Thursday, October 1, 2015

Prayer Pulled Matt Talbot Over the Line

by Fr. Tom Ryan, P.P.
22 September 2015

For the next nine Tuesdays starting on Tuesday, 29th September in SS John & Paul Church Shannon people will gather each week at the Shrine of Matt Talbot, to pray and intercede for people suffering or sharing in the life of addictions.

Excessive drinking and addictive behaviours are having a damaging effect on Irish society. Research has shown that half of all adult drinkers in Ireland are harmful high risk drinkers and 15% of our 18 to 24 year olds who drink are already dependent. More people die each day from alcohol related problems than on our roads. Nowadays more women and young people are presenting for help with alcohol dependency. Very few Irish families have not been impacted in some way by the problems of addiction, whether it be alcohol, tablets, or other drugs, online gambling, pornography or some other dependent behaviour.

All of us can identify behaviours in our personal lives which we know deep down are not good for us, like over use of alcohol, drugs or the internet, an unhealthy relationship, obsession with work, the need to gamble or spending, or a fixation with someone or something which dominates our lives to the exclusion of those who are most dear to us.
Being honest with ourselves is the first step to recognising our weaknesses and this in turn can open us to the love and mercy of God that can lead to us changing our lives for the better, with God on our side. This was the experience of Matt Talbot.

Matt Talbot was born in Dublin in 1856 and died suddenly in 1925, experienced at first hand the pain and suffering of addiction. Matt worked and prayed and fasted for the gift of temperance. He had experienced at first hand, in his own body, the havoc and the ravage wrought by his drinking alcohol to excess. He had felt the horrors of hangovers and saw its effects on his work and on his relationship with his friends and with his family. In fact, he saw that he was slowly but surely destroying himself.

Somehow or other, by the grace of a good and generous God, he got the strength to give it all up and to go sober. He began to see that our hunger and thirst for food and drink is something good – given to us by a good and generous God, to encourage us to eat and drink to keep ourselves alive and strong and well. But he saw also that it was something to be used in moderation.

One of the things we need, at all times, is a proper approach to the use of food and drink and the sexual power, given to us by God to bring new life into the world. There is a right way and a wrong way of using his gifts. There is a temperate way and an intemperate way. The temperate way is the better way. The intemperate way is the way that leads to disaster, but people don’t see it like that unfortunately. The temperate way is possible.

Matt Talbot is an outstanding example of prayer and conversion. The Matt Talbot Novena, now in its 23rd year in Shannon, is our annual opportunity to support by prayer and reflection all suffering or sharing in the life of addictions. Matt Talbot has shown that it is possible to change; the power of prayer should never be underestimated.