“The Vertical Torpedo”

James-Cameron-ChallengerWell, I’m back! You didn’t think that I’d renege on my word to take you to Challenger Deep today, did you? Today we travel from the wreckage site of Titanic in the Atlantic to the Mariana Trench in the Pacific. No landlubbers beyond this point!

Just a month ago on March 26th James Cameron once again made the ocean center-stage of one of his cinematic adventures. He made the first successful dive to the deepest point on the planet since Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard took their bathyscaphe, Trieste, to the same spot back in 1960. That project had been funded by the Navy, while Cameron’s was  the first solo and privately-funded dive.

Challenger Deep is located in the Pacific 190 miles SW of Guam. James Cameron planned to make his historic plunge in the lime-green sub called the Deepsea Challenger, a.k.a. the “Vertical Torpedo”. The 12 ton sub was barely wider than Cameron’s trim frame so it felt to him like he was in a coffin. Just like Jonah in the belly of leviathan, Cameron descended into the deep. “The waters swirled about me, threatening my life; the abyss enveloped me; seaweed clung about my head.” (Jonah 2: 6)

The 6.8 mile or 35,000 ft. descent took roughly 2 1/2 hours. That is a mind-boggling depth. That is more than 13 times the height of the tallest skyscraper in the world – the Burj Dubai in the United Arab Emirates! Mount Everest could sit on the ocean floor and its peak would still be covered by more than 6,000 feet of water. I’m sure that you get the point! It’s deep.

The “Vertical Torpedo”, so dubbed because it makes a vertical, B-line descent to the ocean floor, arrived in the hadal zone intact and ready to film in 3-D and collect scientific samples. Cameron said that, “It looked like a gelatinous flat plain that resembled the lunar landscape. I never saw any fish or any creatures more than an inch long.” The Challenger Deep exists in perpetual darkness and all the creatures must create their own phosphorescence. The water pressure is an oppressive 15,000 tons per square inch – 1,000 times everyday pressure levels. It is also extremely cold which is why Cameron appears in most of the pictures with his Jacques Costeau wool hat!

Mr. Cameron filmed the forbidding terrain for almost 3 hours before making the 70 minute journey back to the surface. I for one cannot wait to see his 3-D documentary on the big screen. He hopes to inspire the younger generation to continue such deep sea research in the future.

There is more than one type of ‘deep sea’ research. Bishop Patrick Ahern, one of the world’s foremost experts on St. Therese before his death in 2011, once said in a talk that, “Therese is a deep sea diver. She knows how to plumb the depths of God’s love and how to teach others to do the same”. I wrote a letter to Bishop Ahern in 2009 with the hopes of establishing a correspondance and perhaps creating an opportunity to meet one of my heroes. Unfortunately, he was too infirmed to reply himself, but his caretaker sent the following response: “Dear Mr. Fisher, Your recent letter to Bishop Ahern telling him of your interest in and love of Therese brought him immense pleasure. How good of you to write. At the age of 90 Bishop lives Therese’s words to her novices, ‘life is not sad!’ with his smile and warm words to and for others. He remembers well the works about her that you mention and hopes that you will stay with her.” (Letter dated July 28, 2009) I treasure that letter.

The good prelate was correct. St. Therese is truly a deep sea diver in the spiritual life. She knew the omnipresent and omniscient God so intimately. “Where can I go from your spirit? from your presence where can I flee? If I take the wings of the dawn, if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea, Even there your hand shall guide me, and your right hand hold me fast.” (Psalm 139: 7, 9-10) Just as the “Vertical Torpedo” made a B-line for its goal, St. Therese teaches us how to make a B-line for even greater depths – the infinite abyss of God’s love. Therese expressed that, “I want to seek out a means of going to heaven by a little way, a way that is very straight, very short, and totally new.” (Story of A Soul, p. 207) She concluded that Jesus’ arms were the elevator that would lead the little or humble one to heaven. After all, Jesus knows the way and He has no limitations whatsoever. Fr. Conrad DeMeester in his masterpiece, “The Power of Confidence”, explains that, “The little way seeks to lead Therese – and every little soul who follows her – to a high degree of union with God, to the fullness of love. God, Who seeks to realize the union, is merciful love; He is condescension. Therese is the weak, the imperfect, the incomplete. Around these two poles is developed, on the part of Therese, specfic virtues. Faced with her powerlessness, she recognizes it, accepts it, and humbles herself. In the face of Merciful Love, she believes. On these two foundations, the little way is built; they are like the two great pillars that support the bridge. Because man cannot rely on himself and possesses nothing that is proportionate to God, and because he must by faith make a leap into the merciful love of God, this way has an appearance of audacity, boldness, folly. From Therese’s vision of God spring peace, joy, security, and gratitude. By taking her position before her own powerlessness, Therese banishes fear, sadness, and infidelity.” (The Power of Confidence, p. 207-208)

St. Therese teaches us to embrace our weakness and powerlessness and exchange them for God’s omnipotence and Fatherly solicitude. When we jump into His arms with childlike confidence and trust completely in Him, God will never fail to take care of us and lead us to Himself. Therese encourages us to take the leap of faith and jump into this abyss of love. We need not get into the coffin-like “Vertical Torpedo” to get to God. Therese assures us that, “It is confidence, and confidence alone, that must lead us to love.” (Letter to Sr. Marie of the Sacred Heart)

Thanks for sticking with me today! This will be our last trip for now following Moby Dick around the oceans of the globe. Have a great weekend!

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