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Sorry, one more Titanic story (written Lord David Alton) because it comes full circle to the first one I noted about Fr. Thomas Browne, SJ, who was on the Titanic but providentially left her before she set sail for New York.
The Titanic was operated by the White Star Line whose chairman was J. Bruce Ismay, one of only 710 survivors of over 1500 passengers (and a pariah for his presumed cowardice). His father’s partner in the business was William Imrie who since he was childless, adopted his niece Amy in 1872 and made her his heir.
After her conversion to Catholicism, Amy embarked on a Grand Tour of Europe. While in Assisi at the basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, she vowed to give her life to Christ as a Poor Clare. When Imrie died in 1907, a nun of poverty became an extremely wealthy woman.
Amy, known as Mother Mary Clare, used her money to build the stunning church of St Mary of the Angels in Liverpool, England. Mother Mary Clare said that, “Liverpool people will never be able to visit Rome, so I will bring Rome to them.” What a beautiful testimony to the power and purpose of our beautiful cathedrals and churches so often castigated as a waste of money. Her grand nephew said that his great aunt “deliberately located the church in what was, and still is, one of the poorest wards in England. Her dream was to enable those less fortunate than herself to be able to worship in a setting containing architecture and works of art that would stand comparison with the finest in Europe.”
The Church is now closed but is open to the faithful. This year an selection of photos taken of the Titanic by Fr Francis Browne, SJ, who was himself a periodic visitor to Liverpool will be exhibited this weekend.
Here is another Titanic story on LifeSiteNews emerging from the 100th anniversary (April 15th) of the sinking of the unsinkable ship.
On April 12, 1914, a 42-year-old Catholic convert by the name of Fr. Thomas Byles was on his way to New York via the Titanic to officiate at his brother’s wedding. He had spent the day saying Mass for the second and third class passengers and was reportedly praying the Divine Office when the ship struck the iceberg.
According to eyewitnesses, Father Byles helped women and children get into the lifeboats, then heard confessions, gave absolution, and led passengers in reciting the Rosary. Agnes McCoy said that Father “stood on the deck with Catholics, Protestants and Jews kneeling around him” praying for the repose of the souls about to perish. His friend Fr. Patrick McKenna said, “He twice refused the offer of a place in a boat, saying his duty was to stay on the ship while one soul wanted his ministrations.”
After the shipwreck, a newspaper said of him: “Among those who safely reached the land again no one seems to have been aware of his presence on the ship, but we may hope that many who meet him in a blissful eternity will praise God that Father Thomas Byles was there to administer absolution unto them.”
His body was never identified. May this priest among priests rest in the peace of Christ.
This is the season for shipwrecks. A short while ago I wrote about our local bishop who was on the Andrea Doria. Now as we approach April 15th (remember to send in your taxes), the world is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. On her maiden (and only) voyage was a Jesuit novice by the name of Frank Browne. He set sail from Southhampton, England, and journeyed with the ship to France and Ireland. A benefactor was willing to pay the Jesuit’s way to America but his superior nixed the plan with the stern telegraph message: “Get off that ship.” He kept that telegram in his wallet for the rest of his life.
What makes this young man’s experience most interesting is the fact that he was a photographer. His photos of the life aboard the ship are classics. He took the last photo of the captain. He captured images of everyday life of the ship from first class down to steerage. James Cameron recreated his image of a 6 year old boy spinning a top in his blockbuster movie.
Frank Browne’s life could be a movie in itself. He was a highly decorated chaplain in World War I and was a classmate of James Joyce who featured him in his novel, “Finnegan’s Wake.”
If you are interested in seeing his photos, a book of his pictures has been recently issued called, “Father Browne’s Titanic Album.”