Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The impact of Matt Talbot's life on others

[The author of the first article refers to the impact of Matt Talbot on moral cures and conversions.]

"Something about conversion stories...and the danger of relapse"

by Terry Nelson

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When you find unchanging peace on your way, then fear; because you are far from the right path by which the righteous go with suffering feet.
- St. Isaac the Syrian

Conversion stories are edifying and oftentimes amazing. Sensational sinners repent and come into the Church and the world stands in awe before the grace and mercy of God. Frequently they demonstrate the efficacy of prayer and sacrifice, the sacraments, to effect such conversions. Christ tells us in the Gospel heaven itself erupts in joy over just one sinner who repents.
We must not be too ready to trust young men who have great devotion; we must wait till their wings are grown, and then see what sort of a flight they make. -St. Philip Neri

In our times, the idea of conversion sometimes carries with it an expectation of honors - like the Prodigal Son's homecoming - celebrated with parties and gifts and even celebrity. I sometimes get the impression that some Catholics have adopted the Protestant attitude of born-again Christians as regards the grace of conversion. Many think you do it once and you are saved for life - and there is some sort of immediate reward, as least something as pleasant as a good 'approval rating'. Especially when they write a blog or a book about it. That can be a lot to live up to.
A virtuous life consists in mortifying vices, sins, bad thoughts, and evil affections, and in exercising ourselves in the acquisition of holy virtues. - St. Philip Neri

The reality is that conversion is an ongoing process wherein one never is immune from backsliding or relapse - especially when one's sin was habitual and sensual - Philip Neri said sins of sensuality and avarice are particularly hard to cure. The Gospel tells us, 'how narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life', and that is just the road, the way that leads to life. Thus one never arrives at some point in one's journey where one can say, "I'm healed and okay now. I've arrived. I will not fall back." For many of us the struggle never ends. Through the action of grace we may go 'from strength to strength' but we are always dependent upon God's grace and mercy, and we must deny ourselves each day and take up our cross to follow Christ, who was hassled and harried, scoffed at and despised and all of that stuff we think we know about him.
We must never trust ourselves, for it is the devil’s way first to get us to feel secure, and then to make us fall. - St. Philip Neri

Moral conversions which involve recovery from substance abuse or sexual addiction are not only hard fought, they can be very difficult to verify. For example, the penitent St. Margaret Cortona was refused entrance into the Third Order of St. Francis for three years while the friars tested her virtue - and then suspicion of her virtue never ceased to plague her. Another example, in our day, rarely if ever are moral cures recognized or accepted in the process for the canonization of saints. This is no more evident than in the cause for Matt Talbot. Numerous claims of moral cures and conversions (from addiction) are attributed to Talbot, yet none have been accepted as miraculous. Perhaps a few could be accepted now if it could be established that a person persevered without relapse until death, but I don't know if any such case has been postulated so far.
All sins are highly displeasing to God, but above all sensuality and avarice, which are very difficult to cure. - St. Philip Neri

My point is that the devil delights in pulling us back into sin - the more dramatic the conversion, the bigger the convert, the greater the effort to snare him back - to make him 'return to his vomit' so that his 'last sin may be worse than the first'. I sometimes think that is why the Lord permits some of us to keep falling into our former sins, so that we may become more and more humble, and by repenting, glorify his mercy that never gives up on us, 'for he knows we are but dust', weak and inconstant - our only constancy being our need for his mercy, for our conversion and our salvation is so unstable. We need patience to do God's will. Patience involves suffering. And perseverance.
He who cannot put up with the loss of his honour, can never make any advance in spiritual things. - St. Philip Neri

[The following comment was posted at another website in response to an article about the life of Matt Talbot.]

“I am not an alcoholic, smoker nor a drug addict but like the old self of Venerable Matt Talbot, I have silent addictions on my own. Whenever I feel bad and down or even bored or just plain lazy, I dwell into these addictions to calm me down. In a sense, they have became my god to which I run to whenever I need to escape the sad or boring realities of life. But my real God thru His only begotten Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit never rests to find me. And I am just thankful that he has directed me to read about the life of Venerable Matt Talbot to show me how much he cares about me. I am excited to start living my “sober” years yet “drunk” of His heavenly wine.”

Note: Many other examples on the impact of Matt Talbot’s life, especially for recovering others, can be found in messages we have already posted. For example, Philip Maynard authored To Slake a Thirst: The Matt Talbot Way to Sobriety (2000) as a result of his own transformation by following the method outlined in this work.