Termed the ‘Titanic priest,’ Father Thomas Byles–who rather than save his life stayed on the sinking ship to pray with passengers–could be made saint.
According to survivors, the priest refused a lifeboat seat two times, and instead prayed with second and third-class passengers on the sinking ship, reported Metro.co.uk Sunday.
As the passengers realized the boat was sinking, he prayed with passengers, heard confessions, and held a service.
Fr. Thomas Byles had been rector of St. Helens in Chipping Ongar Essex for eight years, before meeting his death. He had been educated in Fleetwood, Lancashire, and at Oxford.
On April 15, 1912, the priest died onboard the Titanic along with 1,500 others when it sank off the Atlantic Coast. He had been traveling to America to officiate his brother’s wedding and to attend his younger brother’s funeral in New York.
At least two ‘miracles’ must attributed to a person are required for sainthood. Pope Pius X praised Father Byles’ actions.
St. Helens, where Fr. Byles was rector, has launched a campaign to advance his cause for sainthood. Father Graham Smith, its current rector, said, Fr. Byles “was an extraordinary man who gave his life for others.”
“We hope people around the world will pray to him if they are in need,” he said, “and, if a miracle occurs, then beatification and then canonization can go forward.”
Calling on those in need to pray to the late priest, Fr. Smith has asked that any miracles that may follow be reported to the Church.
“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,” he said. “We are hoping and praying that he will be recognized as one of the saints within our canon.”
The source also noted that in 1912, survivor Agnes McCoy told the New York Sun that as the Titanic went down, she saw Father Byles and another priest with a crowd of 100 people, including Catholics, Jews and Protestants, knelt before him. Father Byles said the rosary and told them to prepare to meet God, she said, noting that during his service, those present started singing the hymn ‘Nearer My God to Thee.’ (D.C.L.)