“Maior Dei Vis Vobiscum!”
Or when the famous Jesuit motto: “Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam” (for a greater glory of God), often diminished in AMDG, is reviewed under the Star Wars slant. Indeed, the most cinema lovers among us do not ignore the fresh output of the 9th intergalactic saga opus (Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker), that fell in this late time of year 2019 as a gift from the stars fallen under the Christmas tree…and the crib! So, it is the time to learn – or to remember – we have received such an education from our masters at school, quite similar to the one taught by the Jedi’s. Troubling similarities…
Free adaptation by Maurice Selvais of Jason Welle’s “How Jesuits are Jedi are more alike than you might think” published in America Magazine, 12/13/17.
- Jesuits and Jedi both believe in a universe-penetrating spiritual power. Jedi believe in the Force. As Obi-Wan Kenobi explained: “the force is (…) an energy that surrounds us, penetrates us and binds the galaxy together”. But Is God Himself not a superior power that surrounds us and transcends us? Jesuits believe in seeking to find God in all things. Not only interiorly, but in the people all around us, and in creation itself.
- We both have really long training periods. Jedi start as younglings, even newborns, and spend as many as 23 years before becoming a fully trained Jedi. Jesuits have it admittedly easier. We start later—most Jesuits enter after some college—and have a much shorter training period. We profess final vows generally after 10 to 15 years of formation. Sometimes more, but usually less than 23.
- Jedi and Jesuits both receive mentorship from older, wiser members of the order, what has as goal to get them along quickly. Jedi train as padawans under a Jedi Master. Luke, of course, had Yoda. Jesuits start out as novices under the guidance of a novice master. Even once we profess our first vows, we always have a spiritual director, and more often than not that person is a Jesuit who’s known for his spiritual depth and ability to guide us in the spiritual life.
- Jedi look good in black. But then again, so do Jesuits. No doubt it is to help us to focus ourselves onto the light they are witnesses of and they bring us to.
- Both Jedi and Jesuits live by a code. The Jedi Code, which governs the behavior of the Jedi order, even forbids Jedi from being married and having romantic relationships. The Jesuit Constitutions, starting with the Papal Bull Regimini Militantis, lay out our common life together. And of course, we all take a vow of celibate chastity.
- Both Jedi and Jesuits have an elected leader who is assisted by a council of advisors. The Jedi Council was based in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant and was led by the Master of the Order. A council of 12 Jedi masters from all around the galaxy aided him. The Jesuits are obviously led from Rome by a Superior General. The nowadays one is the Venezuelan Arturo Sosa, sj. He is the first non-European to be elected (for life) to that function. He is sometimes called the “black pope”. Moreover, as pope Francis is Jesuit as well, does not Father Sosa remain his superior? Astonishing, isn’t it? Obviously, the Superior General of the Society of Jesus seeks the advice of his assistants representing regions all around the world.
Both orders were suppressed by the Imperial powers-that-be. This time, the Jesuits got the better deal, mainly because the Jedi were all killed by the Empire. Jesuits were mostly just expelled from mission lands and were often given the choice of joining other orders or leaving the priesthood. And both orders were eventually restored by surviving members. (No spoilers! This is Star Wars canon!)
Now, if you’re thinking Jesuits and Jedi are too much alike… It’s a trap! Here are some key differences:
- The Jedi have them, Jesuits don’t. In fact, one of St. Ignatius’s first acts after his conversion was to lay down his sword at the altar of a church. On the other hand, we are less likely to have our hands cut off in a duel.
- Women Jedi. Yeah, this one’s heavy weather. While there aren’t any women in the Society of Jesus, there are many orders of religious women whose spirituality is the Spiritual Exercises, and often whose Constitutions are based on those of the Jesuits. And not a few of them are spiritual advisors to Jesuits.
- Pope Francis. Sorry Jedi. Obi-Wan may be pretty cool, but we’ve got the coolest old guy in any galaxy.
 Episode VI: “Return of the Jedi”
 Episode V: “Empire strikes back”