Friday, 13 April 2012

Titanic confessor

Being mercifully free of live television, I do not always pick up on what the latest craze is, but I think that this weekend we are in the grip of a feverish concentration on the Titanic so it might be worth trying to work Fr Byles into this Sunday's sermon. He was a parish priest from Essex who was travelling to conduct the wedding of his brother in Brooklyn. He paid £13 for his ticket. The website Measuring Worth calculates the value of that today as £1,000 using the retail price index, or £4,240 using average earnings. Either way, Fr Byles obviously valued the trip highly.

When the ship struck the iceberg, Fr Byles was on deck saying his office. During the panic, he helped steerage passengers up to the boat deck, helped women and children get into the lifeboats, refused a place on the lifeboat himself, went among the passengers hearing confessions, prayed the rosary with those left on board, and went down with the ship, still saying the rosary with them

I am grateful to Fr Stewart Foster who has written about Fr Byles in this week's Catholic Herald. The article is not online, only in the print edition, but there is an interview with Fr Foster at Alive Publishing.

As well as providing a heroic Catholic reference for people who are hearing a lot about the Titanic on television, it might also be worth pointing out that the popular film caricatures him by having him recite verses from the Apocalypse. It is always worth waking people up to the subtle prejudice that they normally don't notice in the mainstream media.
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