This past December we had the arrival of the first stand-alone Star Wars film Rogue One. Personally, I loved the film and its gritty take on the galactic war and would have loved more time spent with this scrappy batch of protagonists.
Unable to turn off my philosopher-brain, I also couldn’t help but think of these characters as a fitting allusion for the communion of saints, the multitude of heroic men and women who weren’t in search of any notoriety or fame but had a mission to complete and persevered to the end, even at the expense of their lives.
When there is meaning or purpose, we can put up with any suffering. Any athlete, musician, or parent will testify to this fact. Without a “why,” we all crumble; but give a person a “why” and he or she will fight to the end.
The particular rebel team of Rogue One understands that they are likely going to their death (the blunt droid K-2SO asserts that their chances of failure are 97.6%). Still, they recognize the evil rising before them and they persist in a cause worth dying for. They know their “why.” The protagonist Jyn lays it out clearly: “What chance do we have? The question is what choice? Run, hide, plead for mercy, scatter your forces?! You give way to an enemy this evil with this much power and you condemn the galaxy to an eternity of submission. The time to fight is now!”
If only we could begin each day of our lives with such conviction weighing on our hearts! To give and not count the cost. To act with haste and urgency, fighting the sloth and indifference in our hearts. To pray with conviction because Christ asks us to. To recognize that souls are at stake when we sit idly by and do nothing. “The time to fight is now!”
Not to My Name, But to You Be the Glory
Living heroically without recognition –it should be what the Christian life is all about. I act virtuously whether or not anyone sees me. I am generous not to earn praise from my fellow man, but because Christ convicts my heart. I do the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do. But the modern world puts before us many temptations to vanity and self-glory over a life of hiddenness and humility.
I think the desire to be “known” can creep in and infect the spiritual lives of well-intentioned Catholic Christians. We can’t escape the constant message that we’re always supposed to be “branding” ourselves, filtering our images to perfection, or marketing our lives beyond what’s prudent or appropriate. Becoming obsessed with our image and how others perceive us inevitably leads to a handicapped evangelist who’s more concerned with pleasing others than being a vehicle of God’s saving Word (which…surprise! Some people don’t want to hear).
Many of the cast of Rogue One are “forgettable” in the grand scheme of the rebellion but they don’t care; their fight is against evil itself and not to be acknowledged for their efforts. It’s mirrored in the quiet life of St. Joseph or the countless hidden contemplative monks and nuns throughout the centuries that knew their effectiveness came from drawing close to God to fulfilling the mission (however big or small, seen or unseen) they were tasked to complete.
Bishop Robert Barron recently gave an insightful review of Martin Scorcese’s film Silence in which he noted that it wasn’t the priests but “that wonderful group of courageous, pious, dedicated, long-suffering lay people who kept the Christian faith alive under the most inhospitable conditions imaginable and who, at the decisive moment, witnessed to Christ with their lives.” Again, I see encouraging parallels between Silence and Rogue One in the early apostles, the nameless missionaries, and all Christian brothers and sisters who have given up their lives as martyrs. God’s approval alone they sought; not man’s.
Rogue One showed that great acts are not reserved only for elite heroes. The Jedis are nowhere to be found in this film; thus ordinary women and men must step up against the oppressive forces to do something extraordinary. Likewise, we cannot assume that only clergy or “professional” Christians be the forces of change in the world. We the baptized are ALL the Body of Christ and we ALL have a part to play in Christ’s continuing plan of salvation.
There’s plenty more to theologically mine from Rogue One, themes such as walking by faith and not merely by sight, the necessity of trust and loyalty in building a team, the return of reverence, and the virtue of hope. I’ll leave the nerding out for another day and instead invite you to look at the quiet, hidden men and women of faith who’ve made a difference in your own life: the men and women who daily serve the downtrodden, the sick, and discouraged; the men and women who quietly nurtured and raised you; the men and women who we’ll (God-willing) meet one day in Heaven.
Hope. Maintain hope in the face of all opposition. Keep your hope in Christ Who nourishes us from beyond time and space.
Do good, even if no one sees it. Especially if no one sees it.