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Movement Underway to Canonize Priest on Titanic Who Sacrificed His Life for Others

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Zoe Romanowsky - published on 04/15/15

Fr. Thomas Byles refused lifeboat, to stay and pray with other passengers

In April 1912, Father Thomas Byles of Essex, England, boarded the Titanic set for New York to attend his younger brother William’s wedding. On the fateful morning of April 14, Fr. Byles preached a homily about "using prayer as your life vest, and the sacraments to save your soul in a spiritual shipwreck." Later that evening, as Fr. Byles was walking the upper deck in his topcoat, praying his breviary, the Titanic struck the iceberg. As The Deacon’s Bench reports:

Twice, he was offered a seat on a lifeboat and he refused.  People gathered around him and he blessed them and gave general absolution.  He went into third class, where the servants and working class people were staying. Many were Catholic. He heard confessions and offered blessings. He led those on board in reciting the rosary.  People on the lifeboats later said they could hear his voice calling out the prayers, and people of every language answering back.  Loudest of all, they could hear the desperate pleas: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and the hour of our death, Amen.

According to BBC news, a movement is now underfoot to have Fr. Byles declared a saint. Fr. Graham Smith, pastor of St Helen’s Church in Essex, where Fr. Byles was pastor 100 years ago, said, “He’s an extraordinary man who gave his life for others…We need, in very old parlance, to raise him to the altar which means that the Vatican will recognize him as a martyr of the church."

Fr. Smith is encouraging people around the world to ask for the intercession of Fr. Byles if they are in need and to report any miracles to the Church. 

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