George Lucas was inspired by Catholic warrior-monks when he developed the light-saber wielding Jedi
As was reported earlier this week, Bishop-Elect David Konderla is taking the design of his crosier a step further than most of his brother bishops by crafting his shepherd’s staff by hand. Konderla sees the task as an essential part of his preparation to become a bishop and explained to CNA in an interview how, “Every Jedi has not completed his training until he’s made his own light saber that he uses to fight evil with – so this is my light saber.”
What’s fascinating is that while the Jedi of the fictional Star Wars universe inspired Konderla to make his own crosier, it turns out creator George Lucas was inspired by Catholic warrior-monks when he developed the light saber wielding Jedi.
In early drafts of the Star Wars story, Lucas wrote about a 16-year-old who enters the “Intersystems Academy to train as a potential Jedi-Templer” (The Making of Star Wars). Of note is the use of the word “Jedi-Templar,” in a subtle nod to the Catholic religious military order known as the “Knights Templar.” The word Templar was soon abandoned, but Lucas did not drop the idea entirely, referring to them throughout his films as “Jedi Knights.”
Writer Terrance MacMullan explains how the Knights Templar “were esteemed above other knights for their austerity, devotion, and moral purity. Like the Jedi, they practiced individual poverty within a military-monastic order that commanded great material resources.” Even the Jedi’s garb is reminiscent of the robes worn by the “Christian warrior-monks who took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.”
The Knights Templar, often associated with various modern-day myths, were a group of men who dedicated themselves to protecting pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land. It started as a small organization that quickly grew in number and power.
They were established as a monastic order, allowing certain members to be ordained priests to serve as chaplains. Married men were typically not allowed, but on occasion were permitted to join the ranks. Saint Bernard of Clairvaux assisted the order in devising a Rule and the Cistercian habit was an inspiration for their garb.
Unfortunately, rumors grew about secret rituals and heretical teachings being taught to new recruits of the Knights Templar, and King Philip IV of France took advantage of the situation to confiscate the order’s riches. It’s possible that this episode also influenced Lucas, as it was pointed out, “Much like the Great Jedi Purge ordered by Chancellor Palpatine in ‘Revenge of the Sith,’ France’s King Philip IV annihilated the Knights Templar after arresting hundreds of them on October 13, 1307, and subsequently torturing and executing them for heresy.”
The Church has since revealed that Pope Clement absolved the Knights Templar from any charges of heresy and intended to help them reform, but was pressured by King Philip to suppress the order.
In addition to being inspired by the Knights Templar, Lucas borrowed a common phrase in the Catholic Church and altered it to be used by his Jedi Knights. Filmmaker Laurent Bouzereau explained how the phrase, “May the force be with you,” is “a variation on the Christian phrase May the Lord be with you and with your spirit—in Latin, Dominus vobiscum et cum spiritu tuo, which was often written by Saint Paul at the end of his letters” (The Making of Star Wars), and is today the formula for beginning prayers at Mass.
It is true that Lucas also found inspiration for the Jedi Knights in Japanese samurai and Shaolin monks, but he didn’t want to pin down the Jedi as representative of any specific religion. He took elements from various places and crafted an intricate story for the purpose of entertainment.
In the end, there is no denial that the Jedi have Christian influences, and so the fact that a soon-to-be bishop crafted his own “light saber” to defeat the powers of evil should come as no surprise. The Jedi were once charged with being the “guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy” and bishops have an even greater task at hand: the salvation of souls.