Priest who gave his life for others as the Titanic sank is on the path to Sainthood.
Years and decades after the Titanic suffered its ill faith, numerous extraordinary stories have emerged. One of which is the heroic deeds of English priest Fr. Thomas Byles. Based on survivor accounts, Father Byles had two opportunities to save his life from the sinking ship by boarding a lifeboat. But the priest declined and instead gave that opportunity to others. He has also continued to serve his role as a priest by reading his office, hearing confessions and giving absolutions and most importantly, calming the people amidst the unimaginable chaos.
Agnes McCoy was one of the passengers who witnessed how the priest prayed with other passengers and gave his final blessings for the sinking ship. Ellen Mary Mocklare on the other hand saw how effective the priest is in reducing the panic and how he declined the offer of safety “A few around us became very excited and then it was that the priest again raised his hand and instantly they were calm once more. The passengers were immediately impressed by the absolute self-control of the priest.”
Mocklare continued her account saying that “Fr. Byles could have been saved, but he would not leave while one (passenger) was left and the sailor’s entreaties were not headed.”
Such heroic acts inspired the current priest of St. Helen’s Church in Essex, Father Graham Smith to recommend and campaign for the canonization of their former rector Father Thomas Byles. Fr. Smith hopes that Fr. Byles would become saint within their canon.
Pretty incredible story of the priest on board the Titanic: https://t.co/pOOD80vmaR
— Mary Rezac (@maryrezac) December 24, 2015
Father Thomas Byles (Roussel Davids Byles) was born on February 26, 1870 in Yorkshire, England. After being ordained as a priest, he became the priest of St. Helen’s Church for eight years. Fr. Byles boarded the Titanic bound to New York to officiate his brother William’s wedding. But unfortunately, the incident prevented the priest from fulfilling his mission. After the priest died and when the Vatican learned about Byles’ martyrdom, William and his new wife was invited by the Vatican for a private audience with then Pope Pius X.
The road to sainthood is a difficult and long process. The candidate’s personal life shall first be scrutinized on the local level and eventually by the Vatican. Before becoming a full-pledged saint, a candidate is first beatified after associating and proving a miracle to his name. After becoming “Blessed”, the candidate can only become a saint after a second miracle is proven. Because of this, Fr. Smith made a public appeal to pray to Fr. Byles for a miracle. If miracles occur and are proven, the canonization shall proceed according to him.
Jesuit priest James Martin agreed that Fr. Byles is a good candidate for sainthood. As he notes “But surely giving your life for others, or providing spiritual comfort in the face of certain death, should qualify a person to be, at the very least, considered for canonization.”