aside from being some of the most visually dazzling and epic films ever created, Star Wars is propelled by a compelling storyline rife with some of the most memorable characters in cinematic history. Even those with a passing interest in Star Wars are more than likely familiar with the names Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Han Solo, Princess Leia and Chewbacca. This fact alone speaks to the far-reaching impact Star Wars has made on culture.

As with any great story, Star Wars has it all: drama, love, action, epic struggles between good and evil, twists, turns and everything in between. The Rise of Skywalker is the long-awaited conclusion of the new “sequel trilogy” that was launched in 2015 with The Force Awakens. It continues the story started in the original 1970 trilogy comprised of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi. The prequel trilogy, launched in 1999 with The Phantom Menace, follows Anakin Skywalker’s path to becoming Darth Vader.

(Photo: Disney/Lucasfilm)

At its core, Star Wars is a story about destiny. It’s about becoming who you were meant to be. Each of the characters are unwillingly cast into a battle for something greater than themselves, and it draws strong parallels to the Christian life and what it means to be human, which is likely why it’s such a beloved franchise.

It’s also a story about the triumph of good over evil. There’s a certain element of spirituality in the Star Wars universe called the Force. This is an invisible energy which flows though and binds all living things, and only certain people are able to utilize it. Morality also plays an important role in how the Force is used; use the Force for good deeds and for the help of others, and one can be trained as a jedi. However, use the Force for evil, and one becomes slowly corrupted by the dark side of the Force.

In the end, good always wins over evil, but victory isn’t won without a battle. While the characters in Star Wars are battling for the fate of the galaxy, human persons are entrenched in a battle of their own. Christianity teaches that Jesus Christ already conquered death, and we have nothing to fear; even so, the enemy manages to creep into our lives with sin, and in our fallenness, it’s a battle we must fight day in and day out.

But still, hope remains, and above all else, Star Wars is a story about hope. Without hope, the characters in Star Wars would have nothing to fight for. Hope is why we all fight the battles we do. At times, these battles are daunting, exhausting and feel nearly impossible to overcome. But it’s the hope of something better and a brighter future that drives each of us to face those battles head on. In Star Wars, they do it with the aid of the Force. But Christians have something much better than that; we have the creator of the universe on our side.

Stories like the one told in Star Wars are exciting, but more than that, they’re empowering. We may not live a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but as the films show, humanity doesn’t change much, no matter the time – or galaxy – they may be living in. So, pop some popcorn, throw on Star Wars and escape from reality a little bit – you might be surprised at just how much that far, far away galaxy looks like our own.

COMING UP: Star Wars and the eternal struggle between light and darkness

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Unless you’ve been living in a galaxy far, far away, it’s nigh impossible to have not caught onto the newly reawakened Star Wars craze, and even then, it’s likely to have reached your corner of the universe. It’s been nearly 40 years since the first entry in the epic space drama was released, and as J.J. Abrams kicks off this new “sequel trilogy” with The Force Awakens, the Han Solo cosplayers and Ewok sympathizers aren’t likely to go away anytime soon.

I’ll admit it: I’m a huge Star Wars nerd. I became hooked on the series as a kid and haven’t looked back since, so in case you’re wondering, yes: I braved the bitter cold and ravenous crowds and went to see The Force Awakens opening night. As a film, I thought it was brilliant: dazzling effects, great throwbacks to the original films and one of the most complex villains of any Star Wars film. While watching it though, another, deeper thought dawned on me: namely, the close link between the epic tale of Star Wars and that of our salvation through Christ.

Without spoiling too much, The Force Awakens centers around a search. With the evil First Order rising to power in the galaxy, led by the Sith lord Kylo Ren, protagonists new and old are desperate to find Luke Skywalker, the last remaining member of the Jedi order. They feel that Skywalker is their last hope in overcoming the evil spreading through the galaxy and thus restoring the good; in other words, Skywalker is viewed as a savior of sorts.

We also mustn’t forget the Force, the invisible energy which flows through and binds all living things. As Han Solo points out in the film, the Force is thought by many to be nothing more than a fairy tale, but he assures the audience, “It’s real. All of it.” You see, only certain people are able to use the Force, and a sense of morality comes into play. A disposition to do good works with the Force makes one a Jedi; this is referred to as the “light side” of the Force. To use to the Force for evil, however, sends one down a blackened path to the “dark side” of the Force.

This where the conflict lies in Star Wars, and as a follower of Christ, it sounds awfully familiar. Just as the characters in Star Wars are caught in the midst of a battle between the light and dark sides of the Force, Christians often find themselves entrenched in a similar struggle in the day-to-day task of being an authentic disciple of Christ. Those with the Force must choose between the light or dark side, and Christians must make a choice between love and sin.

The code of the Jedi order bears some very distinct similarities to the teachings of Christ; Jedi are rigorously trained to be patient in their approach to situations, to never act out of anger or spite, and of course, to use their powers for the benefit of others. The code of the Sith, however, is the absence of all of these things. The Sith act brashly, harbor grudges toward their enemies and use their powers for personal gain. In the Christian’s world, the Sith stand for all that the evil one stands for.

From a human standpoint, becoming a Jedi is a difficult task. We are not naturally patient, but we are naturally selfish. Just as Jesus said in the Gospel of Matthew, “How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” (Mt. 7:14), the path to being a Jedi is a narrow one. As we saw happen with Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy, it is much easier to succumb to the temptations of the dark side. To fall into sin is a much simpler undertaking; it feels good, it feels natural.

But still, we fight. We are called to fight those urges that sin brings about. Temptation, lust, jealousy…these things lead to the dark side. These lead to a path of temporary fulfillment, lack of self-control, and ultimately, a very deep longing for something greater. Christ is that something greater. To choose the light side means to choose life, and to choose life means to choose Christ, who is love. To be a Christian is to be a Jedi.

And so, my fellow Jedi, turn from the ways of the dark side, go forth into battle with your trusty lightsaber, and please, try not to cut off your hand.