Father Thomas Byles Fr Byles was walking on the upper deck praying his breviary when the Titanic struck the iceberg.
As the ship was sinking, he assisted many third-class passengers up to the Boat Deck to the lifeboats. He reputedly twice refused a place on a lifeboat. Toward the very end, he recited the rosary and other prayers, heard confessions, and gave absolution to more than a hundred passengers who remained trapped on the stern of the ship after all of the lifeboats had been launched.
Fr Thomas Byles the priest in the Titanic was described by Pope Pius X as a martyr for the Church
Several years ago I used to take Holy Communion to a retired ship’s radio officer who had first gone to sea in 1918.
I asked him why he had chosen that particular profession. His answer was immediate: “It was the Titanic – I remember it so well. The Marconi operators remained at their post until the end, and I was inspired by their heroism.” Although by then aged 97, my parishioner spoke about the Titanic as if its sinking had happened just a few years ago. This year, as the centenary is kept of the “unsinkable” liner’s collision with an iceberg in the Atlantic, and as we remember and pray for its 1,500 or more victims, there is another hero of the Titanic who merits our attention: a parish priest from Essex who went down with the ship and whose selfless actions were recalled by some of the survivors of the disaster.
God bless everyone.
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