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How the Irish warrior monks of Skellig Michael connect to the Star Wars universe

THE LAST MONKS OF SKELLIG MICHAEL
Phillip Kosloski | CC
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If you’ve seen “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” or “The Last Jedi,” you’re familiar with the planet Ahch-To, where Luke Skywalker has isolated himself for many years. In reality, that is an island in Ireland called Skellig Michael, on which 12 Christian monks established a monastery over 1,000 years ago.

Christian history lover (and fellow Aleteia writer) Philip Kosloski found his curiosity piqued by this detail, so he set out to learn more about the island itself and the monks who inhabited it.

During a “Christopher Closeup” interview, Kosloski explained that for centuries after St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, monasteries were founded throughout the country. “They were inspired in particular by a tradition from Egypt, to go into the desert, dedicating one’s life to God. In Ireland, there are no deserts, but they have a lot of places where it’s really hard to get to.”

That made Skellig Michael a desirable destination. Located about seven miles off Ireland’s coast, the monks saw it “as a great place to get away from the world so they can enter into a greater communion with God.”

Skellig Michael’s terrain made life difficult there, but again, the monks found this to be an attractive aspect of the location. Kosloski says, ” It’s quite small. There are no trees on the island…What little work they had was to build all of their huts by hand with stone. It was a very difficult island to get to so food was also somewhat scarce, besides birds that are nesting there … [and] two little gardens that they were able to cultivate a little bit. But for the most part, they embraced the call to fast and to pray, to do these things that intentionally cause suffering to their bodies so they can offer that suffering up to God.”

Interestingly, the monks of Skellig Michael considered themselves warrior monks, a description that could also describe the Jedi of “Star Wars.” Kosloski sees a definite connection between the two: “It’s providential that the filmmakers chose Skellig Michael to be this place where supposedly was the first Jedi temple. The Jedi, in some ways, teach a doctrine similar to Buddhist teachings. [But] they also were, at least in the eyes of George Lucas, fashioned after these warrior monks of early Christianity. What I mean is: the monks in the first two centuries of Christianity saw themselves as waging this spiritual battle – the struggle of temptations but also in the greater spiritual cosmos. The fight of good and evil with angels and demons. So there’s that connection of these monks on Skellig Michael who saw themselves as spiritual warriors – and the Jedi in the Star Wars universe, in a similar way, are these pillars of the galaxy that fight for truth, justice and peace.”

With that kind of background, the monks of Skellig Michael seem to be a rife source for visual storytelling, so Kosloski is taking advantage of his own interest in the island – and that of others as well – by creating a comic book about life there. He assembled a team to work on the first issue, which will be out later this year.

“A lot of people in the Star Wars community love comic books, so this is a perfect bridge between the two worlds,” he says. (More info here.)

Kosloski hopes to take readers deeper into the minds and hearts of these religious who, in their own way, saw themselves as lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness.

He concludes, “They saw their lives as doing something greater than themselves. They wanted to wrestle with those demons that are within themselves, but also, in a certain sense, protect the world from the evil outside through their prayers and sacrifices. They didn’t curse or shun the world, but they were doing it as a sacrifice, in honor of union with Christ…to protect the world from those spiritual forces that we don’t usually see.”

(To listen to my full interview with Philip Kosloski, click on the podcast link beginning at 16:47):

(Follow The Christophers on Facebook and Twitter.)

After graduating from St. John’s University in New York with degrees in Communications and English, Tony Rossi found a job at the Catholic media organization, The Christophers, that allowed him to indulge his interest in religion, media, and pop culture. He served as The Christophers’ TV producer for 11 years, and is currently the organization’s Director of Communications. The job entails hosting and producing the radio show/podcast “Christopher Closeup,” writing and editing the syndicated “Light One Candle” column, producing and scriptwriting the annual Christopher Awards ceremony, and more.
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