It's HOLY WEEK! The final sprint of Lent. Perhaps "sprint" is not term we want to use. I had a reader long ago who described Lent as "rubbing along". So, somewhere between sprinting and rubbing along is where we stand. It's a busy week of Mass and Passion, so we're going to spring clean our question list.
Martyrs. Are they automatically saints or do they also need to perform miracles? I'm particularly interested in Thomas Byles who, instead of taking a life boat off of the Titanic, stayed behind to administer sacraments to those about to die. Does that make him a martyr?
Technically, no. Father Thomas was on his way to New York to officiate at the wedding of his younger brother when the great ship went down to the bottom of the sea. He did indeed refuse a seat on a lifeboat twice to stay behind and hear confessions and grant absolution.
Martyrs are automatically saints, no miracles required. But bravery is not martyrdom. A martyr is someone who dies defending the faith. To be a martyr, someone would have had to say to Father Thomas, "If you deny that Jesus is God, or your Savior, then you can get on a lifeboat." Father Thomas simply chose to stay and do his job.
That's not to say it wasn't wholly heroic. But it would be hard to prove sainthood without miracles.
To start with, clergy is held to a higher sin standard, because they are responsible for the souls of others. It's why the new Pope is constantly asking for your prayers, because when he fails even in small ways, the repercussions are massive.
Then the Church would study the life of Father Thomas to see if he lived a life of heroic virtue. He certainly did at the end there. Then we need two miracles.
You could take up the cause for his sainthood!
There are other people whose martyrdom is in question. The one who springs to mind is St. Edith Stein. She is often called a martyr, but technically speaking, I don't think she actually qualifies. She was a Jewish girl who converted and became a nun. In question is whether or not she was arrested and sent to the gas chamber for being a nun or for being Jewish. If it was because she was a nun, then she did die for her faith. The thing is, she was arrested for being a Jew (she and her sister had been forced to wear the yellow star, prior to their arrest).
Not to worry, though, she has at least one miracle under her belt, a little girl who was dying from an overdose of Tylenol and survived after her family and friends prayed for the intercession of Edith. Because she is more or less seen as a martyr, she was canonized. But there have been people who have questioned the martyr issue.
I'm with you! Surely, Father Thomas is in Heaven!