A (spoiler free) Catholic perspective on the Rise of Skywalker
Updated: Jan 15, 2020
Have you seen the Rise of Skywalker yet? It's the ninth (NINTH!) main-story Star Wars movie, and the last one in the Skywalker Saga (or so Disney tells us, anyways). I am a massive nerd, so I've seen all of them. Even though I'm not a rabid Star Wars fan, I know them enough to look at them critically, and I thought the release of this era-ending movie might be a good excuse to look at the series through a Catholic perspective!
If you haven't seen Rise of Skywalker, don't worry. No spoilers here. Either way, I'm sure you've heard that it's a divisive movie. Some people love it, and some people hate it. It currently sits at just a 53% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, but the audience score is considerably better at 86%. Even with some mixed reception, this film is still expected to make over $1 billion in worldwide revenue.
Whether or not you like this movie is likely a product of how much you've like the Disney trilogy as a whole. If you liked it, you'll probably like this movie, too! If you haven't liked it, I'd still recommend seeing this one, but don't expect to be blown away. But okay, Regis, you've talked about the movie and the Saga without really mentioning Catholicism once. Get to the point!
The original Star Wars trilogy focuses on Luke Skywalker, a young man who becomes a Jedi Knight and eventually defeats the evil Empire, bringing peace and freedom to the galaxy. We get to watch him grow from a whiny teenager to a mature, wise Jedi over the course of 3 of the most beloved films of all time. He is trained and mentored by Ben Kenobi, an unassuming old man who is later revealed to be exiled Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. He instructs Luke in the ways of the Force and helps him grow in maturity and strength.
Here comes the Catholic part: I would argue that Luke's journey in the original trilogy is kind of like the Sacrament of Confirmation. He has to study and learn the ways of the Force (kind of like we study and learn the ways, Gifts, and Fruits of the Holy Spirit) before he can reap its full rewards. Kenobi is kind of like a Confirmation Sponsor, guiding him along the way and even putting himself in danger, a huge sacrifice, to help Luke grow further. By the end of the trilogy, Luke is a fully fledged Jedi Master (Confirmed Catholic), ready to take on an expanded role in making the galaxy (world) a better place.
Whew! That's the first trilogy. The second trilogy, the Prequels, focus on Luke's father, Anakin. We know from the first trilogy that Anakin turns to the Dark Side of the Force and becomes Darth Vader (Spoilers for a movie that came out in 1980 I guess?), and his descent is the main plot thread of this trilogy. Anakin starts off as a hero, strong in the Force and hailed as the Chosen One who will balance the galaxy. But his selfishness and desire for power leads him to forsake the Jedi and turn against everything he's learned and been taught. This can be seen as a Confirmed Catholic leaving the Church.
A good priest friend of mine likes to say that the 2 most dangerous days in the life of a Catholic are the day after Confirmation and the first day of college. Well said! Much like Anakin received his training and began to think that he was beyond it, there's a strong temptation to view Confirmation as graduation and "get on with our lives." Anakin left his training behind, and he wound up with no legs and one arm! Now obviously that's not likely to happen to someone just because they leave the Church after Confirmation, but you get the point. Bad things can happen without that support system!
Quick reminder, though, Anakin performs one last heroic act right before he dies, siding with his son Luke and killing the evil Emperor. He is remembered as a hero in the end, reminding us that even someone as evil as Darth Vader can be forgiven if they repent and turn to the good!
Okay, we've finally come to the Disney trilogy, the most recent one. I promise I'll keep this brief and spoiler-free. The main plot of this trilogy is Rey, the main heroine, finding out who she is and deciding what to do with her Force power and training. Luke Skywalker acts as her mentor in the second film, doing what Obi-Wan Kenobi did for him. He takes the knowledge and wisdom that he gained and acts as a "Confirmation Sponsor" for Rey in her own journey!
We're all called to give back in similar ways, using the gifts and wisdom that we're given through God to bring others to Him. Being as vague as possible, Rise of Skywalker deals with Rey realizing the fullness of her identity and power, and having to make a decision about what to do with that knowledge. Will she be like Anakin and let greed and selfishness consume her? Or will she be like Luke and use her power for good, even sharing that power with others if need be? You'll have to watch the movie to find out.
This is worth reflecting on as Catholics who have a similar choice. What will we do with the gifts we're given in the Sacraments, specifically Confirmation? Will we "get on with our lives" and decide that we're past all of this church stuff? Or will we work and sacrifice to make the world a better place? That is ours to decide. Just ask yourself this: Do you want to be Luke Skywalker, or Darth Vader?
TL;DR: Confirmation is a lot like becoming a Jedi. We study the Gifts and Fruits of the spirit just like Luke and Anakin study the force, and we have to choose what to do with that knowledge and power. Will we use it for good and work to make the world a better place, or will we turn to the Dark Side and leave what we've learned behind?