Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Who is Matt Talbot?

Catherine Alexandria
April 14, 2009

Photo: Venerable Matt Talbot 1856 - 1925

A few weeks ago, I was at the Catholic Parents Online retreat at the Church of St. John in St. Paul, MN.

The evening before the retreat I learned another cousin of mine was in rehab for alcohol addiction. At the same time, I had a different cousin in rehab for meth addiction. Furthermore, an uncle of mine continues to struggle with his numerous addictions.

I was wondering around the Church between sessions and I finally remembered to go visit the mysterious (to me) Shrine in the Vestibule. It is a Shrine to Matt Talbot; whom some of you who are in recovery may already know about. I'd seen the Shrine at St. John before but had no idea who it was for. My Angel smiled on me this day because there were pamphlets, written by Father Leo Dolan (former Pastor of St. John) by the Shrine. I picked one up and read about Venerable Talbot.

The presence of the Shrine and my knowledge of it could not have come at a better time. I lit a candle and prayed to Venerable Talbot to give some of his strength to my struggling family members.

As I was getting up, a lady came by and said with excitement "Is that Matt Talbot?" I nodded and she almost threw herself down in front of the Shrine. Hey, when you need it, you need it!

Father Dolan's pamphlet talks about the need for a HUMAN model of recovery. Someone who "employed the timeless dynamic of radical conversion the 12 Steps [of Alcoholics Anonymous] acknowledge-and also has integrated these with a full Catholic spirituality"

Matt Talbot was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1856. His family was poor and he was surrounded by the excessive use of alcohol. He had very little formal schooling and often skipped school when he was enrolled.

By age 12 he quit school altogether and began to work. He also began to drink. His first job was as a delivery boy for a liquor company. Before long, he was a full-fledged alcoholic.

For the next 16 years, he worked and he drank. He often sold what he had, including at times, his clothes to buy alcohol. He stole and pawned the stolen items for money to buy alcohol.

At age 28, he walked out of a pub upset that his friends would not buy him a drink. He also seemed to tire of wasting his life. That day, he went to Church and made a good Confession and promised the Lord he would abstain from alcohol for the next 6 months. With this, began a life of sobriety, sanctity, prayer and penance.

He lived out the change of the 12 Steps before they were even devised by AA. He lived them and then some as he was careful to submit the regular direction of a Spiritual Advisor, attended Daily Mass, made frequent use of the Sacrament of Confession. He even taught himself to read so he could read the Bible. He spent much time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. He spent the rest of his life "making amends" for his earlier dissolute life.

If there is a Catholic 12 Steps Program, Matt Talbot lived it.

He died, at the age of 68, while on his way to Mass on Trinity Sunday 1925.

There is a prayer for Canonization in the booklet written by the late Archbishop John Roach (may he rest in peace), no stranger to addiction and recovery himself:
Lord, in your servant Matt Talbot you have given us a wonderful example of triumph over addiction, of devotion to duty, and of lifelong reverence for the Most Holy Sacrament. May his life of prayer and penance give us courage to take up our crosses and follow in the footsteps of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Father, if it be your will that your beloved servant should be glorified by your Church, make known by your heavenly favours the power he enjoys in your sight. We ask this through the same Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen

Deep curtsy to Father Leo Dolan for his pamphlet.

Note: Archbishop John Roach was the Imprimatur of the Matt Talbot pamphlet by Fr. Leo Dolan, not the author of the "Prayer for the Canonization of Matt Talbot."

Whether or not it is the same Matt Talbot pamphlet by Fr. Leo that is mentioned by Cathy in the above post, there is a four page card/pamphlet reprinted with the permission of Rev. Leo Dolan that is available through the Calix Society. This card is titled, "Matt Talbot" and has a picture of a statue of Matt Talbot on the cover, two pages of text, and the" Prayer for the Canonization of Matt Talbot" on the back cover. Fr. Leo Dolan also authored a 32 page pamphlet titled, "12 Steps and Catholic Spirituality" that includes a three page sketch of the life of Matt Talbot that is available from the Calix Society at