Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Selfless Love of Essex Priest on Titanic

A stained glass window in a small Essex church, commemorates a heroic young priest who refused to leave passengers on the Titanic. Fr Thomas Byles, rector of St Helen's Church in Chipping Ongar, was travelling to New York to officiate at his brother's wedding. His parish had organised a special collection to fund the trip.

Eyewitness reports say Father Byles had said Mass for second-class passengers on the morning of the disaster. When the ship hit the iceberg and begun to sink, Fr Byles was offered a lifeboat place several times but he refused, staying on to help others, hear confessions and pray with those still on board. In the ship's final moments Father Byles prayed with the 100 plus passengers trapped at the stern. Protestants, Catholics and Jews knelt in the rising waters as he gave absolution to all. His body was never recovered.

Later Fr Byles family had an audience with Pope Pius X, who described him as a 'martyr'.

Father Byles, was originally from Staffordshire. The son of an Anglican vicar, he converted to Catholicism. He was ordained as a priest in 1902 and came to the Essex parish in 1905.

A plaque at his old school in Lancashire reads: 'Pray for Rev Thomas Byles for eight years rector of this mission. In hisheroic death in the disaster SS Titanic April 15 1912 he earnestly devoted his last moments to the religious consolation of his fellow passengers'.
Original article here: http://www.indcatholicnews.com/news.php?viewStory=20199

Having been described as a 'matryr' do you think he really did give up his life? Did he just allow God to choose his fate? Do you think he was right to refuse lifeboat places?

It has similarities to Fr Kolbe (www.fatherkolbe.com) who gave up his life for a stranger in Auschwitz. The selfless love shown by their priests can be seen as a model for all Christians, as Jesus says: ‘If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget self, carry his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his own life will lose it; but whoever wants to lose his life for me and for the Gospel will save it. Does a person gain anything if he wins the whole world but loses his life? Of course not.’ (Mark 8:34–36)

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