Posted by: Fr Chris | April 14, 2012

Catholicism and the Titanic – 100 year anniversary

There are of course many musings on the Titanic and its 100th anniversary. While only 710 survived the wreck, the loss of life would have been even worse since the ship was only half-full!  The company never put in anywhere near the amount of boats and rafts to save passengers and crew. All due to human hubris in that gilded era of progress.

Lord David Alton has a very interesting article on the Titanic and the marvelous church of St. Mary of the Angels built in the poorest district of Liverpool, the area where many of the shipyard workers came from:

Our Sunday Visitor has a good article on the three Catholic priests who died heroically, serving the ship’s Catholics literally to the bitter end when the ship sank.

And by the way, I cannot praise OSV enough – it is a solidly Catholic paper, faithful to all teachings, and calls a spade a spade when it is needed. Please consider subscribing to this weekly paper, and/ or purchasing books from its publishing house (including one by the wife of one of my best friends, Theresa Doyle Nelson, Saints of the Bible).

Subscribe at:

Buy Theresa’s book at  .  Our Sunday Visitor newspaper is a great resource. My great-uncle Edward LePrell was inspired to become one of the first American priests to do mission work in China, through articles on Maryknoll published in that paper.

Another Catholic connection exists only because of holy obedience. Seminarian Francis Browne sailed on the Titanic as far as Ireland, taking many photos from first class to the third class immigrants. An American couple offered to fund the rest of his trip to New York, but the Jesuit superior would have none of that and sent a four word telegram “Get off that ship.”  Francis did, living to be ordained a Jesuit priest. He kept that telegram in his wallet, as a reminder of the value of obedience, which had saved his life. During the voyage from Cherbourg to Queenstown, he took many photographs, including the last image of the captain of the Titanic; passengers; the opulent interiors; and general life on board. He was a talented as well as prolific photographer, a hobby he continued after his ordination in 1916.   The Titanic collection has been reprinted in a new format with new information by the Jesuits of England:

These photos have been republished in a new book, but apparently only in Britain. Bummer for us in America – it is priced at over 30 Euros, over $43!

And the best resource in film for Titanic remains the British film from 1958,  “A Night To Remember” based on Walter Lord’s 1955 book. Check out Kristen Jones’ article in today’s Wall Street Journal  on the movie and its many qualities and Criterion’s DVD reissue and its high quality extras: The article is titled “An end of an era of arrogance” .  A fitting epitaph for a time that made a ship that God Himself could not sink – but an iceberg did the job quite effectively. And we seem to make new eras of arrogance, don’t we?

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.

May the perpetual light shine upon them.



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