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Why Did Some People Choose to Go down with the Titanic?

In the early morning hours of April 15, 1912, more than 2.5 hours after striking an iceberg, the RMS Titanic sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean. The ship was on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City, but there weren’t enough lifeboats onboard, and more than 1,500 passengers and crew died in one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters in history. In the aftermath of the tragedy, many stories emerged about the heroism of those who were lost. After helping to load frightened passengers into the lifeboats, Father Thomas Byles selflessly tried to calm those who were doomed to go down with the ship, reciting the Rosary and hearing confessions. In 2015, the priest in Byles’ St. Helens parish launched an effort to have the Catholic priest canonized as a saint.

Heroic until the end:

  • Father Byles boarded the ship at Southampton to attend his younger brother's wedding in New York. En route, he celebrated Mass for second- and third-class passengers, including on the morning of the tragedy.
  • Survivors on the last lifeboat reported hearing the 42-year-old British priest’s voice and those kneeling around him on the stern of the boat, reciting the Rosary as the Titanic slipped into the ocean.
  • The Catholic canonization process requires that a nominated person must have lived Christian virtues to a heroic degree. A miracle attributed to the individual must be approved by the Holy See.
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