Thursday, August 30, 2012

(From "Random Reflections") My English Adventures, Part 3: Quality Time with Shakespeare

 On June 21, 2012, our third day in England, we traveled about twenty minutes from our hotel to the adorable town of Stratford-upon-Avon. Our first stop was none other than Shakespeare's birthplace! We took a tour of the very home in which Shakespeare was born and grew up, learning about the poet's childhood and family throughout. The house has, of course, been renovated since the 1500s, but most of the rooms look exactly like they would have looked when Shakespeare lived there. Unfortunately no photography was permitted inside, so my only pictures are of the exterior. But the inside was super cool, take my word for it!

Shakespeare's birthplace
Me in front of the birthplace
The actor and actress doing the balcony scene
In the garden outside the house was a man who evidently was an actor from an acting group that performs impromptu speeches or scenes from Shakespeare plays. We discovered this after he suddenly began acting out a scene from "Julius Caesar." He was even dressed in a Shakespearean costume, and he was quite good! He proceeded to recite the "all the world's a stage..." speech from "As You Like It," as well as two monologues from "Hamlet." Then he was joined by an actress from the same troupe, and together they performed the balcony scene from "Romeo and Juliet," as well as a scene from "Macbeth," at my request. We thoroughly enjoyed these Shakespearean performances in the garden of the author's birthplace!

After a bit more time of exploring and souvenir shopping, we went to our next stop - Holy Trinity Church, the church where Shakespeare was married, and the final resting place of he and his family. As we wandered through the beautiful church, soon enough we found ourselves standing before Shakespeare's grave. The poet is buried in the sanctuary, directly in front of the altar, which apparently was a very high honor. His grave was outlined and was adorned with flowers, so you couldn't miss it. Beside him lay his wife, as well as his children and their spouses.

Shakespeare's grave
His grave in relation to the altar
Standing in front of the final resting place of Shakespeare was quite something for me. I could not believe I was actually standing at the foot of his grave. As a lover of Shakespeare and a Shakespearean actress (I have performed in four, soon to be five Shakespeare plays, my most recent role being the First Witch in "Macbeth"), this was an amazing and unforgettable moment for me.

After bidding goodbye to Shakespeare, we had free time to explore downtown (did I mention how adorable this town is?) and eat and shop. I ate fish and chips for the third meal in a row, not counting breakfast that morning, and bought many great souvenirs, including a Shakespeare mug for my mom and a Shakespeare t-shirt for my dad. My friends and I were also ecstatic to happen upon a Harry Potter store - yes, a Harry Potter store! There I purchased a poster that says, "Keep calm and blame Muggles." For my sister, I bought one that reads, "Keep calm and say 'Mischief managed.'" These signs, and the store as a whole, made us very happy people.

Next, our entire group visited the cottage of Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare's wife (not to be confused with the actress from "Princess Diaries"). It was a cute, quaint house with lovely gardens surrounding it, and it was, of course, very old. There was an actress from the same Shakespearean acting group there, and she enacted one or two speeches for us outside. Then we entered the cottage and received a tour. Like at Shakespeare's birthplace, no photography was allowed inside. But the inside was very cool, since it was so old - certain spots on the floor or walls were even original. It was awesome to walk in yet another place where Shakespeare too walked!

Anne Hathaway's cottage
The actress outside the cottage
Horse races at the Warwick Racecourse
We left Anne Hathaway's cottage and went home in the pouring rain, which was, surprisingly, the first rain we'd experienced in England so far. That evening we had the opportunity to go watch some horse races at the Warwick Racecourse, which was a fun activity at the end of the day. Then some friends and I went out to Bar 7, a cute little bar/cafe which our group frequented during our stay in Warwick, and we drank their delicious tea and hot cocoa which we came to love. Finally we went home and hit the hay, and thus ended Day 3, our day in Stratford.

Next, I'll write about our two days in Oxford! And I'll try to write again sooner next time. Stay tuned!

~Stephanie
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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

(From "Random Reflections") My English Adventures, Part 2: The First Days

On June 19, around 9:30am (4:30am America time), our plane landed at the London-Heathrow Airport. We fetched our luggage, exchanged our American money for British pounds, and finally stepped outside and breathed in our first breaths of English air. The sun shone, the temperatures were warm, and our surroundings looked beautiful. Okay, they actually didn't at first because we were standing outside the airport doors, and how attractive are airports, really? But we soon piled into the charter bus that would cart us around all over England for the next ten days (many thanks to our driver, Steve) and drove out of the industrial airport area into more of the English countryside. I had my eyes glued to the window, taking in all the pretty scenery and trying to let the fact that I was really in England register in my brain.

Runnymede
We jumped into our sight-seeing right away, making our first stop of the trip at Runnymede, the field where the "Magna Carta" was sealed in 1215. It was a big, beautiful, grassy field that was really fun to frolic through. At this site there was also a memorial to the Magna Carta, as well as a memorial to John F. Kennedy given to America by Britain. It was also at this site that we saw our first random pasture of cows. This initiated us into the realization and awareness that cows, as well as sheep, are everywhere in England. 

After a short visit at Runnymede, we continued on and reached our next stop: Windsor Castle, the oldest continuously inhabited castle in the world. It was a magnificent castle with gardens that took my breath away. We spent a fair amount of time there, taking in what was for most of us our first time seeing a real-life castle. There were limited places open to the public inside the castle, but we were able to go into a chapel and walk around outside on the castle grounds. We got to see one of the guards dressed in a red outfit and black hat, standing still and stone-faced, occasionally marching back and forth in front of his spot. We also got to explore town, giving us our first taste of adorable English buildings, streets, and shops. I also had my first piece of real English cuisine: a sausage roll. It was super yummy.

Windsor Castle
One of the beautiful gardens alongside the castle
The guard
After our afternoon in Windsor, we drove to Warwick and checked into the Warwick Arms Hotel, which would be our home for the next five days. Located right in town, it was a quaint hotel in which no part of the floor was even and no room looked the same as another. After settling in, some of us somehow mustered up the energy to go explore town. There were lots of cute shops and places to eat, along with a lovely church called St. Mary's and a racecourse that we would visit later. Warwick's atmosphere was, overall, calm and quiet. The town was small and not very busy, and we felt safe there. It was definitely an enjoyable place to stay during the first days of our trip.

Me in front of Warwick Castle
That night, I crawled into bed at what was about 6pm in America and 11pm in England, after having been awake since 7:30am (America time) the day before. Thus I had been awake for almost 36 hours, except for two hours of not-so-good sleep I had managed to get on the plane overnight. Needless to say, I slept like a baby that first night in Warwick!

The next day, June 20, we spent the day at Warwick Castle, another large English castle that was built as a fortress by William the Conqueror in the 12th century. Since it is no longer occupied, there were more areas inside and around the castle open to visitors. We got to watch many cool demonstrations, including the raising of the portcullis, the firing of the trebuchet, and the flight of the birds of prey. We were able to walk through sections of the castle's interior which were set up to look exactly how it would have looked in a certain time period, like medieval or Victorian. History definitely came alive as I explored those areas. We also got to see the castle dungeons, which were interesting, but sufficiently unpleasant. The most amazing part of the day, though, was when we got to climb one of the tallest towers of the castle (it is the tower behind me in the picture on the left-hand side). The staircase was long, narrow, winding, and took forever to climb, but when we finally got to the top, the view was utterly breathtaking. Below are a few shots.


After an exciting and eventful day at Warwick Castle, we returned to our hotel for the evening. We got our beauty sleep to get ready for the next day, when we would visit the home and the final resting place of one of the greatest authors of all time. 

And here is where I'll stop for this post. Coming up next: Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford. Stay tuned!

As they often say in England, cheers!
~Stephanie

Saturday, July 21, 2012

(From "Random Reflections") My English Adventures, Part 1: Fun Times at Hillsdale College

Hello dear readers!

I hope summer is treating you well! I promise that this time I have a good excuse for failing to write over the past couple of months. In fact, it's such a good excuse that it's going to be the topic of several of my upcoming posts, starting with this post!

Last month, I had a very unique opportunity to go on what one might call the adventure of a lifetime (at least that's what my mom calls it). I participated in a High School Study Abroad Program through Hillsdale College, and went on their trip entitled, "O For a Muse of Fire: The Land and Literature of England," which studied the works of British authors William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, John Milton, Geoffrey Chaucer, T.S. Eliot, and William Wordsworth. In order to be a participant, I had to submit an application (complete with an essay, letters of recommendation, and all that good stuff) to Hillsdale College back in the winter or spring sometime. I am so thankful I was accepted! A couple months later, I received an assignment from Hillsdale to be completed before the trip which consisted of a lot of reading, as well as a 1200-word essay on the topic of what constitutes a good life. I somehow managed to get all the homework done, and on June 15, after a lot of shopping and packing, I arrived Hillsdale, and the trip commenced.

The first few days of the trip were spent on Hillsdale College's beautiful campus. Participants stayed in a residence hall, ate meals in the student union, and attended lectures on the authors and works studied during the trip. These lectures were presented by Hillsdale professors Dr. David Whalen, Dr. Steve Smith, and Dr. Patricia Bart, all of whom had their own hilarious senses of humor, and were obviously very learned in their subjects. Their lectures were deep, interesting, and helpful in understanding the material, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. In case you're wondering, the works we read were: Hamlet, by William Shakespeare; Persuasion, by Jane Austen; parts of The Canterbury Tales, by Chaucer; parts of Paradise Lost, by Milton; and various poems by Milton, Wordsworth, Eliot, and Yeats. All highly recommended.

Going into this trip, I did not know anyone. I was about to spend two weeks with all new people, with literally nobody that I knew. This made me rather nervous, as this kind of a situation is very out of my comfort zone. For weeks before the trip I prayed for friends, and that I would come to feel comfortable around these new people quickly. I can definitely say these prayers were answered! There were 31 high schoolers from all over the country on the trip, and it turned out that nobody else knew anybody either - so we all made friends pretty fast. We all shared similar beliefs and opinions, as well as a common nerdy love of literature. For example, I'll never forget when an attempted boy conversation among some of the girls turned into a discussion about the characters of Jane Austen's novels after about five minutes! Needless to say, I came home with many new friends.

When we weren't attending lectures, we found plenty of fun stuff to do. Apples to Apples and other games, walks through the arboretum, and socializing and getting to know each other were all popular pastimes. Nightly trips to the ice cream place became a tradition which my friends and I continued during our time abroad. Skits were also a fun activity which took up a lot of our weekend at Hillsdale. We were split into several groups, each of which was given a scene from Hamlet to practice and perform for everybody. This made for good times and good laughs. 

After three days on Hillsdale's campus, the day we had all been waiting for finally arrived. On Monday, June 18, we repacked our bags and headed to the Detroit Metro Airport. We first flew to Atlanta, then hurriedly hopped onto an international plane bound for the London-Heathrow Airport. This flight went overnight (and let me say that sleeping on a plane is not the most comfortable thing in the world), experienced a small amount of turbulence around 1am which scared the daylights out of me, and landed in London early in the morning on June 19.

And this is where I will end this post. I know, I'm leaving you all in suspense. Next, I'll continue the story of my adventures, starting with my first experiences of England.

Happy Saturday!
~Stephanie

Sunday, April 8, 2012

(From "Random Reflections") He is Risen!

Good morning, dear readers!

The long, penitential season of Lent is over. Christ has died on the cross and risen again. He has conquered sin and destroyed death, and by doing so given us life and redemption!

Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!!!! 

And on this joyous morning, I give you some Bible verses to reflect on for Easter:

"Jesus said [to her], "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.""
-John 11:25-26

"But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us."
-Romans 5:8

"But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus."
-Romans 6:8-11

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you...In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ."
-1 Peter 1:3-4, 6-7

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him."
-John 3:16-17

"I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
-John 10:10b

Have a wonderful Easter! Give praise and thanks to God, eat ham, and enjoy your chocolate bunnies!

~Stephanie

Thursday, April 5, 2012

(From "Random Reflections") Les Miserables: What We Can Learn

Hello my dear readers,

This week I had the opportunity to go see a professional production of the musical Les Miserables. I tagged along with some friends and neighbors, watched the show from prime seats in the theater, and had a splendid time. It was my second time seeing Les Mis, as I also saw it a year ago at a different venue. I know this time around, though, I cried at least twice as much as last time!

The music and the story of Les Miserables both are awe-inspiring and powerful. Set in the French Revolution and with a man on parole as the main character, the story has many different aspects and twists to it. It is filled with tragedy and joy, justice and injustice, life and death. The musical score and the lyrics that go with it reflect these things, powerfully expressing the characters' emotions and deepest struggles.

Many of the characters in the story are sunken in the depths of despair. Jean Valjean is fresh out of nineteen years of slave labor for a small crime and is now on parole. Fantine loses her job, which was her only way of sending money to the caretakers of her dying child. Eponine is madly in love with Marius, who chooses Cosette instead. All of the characters deal with the terror, pain, and misery that accompany the French Revolution - especially during and after the tragic barricade battles.

You can see this despair in the characters' actions and faces. You can hear it in their voices and in the words that they sing. Misery and despair loom everywhere, and you, too, can really feel it as the characters do.

All of the characters seek to heal their wounding hearts and renew their broken lives. Some of them, though, go about doing this in the wrong way. Madame and Monsieur Thenardier are angry and greedy innkeepers who think there is nothing more to life than money and drinking. The numerous prostitutes have all given up and lost hope, and in doing so give up and lose themselves and any concept of morality. Inspector Javert cannot understand or accept the forgiveness and mercy of Valjean, whom he has hunted down for years, and commits suicide. These are all examples of people who, in times of hardship, lost faith and did not turn to God for comfort and new life.

In many other characters, though, there is a sense of hope and of faith that there is a God who will carry them through. Valjean especially makes a firm resolution to start his life afresh after being released from slavery, and succeeds with the help of God. He transforms himself into a man of justice, of compassion, and of mercy. He does anything to help anyone in need, and is always ready with open and generous arms. And all along, he speaks about how God has always been there for him, giving him love, guidance, and grace.

This play can serve as a lesson for all of us. The story and its characters show us examples of true suffering and despair, things that we all experience during our lives. And it tells us that in the midst of such hardships, we have two choices. We can either lose hope and turn away from the love of God, as people such as the Thenardiers or the prostitutes did. Or, we can keep our faith alive and trust that God has a plan for us, as Valjean and others did. We can see the consequences of both paths in the lives of each character in the show.

I hope that if you are not familiar with Les Miserables, you will check out the music, the show itself, or the book (which I have yet to read myself). It is truly incredible, inspiring, and powerful in so many ways.

Have a wonderful Holy Week, dear readers! And, if I don't post beforehand, have a wonderful Easter as well!

~Stephanie

"To love another person is to see the face of God." -from "Finale" in Les Miserables

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

(From "Random Reflections") The Season of Lent

Hello dear readers,

I sit at my computer writing this post on the eve of a widely appreciated day known as Fat Tuesday, or Mardis Gras. This day is in turn the eve of another significant day, that of Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of the Lenten season. I'm sure we'll all chow down on our paczki and ice cream and other delightful junk foods, crammin' it all in before Lent. But then the penitential season will begin, and with it, the sacrifices, as well as the blessings.

As I said, Lent is a penitential season - a season in which we make reparation for our sins through self-denial, as well as strive to grow spiritually. It is common to give something up for Lent, especially something that we enjoy. My family traditionally gives up sweets and desserts. I typically give up snacking in between meals in addition. I've known people who have given up pants (wearing skirts all during Lent) or even sleeping in their bed. Other sacrifices could include watching TV or movies, listening to music, or the internet. I'll admit, these sacrifices don't sound like pleasant things to do.

So why do we sacrifice during Lent (or at all)? We may think, "I would die if I gave that up!" But, that is the beautiful and wonderful point of sacrifice. Sacrifice and self-denial mean dying to ourselves and what we want for the sake of others and for the sake of Christ. It means being willing to give up something that we love or enjoy for the love of God. That may not sound like that worthy of a cause to some. But let's put it into another perspective.

When Jesus, God Himself, came down to earth as a man, He was scourged, mocked, crowned with a crown of thorns, and crucified. Why? For us. He underwent extreme torture and died the death of a criminal  all for the sake of every single human being ever to live, to redeem us from our sins. "He was pierced for our trangressions, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed." (Isaiah 53:5) In other words, he underwent for us the punishment that we as sinners deserve to receive. Did God deserve it? Of course not. But did he do it? Did he sacrifice his very self in so powerful a way for us, even though it should have been us hanging on that cross? Yes. And this was and still is the ultimate sacrifice, the sacrifice of all time.

So if God Himself can sacrifice himself for unworthy sinners as ourselves, why could we not sacrifice a small part of ourselves for someone infinitely worthy as He? If God gave an unfathomably tremendous gift to us through his sacrifice, why could we not give even a small gift of sacrifice back? If God was willing to go to such sacrificial lengths for sins which were not his own, why could we not make even a minor sacrifice for sins which are indeed our own?

This, my readers, is why we sacrifice. To make reparation for our sins; to give a gift back to God for what he the one he gave to us; to sacrifice for the sake of God because he did so for us. And when you think of things as how I wrote above, it really makes giving up junk food for Lent not sound so bad. It may be difficult for us, but that's okay. That is what will make the fruits of our Lenten sacrifices all the more abundant.

But remember - Lent is not only about misery! Well, it isn't about misery to begin with. But, it is also about seeking to deepen our spiritual lives and our relationship with God. It is an especially blessed time where we should make a strong effort to pray more, or go to Mass or confession more, or anything to deepen our prayer life. We should try to do some more reading of Scripture or other spiritual reading. Howsoever we choose to do it, we should seek to grow closer to God and to grow spiritually. Doing this will be what really makes our sacrifices all the more fruitful!

So, dear readers, as we rapidly approach the beginning of Lent, let's try and find areas of our life that could use a little discipline, or a little extra oomph. Let's try to grow in self-denial for the sake of God, and strive to  grow closer to Him through deeper and more frequent prayer. Let's make this Lent an awesome one!

Happy Mardis Gras! Eat up!
~Stephanie

Saturday, February 4, 2012

(From "Random Reflections") My March for Life Experience

Hello my dear and faithful readers!

I wish to sincerely apologize for failing to keep my promise of writing you a new post once a week. I see that my last post is dated January 12th - three weeks ago now. I know, I'm a terrible blogging person. But I've got some time to kill now, and wish to use it to tell you about a fabulous trip I took a couple weekends back.

Two Saturdays ago, on January 21st, I rose at the much-too-early hour of 4:30am, threw some sweats on, and stumbled out the door along with my sister and my dad. We left to meet the rest of my youth group at my church, where a charter bus awaited our group of over 40. Then at 6am that morning, we departed for Washington, D.C. and the 39th annual March for Life!

The bus ride there was - how shall I put it? Picture this: 35 teenagers, supervised by a few adult chaperons, riding on one big bus together for about 12 hours. Long, insane, loud, and crazy would be some appropriate words; I'll let your imagination come up with others. Nonetheless, it was quite a fun bus ride, and many inside jokes and hilarious memories were made. We also had some great prayer time, saying 3 or 4 rosaries, a Divine Mercy Chaplet, and some prayers from the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as getting to listen to some great spiritual direction from our amazing parish priest who accompanied us on our pilgrimage.

With only two or three stops (one being for Mass at the beautiful St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh), we finally arrived in Arlington, a city in Virginia very close to D.C., around dinnertime. Our evening was spent eating some delicious pizza at an Italian restaurant, then settling into the hotel. The next morning, we were off to tour D.C.!

Me in front of the Washington Monument
My small group visited the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. There is much I could write about those places, but I won't bore you with an overload of details. I will say, however, that I loved Washington, D.C.! It's packed with history practically everywhere you turn, and is home to so many famous sites such as the ones I mentioned above. My favorite places we visited were probably the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, of which I took plenty of pictures. I wish we'd had all day to tour the city - but we had bigger and better things to do and places to see!

Our next stop was visiting the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land, not far from the city. It was a beautiful monastery, home to many replicas of places of the Holy Land, as well as stunning altars dedicated in honor of various saints. Then we headed to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C., arriving three hours early for the Vigil Mass for Life. My small group was lucky enough to find a small patch of floor behind a set of pews and on the left side of the altar to reserve as our seats for Mass. After getting to browse around and purchase souvenirs in the gift shop and bookstore, we celebrated Mass in the breathtaking basilica along with over 17,000 other Catholic Marchers from across the country. It was such an incredible Mass!
Inside the Basilica
The next morning we got up at 5am to go to the Youth Rally and Mass for Life at the D.C. Armory. We arrived around 6:30am, got breakfast, then had opportunities to go to confession, pray the rosary, hear a couple talks, sing, and suffer hearing loss from the live music. Then we celebrated Mass, in connection with the other pro-life teens doing the same at the Verizon Center. It too was an incredible Mass! Afterward, we hopped onto the Metro and headed to the March itself, which began at 1:30pm.

To give you a small idea of the amount of people there...
And so we marched! Our group was, I believe, more toward the front of the sea of pro-lifers, but there were still people - thousands of them - as far as the eye could see, both in front of us and behind us. We were blessed with fairly decent weather, with tolerable temperatures (i.e., with a couple layers, a winter coat, and a hat and gloves you were perfectly fine), and, though there was some rain, it was never any more than a sprinkling. We held up pro-life signs as we walked, as well as our youth group banner.

At the conclusion of the March, we headed for the bus and began our journey home. We left about dinnertime and drove through the night. This bus ride too was a little on the crazy side, with plenty of singing and shouts of random things to go around, but after a while it became much more subdued. Around 1:30am, we all turned out our lights and stopped talking, and I, pretty well whooped, promptly zonked out. We got back to our church around 4:30am or so, and I got back to my house not long thereafter. I crawled into my bed at 5:20am, zonked out again, then slept long and hard till 12:30pm.

Our banner with the Capitol Building in the background
My first March for Life was definitely an unforgettable one. Going to Washington D.C. for the first time was great, and all the places we saw were amazing. Mass at both the Basilica and at the Youth Rally were incredible, because we were there among thousands upon thousands of other Catholics from across the country, all united by a common purpose and reason for being there - to stand up for life. That in and of itself was such an awesome and powerful feeling. Our trip was also a wonderful and prayerful time - we got to grow in new friendships as well as strengthen old ones, we got to pray practically all the time (I mean, daily Mass and multiple rosaries in a day - how much better can it get?!), and we got to create some terrific memories. And the best part of the whole trip? Being a voice for the voiceless and defending the sanctity of life. By far :)

Have a lovely weekend, dear readers, and I promise to get back to my weekly blogging routine! Until next time!
~Stephanie

Thursday, January 12, 2012

(From "Random Reflections") Aboard the Titanic...

Hello my dear readers,

A few nights ago, I embarked on a journey. I sailed on a massive, elegant ship bound for America. I felt rushes of fascination, exhilaration, and excitement. Then came a tragic turn of events - I felt panic, and I feared for my life and the lives of those around me. Within a mere couple of hours, I watched others die, my heart broke, and I came close to death myself. In the end, I survived the journey, but not without a great deal of tears. Who or what took me on this journey, you ask? Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater in the movie "Titanic."

Leonardo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet
star in "Titanic."
Jack, a talented, aspiring artist, has lived on his own since boyhood, and wins his ticket to sail on RMS Titanic in a lucky round of cards. Aboard the "unsinkable ship" he meets Rose, a beautiful, spirited young woman from an upper class family, who is engaged to marry the snobby and selfish Caledon "Cal" Hockley. Despite the fact that she is pretty, rich, and soon to be married, Rose feels extremely unhappy, trapped in a life that she hates but can't get out of, feeling like she will never have a life of her own. The way she and Jack meet consists of Jack saving her from flinging herself off the side of Titanic to her death.

From then on, a friendship blossoms between the first class girl and the third class boy, something of which Rose's family highly disapproves, as well as, of course, Cal. As the two spend more and more time together, they begin to fall in love. Rose tries to resist it, since she is a betrothed woman. She finally realizes and accepts, though, that she does not love and never has loved Cal, but that she does loves Jack. Together she and Jack find true love.

All too soon comes that fateful night in April 1912 when the "unsinkable" Titanic hits an iceberg and rapidly begins to sink. Jack and Rose both fight to keep their promise to each other to "never let go," battling the waters flooding the inside of the ship, coming close to death, and Rose even sacrificing her escape via a life boat. Other passengers perish in the rising waters below deck, jump off the ship to avoid drowning, or freeze to death in the arctic Atlantic waters. Rose and Jack, however, "never let go," and stay with each other till the bitter end.

The 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the real RMS
Titanic
will occur this April 14th/15th.
I won't spoil the rest of the story for those of you who haven't seen the movie before. But I will tell you what this movie taught me. It showed me an example of true love - two people who promised each other that they would "never let go," even unto death. Love is about sacrificing yourself for another, and that is what Rose and Jack did, till the end and beyond.

The movie also showed me that a person's true character can come out in the face of death. Some of the film's characters displayed honorable heroism, putting other's lives before their own, sacrificing their life to let others survive. In the case of others, however, their cowardice leaked out, as they frantically and shamefully did whatever they could, even taking the seat of a woman or child in a life boat, to ensure their own survival over that of someone else. This causes us to question what we ourselves would do in the face of death - put ourselves first, or care enough about others to die and let them live?

"Titanic" also made me very aware of death. You really never know when it is coming. Life could be sailing along just wonderfully, as it was aboard Titanic, and then suddenly in one moment everything changes. This movie serves to remind us of this, using the tragic real-life story of RMS Titanic to prove it. It reminds us that we do not know when or how God is going to take us, and reminds us to be aware of how we're living our lives, so that if we died tomorrow, we would be ready to face Him. As Death says to Everyman in the medieval morality play Everyman, "I am Death, that no man dreadeth./ For every man I rest and no man spareth;/ For it is God's commandment/ That all to me should be obedient."

If you have not seen the movie "Titanic," I highly recommend that you do. I warn you that it is very heart-wrenching and is not an easy movie to watch. And if you're a movie-crier like me, you likely will sob as I did. But it is nonetheless a definite a must-see.

Happy Thursday!
~Stephanie
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