Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lay Franciscan Heroic Witnesses

"Franciscans on the Edge: Sr. Ingrid J. Peterson speaks on heroic witnesses"

Fr. Chuck Talley, OFM
Posted Monday, September 24, 2007

Sister Ingrid Peterson knows her stuff. A Third Order Franciscan sister of Rochester, Minnesota, she is an internationally recognized scholar and has taught and written extensively in the area of Franciscan history and spirituality. She came to our parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Sacramento this past weekend to share some of the fruit of her lifelong reflection before an audience of more than 100 parishioners and guests.

When I heard the topic of her half-day workshop/seminar, I flinched just a little. Franciscans on the edge? The edge of what? Extinction? A nervous breakdown? What? I know we have our problems, but can things be that desperate? Turns out the ‘edge’ Sister Ingrid is referring to is that marginal space of culture, society, and even the Church itself that has been the real central focus of Franciscan contemplation and action for eight hundred years. Among the marginalized, the dispossessed, the despised, and the ignored is where we have always been at our best and frankly, it’s where we oughta be.

Peterson didn’t parade the usual suspects of Franciscan life (Francis, Clare, Anthony of Padua, etc). Instead, she spoke about Franciscan laypeople— Secular Franciscans/Third Order members mostly—who strove to find Christ and to ‘Spirit’ the edges of our world. In doing so, she opened up Franciscan hagiography to a whole new bunch of halos that haven't always been appreciated for their own special glow, including those of Brother Juniper, Elizabeth of Hungary, the married couple Luchesio and Buonadonna , Francis of Rome, and, closer to our own time, Matt Talbot and Carlo Carretto.

These have all been keepers of the Rule, to be sure, but more importantly, lovers of Jesus and the Gospel. “There are always rules coming out of the Church at various times,” Peterson quipped, “and we have to live between these rules.” She then proceeded to demonstrate the way that Franciscan women and men throughout the centuries have been able to thrive in and through the tensions of their own eras, both “on the edge” and “between the rules.”

Peterson systematically examined the biographies and legends of these holy people in order to dig deeper into the substratum of their real spiritual lives, and then in turn, to try to make these ‘lives of the saints’ accessible and relevant to ourselves. Elizabeth of Hungary, for example, when confronted by her husband about the bread she was sneaking to the poor, opened her food basket only to reveal a bouquet of roses instead. Angela of Foligno, while on pilgrimage to Assisi, received a deeply transforming experience of the love of God “in which she heard the Holy Spirit tell her how much she was loved.”

So why doesn’t that happen to us? “My bread never turned to roses,” someone once complained to Peterson. (We all nodded in silent agreement.) So, in the absence of roses, “How do I know what God wants of me?” Peterson asked. She emphasized that for most of us, our call does not arise through some extraordinary private revelation, but rather in the context of community and in the circumstances of our daily living.

Peterson then spoke about her own vocation. “ How did I know I wanted to be a religious sister? I didn’t want to be one, actually. I went to public schools, and then in college—I was a college student, after all-- I saw the sisters and thought, ‘I don’t want to do that.’ But you know, it was just like the poem 'The Hound of Heaven'. Our God can be a real nag and in my case, just wouldn’t let go of me. Finally, I gave in and became a sister, and as they say (smiling) “I lived happily ever after.”

The real point of our Christian vocation, whether lay or religious, Sister Ingrid reflected, is to look to the example of Jesus and try to live it. “Jesus is the visible sign of the invisible God. Jesus teaches us that the way to God is through the Beatitudes. . . . The saints-- all the saints—have given their lives to follow Jesus in this way,” (no matter where it has led them). . . . And that’s what life at the edge is all about for all of us, isn’t it.

Some reflections questions, courtesy of Sister Ingrid J. Peterson:

What do you do for the love of God that others might consider foolish?
What are some of the ways in which you feel called to bring peace instead of violence?
In what ways has God broken into your life to set things right?
Can you recall times in which service to others has brought you closer to God?

Some further reading by Ingrid J. Peterson:
Clare of Assisi: A Biographical Study
Praying with Clare of Assisi: Companions for the Journey (w/ Ramona Miller).


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Presidential Acknowledgement of the Matt Talbot Community

Clare Champion, Friday, February 7, 2003

The Riches of Clare exhibition at the local authority-run Clare Museum charts the county's history over 6,000 years using authentic artifacts. In this article, museum curator John Rattigan, writes about a visit made by Dr Patrick Hillery as President of Ireland to the Matt Talbot Community…

One of the roles of the President of Ireland is to undertake a wide range of engagements with particular emphasis on the contribution of local community and self-help groups. It was in this capacity that on November 11, 1979, President Hillery visited the Matt Talbot Community in Dublin, and a commemorative presentation was made to him that day, which is part of a collection of objects recently donated to Clare Museum.

The Community was named after Matt Talbot, an alcoholic born in Dublin's inner city on May 2, 1856. Coming from an extremely poor family he began drinking at the age of twelve, and quickly became a chronic alcoholic. After 16 years, and with the help of a priest, he decided to stop drinking, and he began to model his life on Irish Early Christian monks, who believed that prayer, fasting and almsgiving would bring them closer to God.

Although extremely religious, Matt Talbot was not a somber man. In fact, to work mates and friends he was a cheerful, happy person. He gave most of his wages to the poor each week and was very much involved in Trade Union activities. Following a horrendous struggle, he had found sobriety through prayer and self-sacrifice and remained sober until his death, on 7 June 1925, on a busy Dublin street while on his way to his third mass that day. Finally, after years of hard work and self-denial, his aging heart had given out.

Matt Talbot's funeral was attended by only a handful of people. Having died in obscurity and buried in a pauper's grave, the story should have ended there. However, it was only the beginning. When Matt died on the street, nobody knew who he was. He was initially reported missing by his sisters and it was they who identified his body later in a hospital morgue.

It was at that point that they became aware of what the examiners had found while looking for identification of the body. A heavy chain had been found fastened tight around Matt Talbot's waist with other lighter chains around an arm and another below one knee in a place where it would have caused considerable pain when kneeling. Without the news of the chains becoming public and prompting further enquiries, Matt Talbot's story might never have been revealed.

Through the network of emigrant Irish Catholics, the story of Matt Talbot's life was taken abroad. Today, there is a Matt Talbot center in Seattle, Washington, with others in Nebraska and New Jersey in the United States. There is a huge Matt Talbot hostel, serving 1,000 people a day and founded in 1937, in Sydney, Australia, while a centre to serve alcoholics has been recently opened in Warsaw, Poland. In Dublin, he even has a bridge named after him.

Matt Talbot was declared Venerable by the Catholic Church in 1973. This means that the Church believes Matt lived a life of heroic virtue and, from a human point of view, he has the qualifications necessary to become a saint. Pope John Paul II, while a young priest, wrote a paper on Matt Talbot, and is believed to be keen to canonise him, believing that the addicted community needs a saint. Matt Talbot quickly became an icon for those struggling against addiction.

By visiting the Matt Talbot Community in Dublin, Dr Patrick Hillery as President of Ireland was acknowledging and endorsing the community as it serves to promote the memory of this holy man and by providing help and inspiration to addicts.

View the Talbot Community Presentation


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pope John Paul I spoke of Matt Talbot

A number of references note the interest of both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II in the beatification of Matt Talbot. In his 1976 Christmas homily, "Christ, the Physician of Souls," included in the book, The Smiling Pope (2004), by Raymond and Lauretta Seabeck, Pope John Paul I was also interested and believed Matt Talbot would be beatified soon.

In the Search box next to "Go," type "Matt Talbot." It should take you to page 128, which you click. The homily begins on page 127. Also note that Matt Talbot is misidentified as a “simple English porter.”

Monday, July 28, 2008

Reference to Matt Talbot by Irish Senators

The Upper House of the Oireachtas (Parliament) of Ireland recognized the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association Centenary in 1999. In the statements made about the history of the PTAA and alcohol usage in Irish society in this linked document, Matt Talbot is mentioned by Mr. Cassidy and Mr. Farrell.

Sources: Seanad Éireann (Senate of Ireland)-Volume 159 - 26, May, 1999

Monday, July 21, 2008

2008 P.T.T.A./Matt Talbot Pilgrimage to Knock Press Release/Homily

Catholic Communications Office


20th July 2008

Pioneer Total Abstinence Association /Matt Talbot Pilgrimage to Knock - Homily by Bishop Colm O’Reilly, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois

“Reparation for excessive drinking is one of the pillars of pioneer spirituality … and it calls for a certain generosity of spirit which is very central to Christian life as a whole" Bishop O'Reilly

There are many people who are appealing to authority, in State and Church, to speak strong words of condemnation on the subject of excessive drinking. Very explicitly some have asked clergy to speak “from their altars and stop beating around the bush” on this great social problem of our time. I am not so sure of how effective that approach will ever be in putting our society back on track in this area. In any event that is not the place to go today. The people before me here in Knock are not the ones who are creating the problems which are being dealt with by the Courts every month of the year.

The Gospel reading you have just heard suggested to me that I take a different approach today. Jesus had to deal with impetuosity in his apostles. For instance, they once wanted him to call down fire from heaven upon those who would not listen to his word. He would have none of it. The parable that he uses in the Gospel read in today’s Mass makes the same point. The wise landowner in the story had to convince his workers that their suggested solution to the problem of weeds among the wheat would in fact do more harm than good. Yes, they could indeed tear up the weeds but the wheat would be destroyed in the process. The better solution was to wait until the harvest and separate the wheat from the darnel and in that way save the crop.

The great founders of the Temperance Movements whose vision is still alive in the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association came to believe that the problem of abuse of alcohol would be best addressed by taking a positive approach. Father Theobald Mathew and Father James Cullen were convinced that something other than condemnation or legislation was needed. They invested their best effort in motivating people, an approach which has proved in fact to be the better way.

I was very pleased when I was asked to be celebrant and preacher today to concentrate on the spirituality of the Association. So I gladly leave aside the social analysis which throws light on the problems of excess. Instead I want to reinforce the conviction that you surely share that temperance and total abstinence are choices based on Christian conviction.

When I thought through the basic aspects of the spirituality of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, I came to a conclusion which took me by surprise. I left the main road, you might say, in my journey. Let me tell you where my line of thought has led me. I began with the thought that reparation for excessive drinking is one of the pillars of pioneer spirituality. That, it seems to me, is very important. And it calls for a certain generosity of spirit which is very central to Christian life as a whole. The more I thought about this the more I came to realise that the spirituality of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association has much in common with the spirituality of, for instance, Alcoholics Anonymous, and indeed of people who drink in moderation in a culture afflicted by abuse of alcohol.

Most people know that those courageous people who have recovered sobriety through the AA movement believe they are helpless without “the greater power” that comes from God. Less well known in the fact that they rely heavily on each other to remain sober. So their spiritual strength comes from faith in God supported by mutual help.

What about those who drink in moderation? In our world people, especially young people, find it difficult to be moderate in their drinking, once they take alcohol at all. Where do those who drink in moderation get the strength to remain moderate? There is a prayer which all Mass going people hear every Sunday. “Blessed are you Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink”. The wine which is offered at Mass comes from grapes that grow on vines. The wine is nature’s gift. It is therefore God’s gift. It is also the gift of civilisation going back deep into human history. The spiritual basis of moderation I believe has to be respect for the great gift of God’s creation and for the gift of human ingenuity as well. I fear that this way of thinking is rare in our land. Some cultures are better than we are. In Italy, where the lowest level of abuse of alcohol in Europe is found, there is, on the one hand, a great abhorrence of drunkenness and, on the other, a great tradition of enjoyment of food and wine which is truly wonderful to see. If only those who drink in moderation in Ireland could see how wholesome their lifestyle is when shared by the majority of a country’s population.

I have been speaking about the spirituality which underpins the Alcoholics Anonymous movement which is based on trust in God and reliance on mutual support. The spirituality of moderation is quite similar, drawing its strengths from a great respect for God’s creation and our interdependence on each other to make the most of God’s gifts.

Where does the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association get its motivation? I would like to state this in very simple terms. In fact I want to put it in the context of a comment I heard from an Irish politician who held a prominent position in Brussels. I heard him explain that the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association pin which he always wore was frequently the subject of conversation when he met colleagues in Europe. Most of these did not understand what it signified. Their best guess was that it had something to do with the fact that he may have been a blood donor, the heart on the badge suggesting this, I expect.

When I heard this long ago I remember thinking that while European politicians and civil servants were mistaken in regard to the meaning of the pin, they were not far from what is at the core of the pioneer contribution to society. Yes, the pioneer is in the business of giving. The giving is two-fold. The primary motivation is giving back love to Christ, whose thirst on the cross was primarily thirst for our love. The other aspect of the giving is linked to giving good example and to reparation.

Looking at the broad picture which includes the survivors of serious addiction, the well motivated moderate, temperate person and the total abstainer, all have these things in common: trust in God to keep them faithful to where they stand and concern for others. The members of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association add something more. The quality of their commitment gives the lie to those who would say that people act only out of self-interest. This Association is an antidote to cynicism. In a world that finds it hard to believe in the power of motivation, proof of the opposite is especially needed. May the Association never cease to inspire and never lack members to keep its spiritual message alive.

Ø Bishop Colm O’Reilly, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, leads the 2008 Pioneer Total Abstinence Association/Matt Talbot Pilgrimage to Knock Shrine on Sunday 20 July. Knock is Ireland’s National Marian Shrine and is visited by over one and a half million pilgrims annually.

Ø The Pioneer Total Abstinence Association (PTAA) is a voluntary organisation whose mission is to address the problems in society caused by excess alcohol and addiction. The PTAA was founded by Fr James Cullen SJ in 1898. Its current membership in Ireland is 150,000. Fr Joe Dargan SJ is the Chairperson of the PTAA Board of Management.

Ø For Lent 2008 the Irish Bishops’ Drugs and Alcohol Initiative (IBDI) produced a special web feature on, which includes:
- The DVD on alcohol: Find the Balance – Dare to Dream which was commissioned by the IBDI, distributed to secondary schools across Ireland and is available to all on YouTube;
- The Bishops’ Conference pastoral letter Alcohol: The Challenge of Moderation in English, Irish and Polish; and,
- The IBDI’s submission to the Government’s Alcohol Advisory Group.

Ø The focus of this year’s PTAA annual pilgrimage will be on the spirituality of the Association. The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick will be celebrated at 2.30pm followed by Mass at 3.00pm. In attendance will be the Association’s President, Mr Shane Kitson, and its Spiritual Director, Fr Bernard McGuckian SJ.

Ø The PTAA is both a pastoral and a social movement. Pioneers seek their inspiration from their devotion to Christ as manifested in his Sacred Heart, which is a symbol of his love for every single person. This love is especially central to those who are dedicated and devote their lives to the welfare of their brothers and sisters with serious alcohol or drugs problems, and for the victims of alcohol and drug abuse. The spiritual foundation of the Association’s witness, prayer and action is what makes the PTAA unique among temperance associations. This spiritual base gives the members a great sense of confidence in their ability to promote sobriety in their community, despite adverse trends and opposition from strong commercial forces. In this sense, it is clear that the Association is primarily part of the pastoral mission of the Church at the local, regional and national levels.

Ø Venerable Matt Talbot
Matt Talbot (1856 - 1925) was born in the poverty of Dublin's inner city. He began drinking at twelve years of age and became a chronic alcoholic. After sixteen years he decided to 'kick the habit'. A priest helped him, giving him a rehabilitation programme, which providentially incorporated the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). That was fifty years before AA was founded. After a great struggle, he found sobriety through prayer and self-sacrifice. He remained sober for forty years until his death. His life story has been an inspiration for alcoholics and addicts throughout the world. Matt Talbot was declared Venerable in 1973 and is a candidate for canonisation.

Further information:
Martin Long, Director of the Catholic Communications Office 0861727678
Noreen Brady, Chairperson of the Spirituality Committee of the PTAA 087 9740730

The Catholic Communications Office is an Agency of the Irish Bishops' Conference

Church's crusade against alcohol "ignored"

By John Cooney
Irish Independent
Monday July 21 2008

A SENIOR Catholic bishop has admitted that fiery sermons from pulpits and "high-minded addresses by politicians" on the evils of alcohol, are being ignored.

"Very explicitly, some have asked clergy to speak from their altars and stop beating around the bush on this great social problem of our time," Bishop Colm O'Reilly told pilgrims at an anti-drink rally at Knock Shrine in Co Mayo yesterday.

"But I am not so sure of how effective that approach will ever be in putting our society back on track in this area," he added.

The Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise was delivering a homily at the joint pilgrimage to the Marian Shrine by the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association and the Matt Talbot Association.

Bishop O'Reilly told the pilgrims that reparation for excessive drinking is "one of the pillars of pioneer spirituality", which called "for a certain generosity of spirit".

Bishop O'Reilly said that the spirituality of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association has much in common with the spirituality of Alcoholics Anonymous.

"Most people know that those courageous people who have recovered sobriety through the AA movement believe they are helpless without 'the greater power' that comes from God," continued Bishop O'Reilly.

"Less well known is the fact that they rely heavily on each other to remain sober. So their spiritual strength comes from faith in God supported by mutual help.


"In our world, people, especially young people, find it difficult to be moderate in their drinking once they take alcohol at all. Where do those who drink in moderation get the strength to remain moderate?

"There is a prayer which all Mass-going people hear every Sunday. 'Blessed are you Lord God of all creation, through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink.'"

Bishop O'Reilly said that "the well-motivated moderate, temperate person and the total abstainer, all have two things in common: trust in God to keep them faithful to where they stand and concern for others."


For the press release and homily referred to in this article, see

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Seeking the Kingdom"

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle A

First Reading: 1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128
Second Reading: Rom 8:28-30
Gospel: Mt 13:44-52

"...a treasure buried in a field"

We all look for good deals. We search for products with the best track records; we'll spend countless hours visiting different merchants, comparing prices all so that we may get the most for our money. We want our investments to yield good interest, our stocks to produce the highest return. But every now and then, there comes a situation that is beyond any "bargain," worth every dollar, and worth any risk.

So we should be able to understand the importance of today's Gospel parable:

Jesus speaks of hidden treasure and pearls of great price - sought after for many years, finally found and obtained at great cost and great risk. Thus is the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven - a treasure freely given, a gift of great value.

Our natural talents, our faith and the everyday circumstances of our life are all gifts of God - part of His investment in us. He looks for a return, with interest. He expects us to put our gifts to good use - to perfect them, to share them, to use them to renew our world according to the Gospel.

The beautiful stories of the treasure in the field and the pearl merchant point to the fact seeking the Kingdom of God and doing the will of the Father calls for total commitment. One does not simply add this pearl to a collection or simply purchase one more parcel of land. All must be sold. An absolute fresh start is to be made. The Gospel cuts into one's life and one must decide. Jesus brings compassion and healing; but he also brings a call to responsibility that is not without its consequences.

Some basic questions we should be asking ourselves today in the light of the Gospel message:

How do we use the gift of life itself - do we reverence it in all its forms? Do we protect the fragility of life in those who are weakest, most helpless, most defenseless? Do we protect this gift in ourselves by taking good care of our own health and avoiding the things we know can be harmful?

How do we use the gift of time? Do we try to make each of our days productive? Do we try to avoid wasting time on useless things? Do we try not to postpone or put off until tomorrow or next week or next month things that could and should be done today?

How do we use the gift of faith? Do we bury it, neglect it, and do little or nothing to increase it? Do we make time for prayer in our lives, for worship, for reading Scripture, for classes and workshops... Do we take the nourishment we receive each week and go back into our daily lives as persons committed to the poor, the homeless...

Jesus' parable implies that if we keep this wonderful gift buried, or if we neglect our gifts, we then run the risk of losing them entirely and of being held to account for them. Certainly, our first step is to gather together to give thanks for God's gifts, and by so doing, to nourish our faith by Word and Sacrament. We should be very attentive and prayerful, and open to the movements of the Spirit as we come together for Eucharist.

And finally, the important question is how we are changed by what happens there, and how will the thoughts, words, actions and decisions of our daily lives give evidence of a faith that is alive, vigorous, and fruitful.

For the vast majority of Catholics, faith is a buried treasure. Most were baptized as infants, received First Penance, First Communion and Confirmation - with whatever religious training preparation for those sacraments involved - and then that "treasure" was buried. For most, there was no further formal study, and no faith development. The things they learned about God, about Jesus and the Church - the images, the language, the experiences - were frozen and stored away. For some, these primary concepts carried them through to adulthood quite successfully. They married in the church, went to Mass occasionally, made their "Easter duty", and raised their children as Catholics. They were basically content and secure. There was no need to change anything. Every so often, they would take the treasure from its hiding place, dust if off a little and then put it back in safe keeping.

Others, however, may not fare so well. Their understanding of the church and the Gospel may be so underdeveloped that they cannot cope with adult challenges. When their faith is questioned or tested, they may find themselves confused and weak - and often choose to follow a different road, or give up religion altogether. Their treasure remains buried.

The truth is this: We are accountable for this gift that God has given us. We must be willing to risk losing everything in order to gain its possession. But we must also make sure that the gift of our faith does not remain buried. We must invest it, make it grow, and nurture and nourish it so that it will continue to bear much fruit. God expects it to keep producing the fruits of holiness and goodness. He expects us to share it with others, to reach out to the alienated, the unchurched, and the disenchanted. He has commissioned each of us to bear witness to His Love by our service and good will towards one another.

These are difficult times for people the world over. Many of us have been touched by death and suffering in ways we never could have imagined. We all share the horror - and can feel the pain - of continued atrocities carried out by terrorists; of the destruction of human life by poverty, hunger and disease; of an innocent abused by a trusted adult. We look for moments when the Light of Truth might shine through the current darkness, and it becomes more and more difficult to proclaim the goodness of God and to be witnesses to this great gift of faith.

But there are moments... many moments: some powerful and obvious, most so small that they may seem to go undetected.

It is time for all of us to dig up the treasure that we may have buried, so that we too can bring a lighted-candle into the common cloud of darkness that we all now seem to share. There has never been a time when we have needed to do this more.

Christians can sometimes speak too casually about "belonging to Christ" or of "following Jesus." But the parables of Jesus warn us that kinship with him should not lightly be presumed. A disciple of Jesus is one who has pondered his words and translated them into action. Jesus' final question to his disciples is just as powerful today as it was then:

"Have you understood all of this?"


Matt Talbot not only understood "all of this" but lived it. Although we live

in another time in history and our individual circumstances and

responsbilities differ from his, we can probably answer that we

could do more. Perhaps it's time we develop an action program

for that "more."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pope calls recovering addicts "ambassadors of hope"

Published Jul 18, 2008

SYDNEY, Australia (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI told a group of young Australians recovering from drug and alcohol abuse that he considers them "ambassadors of hope."

Those who have struggled to overcome addiction and get their lives back on a positive track are the best ones to help others who are lost and suffering, the pope said July 18.

While thousands of young Catholics from around the world were celebrating World Youth Day in Sydney, Pope Benedict stopped to visit a rehabilitation community and support program run by the Sydney Archdiocese's social service agency.

A young man and a young woman publicly shared their stories with the pope, struggling with emotion to speak of their difficult pasts and their joy in finding the program that helps disadvantaged youths, including the homeless and refugees as well as those trying to overcome substance abuse.

The program is called Alive and the pope said the participants, like the people following Moses, had been given the stark choice of choosing life or death.
"They had to turn away from other gods and worship the true God," the pope said.

The false gods competing for people's allegiance today, he said, are associated with the worship of material things, possessive and manipulative forms of love and power.

Material possessions, true love and leadership are all positive, the pope told the young people. But greed, the thought that happiness lies in having things, sexual activity without commitments and controlling others are indications that someone has been following a false god.

"The cult of material possessions, the cult of possessive love and the cult of power often lead people to attempt to 'play God,' to try to seize total control with no regard for the wisdom of the commandments that God has made known to us," the pope said. "This is the path that leads toward death."

But, Pope Benedict said, worshipping the true God, recognizing him as the source of goodness, entrusting oneself to him, opening oneself to his healing power and obeying his commandments are the choices that lead to life.

The pope told the young people, "the choice to abuse drugs or alcohol, to engage in criminal activity or self-harm, may have seemed at the time to offer a way out of a difficult or confusing situation.

"You now know that, instead of bringing life, it brings death," he said.

"I wish to acknowledge your courage in choosing to turn back onto the path of life," Pope Benedict told the young people.

The people Jesus loved most, he said, were those who knew they had messed up and needed his help and his healing.

"Jesus welcomes you with open arms. He offers you unconditional love -- and it is in loving friendship with him that the fullness of life is to be found," the pope said.

Pope Benedict told the young people that human beings were designed by God to love, not with "fleeting, shallow relationships," but loving God and sacrificing to serve others.

"In the power of the Holy Spirit, choose life and choose love, and bear witness before the world to the joy that it brings," he said.


Whether using solely Matt Talbot's way to sobriety or combining it with the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, this resource center also celebrates the example of recovering addicts as "ambassadors of hope."

For those who have an interest in Matt Talbot but are not addicted to a substance, the public is always invited to an "open speaker's meeting" of Alcoholics Anonymous or other twelve-step groups to learn first hand from recovering addicts.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"Turn to Matt Talbot to end slaughter on roads"

This may be the only article that makes reference to Matt Talbot in relation to drunk driving. (We do not necessarily agree with all of the content of this article.) (JB)
Limerick Leader
07 February 2008

EVERYONE bemoans the slaughter on the roads. That being so, it is not fitting that rational human beings should throw up their hands as if there were nothing they could do about the problem.

The problem happens to be both spiritual and material and both aspects need to be addressed.

Here the Government has double standards. It welcomes the advertising of alcohol while it funds a Road Safety Association. All the time it surely is aware that drink is the cause of most accidents.

The spiritual aspect of the problem can only be spiritually minded people, e.g. The Pioneer Total Abstinence Association.

What needs publicity is the cause of Matt Talbot, an addict from the age of twelve, born in the slums, who conquered the temptation to drink without help from any association, but through prayer and trust in God. It is there for the asking for any addict.

Herein the Church could give the lead by organising a nine day novena in honour of the Venerable Matt for the sole purpose of ending the wilful slaughter on the roads. No individual should dismiss the problem as if there were nothing he/she could do. That is opting out, while every action has a reaction, so that nobody can say there is nothing he/she can do. The poet has said "Be not like dumb driven cattle……."Where are the liberals?
This is surely a cause they can embrace with no fear of criticism.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

How is your prayer life today?

Meditation for Sunday, July 06, 2008
The Word Among Us
Matthew 11:25-3


What a close relationship Jesus had with his Father! For him, prayer was a source of love more than a source of power. It was in prayer that Jesus opened his heart to the Father, and the Father opened his heart to his Son. It was this special communion that gave Jesus the strength for his mission.

If prayer was that important to Jesus, how much more important it must be to us! In a world that rewards action over contemplation, it is very tempting to neglect prayer and offer God our good deeds (or at least our good intentions) instead of our hearts. But it's neither the "wise and the learned" nor the busy who are closest to God: It's those who are like little children. And what do little children do for their parents? Absolutely nothing! That's how God asks us to relate to him—to receive his love, wisdom, and protection like a child.

Prayer is the most essential part of our Christian lives—and especially the prayer of the Eucharist. But it's not based on anything we have done. It's based on what Jesus has done. Through him, we have access to the Father! (Matthew 11:27). Because of his sacrifice, we can receive his body and blood at Communion and enter into true communion with him and his Father—and that's what prayer is all about! When we discover this relationship, we find we don't need to worry about being good enough. When we take on the gentle yoke of Jesus, he leads us to his Father, and we find rest.

How is your prayer life today? Is there some way you can improve it? Ask the Lord to show you if something is dragging you down. It may be a mind-set such as perfectionism, fear, or insecurity. It may be an excessive attachment to material goods or an addiction that's consuming you. Whatever it is, bring it to the cross—and experience the freedom of having Christ as your master!

"Jesus, thank you for showing me the way to the Father! I want to come to him in sincerity and truth. Please burn away all that holds me back!"

Zechariah 9:9-10; Psalm 145:1-2,8-11,13-14; Romans 8:9,11-13


There is much in this meditation on prayer that we can reflect on with regards to our own lives and the life of Matt Talbot.

One key question raised is "How is your prayer life today?" If we are honest, we will probably admit that it is "better" that it use to be but not what it could be, certainly not if we use Matt as an example. Of the many words used to describe him, Matt was definitely a pray-er (without ceasing) for the remaining forty-one years of his sober life.