Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Matt Talbot Story: Hope for Addicts

[This article was originally posted at, the “official” Matt Talbot website when Fr. Morgan Costello was the Vice- Postulator of the Cause of Matt Talbot. This site is no longer active. Today, however, more information from this site than we have presented here can be retrieved at The different type used may suggest sections were written at different times during 2000-2001.]

His Story

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. It was the drug culture of the 19th century. Matt was an addict. 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. That was fifty years before AA was founded. After a horrendous struggle, he found sobriety through prayer and self-sacrifice. His Higher Power was the Christian God. He remained sober for forty years until his death. His life story has been an inspiration for alcoholics and addicts throughout the world. He is a candidate for canonisation in the Catholic Church.

His Life

With the help of his priest friend, Matt modelled his life on that of the monks, who lived in Ireland in the 6th and 7th centuries. It was a tough programme of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. To his neighbours and his work mates in the timber yards, he was a cheerful, happy friend. He gave away most of his wages every week to the poor at home and abroad. "Matt had no time for money", his sister remarked. He was keenly aware of his fellow workers struggle for social justice. A loyal member of Ireland's Transport and General Workers Union, a Union leader, Stephen McGonagle, described him as "a beacon of light to Irish workers". After a life of heroic perseverance, he died suddenly on the way to Mass on 7th June 1925.



His Prayerfulness

He "sought through prayer and meditation to improve his conscious contact with God" (11th step of AA programme). He converted his incessant craving for drink into a drive for closer union with God - a one-day-at-a-time approach which lasted forty years.

His Perseverance

"It is consistency that God seeks", Matt Talbot said. He carried out faithfully each day the spiritual programme given to him and visited a priest friend every Saturday for direction - a help to addicts who are advised to attend regular meetings and have a sponsor.

Total Giving

He gave himself totally to his new way of life. Once a self-centred alcoholic, he showed outstanding kindness, generosity and thoughtfulness to his family, his neighburs and to his fellow workers.

Sense of Justice

He was keenly aware of the unjust treatment of workers in his day. He refused to return to work after a strike in 1900 and sought another job. "He was very strong in the rights of labouring men", according to Ted Fuller, a workmate "and said they should stand up for themselves." He shared his small wages with his poor neighbours and even contributed to an orphanage in New York.

The Making of a Saint

Matt Talbot was declared Venerable in 1973 which means that the church has decided that from a human point of view, he has the qualifications of a Saint. However a physical miracle is required to show Gods Approval of this judgement before he will be Beatified and another Miracle after that, before he will be canonised.

The Holy father believes that Matt Talbot has been chosen by God as a model for addicts. He was a recovered Alcoholic. It is now known that the rehabilitation programme given to him in 1884 incorporated the 12 step programme of Alcoholics Anonymous. although these steps were not formulated for another 50 years.

Devotees of Matt Talbot may be interested to learn that the present Pope wrote a paper on Matt when he was a young man.

His Addiction

Matt's programme of recovery was built around devotion to the Eucharist, love of Mary, Mother of God, spiritual reading, self-discipline and manual work. But he never forgot his struggle with his addiction. "Never look down on a man, who cannot give up the drink", he told his sister, "it is easier to get out of hell!".

Most of the favours attributed to his intercession world-wide are for addicts and their families. Hundreds have been reported. Some day he may be declared the patron saint for addicts. Short version of the prayer for his help: "May Matt Talbot's triumph over addiction, bring hope to our community and strength to our hearts, through Christ Our Lord. Amen."


Remembering Matt Talbot: Mary Purcell (Veritas Publications; 7 Lr. Abbey Street, Dublin, Ireland)

Matt Talbot and his Times: Mary Purcell (Franciscan Herald Press, Chicago.)

Matt Talbot: Sr. Susan Helen Wallace FSP, (St Paul Books & Media, Boston).


Matt Talbot: Hope for Addicts: Fr. Morgan Costelloe,(VeritasPublications, Dublin.) price:IR0.95.

The Making of Matt Talbot: Mary Purcell, (Messenger Publications, 37 Lr Leeson Street, Dublin) price:IR£1.50.

The Mystery of Matt Talbot: Fr. Morgan Costelloe (Messenger Publications) price:IR£0.65. Prayer Cards price:IR£0.15 each.