Jewish Journal

On a sinking Titanic, one priest stayed to hear confessions

by Brad A. Greenberg

April 18, 2012 | 12:19 am

This past weekend marked the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, and for the occasion, the Deacon’s Bench blog at Patheos, via LifeSiteNews, shared the story of Father Thomas Byles, who died as he lived—in service to the faithful—and went down with the Titanic while hearing confessions.

According to witnesses, as the ship went down the priest helped women and children get into the lifeboats, then heard confessions, gave absolution, and led passengers in reciting the Rosary.
Agnes McCoy, one of the survivors, says that as the great ship sank, Fr. 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,” she told the New York Telegram on April 22, 1912, according to the website devoted to his memory, FatherByles.com.

That seems like an incredible commitment to the belief that Catholics cannot get to heaven if they die with an unconfessed sin—and from my theological viewpoint an unnecessary one—but Father Byles did it. And it’s pretty incredible that he did.

A feature on Father Byles from the BBC.

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