Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Matt Talbot Day of Remembrance

[For Roman Catholic websites that post a brief biography of a saint or holy person for a particular day of the year, we may find Venerable Matt Talbot listed for June 18 or June 19, such as the one below. (For a comment about these two dates, see Matt Talbot Remembrance Day Discrepancy)

The following narrative about Matt Talbot is from the Ministry with Persons with Disabilities at the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Georgia at http://www.archatl.com/ministries/disabilities/saints/saint_info.php?0=June+19&feast_date=June+19&1=Venerable+Matt+Talbot&full_nam e=Venerable+Matt+Talbot&2=Alcoholics&patronage=Alcoholics. Its writer, Mr, McCoy, states that “a Jesuit Father, Father Edward Dowling helped A.A. to formulate this 12 step program in 1935.” Please note that while Alcoholics Anonymous was founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith and the book, Alcoholics Anonymous, was published in 1939, Bill Wilson, its anonymous author, did not meet Fr. Dowling until 1940 when Bill learned of the similarity between the 12 steps of AA and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. One source, among many, about this meeting can be found at http://www.barefootsworld.net/askbillw.html#24 and http://www.barefootsworld.net/askbillw.html#23]

“Venerable Matt Talbot
Feast day: June 19
(Patron of Struggling and Recovering Addicts and Alcoholics)
Matthew Talbot (1856 - 1925) was born in the poverty of Dublin's inner city. He took to drink when still a child, and was considered a hopeless alcoholic by age thirteen. When his wages were spent, he borrowed and scrounged for money. He pawned his clothes and boots to get money for alcohol. He became a thief, once even stealing the violin from a blind street entertainer. The violin was sold to pay for a "Drinks are on me!" pub bill. 

Sixteen years later at age 28, he decided to "kick the habit". His remaining forty-one dry years were lived heroically, attending daily Mass, praying constantly, helping the poor and living the ascetic life-style of Celtic spirituality. A Jesuit priest helped him, giving him a rehabilitation program, which providentially incorporated what was to become the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. This is not really surprising when one remembers that a Jesuit Father, Father Edward Dowling helped A.A. to formulate this program in 1935. The steps have basis in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits. The priest also gave him a chain to wear wrapped around his waist beneath his clothing. It was a very light but somewhat long chain, much like a clock chain. He wore it as a self-reminder of the fact that he was once enslaved by alcohol, and of his pledge to the Sacred Heart to keep on fighting "the demon". 

Matt also became a Third Order Franciscan in 1890. "Never be too hard on the man who can't give up drink." He told his sister. "It's as hard to give up the drink as it is to raise the dead to life again. But... both are possible and even easy for Our Lord. We have only to depend on him."
Matt Talbot worked in the lumber yards on the docks of Dublin. He was always very poor, partly because he was so generous to people in need. To his neighbors and his fellow workers, he was a cheerful, happy friend. He gave away most of his wages every week to the poor at home and in the Catholic missions abroad. He lived a life of prayer, fasting, and service, trying to model himself on the sixth century Irish Monks. He read Scripture, lives of saints, and -considering his meager schooling- an astounding assortment of books: The Confessions of St. Augustine; writings of St. Francis de Sales, St. Teresa of Avila, and Blessed John Cardinal Newman; papal encyclicals, world history, and social policy. Word by word, he deciphered what they said. What he couldn't understand, Matt laboriously copied onto scraps of paper, and then handed it to a sometimes astonished priest for explanation the next time he went to Confession.

After a life of heroic perseverance, Matt died suddenly while walking to Mass, June 7, 1925. Venerable Matt Talbot's remains were moved to Our Lady of Lourdes church on Sean McDermott Street, Dublin, Ireland in 1972. The tomb has glass panels through which the coffin may be seen. He was declared Venerable by Pope Paul VI in 1975. Addiction treatment programs, retreats, and centers throughout the world now bear his name.

Saint's Prayer

Gentle Matt, I turn to you in my present needs and ask for the help of your prayers. Trusting in you, I am confident your charitable and understanding heart will make my petitions your own. I believe that you are truly powerful in the presence of Divine Mercy. If it be for the glory of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the honor of Mary, our Mother and Queen and the deepening of my relationship with them, show that your goodness towards me, in my daily struggles, equals your influence with the Holy Spirit, who is hidden and at home in my Heart. Friend of pity, friend of power, hear, oh hear me in this hour. Gentle Matt, please pray for me. Amen
Special Thanks to: Thanks to The Life of Matt Talbot: A Dublin Laborer by Sir Joseph Glynn and Book of Saints by the Monks of Ramsgate for the basis of this narrative. 

The national Matt Talbot Shrine for the United States is located in Manorville, Long Island.

Data entered by: Ed McCoy on 2011-12-14”