Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Talbot Memorial Bridge in Dublin

At first glance one might think that this Dublin bridge solely honors Venerable Matt Talbot.   But as this article indicates, it honors many in addition to Matt.
Stories of remarkable men in different times, in Dublin and in far flung places, are commemorated in the name Talbot Memorial Bridge.
Matthew Talbot was one of Dublin’s poor. Born in 1856, he was both a worker and a drunkard by the age of 12 - a fate that was all too common among his family and fellow inner city Dubliners. That he pawned his shabby shoes, short changed his long suffering mother, drifted between jobs and conned friends and acquaintances - all for the sake of yet another drink - is too unremarkable a story for Matt to have made it into the history books. Nothing was expected of his life other than he would die as he had lived - drunk and in abject poverty.

Yet within a year of his death in 1925 he became an inspiration to millions across the world. For Matt took the pledge - a promise to abstain from alcohol - in 1884 and turned to God. He overcame tortuous temptation with prayer, attending Mass each morning at 5am. He died on the street, the depth of his devotion becoming obvious when the heavy chains and knotted ropes, embedded into his flesh, were removed by mortuary workers.

He had lived as an anonymous ascetic but in death became venerated for his saintly life. Though Matt had kept his feet on terra firma, for many young lads of the north and south docklands a life at sea beckoned - from the days of being press ganged to fight in the service of the British, to joining the merchant navy to sail the seven seas, or working on the ferries criss-crossing the Irish Sea. Thousands said ‘good-bye’ never to return again, meeting their fate in some distant land or finding their final resting place beneath waves which would never wash an Irish shore.

During the Second World War, in particular, Irish seamen knowingly risked their lives to bring essential supplies home to Ireland, a neutral country. From a small fleet, 16 ships were lost to unprovoked attacks - by aircraft, mines and torpedoes - and 136 men died. The Talbot Memorial Bridge is a monument to these ordinary and, at once, extraordinary Dubliners and Irishmen.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Temperance Message of Fr. Theobald Mathew

While their lives only overlapped by seven months,  the temperance movement message of Fr. Mathew, especially in Ireland and the USA, influenced Matt Talbot and hundreds of thousands to take the pledge to abstain from alcohol.

“THEOBALD MATHEW: Temperance ‘Precursor’ to Fr Cullen”
By Paula Murray
Pioneer Magazine
November 2013
A ‘Who’s Who’ of Ireland’s great benefactors will rarely nowadays include a biography of Fr Theobald Mathew. His enormous achievements and legacy will be skipped over, as if to minimise the enduring impact of his endeavours to help the Irish extricate themselves from the heartbreak and sorrow of addiction to alcohol.

Today the message of Fr Mathew is sorely needed, as Irish young people as a group, like their peers in so many other countries, seem deaf to all the warnings from their elders. They seem to have little idea of how easily alcohol addiction is acquired. Fr Theobald, now dead for over 150 years, would have his hands full in the Ireland of today. Were he a time-traveller, all his charismatic skills would be required to persuade the youth of Ireland that drinking alcohol is not a harmless activity.

The debate over alcohol addiction is never far from the Irish conversation. It is omni-present, and ubiquitous. Yet, it was Fr Mathew who put this issue in the forefront of the national debate, and made it impossible to ignore. The abuse of alcohol and the casualness of the Irish people towards it was always on his mind and, aiding the Irish as a nation, in effect, educating and advising them, became his life’s work.

Few would have predicted that the shy teenager, self-effacing and uncertain in the family home in County Tipperary would one day become the most charismatic preacher of his era. Fr Mathew didn’t have a magic formula, or even a guarantee of success. From pastoral experience, he knew that our pre-Famine population of eight million was far too inclined to indulge. The imperialism of Britain was often cited as an excuse. However, even after the dreadful trauma of the Famine, the love of the Irish for drink did not go away. If anything, it increased, although our population had been reduced by over three million. For Fr Mathew, it would be an uphill road.

The self-imposed task he underwent to reform Irish drinking habits would exhaust him but he kept battling on until his death on 8 December 1856. The boy who would one day become the Venerable Matt Talbot and one of the glories of the ‘pledge’, a concept promoted vigorously and successfully by Fr Mathew, was born in the May of that same year.

Fr Theobald was one of twelve children, nine boys and three girls. He was born on 10 October, 1790. ‘Toby’ was the nick-name by which his family knew him, and ‘Darlin’ Master Toby’ by the poor of the locality who considered him ‘a born saint’. He was educated in Thurles and Kilkenny, excelling at Greek, Latin and English history. After applying and being accepted for Maynooth, ‘Toby’s stay there was cut short because the authorities in the college took umbrage at his organising a social event. Toby went home, dejected and embarrassed and, for some time, had little to do by way of ecclesiastical engagements, until it struck him to join the Capuchin Order, where he was quickly accepted as a novice.

He was one of the generation of young Irish people to make their way to seminaries and novitiates once again, as the rigors of the Penal Laws began to ease early in the nineteenth century. In both Kilkenny and Dublin, Fr Theobald was singled out by the congregation as being a rare and kind confessor. It would be in Cork, though, that ‘Toby’s’ great life’s work had its origins: ending the scourge of alcohol abuse. Thus, the yearning congregations of Cork would readily adopt the ardent young man from Co Tipperary. In addition, ‘Toby’ became renowned for his generosity to the poor. He would never allow a poor person to go away empty-handed. ‘Give, give’, he used to say, ‘what you have, you got from God.’

Theobald was elected Provincial of the Capuchin Order in 1822, on the death of the then Provincial, and held that office for almost thirty years, eventually retiring due only to ill health.  Contrary to public opinion, Fr Mathew did not invent the concept of total abstinence. It began in America the previous century, and had much success with Protestant communities, who embraced the whole notion of abstaining from alcohol, in cases where moderation failed. The Quaker community also recommended abstinence, and it was one of their own, a Quaker called Martin who set the ball rolling in Cork, very close to where Fr Mathew lived with his community. At this juncture, Fr Mathew began to consider the possibility of promoting total abstinence from alcohol among his beleaguered people. The whole jigsaw of finding and ending the curse of alcohol addiction came together in his mind, and he suddenly saw a way forward.

On 10 April 1838, Fr Mathew uttered his famous phrase ‘Here goes in the name of God’, and launched, in Cork, with Quaker Martin, what became a great temperance campaign, introducing large numbers of his fellow-Irish to the notion of total abstinence from alcohol. Large crowds came to hear Fr Mathew preach. He was invited all over Ireland as well as to Britain and the United States to spread his message. Hundreds of thousands of people of all religious persuasions took the pledge on hearing him speak. The statue of him in Dublin’s O’Connell Street shows him as he was - enthusiastic, exhorting, encouraging others, as he reached to the skies.

Fr Mathew’s success as a temperance leader is indisputable. His legacy waned when, after his death, many of those ‘pledge-takers’ reverted back to alcohol-abuse. Nevertheless, many families and communities reaped a plethora of rewards for as long as they remained abstainers.  Fr James Cullen, Pioneer founder, was inspired by the work of Fr Mathew and had the ambition to take up where his great predecessor had left off. In a sense, Fr Mathew was the forerunner of the Pioneer movement. Perhaps in the Ireland of today, those of us blessed enough to be Pioneers, can offer up our gift of abstinence for the people we know or hear of, who can’t abstain at all. Perhaps we, who don’t drink alcohol, can ‘launch into the deep’ with a prayer that life may be made bearable for those whose drinking is a source of suffering for both themselves and others.

Note: For one additional reference see

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Purpose in Life

Matt Talbot’s purpose in life until his 28th year of life was basically to work and drink. Then one Saturday when his mates refused to buy him drinks, he experienced his personal “bottom,” took the pledge not to drink, and returned fully to the Catholic Church, remaining sober until his death 41 years later.
"All of us have a purpose in life. God put us here because of his great plan for us. He has also equipped us with the right grace, strength, intelligence, etc.  for us to fulfill this purpose or mission he has planned for us. But we have a choice whether to accept this mission or not.

When we do accept the mission, we can go through it properly doing the best that we can do for the greater glory of God or we can do it half-heartedly out of laziness or maybe not do it at all for fear of the unknown future. Again the choice is ours. The more blessings we receive, the more we are called to be of service to others and share these blessings. It is good to remember though that whatever choices we make there are consequences. This is the task we have at hand… the choice is ours.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Matt Talbot's Road to Sainthood

As an author, speaker, and founder of Matt Talbot Kitchen & Outreach in Lincoln, Nebraska, Mary Costello has introduced people to Venerable Matt Talbot for decades. She will be speaking on the following topic November 20, 2014 at 7 pm at MTKO.

by Mary Costello
November 2014
"Some of you who receive the Catholic paper, The Southern Nebraska Register might have already read about the miracle performed by God through the intercession of Matt Talbot. But the wonderful news to those of us here in Lincoln is that the family involved in the miracle heard about the man they prayed to because of the Kitchen and Outreach center here in Lincoln, Nebraska!

Many of us who are concerned with alcoholism and addictions have been praying, working and hoping for a verifiable, physical miracle to be performed through the intercession of Matt Talbot for 75 years. But while Matt continues to help thousands of men and women, wives and husbands, sons and daughters, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas return to lives of sobriety and serenity, these are considered psychological miracles and cannot be considered by the Congregation of Rites, the folks who decide these things in Rome. They need physical miracles to move a candidate from the status of “Venerable” where Matt stands today, to “Blessed” and then, Praise God one day, to the level of “Saint.”

Yes, there has been a miracle in the suburb of Overland Park, Kans. A young couple, Shannon and Patrick Watkins, traveled to Lincoln for the baptism of a relative’s baby and heard about our work and decided to name their baby Talbot. I’ll explain more about the miracle when I come to see you all in November.

I know many people, even people associated with MTKO really don’t know much about the man, Matt Talbot. No, he wasn’t a relative of mine, nor a friend! Let me tell you a little about this marvelous man and, hopefully, soon-to-be-saint: he was born into a very poor, alcoholic family in Dublin, Ireland in 1856. He had very little education and admits himself he was probably an alcoholic by his early teens. He went to work when he was only 12, which was the custom and because of another interesting Irish custom (the biggest employer being one of the world’s largest brewers) the paychecks were not sent home with the workers but were deposited with the local pub owners. Sounds incredible, but true. (It was the Catholic Church that finally led efforts to change this custom, but not until the 1920’s!)

Therefore, every worker had to pass through the neighborhood watering hole before he arrived home on payday. We can only surmise how many ever made it home with a few shillings still jangling in his pockets. This was at a time when Ireland was still recovering from the Great Famine of the late 1840’s and 1850’s; thousands of people were unemployed, starving farmers were streaming in from the west and soldiers were coming home from the Crimean War. Dublin was a sea of destitution and poverty.

Matt Talbot and his brothers were some of the unfortunates who usually happily received their paychecks on Saturday noon and had drained it by Tuesday night. The rest of the week they drank “on the cuff” or on the charity of their friends. But one week when Matt was 28, he had been sick all week. He didn’t draw a paycheck at all. One Saturday noon he stood outside his favorite pub waiting for one of his pals to invite him in for a nip or two. No one did. Matt walked a few steps to the bridge overlooking the Royal Canal. He had never been a particularly spiritual person. His religious education had taken him only to his First Communion and Confirmation and while he attended Mass most Sundays he did not receive the Sacraments. There was in Ireland at the time a practice called “Taking the Pledge” designed by a Catholic priest, Fr. Mathew, to stem the tide of the horrendous problem of alcoholism in Ireland in the mid-Nineteenth Century.

We don’t know what God whispered to Matt that afternoon in 1874, but it must have been something wonderful. Matt walked home and said to this mother, “I’m going to take the Pledge,” and she said, “Don’ take it unless you’re going to keep it.” He said, “I am going to keep it.”

But the way that he kept it was the great thing, the thing that turned him into a saint. From home that first day, Matt walked to Conliffe College, a seminary in Dublin, where he went to Confession and took the Pledge. The next morning, he went to Mass and Communion for the first time in many years. During the week, he got up early and went to daily Mass, praying that the Lord would help him stay sober. After work, instead of going to the bar, he visited the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. He asked the priests at the College to teach him to read (he could barely read and write his name) so he could read the lives of the saints and he ended up reading and understanding deep theology.

Matt Talbot especially loved Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of Wisdom and he slept with a statue of her in his arms. For the next 40+ years, he ate only enough to keep himself alive and gave away most of his earnings (the Columban Fathers were one of his favorite charities); he lived simply, sleeping on planks for only a few hours a night and spending many hours a day in prayer or spiritual reading. He died on his way to his third Mass of the day on Trinity Sunday, June 7, 1925. After years of study, he was declared “Venerable” by Pope Paul VI in 1975 indicating that this man had lived a life of heroic virtue.

Since his death, Matt has performed many, many miracles, well, of course God performs the miracles but we pray to Matt and he intercedes at God’s throne for us. But this is the first physical, verifiable miracle that has been performed through Matt’s intercession. When I come to talk to the group, I will tell you more about Matt, and more about the miracle.
If you would like more information about Matt Talbot, please contact me at or at 3901 S, 27th St, unit 4, Lincoln Ne. 68502. I have prayer cards and medals available."

Note: Further information about the miracle referred to in this article is available at

Friday, November 7, 2014

1931 Prayer for the Canonisation of Matthew Talbot

Six years after the death of Matt Talbot, this prayer was issued and approved by the Archbishop of Dublin, Edward J. Byrne, on 15 June, 1931.  Source:


O Jesus, true friend of the humble worker, Thou hast given us in Thy servant, Matthew, a wonderful example of victory over vice, a model of penance and of love for Thy Holy Eucharist, grant, we beseech Thee, that we, Thy servants, may overcome all our wicked passions and sanctify our lives with penance and love like his.

And if it be in accordance with Thy adorable designs that Thy pious servant should be glorified by the Church, deign to manifest by Thy heavenly favours the power he enjoys in Thy sight, who livest and reignest for ever and ever. Amen.