"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Fr Thomas Byles' sermon that Sunday was on the need for a spiritual lifebelt in the form of prayer and the sacraments when in danger of spiritual shipwreck.
Later that night, as the Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg, Fr Byles remained on board, twice refusing a place in a lifeboat, leading the rosary, and hearing confessions and giving absolution to more than 100 passengers trapped in the stern after all the boats had been launched.
VICTIMS KNELT AROUND PRIEST AS VESSEL SANK _____________________________
Father Byles Had Aided Women in Boats and Then Consoled Those on Board.
"When the Titanic went to the bottom Father Thomas B. Byles stood on the deck with Catholics, Protestants and Jews kneeling around him. Father Byles was saying the rosary and praying for the repose of the souls of those about to perish. To many he administered the last rites of the Church. In the early stage of the disaster he heard a few confessions."
Miss Agnes McCoy, a patient in St. Vincent's Hospital, suffering from her privations in the Titanic disaster, gives this account of the last minutes of Father Byles, a Catholic priest, who was coming to the United States to officiate at his brother's wedding. A German priest assisted Father Byles, she said. Those remaining on board the Titanic when the last lifeboat had gone seemed to have consolation, she said, in having a clergyman offer up prayers for them.
"I did not see the final minutes of Father Byles," said Miss McCoy. She had seen him hearing confessions and administering the last rites of the Church in the early part of the disaster. She herself had appealed to him. Survivors told her later of what they had seen as they were washed off the deck. One told her that Father Byles stood and the men kneeled in the water as he offered up prayer.
Miss McCoy, her sister, Alice, and her brother were saved. The girls saved him. They were put off in a lifeboat. While the lifeboat was being rowed away a man swam alongside. He was their brother. They tried to pull him in, but a sailor struck him on the head with an oar, saying there was no room. One sister seized the sailor, while the other dragged the brother into the craft.
"I first saw Father Byles in the steerage," said Miss McCoy. "There were many Catholics there, and he eased their minds by praying for them, hearing confessions and giving them his blessing. I later saw him on the upper deck reading from his priest's book of hours. Survivors, especially a young English lad, told me later that he pocketed the book, gathered the men about him and, while they knelt, offered up prayer for their salvation."
UPDATE: Doni M at the WinterGrove blog has written extensively on Fr Byles. Her latest post on the Titanic priest concludes:
God’s greatest mission for us may not be apparent until the final hour of our lives. That can be an encouraging thought, actually. That no matter where we are in our lives, God still has plans for us. For Thomas R.D. Byles, everything in his forty-two years of life culminated in this one night, on this one ship, in his ministry to the terrified passengers who were about to die. He was needed on that ship at that time, and he was there. #