https://catholicexchange.com/priest-on-titanic-the-last-voyage-of-fr-thomas-byles Priest on Titanic: The Last Voyage of Fr. Thomas Byles K. V. Turley Abide with me; fast falls the eventide; The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide. On board in all directions there was the sound of running feet. It was clear there was something wrong. Before hearing anything, however, one had somehow sensed it. Some indiscernible threat had impacted and was quickly making its presence felt throughout the ship. At that moment a priest with breviary in hand was praying Night Office as he walked on the upper deck; nevertheless, as the alarms sounded he knew something had gone seriously wrong. The priest in question was Fr. Thomas Byles, and the ship’s name was Titanic. Fr. Thomas Byles When she set sail on her maiden voyage in 1912, Titanic was the largest vessel in the world, with a passenger capacity of 2,435; it was also claimed that she was unsinkable. In any event, no one considered such a possibility, as the ship left England before calling at Ireland and thereafter steaming out into the Atlantic. Advertisement - Continue Reading Below Fr. Byles had boarded at Southampton, having left his Essex rectory early on the morning of Wednesday April 10th. Dressed in clerical black and with a single case he caught the train to London before the boat train on to the English port. The glamour of the occasion was not lost on the ship’s passengers or indeed the priest as when, just after 12 Noon on that Easter Wednesday, they set sail to the sound of a band playing… Relatives in America had bought his ticket. Towards the end of 1911, Fr. Byles had been invited to officiate at the marriage of his brother, William, to Miss Isabel Katherine Russell of 119 Pacific Street, Brooklyn. The ceremony was due to take place at St Augustine’s Catholic Church, Sixth Avenue, Brooklyn, on April 21st, 1912. His initial booking had been with the White Star Line but due to industrial action he was unable to sail so at the last minute his ticket was transferred and an alternate berth secured upon a new ship, Titanic. On departing Southampton, Fr. Byles wrote a letter to his elderly housekeeper, one that was later to be posted when the ship docked briefly in Ireland. His concerns in that were both temporal and spiritual. He feared he had lost his umbrella whilst travelling on the train to the dock and, perhaps more importantly, that he wouldn’t be able to say Mass until the ship cleared the Irish port of Queenstown (Cobh); it was only after that that he expected to be able to do so each day. In conclusion, he promised to write when he landed at New York. Advertisement - Continue Reading Below Byles had been born at Leeds, England, on February 26th 1870. The eldest of seven children, perhaps understandably the family atmosphere was devout as his father was a Protestant minister. He was educated locally and at Leamington in the English Midlands where the family moved when he was aged 12. In 1885, he won a scholarship to a boarding school in Lancashire. It was here that he discovered two things: that he suffered from epilepsy and that he had doubts about the Protestantism he had been raised in. As with another famous English convert some decades earlier, Byles began a study of the early Church Fathers. But, as the doubts slowly started to subside it became apparent that he was being lead to an unexpected place: Rome. In 1888, he went up to Balliol College, Oxford, having secured a Mathematics Scholarship, however, he was eventually to change to Theology, gaining a Third Class degree in 1894. It was whilst at the university that he decided to embrace Anglicanism. Earlier it had been his brother, William, who had shocked the wider family by converting to Catholicism whilst also at Oxford. His brother’s conversion was to have a markedly different effect upon the younger Byles, however, especially as his study of the Church Fathers deepened. Soon after, having previously considered taking Anglican Orders, he decided to postpone any such decision. What he was later to describe as a ‘fog’ now descended. Having left the Protestantism of his family, and no longer content with his recently acquired Anglicanism, Byles found himself struggling to discern what was the true course. Perhaps, by then, he knew in his heart that there was only one way left, but still he hesitated in taking it. Then, unexpectedly, on the eve of the Feast of Corpus Christi, during a prolonged period of meditation, the definitive way finally revealed itself. Thereafter, there was no hesitation. On the Feast itself, Byles was received into the Church at the then Jesuit church in Oxford, and, in so doing, received Holy Communion for the first time and, now free of all doubts, was also given a new Christian name, Thomas.