A Star Wars Story
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...
Actually it was not that long ago in a family room not that far away.
I'm a Star Wars geek. All my friends and family know it. My favorite Halloween costume of all time was dressing up like a Jedi Knight. I've watched all the movies, many on opening night, and I can recite many from memory. I listen to the soundtracks, read the books and the comics, and watch the TV shows. To say that I'm a big fan would be an understatement.
I have friends who are Star Wars geeks too. We endlessly debate how good the prequels and the sequels were and theorize about what might happen in the next story. We all have our favorite parts of Star Wars, some of us love the Jedi and the force, others the starships and the bounty hunters, others the intergalactic wars and politics. And we've discussed about how to share this treasured story with our children. At what age do we watch the first movie with them? I want them to be old enough to appreciate it, but I don't want to wait so long that someone else spoils it for them. Do you show them in release order or in chronological order? We want so bad for them to love the stories as much as we do. We want to make sure that everything is just right for that first experience with the galaxy far, far away.
My daughter is interacting with enough other children who have seen Star Wars that I was getting nervous that she would get spoiled, so I decided it was time. We recently sat them all down on the couch on a Friday night to watch the first of daddy's favorite movies of all time. I started with the Phantom Menace. I like idea of seeing the story unfold in the order that it actually happened. They liked the movie. While I love the Jedi, the virtues of the heroes, the light side of the force, and the special effects, they loved the female heroines and their beautiful dresses. It's not exactly what attracted me to the saga, but I was thrilled that they were interested.
A few weeks later my wife had plans and I was planning a daddy-daughter night with the girls. I asked them if they remembered watching Daddy's favorite movie. My daughter said yes, "it's the one with the zombie princess" referring to Queen Amidala who wears white face paint. I was happy that she at least remembered watching the movie, even if she thought the beautiful queen of Naboo was a zombie. That night we watched Attack of the Clones together. Near the end as the Jedi were fighting Count Dooku my youngest daughter smiled ear to ear and shouted "No worry, Yodi fight him!" referring to Yoda who was about to enter the scene. I was thrilled that she was paying enough attention to anticipate what would happen next and that she was excited about my favorite character. Now I'm even more excited to share the other movies with them as they are ready.
While we may not all be fans of the Skywalkers like I am, all Christians should be fans of Jesus Christ. As excited as I was to share the Star Wars story with my daughters, I am even more excited to share the Gospel with them. Just as our favorite stories and characters fill screen time and conversations in our homes, the story of Salvation history should pervade our domestic churches.
I waited for the perfect moment to share my love of Star Wars with my girls. We need to share our love of God with our children at an age appropriate level. It's never too early to start. We praise God for the gift of life even before they are born. We Baptize them soon after they are born and bring them to church every Sunday. Hopefully they observe us praying even before they understand the words and quickly pray with us as they learn to speak. We send them to Sunday school and enroll them in faith formation. As they grow older, sharing the faith at an age appropriate level means answering serious questions with serious answers. We can familiarize ourselves with the rich intellectual tradition of the Church and pass that on to our growing children.
While these activities are important, the informal story telling in our domestic churches is just as important. The way we share the story of God's love for each us will shape our children's relationship to that story. It is not just another story among many stories, it is the story. It is their story. It is our story. We are part of that story, so it is a story that we learn and a story that we live.
I had a teacher who used to tell us that the Bible contained everything - drama, comedy, poetry, violence, sex, it's got it all! No matter what you enjoy reading, you can find it in the Bible. Beyond the Bible, our faith tradition is filled with a variety of ways to approach it. Different saints and religious orders have had different approaches to spirituality. The Franciscans are different from the Benedictines are different from the Jesuits. Thomas Aquinas is different from Mother Theresa who is different from Joan of Arc. Some people are drawn to intellectual treatises, while others are drawn to stories of miracles and apparitions, while others are drawn to the Church's work for justice. While the Jedi are my favorite part of Star Wars, my daughter loves the queen. If I want her to love Star Wars as much as I do, I'm going to focus on the heroines to help draw my daughter in. Similarly, we need to carefully reflect on the talents and interests of each of the members of our domestic churches and then use those avenues to cultivate a love for the faith, drawing from the aspects of tradition that will most appeal to that individual. Sometimes that may mean learning about part of the faith that might be different from our own interests or adopting a spiritual practice that might not be our favorite, but which may mean a lot to another family member.
Star Wars geeks love to analyze every detail of every Star Wars movie, story, and show. While not everyone is as extreme as Star Wars geeks, most of us like to discuss a good movie after we've seen it. In our domestic churches, we can find seeds of the Gospel throughout popular culture and we can nurture those seeds in discussions with our family. When a Jedi is departing and says to another Jedi, "may the Force be with you," how many of you Catholics out there instinctively want to respond "and with your spirit"? It's good that the liturgical responses are so ingrained in us that they naturally spring forth. We should discuss our faith just as naturally and as enthusiastically as we discuss the next cinematic blockbuster. We should be just as passionate about sharing the story of our faith with our children as we are about sharing our favorite movies.