DAILY CATHOLIC     TUESDAY     September 1, 1998     vol. 9, no. 171


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It's a Titanic truth that without prayer, we haven't got a prayer of staying afloat!

          Today the all-time blockbuster movie "Titanic" is released on videotape and is expected to double it's box-office take via the VCR route. We bring this up because of the tenuous situation in Northern Ireland today and the climate back in 1912 when the Titanic was built in Belfast, Ireland. Few know of the religious percussions tied in with that ill-fated ocean liner that plummeted to the icy depths of the Northern Atlantic and which has been forever embellished in the minds of the world thanks to James Cameron's graphic portrayal of the events on eye-popping celluloid. The ill-fated ship is closely aligned with the troubled history in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics. There have been many, many Catholics who foretold of Titanic's fate because of what Protestants had clandestinely done during the building of that magnificent ship. These accounts came from Catholic shipyard workers who were persecuted by Protestant radicals and threatened if they told, but it has been documented that the Protestant workers had secretly embedded a number in many areas of the massive ship that was anti-Catholic to the core. The number was 3909 ON which backwards spells out "NO POPE" and was imprinted in many staterooms as well, strategically placed where mirrors would reflect the subliminal message. In addition, though it cannot be confirmed one of the painters even brushed the words on the lower part of the hull: "Let God sink this vessel if He can" - then painted over it. There are other reports that similar messages, some by Freemasons were plentiful on the first layer of the hull before the second and third coats were applied. If we learn anything from this, it is that one does not taunt God! But that is what Irishmen - both green (Catholics) and orange (Protestants) have been doing for centuries with their constant in-fighting that has erupted in great violence and many deaths over the years, culminated by the most recent tragedy in Omagh, a quiet village south of Belfast where Protestant extremists against the peace pact planted a car-bomb that killed 28 innocent victims.

         Just as that atrocious act was a dark moment in the on-going peace process which was finally forged on Good Friday this year, so also the sinking of the Titanic will forever be a dark moment for Protestants of Northern Ireland. In fact, the Titanic became forever synonymous with the Protestant "Orangemen" who, after the sinking, became ever more superstitious, carrying symbols of the ship on their banners. Nine years after it sunk, Ireland gained its independence from Britain but the Protestants weren't going to go down without a fight. A Protestant rabble-rouser from Dublin Sir Edward Carson vowed to recruit between 75,000 to 100,000 armed militia to fight to keep Ireland under British control after the declaration of Independence. In fact, nearly half a million Protestants signed a covenant in which they swore to defy the new Irish rule, many signing in blood! Since then there has been much bloodshed over the years as England tried to wash their hands of the situation, but stubborn Northern Ireland Protestants would not let them. Add to this the other extreme - the Irish Republican Army, a radical organization composed mostly of militant Catholic young men who have had, as their main agenda, revenge for what was done to them or their familes and compatriots. Unfortunately both sides are living by the Old Testament creed of an "eye for an eye" rather than what Jesus teaches on love thy neighbor and enemies as well. Both sides are wrong but in the heat of battle and the emotions and losses on both fronts, it's hard to point a finger unless we, too, have walked in their shoes. That's really the hidden agenda of war. Throughout history wars have been fought by innocent people against innocent people, all pawns on the chessboard of greed and power by selfish, guilty rulers who could care less about the welfare of their front line soldiers. This is not the case in Northern Ireland for this has been a guerrilla war on both sides with families feeling the brunt of the pain in losses of innocent children and devoted parents on both sides. After so many decades of senseless suffering in the Belfast regions, finally Irish, British and world concerns forged a peace pact that was accepted by both sides - even the extremist IRA and its leaders were willing to adhere to it, but there still remained a few fractioned factions that would do anything they could to disrupt the proceedings as evident from the Omagh tragedies.

          The parallels with Titanic go even deeper, if you'll pardon the metaphor, for the day before the Titanic sailed on its maiden and only voyage, the Home Rule bill that would lead to Ireland's independence was introduced in the House of Parliament in London. It was during serious peace negotiations for Northern Ireland that the film "Titanic" was released this year. The film opened in Belfast earlier this year and, after a long truce, guerrilla attacks resurfaced. There were other omens. Two construction workers died in freak accidents at the shipyards while the Titanic was being built. Their ghosts were said to haunt the rest of the workers for seventeen more died of strange "accidents" before the ocean-liner left the shipyards. Media and shipping magnates downplayed this at the time while touting the invincibility of this master ship that was "unsinkable." When it did sink it shook a world who had been programmed to believe the press clippings that it was invincible, and it caused many to lose faith in technology and challenged their faith in mankind. From the advancements today, we can see that they regained that faith in technology, but we question if they have regained their faith in God. For the faithful saw the sinking of the Titanic as a sign from God. It was His answer to a civilization that had pushed the envelope too far. It was truly a warning from the Almighty that you do not tempt the Creator. Fast forward to today when the story of the Titanic is once again so prominent - this time in the living rooms of so many because of today's technology - a technology that has gone far beyond what the original Titanic promised - a technology that has gone far beyond tempting God for it is a technology that has, for the most part, gutted the soul of mankind and left it vulnerable to satan's whims. The lead star in the movie Leonardo DiCaprio has a famous line as he stands at edge of the bow defying the wind - "I'm king of the world." Those words defy God because being king of the world is what satan promises, but Our Lord says in Mark 8: 36, "For what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?" There is another world we aspire toward and it is not this one but rather the one Christ promises. Many of those who have perished over the years through the violence in Northern Ireland and around the world have realized this, as well as many souls who rest at the bottom of the sea in the rusted hull of the Titanic. Their journey did not bring them glory they might have sought on this earth, and no journey will unless it is anchored to the steady ship of Christ's One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church as it churns over the rough seas of the late twentieth century with the safe harbor of the Era of Peace in the new millennium ahead, personified in the twin pillars of the Holy Eucharist and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary which signals the much-awaited Triumph of Our Lady's Immaculate Heart. But before we can safely moor to the pillars, we have one final voyage and it promises to be a rough one. In fact, it promises to be even more treacherous than the Titanic ever was. So man the lifeboats of faith and pray. After all, prayer is the greatest eternal life preserver known to man for it's a Titanic truth that without prayer, we haven't got a prayer of staying afloat!

Michael Cain, editor