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The Christophers: Finding St. Ignatius in “Star Wars”

By Tony Rossi, Director of Communications

 

Two of Eric Clayton’s great passions are Ignatian Spirituality and “Star Wars.” He has found his faith nurtured by St. Ignatius’s ideal of seeing God in everything—and by the heroic moral and spiritual journeys of the characters from a galaxy far, far away. Eric explores both these topics in his books “Cannonball Moments” and “My Life with the Jedi.” We discussed them recently on “Christopher Closeup.”

“Winning wars and wooing women.” That may not seem like the kind of life that would lead a man to sainthood, but that’s how St. Ignatius started out during the late 1400s and early 1500s. Everything changed when he was a soldier at the battle of Pamplona. Eric explained, ”He’s defending the castle against the superior French forces, who offer terms of surrender to which Ignatius says no…He gets the rest of his troops to go along with him, and it’s a terrible outcome. He gets a cannonball to the legs, but everyone else is killed or grievously wounded…He realizes, ‘My pride has brought about such devastation unnecessarily.’ So, he spends 11 months in bed recovering in his castle in Loyola, and it’s there that he’s given two books: one on the life of Christ and one on the saints.”

“He’s imagining two different paths for himself,” Eric continued, “or really, God is inviting him to imagine these different paths. One is his old way of life, and one is this potential new way of thinking, of being a pilgrim for God. So, the cannonball moment is just one moment, and it gets held up as, ‘He was knocked down a soldier, and he stood up a saint.’ That’s not it at all. He was knocked down, and then he had a long time to pray, think, and grapple with different ways his life could unfold, his vocation story. Then, he has to go out and begin the journey. It’s not like he gets the answers all at once…He has quite a journey ahead of him, but it’s one that he does carefully through discernment in the company of the Spirit.”

Another key moment in St. Ignatius’s journey occurred while he was living in a cave, a site that Eric can’t help but relate to the Dark Side cave on Dagobah in “The Empire Strikes Back,” where Luke Skywalker faces his fears. Though Ignatius comes to write his Spiritual Exercises there, he also struggles mightily. ”He’s having these profound experiences of God,” Eric said, “and he’s also going out and serving God’s people in the nearby town of Manresa. At the same time, the evil spirit is tempting him and saying, ‘How can you, lowly that you are, live this life you’ve committed yourself to for all these years yet to come?’ [Ignatius] struggles with depression, he struggles with suicide. He struggles with thinking God wants him to suffer.” Eventually, however, the Light Side wins out in Ignatius’s heart, mind, and soul.

Eric felt a spiritual connection to St. Ignatius’s story, noting, “God is in all stories. God is in all the details, as mundane and ordinary as they may be. Everything is worth sifting through and exploring to find God…Thinking about stories on the screen, even these so-called ‘godless stories’…God is necessarily there because God is everywhere. And so, stories like ‘Star Wars’…are ways for us to put ourselves in these other worlds and think about, ‘How is God speaking in this fantastical language that might be relevant to me in my very real, mundane world.’”

 

For free copies of the Christopher News Note FOLLOW GOD’S PATH TOWARDS JOY, write: The Christophers, 264 West 40th Street, Room 603, New York, NY 10018; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org  

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