Thursday, July 11, 2013

Freedom is Close at Hand

[This article gives us pause to consider our own "prisons."]

“He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up hearts that are broken;
to proclaim liberty to captives,
freedom to those in prison."

Few, majestically selected words from Isaiah as the books comes to a close end. It is not until we look at the saints who have struggled in some previous form of lives that we get a newer dimension of the scope of the prisons meant hereby. For instance, alcohol has become such a painful dear in the lives of many couples, family and mostly unnoticed, the victims themselves. It is pathetic to realize just how some of the victims struggle to lay of this habit that becomes a key part of them albeit in despair and lost self esteem and hope.

Today we have a look at one of the Venerables, Venerable Matt Talbot, born in Ireland on May 2, 1856. Talbot was the second born in a family of twelve to his parents, Charles and Elizabeth Talbot. The family was primarily poor and his father and all Talbot's younger brothers were heavy drinkers. At the age of 12 Matt left school and started working in a wine merchant's store. He was now best placed to start sampling their wares the very commodity he was at the heart of. In little time Matt was working in the whiskey stores. In matter of some more time, Matt was a confirmed alcoholic. He now joined the league of his brothers and friends in frequenting pubs in the city and ended up more often than not spending most or all of his wages and running up debts. He reportedly went to the extent of once stealing a fiddle from a street entertainer and selling it to buy drink.

This may serve as a classic example of how what we thought would just be a happy night out, or once in a while may end up in such a scenario. Matt was not genetically or in any other way inclined to alcohol than most of his friends who never ended up drinking were. But what separates Matt from the rest of the world is what follows after he is caught up in this his new necessity of his system.

One evening in 1884 a penniless Talbot waited patiently and great hope outside a pub for somebody who would invite him in for a drink. After several friends had passed him without offering to treat him, he went home in disgust and announced to his mother that he was going to "take the pledge" and renounce drinking. Matt took a pledge of three months at Holy Cross College, Clonliffe. At the end of the three months, he took the pledge for six months, then for life.

Having drunk excessively for 16 years, Talbot maintained sobriety for the following forty years of his life. He found strength in prayer, began to attend daily Mass, and read religious books and pamphlets. He repaid all his debts scrupulously. Having searched for the fiddler whose instrument he had stolen, and failed to find him, he gave the money to the church to have Mass said for him.

Talbot worked hard from being an indifferent Catholic in his drinking days. He became increasingly devoutu under the guidance of Dr. Michael Hickey, Professor of Philosophy in Clonliffe College. He read widely and wore a chains as a form of penance. In 1980 he joined Third Order Franciscan in 1890 and was a member of several other associations and sodalities. Though poor himself, Talbot was a generous man and gave generously to neighbours and fellow workers, to charitable institutions and the church. He ate very little and after his mother's death in 1915 he lived in a small flat with very little furniture. He slept on a plank bed with a piece of timber for a pillow. He rose at 5 a.m. every day so as to attend Mass before work. At work, whenever he had spare time, he found a quiet place to pray. He spent most of every evening on his knees. On Sundays he attended several Masses. He walked quickly, with his head down, so that he appeared to be hurrying from one Mass to another.

Talbot was on his way to Mass on Sunday, 7 June 1925, when he collapsed and died of heart failure on Granby Lane in Dublin. Nobody at the scene was able to identify him. His body was taken to Jervis Street Hospital, where he was undressed, revealing the extent of his austerities. A heavy chain had been wound around his waist, with more chains around an arm and a leg, and cords around the other arm and leg.

Matt Talbot's story is one that often reminds me of how close to far and close to hope and liberty we are from the points of the prison sentences each of us could be serving. St Augustine proofs to us that not even the ordinary men on the path to sainthood are free of this hurdles in life. In his confessions, St Augustine remembers of his early prayer, "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet". He confesses that lust is one of the evils he had to fight so hard as it always faced him the hard way, as attributed to his former life. But that at the end never prevented him from fulfilling what was the will of the Father, to be a key instrument and personality in the Gospel and Theology close to 1700 years since His death.

Let us all remember that as much as we have control of own selves, sometimes things may get the better part of us. Lets keep in prayers and we seek liberty from our several prisons, those of lust, fatigue, concupisence, reliance on various substances as we seek the intercession of Venerable Matt Talbot.