While vacationing this summer at my sister's home, an undiagnosed illness gave me plenty of time to watch James Cameron's blockbuster film Titanic.
You no doubt remember a scene at the beginning of the movie when the main character, Rose, is seen clinging to the outside railing on the back of the majestic ship as she contemplates a jump into the cold waters to end her life. For a moment Rose's life seemed so very empty, and she felt so alone, even in the midst of the 1,200 people who temporarily inhabited this floating city.
Her despair was so profound that when the film opens she is about to waste the most precious gift she has, her life, a gift which seemed worthless in spite of her numerous worldly possessions. But Jack Dawson intervenes in Rose's life, prevents her from jumping, and persuades her throughout the lengthy film that she has so much for which to live.
Fr. Christopher Senk
Indeed, the entire movie is a tale of Rose coming to appreciate the value of her life, and at the end of the film, in stark contrast to the beginning of the movie, we see Rose clinging to that same railing at the back of the ship as the Titanic sinks, hoping against hope that she can save that life that she nearly disposed of so casually at the start of the film.
During the month of October, Catholics in the US celebrate Respect Life Month, a time to reflect in a special way on the dignity and specialness of human life at all of its varied stages. Regardless of where one stands politically, it is clear that we live in an age when life issues touch us on a daily basis. The front pages of newspapers and tabloid TV are filled with assaults on life, cheapening it and making it appear disposable.
Callous disregard for another person's life shows itself in how often people are taken advantage of, in how often people are harmed personally, financially, socially, and in how often human life comes under attack.
If we want to make the world a better place then we all, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, must grow in our appreciation of the inestimable value of all human life, from womb to tomb. Like Rose in Titanic, we need to grow in our appreciation of what a special gift human life is, and we must work toward protecting all human life so that it never appears disposable, never appears cheap, and is never taken for granted.
Let us all do what we can to promote a genuine culture of life in the world in which we live, in order that all men and women may recognize human life as the most precious of gifts, a gift worth protecting and cherishing.