Friday, December 14, 2007

Will the real Matt Talbot please stand up?

[Disclaimer: The placing of information and opinion on the Venerable Matt Talbot Resource Center from external linked sources does not necessarily imply agreement with that information.] 

Harry Mary Andruschak

Last Sunday, at the Annual Luncheon for us Legion of Mary Auxiliaries,
my Godmother asked if I knew of Matt Talbot. I said no. She suggested
that I might want to look him up as an early example of a reformed
alcoholic before AA came along?

Never mind, I went on the Internet, and found at least three versions
of Matt Talbot.

The first version can be seen in the Matt Talbot Retreat Groups, here
in the USA. Matt is regarded as a recovered alcoholic working a
version of the 12 steps before they were formalized by Bill W. in
1939. Matt Talbot retreats are just 12 step retreats under a different
name, open to all regardless of religion

No problem there, AA has always insisted that there is nothing new
about the 12 steps, other then the way they are presented to the
alcoholic. Instead of "this is what you must do", they are informed
that "this is what we did". But the basic spiritual concepts of AA
have been around for at least 2,000 years.

The second version is best seen in the Pioneer Total Abstinence
Association in Ireland. Matt is a REFORMED Alcoholic. You can look it
up if you want, but the required pledge mentions the sin of
intemperance. "Sin"?

The Catholic Church in the USA no longer accepts that. We alcoholics
are not sinners trying to become saints, nor bad people trying to
become good, but sick people trying to become well. Ask for help from
a Priest, and he will refer you to AA. You may also ask for, and
receive, The Anointing Of The Sick.

Which brings us to the book TO SLACK A THIRST, by Philip Maynard. This
is a book about getting sober that does not use AA, but does use the
spiritual principles used by Matt, and it is fascinating reading for
someone like me. Of course I am one of those who sobered up in AA, but
now maintain that sobriety in the Catholic Church AS WELL AS IN AA.

Sub-titled THE MATT TALBOT WAY TO SOBRIETY, it involves a simple
prayer program, very much like what I am already doing. Philip claims
that he sobered up this way without AA, and others can to. And I can
believe it.

Unlike the regular 12 step programs, you start with step 11 and work
from there. It is assumed you have a belief in Christ as True God and
True man. You forgo alcohol (or whatever) as an expression of your
love for Jesus.

Obviously, this would never have worked for me 23 years ago. But I
note his suggested prayers are very much along the lines of what I am
doing now as a Franciscan 1221 penitent. Indeed, later on Matt became
a Franciscan Tertiary. Maynard tends to play down Matt's later
adventures into mortifications, as not what is needed for staying
sober. Probably true, although a lot of critics tend to concentrate on
the mortifications themselves rather then Matt's sobriety and
Christian living.

All in all, a lot to think about. Matt Talbot is now a Venerable.
Sainthood is a long way off. You need two authentic miracles.
Thousands and thousands of Catholic alcoholic have prayed to Matt for
help in getting sober and staying sober. It works. It really does. But
that is not the kind of miracle the Church wants.

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