Monday, December 31, 2012

Spending Advent with Four Saints

[Popular author of many book about saints, Bert Ghezzi, suggests spending Advent
season the with four holy people, including Venerable Matt Talbot. Such visibility of Matt to a wider audience is a positive sign for the possibility of identifying a miracle attributed to him and his eventual beatification.]

Spending this Advent season with the Saints!
By Bert Ghezzi!
OSV Newsweekly
December 02, 2012

Advent prepares us for Jesus’ coming at Christmas and for his coming into our lives afresh. And no one knows how to get ready to welcome Christ better than the saints. They express their love for him by putting him first in their hearts. They make room for him by clearing out the clutter of sins and faults. The saints pursue holiness by embracing the Lord’s teaching and
lifestyle. They respond to his graces by practicing spiritual disciplines like prayer, Scripture study, fasting and almsgiving. And the saints express their love for God by reaching out to others with the Good News. They especially dedicate themselves to caring for the poor and marginalized.

So let’s make the most of this Advent and spend it with four representative saints, imitating the
ways that they opened their hearts to Jesus.

St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897)
We are attracted to St. Therese because she was an ordinary person. Raised in a faithful Catholic family, she was doted on by her father, teased by her sisters and suffered the pain of loss. Her youth was troubled by her mother’s death and by two sisters entering the convent. But on Christmas 1887, Therese experienced a conversion that released her depression. “Love filled my heart, I forgot myself, and henceforth I was happy,” she said. 
The next year, when Therese was only 15, the bishop allowed her to join the Carmelite convent at Lisieux. She wanted to become a missionary and a martyr, but soon realized that neither option was open to a cloistered nun. So she sought the Holy Spirit for another way to serve the Lord. Reflecting on Scripture, Therese learned to do the loving thing in every situation, which she discovered was the fuel that fired the faith of martyrs and saints. Doing the least of actions for love became the secret of her “little way.”
What does a 19th century nun have to do with us? Juggling the duties of family, work or school, navigating freeways and keeping up with the digital world, we don’t have much time for pursuing holiness, do we? But that’s where Therese sets the example for us. Her simplicity shows us that we, too, can be holy.

Venerable Matt Talbot (1856-1925)
For 16 years, Venerable Matt Talbot was a daily drunk. Then one day, an unanticipated conversion transformed him and he became a model penitent.
As a child of a poor family in Dublin, Matt had to forgo school for a job. After a year of basic education, he started working for a wine seller. And Matt started drinking heavily at the early age of 12.
His father beat him and made him change jobs—but nothing could stop Matt’s habit. He said that when he was intoxicated, he occasionally thought about the Blessed Mother and prayed an
off-handed Hail Mary. Matt speculated later that she had something to do with his conversion.
One day in 1884 everything suddenly changed. Matt had been out of work several days and expected his buddies to take him drinking. When they snubbed him, he made a decision that transformed his life.
When he arrived at home, his mother said, “You’re home early, Matt, and you’re sober!” He replied, “Yes, mother, I am and I’m going to take the pledge.” The next day he went to confession and took the sobriety pledge for three months.
But Matt extended the three months into 41 years. In 1891, Matt found community support by joining the Franciscan Third Order. He lived to rest of his life quietly, working and praying. Pope Paul VI declared him venerable in 1975.
At a time when addictions to alcohol, other drugs and pornography are running rampant, Matt Talbot stands as an exemplar of the ways to freedom and holiness.

Blessed Anne Mary Taigi (1769-1837)
A model woman, Blessed Anne Mary managed a large household in Rome for nearly five decades. She handled finances with little money, patiently cared for a difficult extended family and entertained a constant stream of guests. She did all this full of faith and good cheer.
At age 21, Anne Mary married Domenico Taigi, a servant in a Roman palace. They had seven children, two of whom died at childbirth. Early in her marriage Anne Mary experienced a religious conversion. She simplified her life, initiating practices of prayer and self-denial that she pursued the rest of her life.
Anne Mary took the spiritual lead in her family. The day began with morning prayer and Mass and ended with reading lives of the saints and praying the Rosary.
The Taigis had little of their own, but she always found ways of providing for those who had less. She also took in her hard to-get-along with parents and her widowed daughter, Sophie, with her six children.
Domenico’s violent temper often disrupted the family. But Anne Mary was always able to calm him and restore peaceful relationships.
In his old age, Domenico gave this touching tribute to his wife: “With her wonderful tact she was able to maintain a heavenly peace in our home. And that even though we were a large household full of people with very different temperaments.“I often came home tired, moody and cross, but she always succeeded in soothing and cheering me. And due to her, I corrected  some of my faults. If I were a young man and could search the whole world to find such a wife, it would be vain. I believe that God has received her into heaven because of her great virtue. And I hope that she will pray for me and our family.”
We may imagine that becoming a saint requires heroics like founding a religious order or converting an aboriginal tribe. But Blessed Anne Mary shows us that the daily faithful care of a family requires more than enough heroism to make us holy.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925)
Blessed Pope John Paul II celebrated Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati as a man of the Beatitudes.
Athletic and strong, he devoted himself to the weak and malformed. He was wealthy, but he lived in poverty so he could give everything to the poor. He was gregarious, but a lover of solitude.
He was rambunctious, the life of every party, and a practical joker, but at prayer he was solemn, reflective and quiet.
As a teenager, Pier Giorgio made friends of the poor in Turin’s back streets and gave them whatever he had– his money, his shoes, his overcoat. “Jesus comes to me every morning in holy Communion,” he replied to a friend who asked why the hovels did not repulse him. “I repay him in my very small way by visiting the poor. The house may be sordid, but I am going to Christ.”
Pier Giorgio saw the need for social change to relieve the causes of poverty. At the university he decided to major in mechanical engineering to that he would work with miners, who were especially disadvantaged. He was a leader in student political organizations and actively opposed Mussolini and the Fascists.
At the same time, he was the organizer of student parties, games and ski trips to the Alps, where he would lead his friends in prayer. Afterward, they relaxed and enjoyed food, wine, cigars and songs.
Blessed Pier Giorgio has become the hero of contemporary young Catholics. They recognize his high Christian ideals, still held while pursuing the same pleasures that they enjoy. They
gravitate to this handsome and charming saint who delighted in reciting the poetry of Dante, praying the Rosary in a booming voice and spending a night in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Source: Since this article can only be read in this publication by “login,” it is reprinted

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The "Hoped-For" Beatification That Didn't Happen

[One of the holy people that Pope John Paul II wanted to beatify during his pontificate was Matt Talbot; he thought that Matt’s example could be very valuable for those who are addicted to alcohol and drugs (

Although Pope John Paul II had visited Ireland in 1979 (, information released just this past week indicates that he was considering returning to Ireland in 1981.]

Pope John Paul II 'was considering returning for a second visit to Ireland'
By Ed Carty
Friday December 28 2012

Pope John Paul II’s "unpredictable" nature could have seen him make a return papal visit in 1981 for the beatification of Matt Talbot, state papers have revealed.

John Magee, the former bishop of Cloyne and an aide to three popes, confided in an Irish diplomat that there was a possibility the pontiff would make the extraordinary move.

In a letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs at Iveagh House, embassy officer Frank Coffey relayed the thinking in the Vatican in March 1981.

"Fr Magee thinks it is not inconceivable that if and when Matt Talbot is beatified, the Holy Father may decide to have the ceremony in Dublin," he wrote.

On a separate letter he said that such a beatification could be linked to the 90th anniversary of the 1891 Rerum Novarum, an open letter from Pope Leo XIII addressing the condition of the working classes.

"Pope John Paul has also thought that the beatification of Matt Talbot would be a particularly apposite way to mark the anniversary," he wrote.

"However, it does not appear that Matt Talbot's cause has advanced sufficiently for this to be done.

"Nonetheless, bearing in mind the present Pontiff's 'unpredictability' we cannot rule out his taking some extraordinary measures to permit beatification this year."

Talbot, known as Venerable Matt Talbot, pledged sobriety aged 28 and a life of prayer, fasting and service, never taking credit and trying to model himself on the sixth-century Irish monks.

He was a member of the Transport and General Workers Union and worked in a lumber yard in Dublin docks.

Talbot is in the second stage of becoming a saint being known as Venerable. His beatification is still pending.

The detail was contained in files on plans for the Pope's visit to Ireland under the code 2012/58/3.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Matt Talbot's Life in Verse

[Many years ago, Christy Bracken (of Co. Tipperary, Ireland) read about the life of Matt Talbot and was greatly impressed by its turnaround. He subsequently wrote this condensed account of Matt's life in verse form. 
It is Christy's (and our) hope that this posting might possibly help someone struggling with alcoholism or advance the cause of Matt’s beatification.]

The Servant Of God.
[Matt Talbot]

Silhouetted beneath the shimmering January moon,
a lone pilgrim, his bare knees,
kissing the penitential cold of granite stone,
awaits entry to the re-enactment of the perpetual drama.

 Not so alas in his youthful days,
for those hands now clasped in prayer,
with reckless ease were wrapped around
the “drink”, and all it’s snares,
from tavern to drunken tavern,
stumble, stagger, fall,
when the demons cravings had stripped him bare,
‘twas then You gave the call.

 With hands buried deep in penniless pockets,
on Newcomen bridge he took his stand,
pleading eyes from sunken sockets,
awaited in vain a welcoming glance.
A mother’s prayers had at least been answered,
from the debts of despair a glimmer of light,
a bitter experience of human friendship
shattered, he sighed, and sought comfort in flight.

 By the fireside she sat, when she heard him exclaim,
“Mother, Mother, I’m home”
startled, she cried,“Matt, what is it, what’s wrong?”
“I’m taking the pledge”, he intoned.
“Go now in God’s name, but only if you intend to keep it”
for she well knew his heavy load,
“I’ll go in God’s name” as he took
his first faltering steps down the straight and narrow road.

 “Bless me father for I have sinned”, a new life of grace lay ahead,
three months, six, finally for life,
many tears of repentance were shed.
Temptation, isolation, discouragement, pain,
the chains of indulgence proved strong,
but his spiritual food, now his daily diet,
proved strongest as the battle raged on.

 Instead of drink, now Matt consumed,
the fruits of kindred souls,
Augustine, Wisdom, the book of Psalms,
Our Lady, many secrets to Matt did unfold.
Fasting, solitude, almsgiving, prayer,
as he rises from his wooden bed
four hours sleep, his vigil he’d keep,
eternity, to lay down his head.

 To the casual eye in the builder’s yard,
nothing unwonted seemed done,
to the wiry little man who carried and fetched,
in wind, rain, and sun.
But deep within the Master’s hand,
to reshape and rebuild had begun,
‘till out of the debts, came the constant refrain,
“Thy will, Thy will be it done”.

 Down Granby Lane, on the seventh of June,
this foot soldier stumbled and fell,
of the milling crowd that gathered around,
his identity no one could tell.
In Jervis Street Hospital, bound in chains of love,
laid bare, this pilgrim who carried the hod,
Providence’s design would reveal in good time,
he was truly a Servant of God.

                                                      Christy Bracken


Friday, December 7, 2012

Interview about the Beatification of Matt Talbot

Father Brian Lawless talked with Joe Duffy of “Lifeline” at RTE Radio 1 in Ireland on October 03, 2012 “about the cause of Matt Talbot, the Dubliner who is regarded as a patron of those suffering with addiction. Brian is the vice postulator of the cause of Matt Talbot's beatification and spoke about the man's life and experiences and how he has become an inspiration for those in recovery from addictions.” [Programme description]

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Viewing Matt Talbot Relics

"On Tuesday 6th November 2012 Fr. Brian Lawless, Vice postulator of the cause Canonisation of Matt Talbot, brought with him relics and memorabilia of Matt Talbot to the Novena in Shannon including a first class relic which people were given the opportunity to be blessed with as well as being able to view and examine personal items belonging to Matt.”
Photographs can be viewed at (Clicking on a photo will enlarge it.)

Friday, November 30, 2012

A Juvenile Biography of Matt Talbot

Brother Ernest Ryan, C.S.C. (1897-1963) was a prolific author of Catholic juvenile biographies of saints and other Catholic figures from the 1940’s into the 1960’s.

His 1952 book, Through the Dark Night: A Story of Matt Talbot,
was republished in October 2012 with illustrator Paul Thomas Sullivan.

A list of previously published books by Br. Ernest can be found at

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Seeking relics of Matt Talbot

In his book, Dublin Folk Tales (2012), storyteller Brendan Nolan includes the story of “Matt Talbot’s bed.” In it “you will read about the neighbour of Matt who sold bits of the dead man’s bed until there was no more to be had and then produced an unending supply of relics for sale.”

While we might chuckle at such an enterprising neighbour, we must be extremely careful about what is purported to be an authentic relic that is offered for sale. For example, two recent relics of Matt Talbot has been offered on online, one purporting to be earth from Matt’s grave and another which claims to be a particle from his wooden pillow (

Our recommendation for those who are interested in seeking a relic of Matt Talbot is to inquire at, or

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Who are your Holy Traveling Companions?

On this All Saints’ Day (officially the Solemnity of All Saints) we might consider an excerpt that Pope Benedict XVI presented in a general audience 2010:

“There are very dear people in the life of each one of us to whom we feel particularly close, some of whom are already in God's embrace while others still share with us the journey through life: they are our parents, relatives and teachers; they are the people to whom we have done good or from whom we have received good; they are people on whom we know we can count. Yet it is important also to have "travelling companions" on the journey of our Christian life. I am thinking of a Spiritual Director, a Confessor, of people with whom it is possible to share one's own faith experience, but I am also thinking of the Virgin Mary and the Saints. Everyone must have some Saint with whom he or she is on familiar terms, to feel close to with prayer and intercession but also to emulate. I would therefore like to ask you to become better acquainted with the Saints, starting with those you are called after, by reading their life and their writings. You may rest assured that they will become good guides in order to love the Lord even more and will contribute effective help for your human and Christian development...” (

Fr. Robert Barron’s sermon for this Holy Day of Obligation addresses, in part, “the panoply of saints, both those who are similar to us and those who bring out the parts of us that are 'in shadow.' He speaks of how making those complementary saints our friends can help sanctify this shadow side." Listen to the sermon here
(Fr. Barron is the author of Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith (2011) and the outstanding video series (2012).) 

Is Venerable Matt Talbot one of your traveling companions?



Saturday, October 27, 2012

Patrons St. Matthias and Ven. Matt Talbot

Besides the well-known St. Monica, a much lesser-known saint who is periodically listed as a patron saint of alcoholics is St. Matthias. Both St. Matthias and Ven. Matt Talbot  are discussed in This Saint Will Change Your Life by Thomas Craughwell.
(To read their entry insert "Matthias" or "Talbot" into the "Look Inside" box.)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Online Copy of "Life of Matt Talbot"(1928) by Sir Joseph Glynn

In June, 2011, we noted a 1928 book review of Life of Matt Talbot by Sir Joseph Glynn, which was the first biography about Matt Talbot

While copies of this long our-of-print 1928 edition occasionally appear for sale, the only free edition available online at that time was the 1942 edition

With great appreciation to the Glynn family (and their solicitor), a transcript of the original publication is now available free online at

Sunday, September 30, 2012

New Videos about the Life of Matt Talbot

We have previously noted some videos about Matt Talbot (

Five very informative additional videos are now available at They include
Early Life 1. Matt's Early Life
Dark Years 2. The Dark Years
Matt's Conversion 3. Matt's Conversion
Video 04  4. Matt the Worker
Video 05  5. Death & Legacy
Each can be downloaded by clicking its link.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Matt Talbot Novena 2012 Schedule

Matt Talbot Novena 2012

All are invited to the 2012 Matt Talbot Novena beginning October 2 (and subsequent Tuesdays during October and November) at SS John & Paul Church, Shannon, Co. Clare.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Belonging to a Twelve-Step Fellowship

Matt Talbot did not have the recovery option of Alcoholics Anonymous, which would not be developed for another half-century. However, former Vice-Postulator of the Cause for Canonization of Matt Talbot, Fr. Morgan Costello, has noted in his publication,"Matt Talbot: Hope for Addicts" (1987; 2001), that elements of A.A.’s twelve-steps can be identified in Matt’s alcoholism recovery. 

In his Winter, 2012, quarterly newsletter, The Twelve-Step Review, Fr. Emmerich Vogt, O.P. discusses the value of belonging to an anonymous fellowship today, not only for the addict but also for spouses, parents, children, or friends of addicts. His article, “Do I need a 12-Step Group?,” can be found at

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Place your Petition at the Shrine of Matt Talbot

For all who would like to place a petition at the Shrine of Matt Talbot in Dublin (and are unable to do so in person), you are invited to do so online at


Friday, August 31, 2012

Religious solutions to alcoholism

August 10th, 2012

"Many 12 Steppers usually scoff at “religious” solutions to addiction, and perhaps rightly so due to the low success rate (forgetting that AA has a very low success rate, too.) Maybe they also think that religious observance is pointless and is also an “easier, softer, way.” HA!

I think the main reason that religious solutions do not work is that they fail to directly address the root cause of the addiction: that within each alcoholic and addict there is something wrong with how the world and environment is perceived or related to and how to properly react or cope with that. Alcohol addressees that, although in a bad way.

In AA’s Big Book there is a line towards the end about how AA taught the writer how to “handle sobriety.” In AA meetings I have heard quite often how the Steps teach us how to alter or change they way we react to things. I believe that is the same thing as “handling sobriety.”

I don’t think all the Masses and Rosaries and Divine Mercy Chaplets in the world will work for anyone UNLESS they also believe in the healing power of Jesus and the sacraments AND also believe that prayer is a union with God. This also pretty much mandates Scripture reading. Pondering the Gospels, the NT Letters, the Psalms and the Wisdom Books (Psalms, Wisdom, Proverbs, Sirach, Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes) can help in changing how we react to things.

Scripture contains lessons for life and living. AA has their slogans, but the Bible has more
potent “sayings” in Wisdom, Proverbs, Sirach and the rest. Add in reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and you have another powerful tool in conversion (for that is what “handling sobriety” and “changing how you think” amounts to).

This post was inspired by a recent discussion on the Matt Talbot Way of Recovery."

Note: One link, among many, that might be informative on this topic can be found at The complete book can be found at

As noted in our banner at the top of this page, the placing of information on this site from external linked sources does not necessarily imply agreement with that information.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

For International Guests Visiting Dublin This Weekend...

Dublin recently had an influx of guests from around the world in June of this year for the International Eucharist Conference.

This weekend, Dublin will host an even larger group of international guests for events surrounding and including the University of Notre vs. Navy (US) college football game in the Emerald Isle Classic at Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
While not on the listed itinerary (, it is our hope that some will take this opportunity to visit the tomb of Venerable Matt Talbot. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Matt Talbot and the Single Life

Sunday Homily - January 29
Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time 2012

The Very Reverend Robert J. Kus
St. Mary Catholic Church
Wilmington, NC

Today as Catholic Christians gather to celebrate the Eucharist, we hear an intriguing discourse from the St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians. In this letter, he talks about two primary paths the Christian may journey in life: the married state or the single state. He concludes that, all things being equal, single people have less earthly distractions than do married people. Logically, then, single person may find it easier to give himself or herself more fully to the Lord.

The majority are called to the path of the coupled person, a path that includes married persons including many permanent deacons. Fewer people, however, travel the path of the single person as priests, Religious Brothers or Sisters, lay persons, or whatever.

While we often hear of exciting lives of priests and Religious Brothers and Sisters, we rarely hear about heroic men and women who live a single, lay life. Today I offer you a glimpse into the life of a simple Irishman who will likely be declared a saint one day.

Matthew Talbot was born on May 2, 1856 in a poor section of Dublin, Ireland, the second of twelve children. His mother was a homemaker, and his alcoholic father was a dockworker.

In those days, Ireland did not have a compulsory age for going to school, so young Matt left school at the age of twelve and began to work as a messenger boy. It was then that Matt began to drink alcohol. Like his father and all but one of his brothers, alcoholism would play a huge role in young Matt’s life.

After working three years as a messenger, Matthew got a job as a hodman, a man who fetched bricks and mortar for bricklayers. In no time Matthew came to be seen as the best hodman in all of Dublin.

Unfortunately for Matthew, his drinking became worse and worse. When he got drunk, he became very hot-tempered and got into fights frequently. He would spend all of his money on his alcohol use. In his desperation for a drink when he would find himself penniless, he would steal things and sell them for money. Or he would sell his boots for money.

His mother pleaded with him to stop drinking, but her pleas fell on deft ears. One day, however, at the age of twenty-eight, Matthew “hit bottom” as people say in Alcoholics Anonymous. On this day, when he was penniless, he loitered on a street corner waiting for his companions to come out from their workplace as they had just been paid. He hoped they would invite him for a drink, but instead they ignored him. Totally dejected, he went home and told his mother that he was going to “take the pledge.”

In those days, a “pledge” was a promise made to give up alcohol for a specific period of time. This was fifty years before the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the people at that time did not realize that for true recovery, an alcoholic must give up alcohol forever.

Anyway, Matthew went to Confession and made a pledge not to drink for three months. The next day, he went to Mass and received Communion for the first time in many years.

From that time on, his life changed dramatically. He paid back all of his debts with the money he made as a hodman and later as a laborer for timber merchants. He went to daily Mass and loved doing religious devotions in the evening such as Stations of the Cross or praying the Rosary. Matthew was fond of fasting and giving alms to many religious organizations and people in need. Matthew had a strong sense of social justice and put his faith into action by supporting his fellow workers. He was friendly to everyone he met.

Matthew also had great compassion for those who suffered from alcoholism. He once told his mother, “Never look down on a man who cannot give up the drink, for it is easier to get out of hell.” He also gave up his pipe and tobacco which, he said, was much harder to abandon than alcohol.

Matthew, in his sobriety, loved to do spiritual reading and had special devotion to St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux (the “Little Flower”), and St. Catherine of Siena. He also joined the Third Order of St. Francis.

Matthew lived soberly for the next forty-one years. On his way to Mass on Trinity Sunday, 1923, Matthew died in the streets of Dublin. His life would have gone unnoticed except for the fact that when his body was taken to the hospital, the staff found penitential chains and cords around his knees and arms and waist. Pope Paul VI proclaimed him “Venerable” in 1975.

The life of Matt Talbot shows a couple of the special gifts of the single path. First, this path provides a certain freedom not available to the married person or the person raising children. Because single people are free to focus themselves on their own journey exclusively, they are often able to devote their selves to a spiritual exercise regime more completely. That is what we see in the life of Matthew.

Second, because single people don’t usually have to give their money to spouses and children, they are able to use their money to those in need in ways that coupled people are often not able to do. That is what allowed Matthew to be so generous to so many though he was never rich.

As we continue our life journey this week, it would be a good idea to focus on our own life path, whether it is coupled or single. What are the special gifts we have as a result of the path we have been called to?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The inspiration of two lives

Knock 2012 – Homily
Notes for a sermon preached by Fr Bernard J. McGuckian S.J. at Knock Shrine on the occasion of the joint Pioneer/Matt Talbot Pilgrimage on Sunday, July 15th, at

After God and the Blessed Virgin Mary the inspiration for our pilgrimage today comes from two men, one a priest, the other a layman. Both of them died in the early days of the new Irish State; Fr. James Aloysius Cullen and the Venerable Matt Talbot. Fr Cullen, the Founder of the Pioneer Association, died in Dublin on December 6th, 1921, just as the newspapers were reporting the fateful signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in London some hours earlier. Venerable Matt Talbot also died in Dublin, some four years later in Granby Lane, on Trinity Sunday, June 6th, 1925 just as the Angelus Bell was ringing out in the nearby Dominican Church where he was planning to attend the mid-day Mass.

The early lives of these two men could not have been more different. James Cullen was a pious, studious, country boy from childhood in Co Wexford. He was such a good student that he had completed his studies with distinction while still too young for priestly Ordination and required a dispensation. Matt Talbot’s early life was spent in the squalor of Dublin’s inner city where he had so little schooling that his name hardly made it to the roll book. The most that was said of him in the records was that he was a “mitcher”. As the whole world now knows, he was barely into his teens when he had developed a deplorable habit of excessive drinking.

Fr Cullen was well known throughout Ireland for his priestly zeal for over half a century before he died. Matt’s situation was different. His name was virtually unknown outside his family and beyond the circle of his workmates. It only came into prominence on the day he died. A notice in the Irish Independent on the day after his death read. “Unknown man dies in the street”. It was because each of these men took the Gospel of Christ so seriously that we still remember them.

Like the Apostles we heard about in the Gospel, Fr Cullen, from the day of his ordination in 1864 “set out to preach repentance, cast out devils and anoint many sick people with oil and cure them”. Matt did not set out to preach repentance or cast out devils. He had enough to do to change his own life and drive the demons from his own heart. But in the providence of God this is what he has been doing from his place in heaven since the day he died. The example of his conversion from excessive drinking has inspired a change of heart in thousands of others all over the world. Jesus once said that “some demons can only be cast out by prayer and fasting”. From what we can gather few people have spent so much of their lives in such fervent prayer and rigorous fasting as Matt Talbot. After a careful examination of the known facts of his life competent Church authorities concluded that this working man from the inner city of Dublin lived out the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity and the essential human virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance to a heroic degree. This is why he is called Venerable.

When we talk about the wasted early years of Matt’s life we should remember that there were positive aspects to it that should not be overlooked. He always attended Mass on Sundays. He was devoted to the Blessed Virgin. No matter how inebriated he was he said his prayers at night. His sisters noticed that he never indulged in salacious talk and never said anything disrespectful about women. There is no evidence of failures in chastity in his life. This is important in any discussion of the cardinal virtue of temperance. Temperance is the virtue that helps us deal wisely, not just with intoxicating drink, but with all the pleasurable areas of life. We need fortitude or courage to deal effectively with life’s inevitable painful areas.

While some might find it strange that we need a virtue to help us deal wisely with the pleasurable areas of life we should remember that many people have more difficulty dealing wisely with pleasure than with pain. I have rarely heard of a family that broke up because a member was suffering from a painful illness. In fact, if anything, the very illness can help a family to come together in support of the suffering member. It is different if a family member is not sufficiently temperate to resist the pleasurable attraction of an illicit relationship. Deficiencies like this can have devastating consequences.

In the Christian tradition there are four main parts of temperance; modesty and becoming behaviour in our dealings with others; abstinence and restraint in the use of food; thirdly, sobriety and care in the use of drink but most important of all and often overlooked as a dimension of temperance, chastity in the area of sexuality. Modest behaviour, abstinence and sobriety have an importance role to play in protecting chastity. It is a mistake to think that “sins of intemperance “are simply those committed while under the influence of drink. Serious sins against the virtue of temperance can be committed when cold sober. Infidelity can have more drastic consequences than excessive drinking.

Matt Talbot provides us with an example of the fullness of temperance. After his dramatic conversion Matt handed his whole life over to God and allowed himself to be guided by the Holy Spirit and wise spiritual directors. For the rest of his life he was modest in his demands from others and in his overall live style (he gave whatever money he saved away). He ate very little, abstained totally from drink and opted for a celibate life. He dealt very respectfully with a young woman who suggested that they might get married. He told her that he would discuss the matter with Our Lady and then give her his answer. In this way he learned that marriage was not his calling. Mary Purcell, Matt’s biographer, noted that it was to this girl’s credit that she recognised the best man in Ireland when she saw him do his work as a builder’s labourer.

Because of the situation in Ireland at the turn of the 20th century the aspect of temperance that most needed urgent attention was insobriety. Dealing with this is still the primary concern of the Pioneer Association. In founding the Association, Fr Cullen was launching a campaign of “prayer and fasting” on behalf of those who were suffering the effects of addiction to alcohol. Matt Talbot joined Fr Cullen’s movement in 1890 when it was known as the Temperance League of the Sacred Heart. Some years later, Fr. Cullen who was always trying to improve his methods of working, gave the movement the title “Pioneer” which it has now enjoyed for the last 114 years and which is set to continue long into the future. At the Eucharistic Congress last month in Dublin the positive reaction of the many visitors from all over the world to both the Pioneer and the Matt Talbot Stands in the Royal Dublin Society was a source of great encouragement to all involved in this work.

In the Pioneer Association we can be justly proud that the sanctity of the life of more than one of our members has been recognised by the highest authority in the Church. Matt Talbot and Edel Quinn are both Venerable. Fr John Sullivan and Frank Duff are Servants of God. We pray that one day all four will be raised to the honours of the altar. The miracle which will bring this about in the case of each of them will be the occasion not the cause of their beatification. The real cause will be the indubitable holiness of their lives and the continuous prayers of those of us who are convinced of their holiness. In the case of Matt Talbot, the on-going miracle of so many transformed lives will sooner or later lead to his beatification. The beatification will come when the medical profession agrees that something spectacular and outside their experience has taken place. However, in my estimation, this will be something minor compared with the miracles that Matt continues to work and has been quietly working for years.

I leave you with one down to earth reflection found among his notes after his death. “When in company, watch your words; when in the family, watch your temper; when alone, watch your thoughts.”

Note: Fr. Fr Bernard J. McGuckian serves as Central Spiritual Director of the Pioneer Association and as a member of the DUBLIN DIOCESAN MATT TALBOT COMMITTEE.
Some of his articles about Matt Talbot are posted on our site. The homily title, The inspiration of two lives, is ours for posting purposes.

All are Invited

Homily :ORDINARY 21 (C), 2010
Fr. John L. Holleman
Lord, will only a few people be saved? – Luke 13: 23

At an evangelical conference, a man was late & arrived to find a huge auditorium packed to the brim until he spotted a chair way up front. He slowly edged his way up so as not to disturb the speaker, leaned over to the woman next to it & whispered, “Is this chair saved?” She whispered back, “No but we’re praying for it.”

The issue of exclusivity, about who’s saved & who’s not, who’s in & who’s out, is a fruitless & irrelevant question. Our Lord’s response was to say bluntly, forget the arithmetic & check your own behavior. God calls every human being to salvation & so the real issue is not numbers or trying to find out if we’ll be in the final count, but fidelity. How have we embraced God’s invitation & have we calculated the cost?

As the man replied when asked if he were saved, “I’m still trying to figure out how to be spent!” Spending is the Gospel issue, not saving. Claiming kinship or proper credentials earns a withering, “I do not know you!” The crucial question is, How did you spend yourself in service to others? Or was everything saved for your self? Mouthing “Lord, Lord” or claiming that you shared a few drinks is not going to cut it.

Here is a concrete example: Matt Talbot was an Irish alcoholic born north of Dublin in 1856 to very poor working-class people during very hard times. He went to school off & on & at the age of 12 took his first job & his first drink. It wasn’t long before he was coming home drunk. Matt’s father, himself a heavy drinker, beat him to no avail.

Matt later went to work at a brickyard & proved to be a good worker. Now in his late teens with his steady pay, he, like so many others, headed for one of Dublin’s 2,000 pubs. Alcoholism was a major problem in Ireland at that time, & one record from 1865 showed the police had arrested some 16,000 Dubliners for drunkenness, a third of them women.

No wonder alcohol was called a demon. Although the clergy preached temperance, it was uphill because the laborers were paid in the pubs & so the paycheck seldom left there. Matt Talbot was in the forefront wasting his pay on drink, money desperately needed at home. His addiction was such that sometimes he sold his boots or his shirt for a drink. To feed his habit, once he shamelessly stole a fiddle from a blind man who earned his living playing in the streets.

No one knew then that alcoholism was an illness, a terrible craving arising from a complex disease involving heredity, emotional factors, & the makeup of the brain. One Saturday night Matt & his hard-drinking friends went to the local pub. They were broke but expected their drinking buddies to treat them. They refused. Matt was so angry that he left in a huff & trudged home & told his mother that he was so mad he was going to take the pledge & stop drinking. His mother said, “Go in God’s name, but don’t take it unless you intend to keep it.”

Keep it he did. From that point on he never took another drink. Withdrawal, nausea, & all of the horrible aftermath followed but Matt held fast. There was no Alcoholics Anonymous in those days. Matt had to go it alone, but not quite. He had God & a devotion to Mary.

Up to this point Matt had been a nominal Catholic, but after his conversion he drew close to God. He started going to daily Mass & would kneel on the steps a half hour before the church opened. He gave money to the poor, & he followed ancient penitential practices, like sleeping on a plank instead of a mattress. Although barely literate, he did spiritual reading & found a wise spiritual director in Msgr. Michael Hickey. A reformed alcoholic & a quiet saint on the streets of Dublin, he had no time & less patience about who was saved or not. Just prayer & service were his concerns.

At the age of 69, on Trinity Sunday 1925, Matt fell on the street & died on his way to church. He only had a rosary & a prayer book on him, & when he was undressed at the hospital it was found that he was wearing chains, an old form of Irish monastic asceticism. People at the hospital were astounded & word soon got out. Stories of his holiness spread eventually right to the Vatican. He is now the Venerable Matt Talbot.

To the question, “will only a few people be saved?” Jesus said, “It’s a non question, for people will come from the east & the west, from the north & the south, From Cape Cod & Dublin, & will recline in the kingdom. We’ve been invited. How we respond, how our life is spent, not saved, is the only issue. End of discussion.” AMEN!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A different perspective of Matt Talbot

In this his latest book, Sharing God's Good Company: A Theology of the Communion of Saints (2012), David Matzko McCarthy explores the role and significance of the saints in Christians' lives today. He views Venerable Matt Talbot as an anti-hero or anti-saint and as a holy fool. It can be read on pages 52, 73-76 at

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Matt Talbot: Facing Adversity with Grace

In her latest book, Facing Adversity With Grace: Lessons From The Saints (2012), Koenig-Bricker includes a chapter on some lessons from Venerable Matt Talbot’s life as an example of using his addiction as a means of growth rather than just something to be endured. Whether struggling with this particular adversity or seeking to support a loved one who is suffering, the author provides questions for reflection.
clicking Read a chapter from this book, you should be able to read the introduction and 10 page Matt Talbot chapter.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Matt Talbot included in "Treasures of Irish Christianity"

A book description of Treasures of Irish Christianity: People and Places, Images and Texts, a newly published book by Veritas Publications, states: “In almost eighty short articles, a host of leading scholars from the worlds of history, liturgy, theology, philosophy, art history, and Celtic Studies reflect upon aspects of the history of the Christian tradition in Ireland from the fifth to the twenty-first century. This is a wide-ranging illustrated collection which draws from the major Christian denominations in Ireland and includes entries on significant people, texts, images, and events that have shaped the Irish Christian experience.”

Included in this paperback is the brief article, “Matt Talbot and the Eucharist: The Conquest of Freedom in the Face of Addiction.” To read this article click “look inside,” type in “Matt Talbot,” and sign-in at

Note:The “Time Magazine” reference in the text of the Matt Talbot article can be found at

Monday, July 9, 2012

Update on new Matt Talbot website

We noted on June 18, 2012 that the Dublin Diocesan Matt Talbot website is now online at Since that notice, additional entries have been added to the “The Story of Matt Talbot" as well as an interactive map of Matt Talbot’s Dublin, videos about Matt Talbot’s life and prayers. Additional sections currently remain “under construction.”
Note that the Dublin Diocesan Matt Talbot website and our Venerable Matt Talbot Resource Center are independent entities.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Note on Matt Talbot’s Humility

“Most folks probably have no idea who Matt Talbot is. If you have any struggles with alcohol or know someone who has, he is a good friend to have.

He was an Irishman who started working in booze outfits when he was twelve years old. As you can expect, this led him into alcoholism. After 16 years of suffering from this affliction, he managed to kick the habit and became something of an ascetic. He prayed and fasted fervently. He attended daily Mass. He became a Third Order Franciscan. He repaid his debts and gave much of his meager wages to the Church.

He did all this without anyone really knowing. Nobody would have thought anything more of Matt Talbot until his death. Once he passed away, his body was found wrapped in chains and cords under his clothes. He wore them as penance for his years of boozing. Of course, modernity would condemn an ascetic such as this as a lunatic. The idea of such acts as signs of holiness is no longer an option.

Matt's manner of humility in his virtue echoes the Master's words in today's Gospel (Mt 6:1-6)
‘Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.’”

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Matt Talbot's Coming Home

In a 2007 homily Fr. Michel de Verteuil states,
“Lord, a conversion experience is always a home-coming:
- turning away from an addiction,
- being reconciled with our family,
- forgiving an old hurt,
- going to confession after a long absence.

Once we are there we look back and wonder at our resistance.
Here was something that we needed in order to live, and yet we did not recognise it;
the truth of ourselves demanded it, and yet we did not accept to do it.

Now, Lord, by your grace, we know that your Word has been made flesh
and found a home in us.
Thank you, Lord.”

Note: With Matt Talbot’s conversion experience and recovery from alcoholism, the Word of God found a home in him.  Listening to the Word in Mass and reading the Bible became daily spiritual practices.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Importance of the Blessed Sacrament for Venerables Matt Talbot and Fulton J. Sheen

As these quotes indicate, the Blessed Sacrament was "essential" in the lives of Venerable Matt Talbot and (newly recognized) Venerable Fulton J. Sheen: 
"You know that Matt Talbot, the Dublin workingman, found in the Blessed Eucharist his support and his strength?  As a young man he was a slave to drink. He took the pledge and kept it. But who can tell what it cost him? When the temptation was fiercest Matt would make his way to the church and sit there. "I'm safe as long as I stay here"!”
(THREE TABERNACLES (1943) by Rev. Robert Nash, S.J. at, page 4-5.)

"How can anyone be lonely, with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament?" 

"The secret (to my preaching) is that I have never in fifty-five years missed spending an hour in the presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. That's where the power comes from. That's where sermons are born. That's where every good thought is conceived."

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Venerable Fulton J. Sheen on Coping on Alcoholism

Pope Benedict XVI signed a decree on Thursday, June 28, 2012 that American Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979) is now “Venerable,” in recognition that he lived a heroic, virtuous life. (See and among hundreds of links.)

Among his prolific writings and presentations, a three-part series, Timeless Wisdom for Those Coping with Alcoholism, may be of particular interest. Information is available at and

“Matt Talbots are always possible with the grace of God”

[Please note that this article was published seventy years ago, three years after the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, was published and Matt Talbot had been deceased for seventeen years. Our title is copied from a sentence in the text.]

By Daniel M. O'Connell, S.J.
AMERICA, February 14, 1942

As a result of an article of mine in AMERICA (December 6, 1941), mentioning the laudable work of Alcoholics Anonymous, I received several letters asking if there were Catholic branches of this organization.

The most encouraging letter came to me from Cleveland, Ohio. The writer stated that he was a young Catholic man, educated in Catholic parochial, secondary and collegiate (two years) institutions. He has been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous for the past seven months. I quote from his letter the part which is of especial interest to Catholics.

"Membership in this city is in excess of 1,500, comprising more than 30 groups meeting once a week. We use five hospitals, including Catholic Charity. The first hospital used was a Catholic hospital, one in a nearby city. It is unfortunately true that about 75 per cent of our cases are Catholic. Our greatest successes have been with those of our own faith. In our own group we have deleted the expression "power greater than ourselves and substituted God. The first members, so I am told, were loath to believe in a Supreme Being; hence the other expression."

The statement that "75 per cent are Catholic" is, I hope, to be restricted and explained by the fact that the writer's group is Catholic and hence has come into contact with Catholics rather than non-Catholics. But at its worst calculations, the assertion would underline emphatically the points I tried to make previously, namely, the need of more instruction on the cardinal virtue of Christian temperance and the field of zeal open especially to the Catholic laity in being good shepherds who bring back to the fold victims of intemperance, especially of our own Faith. Great praise is due to this Cleveland group because it has made itself Catholic in principle. Whether it is the first such among Alcoholics Anonymous, I cannot say, though the general Cleveland chapter of A.A.'s is seven years old.

In the hope that this movement and similar ones for temperance may grow among Catholics, I am adding some pertinent facts about Alcoholics Anonymous. They declare quite frankly that their approach to the disease is based on their own drinking experience and on what they have learned to expect from the help of medicine and psychiatry. To this the Catholic groups, at least, would add: from the grace of God. The latter Alcoholics Anonymous can say in all humility with Saint Paul: "By the grace of God, I am what I am."

In fact, the group might take St. Paul as their patron. One of their fundamental requisites is sympathy, and surely this Apostle had that quality in an outstanding degree. Among Cardinal Newman's most typically appealing sermons, there is one entitled "Saint Paul's Gift of Sympathy." In it he skillfully develops the Apostle's manifestation of this winning virtue. Dr. W.D. Silkworth, Chief Physician at the Charles B. Towne Hospital, New York, writing of Alcoholics Anonymous in the Journal Lancet, stresses this point of sympathy: "This peculiar ability, which an alcoholic who has recovered exercises upon one who has not recovered, is the main secret of the unprecedented success which these men and women are having." Sympathy begets sympathy. As Dr. Silkworth expresses it: "Then, too, the patient's hope is renewed and his imagination is fired by the idea of membership in a group of ex-alcoholics where he will be enabled to save the lives and homes of those who have suffered as he has suffered."

It is encouraging to note that Dr. Silkworth, in his summary of the essential features for the cure of drunkenness, insists explicitly: "That he (the patient) recommit himself daily, or hourly if need be, to God's care and direction, asking for strength." In fact, the Doctor urges several points of Catholic moral theology: "try to adjust bad personal relationships;" that he make reparation for the past, "setting right, so far as possible, such wrongs as he may have done in the past;" that he "pray daily, or hourly if need be," a laudable practice in Catholic asceticism, known among us these long centuries past as "renewing one's morning intention."

I mention these obvious practices to show that our Catholic laity is well prepared to engage in and to super naturalize this movement of Alcoholics Anonymous as a means of true Catholic Action. The same has been done in many similar movements whose beginnings were not religious, in our understanding of that necessary element. Dr. Silkworth, who evidently is held in high esteem by Alcoholics Anonymous, seconds this position, if, as I trust, he uses "Deity" in the Catholic meaning: "Newcomers have been unable to stay sober when they have tried the program minus the Deity."

A.A.'s rightly insist on modern medical means placed at their disposal by Providence. Hospitalization under a competent physician is essentially the first step for an alcoholic on his return journey to normality, and even to a saintly life. (Matt Talbots are always possible with the grace of God.) But delirium tremens, a "wet brain" and similar calamities are to be feared in the case of heavy drinkers, who do not receive at once the physical readjustment to be had ordinarily only in a hospital.

I shall be indebted to Dr. Silkworth for two further points. In speaking of the textbook as it may be called, of the A.A. movement, a volume of 400 pages and entitled Alcoholics Anonymous, he makes the following observation, part of which I am italicizing: "There is a powerful chapter addressed to the agnostic, as the majority of the present members were of that description." This confirms the view of my Cleveland correspondent. It may also show that inebriety is had in corresponding proportions among non-Catholics as among Catholics, as I suggested above.
Doctor Silkworth then straight forwardly faces the question which arises in regard to any comparatively new treatment of a world-old problem: "Will the movement spread? Will many of these recoveries be permanent? No one can say. Yet, we at this hospital, from our observation of many cases, are willing to record our present opinion as a strong 'Yes’ to both questions."
The medical profession is rightly conservative in giving its imprimatur to new cures, medicines and matters properly within its field. Such approval, in general, has been given to Alcoholics Anonymous. The most recent instance I have at hand is from Dr. Merril Moore, Director of Research at the Washingtonian Hospital for Alcoholism, Boston, Mass. I had quoted from him in may above-mentioned article, and he was kind enough to send me additional matter on the treatment of this disease.

The strongest chapters of the A.A.Is are in Cleveland, New York City and Akron, Ohio. Claim is made for vigorous beginnings in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Kansas City, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Va., Houston, Tex. An original agnostic touch was accidental to the movement. In fact belief in God and His Providence for the weakest of His children is now, apparently, a fundamental desideratum in the A.A. technique. Does not then such a movement deserve our heartiest cooperation as Catholics?

The work has also the human appeal of success. There is no claim of a "sure-cure," but the cures freely placed on record are an incentive to zealous but hesitant workers in this field of Christian temperance. I quote in illustration from an editorial in the Houston Press, entitled "Alcoholics Anonymous."
"People of independent spirit like to settle (liquor) for themselves ...( others) inclined to reform come to the front with suggestions ... even for its abolition. But Alcoholics Anonymous ... have taken to the wagon by a technique of their own ... They say their cure works. They show as witnesses hundreds of lives restored...The press thinks their...unusual success so important that it begins a series of articles on Alcoholics Anonymous, written by One of Them...even the liquor industry ... would wish success to a technique that promises much to men and women who cannot handle their drinks."

I have read this series of articles. Naturally, as their author notes, they turn quite often into the autobiographical. He insists that alcoholics are definitely sick. It is the difference between them and other normal people who are able to "hold their liquor." The disease is mental as well as physical. For the alcoholic to recognize this is essential to his cure. The admission is hard. It has been made easier by the wide publicity given to medicine's discoveries in allergy, which fundamentally is the old proverb that one man's meat is another man's poison. "With true alcoholics," the writer declares, "it is never a question of control or moderation. Their only out is absolute abstinence." To a layman, this is medicine's sane advice on any allergy. To a moralist, it is "avoiding the occasions of sin."

Alcoholics Anonymous are not, as far as I can judge, Manichaean. Liquor in its various forms and in its medicinal and social purposes is a gift from the Author of all nature, they know. But just as sugar is a similar bounty and yet fatally destructive for a diabetic, so is alcohol in any form, except by a doctor's prescription, for certain men and women. Subterfuges abound for the real alcoholic: to switch from scotch to beer, wine, rum, gin; to drink whiskey only in milk; only post-meridian (standard time!); only in the company of others; only at home; never on an empty stomach; to take more physical exercise, etc. All these may be a great help to temperance for the ordinary person, but not for the individual who is alcoholic, according to those who freely confess they should know, viz., Alcoholics Anonymous. Hence their insistence on total abstinence for those who are by nature irresponsibly allergic to liquor. This physical and even mental predisposition implies no moral turpitude in itself any more than does, for example, a diabetic allergy.

Catholic temperance societies have long ago recognized these facts of nature. In addition they have endeavored to elevate the "pledge" to a supernaturally meritorious act. It is farthest from my mind to ignore their noble work. I hope by calling attention to the encouraging results of Alcoholics Anonymous, especially through their sympathetic point of view and their continuous giving of time to the alcoholic sick, men and women, to encourage our Catholic laity to do likewise, in humble footsteps after the Good Shepherd.

Alcoholics Anonymous deal with the actually afflicted. The Christian virtue of temperance goes much farther. It embraces all: the alcoholic; those who drink moderately; total abstainers; young and old, men and women. Has this universal obligation, I ask under happy correction, been as universally taught in our country as, say another cardinal virtue, justice?”

Note: The article mentioned by the author in the first sentence can be found at