Sunday, December 25, 2016

Matt Talbot and the Spirit of Christmas

Whereas the focus of this blog is about the holy person named Matt Talbot (1856-1925), numerous people today think of the name, Matt Talbot, in light of desperately needed services that are available during the Christmas season and throughout the year.
 
Two examples of such services are
“Christmas in July--A Matt Talbot Center Tradition” at
 
A different example of service is The Matt Talbot Retreat Movement at http://matttalbotretreats.org/.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Transformation Story

In her 2016 memoir, “The Prayer Lines Behind the Bylines,” journalist Ann Hauprich shares some inspiring stories including that of Rev. William (Padre Guilherme) Tracy, CSSR:
 
“As a Roman Catholic school student half a century ago, I learned about St. Martin of Tours. In those days, St. Martin was heralded as a “Patron Saint of reformed drunkards.” In today’s vernacular, he is revered as a “Patron Saint of Recovering Alcoholics.”

The ministries of Saint Monica, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Jude and the Venerable Matt Talbot also brought light into the darkness of alcoholics of bygone eras – and continue to inspire those seeking to recover from addictions today. But in no book have I encountered a “Patron Saint of Recovering Alcoholic Clergy.”

Then it dawned on me that whether or not such a title has ever been — or will ever be – bestowed upon a mortal, the Rev. William Tracy has, by word and deed, exemplified what it is to be the latter...”  Continue reading this chapter at http://legaciesunlimited.com/father-william-tracy.htm. (And note there is an expanded PDF version of this chapter.)



“The greatest proof in my life that God really loves me is that
I am sober today and free from the living death of active alcoholism.
I am grateful that what for 20 years had been my greatest shame
has been transformed into the precious gift of helping others.”
                                                       Rev. William Tracy

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Two 1949 Books About Matt Talbot


The following Friars’ Bookshelf book review was published in 1949, which was found on page 12 at  www.dominicanajournal.org/wp-content/.../dominicanav34n3friarsbookshelf.pdf


The Story of Matt Talbot. By Malachy Gerard Correll.
Cork, The Mercier Press, Ltd., 1948. pp. 110. 8/6.
Matt Talbot The Irish Worker's Glory. By Rev. James F. Cassidy, B.A. Westminster, Md., The Newman Bookshop, 1948. pp. 62. $0.90.

Malachy Carroll's personal knowledge of the character, customs, and habits of the Irish enables him to reconstruct the atmosphere which pervaded the Ireland of Matt Talbot's day. In his treatment of Talbot's boyhood and early life he introduces the reader into intimate contact with the members of Matt Talbot's family, placing due emphasis on the strong bonds of love and sacrifice which unite the members of an Irish family.

Relating the story of Talbot's fifteen years of slavery to drink, the author
points out three traits which marked Talbot as an exceptionally principled
man who would not, even under the deadening influence of alcohol, 
abandon his Sunday Mass obligation; nor relax his guard against impurity of thought, word, or deed; nor rob his employer of a minute's time by being late in reporting for work.

In his twenty-eighth year, becoming aware of the selfishness of his drinking companions by their careful avoidance of a penniless man, Matt Talbot determined to take the pledge. To accomplish this conversion and the subsequent victories over the paralyzing temptations of the devil he sought his strength in confession and return to the sacraments. Thus began a life of unflagging devotion to God which drew him ever up the ladder of contemplation. His waking hours became for him a period of prayer, as all his actions and thoughts were performed for the glory of God, Whose presence he ever felt. To him there was no such thing as free time. To commune with God and His saints was a treasure which he could not neglect nor forget. His long vigils in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament; his avidity for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; his prayerful devotions to the Sacred Heart, to our Blessed Mother Mary and her Rosary, coupled with his fast and abstinence, and self-imposed bodily mortifications and disciplines, gained for him a reputation for holiness which savors of the men of God in the ages of great sanctity.

Fr. Cassidy, in his book, has not attempted a biography at all. Rather, he has unfolded the outstanding virtues of Matt's life, with a view to presenting him as an example for all workmen. In nine chapters he shows the practical spirituality of Matt Talbot, which stands as a challenge to workers who would compromise a principle for the sake of human respect. 

Note: This 1948 edition book is from the Dublin publisher, Clonmore
& Reynolds.  Although long out-of-print, these books are periodically available for purchase online, such as at
https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=1199447785





Saturday, December 10, 2016

Please honor this prayer request

Gregory Jakielski, who is very active in promoting the cause for the canonization of Venerable Matt Talbot in English at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Matt-Talbot/304690079653019 and in Polish at http://www.mateusztalbot.pl, has asked us and his readers to pray to Venerable Matt Talbot for his health. He has entered a hospital with anemia which threatens his life. 
Thank you, Grzegorz, for alerting us, and we will certainly do so.


UPDATE:  Grzegorz has been released from the hospital and is now home as of two days ago. However, he remains quite weak as he continues treatment and will not return to his Matt Talbot sites until his strength permits.
Please keep him in your prayers. 

January 2017 Update:  Grzegorz has returned to the hospital for surgery.  Please continue to pray for him.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Many Faces of Addiction

By Mike Latona
Catholic Courier, Rochester, NY

EDITOR'S NOTE: The names of some people interviewed for this story were withheld in order to protect their privacy.


The many faces of addiction

By Mike Latona/Catholic Courier
EDITOR'S NOTE: The names of some people interviewed for this story were withheld in order to protect their privacy.
You avoid abusing drugs and alcohol. That means you're not prone to addiction, right?
Before making that assumption, it may be worth asking yourself if you:
* Can't tear yourself away from your iPad or smart phone.
* Work 60 hours a week when you're not required to do so.
* Never manage to pass the supermarket lottery machine without dropping several dollars.
* Are so involved with your local church or social/fraternal organization that you often miss dinner with your spouse and children.
* Engage so frequently in other activities -- even those that may seem harmless or even admirable -- that your job, relationships, financial state and/or health are put at risk.
Deacon Gregory Doyle, who in 1981 founded Rochester's Matt Talbot Ministries to assist people with addictive behaviors and those affected by them, said his staff has been dealing in recent years with an expanded variety of addictions as science and social change have broadened the definition of addiction. Now included on the list of potential additions -- along with drinking and drugs -- are sex/pornography, the Internet, shopping, religion, sugar, gambling, caffeine, nicotine, work, television, reading, performance/exercise, stealing, food, perfectionism, relationships, control, laziness, manipulation, caretaking and lying.
Deacon Doyle and his daughter-in-law, Lauren, the executive director of Matt Talbot Ministries, explained that addiction occurs when one's life has become unmanageable and out of balance.
Social worker and counselor Ann Domingos, who has worked primarily with drug and alcohol addicts, agreed that the addictive mind works the same regardless of what has overtaken it.
"Addiction is addiction is addiction," said Domingos, who recently stepped down as director of Mercycare Addiction Treatment Center, a service of Hornell's St. James Mercy Hospital.
We're all prone to addiction simply because of our humanness, the Doyles observed, while Domingos pointed out that she's worked with people from all socioeconomic backgrounds and life circumstances.
"Addiction does not care where you come from," she remarked.
Loss of control
An addictive substance or activity provides feelings of pleasure or relief from pain, Domingos said, noting that the frequency of usage increases as addicts build their world around their addictions -- even when they're aware of the negative consequences.
"If someone is addicted, the rational part of your brain does not override the chemical piece of your brain," she said. "If you keep chasing that feeling, eventually you're going to (experience) a knee operation if it's running, credit-card debt if you're shopping, losing your family if you're always at work."
She observed that addiction starts out slowly, beginning with sporadic activity before becoming a habit and then a compulsion: "There's a progression to it; that's why there's denial. People lose control without really knowing that they've lost the control."
While it's hard to predict who will become addicts and who won't, Domingos said that many people have genetic dispositions that increase the likelihood of addiction. She added that addictions can overlap with compulsions and such mental conditions as obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Meanwhile, the Doyles noted that addiction can go beyond a dependence on substances or activities, surfacing as well within interpersonal relationships. Caretaking, for instance, "can go overboard. Nothing is left for you, your kids or God," Lauren Doyle said.
Theresa and Gary (not their real names) found this to be the case after they began visiting Matt Talbot Ministries nearly 20 years ago, as they struggled to cope with the drug and alcohol addictions of their two sons. Through their sessions there, they discovered that they, also, were addicted -- to caretaking. Theresa and Gary came to realize they'd fallen into codependency. Despite their good intentions, they had become so involved in their caretaking roles that they were ignoring their own needs and not helping their sons move toward recovery.
"It's easy to make excuses for them -- 'Sorry, he didn't feel well today' -- and believe that it's all going to be OK," Theresa said. "It's well-meaning, but it's misplaced well-meaning. We didn't want to see it. You kind of protect yourself from that kind of thing."
Theresa learned how to "not put yourself in a situation where you're focusing on these problems to where it takes your own sense of value away. Somehow you have to stop that chaos and live your life, and you let the (sons) go and let them find answers."
Gary added that he's now aware that "with addiction, those who are dealing with the addict are often the ones who have to change."
Spirituality in recovery
In order for such change to begin, Matt Talbot Ministries digs in on the four "Ds" -- denial, defense, delusion and dysfunction -- all of which stand in the way of honestly viewing the extent of an addiction.
"You have to be willing to acknowledge and accept your own stuff," Lauren Doyle said. Yet she said that with many addictions, "people think they're normal. They don't see the unmanageability." Rather, she said, they may focus on the addictions of others, such as celebrities: "They think, 'I'm not one of those.' They have an image of other people being worse."
Domingos added that addicts naturally dig in their heels because they can't bear the thought of parting with their addictions. Yet she said if they do seek help, that signals a crack in the facade that makes recovery possible.
"People don't want to stop their addiction until the consequences generally are painful," said Domingos, who left St. James Mercy in mid-August to become vice president of support services for Arbor Development, a housing agency in Bath for people in need.
"What happens for people is that the addiction stops working for them," Domingos continued. "It starts out as a tool for them but it stops working. Really, what they want to give up is the pain that's associated with it -- the pain for them, their families, their employers. I could write a book; some of it is very heartbreaking."
Mercycare and Matt Talbot Ministries employ many components of the 12-step program made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous. Among those steps are for the addict to admit powerlessness over the addiction; acknowledge a higher power to provide strength in recovery; and address past errors and make amends for them. Domingos also noted the importance of identifying the underlying feelings and circumstances that may have sparked the addiction.
Spirituality is the cornerstone of the nondenominational Matt Talbot Ministries, which depends less on science and psychology than many other rehabilitation services. The Doyles said their ministerial experience has shown their approach to be highly effective in recovery.
"That's why we're in business," Deacon Doyle said, explaining that addicts may feel recovery is impossible until they come to believe that with God, anything is possible.
"They can stop if they commit themselves to God," he stated. "On your own you can't stop, period."
"When you reach into the spirit, it's entirely different," Theresa added.
Toward serenity
Deacon Doyle said he believes addictive behavior is an essentially selfish act -- and that in order to restore a healthy spiritual balance to one's life, the addict must become more focused on the needs of others. In the process to remove all temptations, he noted, the addict also will have to alter his or her environment and social circles.
"Your friends change when you get into recovery," Deacon Doyle said.
But making such profound changes is a mighty tall order in the face of temptation and withdrawal symptoms. Thus, Domingos and the Doyles acknowledged that recovery is not guaranteed and that the specter of relapse may never be far away.
"People think, 'I've got this licked, I know when to stop.' Then they start all over again," Lauren Doyle said. "A lot of people don't want to commit. They don't want to follow the discipline you need in good recovery."
Theresa, Gary and their sons have managed to stick to their disciplines in recent years, and as a result "everybody is in recovery and doing well," Theresa said. Yet she said she doesn't assume that addiction won't flare up again, so she approaches all their recoveries as a daily process. Lauren Doyle said this is a wise mind-set, stressing the importance of meditation, prayer, exercise and attendance at support meetings in maintaining recovery and serenity.
The Doyles said they've seen numerous success stories over the years. Deacon Doyle, for instance, keeps in touch with a sexaholic who has begun a successful support ministry for other sex addicts, and with an alcoholic priest from another diocese who has returned to parish ministry "happy and content as can be."
"Many people still call us, living their lives with a lot of joy," Lauren Doyle said.
Deacon Doyle said people who have contact with addicts can play an important role in recovery as well, by understanding the stranglehold of addiction and not expecting the addicts to suddenly drop their destructive behaviors. Domingos agreed, saying addicts stand a better chance of recovery if those around them appreciate "the humanity behind addiction" and offer support rather than criticism.
"These are human beings who are just trying to, for the most part, live their life the way anybody else is. They all had the same dreams and aspirations as young people. I mean, addicts are not bad people. And I think a lot of society views them as bad people," Domingos said. "I truly don't believe that 99.5 percent of the addicted population wants to be addicted."
- See more at: http://catholiccourier.com/in-depth/health/previous-stories/the-many-faces-of-addiction/?keywords=matt%20talbot&tag=&searchSectionID=#sthash.leB4x42L.dpuf

The many faces of addiction

By Mike Latona/Catholic Courier
EDITOR'S NOTE: The names of some people interviewed for this story were withheld in order to protect their privacy.
You avoid abusing drugs and alcohol. That means you're not prone to addiction, right?
Before making that assumption, it may be worth asking yourself if you:
* Can't tear yourself away from your iPad or smart phone.
* Work 60 hours a week when you're not required to do so.
* Never manage to pass the supermarket lottery machine without dropping several dollars.
* Are so involved with your local church or social/fraternal organization that you often miss dinner with your spouse and children.
* Engage so frequently in other activities -- even those that may seem harmless or even admirable -- that your job, relationships, financial state and/or health are put at risk.
Deacon Gregory Doyle, who in 1981 founded Rochester's Matt Talbot Ministries to assist people with addictive behaviors and those affected by them, said his staff has been dealing in recent years with an expanded variety of addictions as science and social change have broadened the definition of addiction. Now included on the list of potential additions -- along with drinking and drugs -- are sex/pornography, the Internet, shopping, religion, sugar, gambling, caffeine, nicotine, work, television, reading, performance/exercise, stealing, food, perfectionism, relationships, control, laziness, manipulation, caretaking and lying.
Deacon Doyle and his daughter-in-law, Lauren, the executive director of Matt Talbot Ministries, explained that addiction occurs when one's life has become unmanageable and out of balance.
Social worker and counselor Ann Domingos, who has worked primarily with drug and alcohol addicts, agreed that the addictive mind works the same regardless of what has overtaken it.
"Addiction is addiction is addiction," said Domingos, who recently stepped down as director of Mercycare Addiction Treatment Center, a service of Hornell's St. James Mercy Hospital.
We're all prone to addiction simply because of our humanness, the Doyles observed, while Domingos pointed out that she's worked with people from all socioeconomic backgrounds and life circumstances.
"Addiction does not care where you come from," she remarked.
Loss of control
An addictive substance or activity provides feelings of pleasure or relief from pain, Domingos said, noting that the frequency of usage increases as addicts build their world around their addictions -- even when they're aware of the negative consequences.
"If someone is addicted, the rational part of your brain does not override the chemical piece of your brain," she said. "If you keep chasing that feeling, eventually you're going to (experience) a knee operation if it's running, credit-card debt if you're shopping, losing your family if you're always at work."
She observed that addiction starts out slowly, beginning with sporadic activity before becoming a habit and then a compulsion: "There's a progression to it; that's why there's denial. People lose control without really knowing that they've lost the control."
While it's hard to predict who will become addicts and who won't, Domingos said that many people have genetic dispositions that increase the likelihood of addiction. She added that addictions can overlap with compulsions and such mental conditions as obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Meanwhile, the Doyles noted that addiction can go beyond a dependence on substances or activities, surfacing as well within interpersonal relationships. Caretaking, for instance, "can go overboard. Nothing is left for you, your kids or God," Lauren Doyle said.
Theresa and Gary (not their real names) found this to be the case after they began visiting Matt Talbot Ministries nearly 20 years ago, as they struggled to cope with the drug and alcohol addictions of their two sons. Through their sessions there, they discovered that they, also, were addicted -- to caretaking. Theresa and Gary came to realize they'd fallen into codependency. Despite their good intentions, they had become so involved in their caretaking roles that they were ignoring their own needs and not helping their sons move toward recovery.
"It's easy to make excuses for them -- 'Sorry, he didn't feel well today' -- and believe that it's all going to be OK," Theresa said. "It's well-meaning, but it's misplaced well-meaning. We didn't want to see it. You kind of protect yourself from that kind of thing."
Theresa learned how to "not put yourself in a situation where you're focusing on these problems to where it takes your own sense of value away. Somehow you have to stop that chaos and live your life, and you let the (sons) go and let them find answers."
Gary added that he's now aware that "with addiction, those who are dealing with the addict are often the ones who have to change."
Spirituality in recovery
In order for such change to begin, Matt Talbot Ministries digs in on the four "Ds" -- denial, defense, delusion and dysfunction -- all of which stand in the way of honestly viewing the extent of an addiction.
"You have to be willing to acknowledge and accept your own stuff," Lauren Doyle said. Yet she said that with many addictions, "people think they're normal. They don't see the unmanageability." Rather, she said, they may focus on the addictions of others, such as celebrities: "They think, 'I'm not one of those.' They have an image of other people being worse."
Domingos added that addicts naturally dig in their heels because they can't bear the thought of parting with their addictions. Yet she said if they do seek help, that signals a crack in the facade that makes recovery possible.
"People don't want to stop their addiction until the consequences generally are painful," said Domingos, who left St. James Mercy in mid-August to become vice president of support services for Arbor Development, a housing agency in Bath for people in need.
"What happens for people is that the addiction stops working for them," Domingos continued. "It starts out as a tool for them but it stops working. Really, what they want to give up is the pain that's associated with it -- the pain for them, their families, their employers. I could write a book; some of it is very heartbreaking."
Mercycare and Matt Talbot Ministries employ many components of the 12-step program made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous. Among those steps are for the addict to admit powerlessness over the addiction; acknowledge a higher power to provide strength in recovery; and address past errors and make amends for them. Domingos also noted the importance of identifying the underlying feelings and circumstances that may have sparked the addiction.
Spirituality is the cornerstone of the nondenominational Matt Talbot Ministries, which depends less on science and psychology than many other rehabilitation services. The Doyles said their ministerial experience has shown their approach to be highly effective in recovery.
"That's why we're in business," Deacon Doyle said, explaining that addicts may feel recovery is impossible until they come to believe that with God, anything is possible.
"They can stop if they commit themselves to God," he stated. "On your own you can't stop, period."
"When you reach into the spirit, it's entirely different," Theresa added.
Toward serenity
Deacon Doyle said he believes addictive behavior is an essentially selfish act -- and that in order to restore a healthy spiritual balance to one's life, the addict must become more focused on the needs of others. In the process to remove all temptations, he noted, the addict also will have to alter his or her environment and social circles.
"Your friends change when you get into recovery," Deacon Doyle said.
But making such profound changes is a mighty tall order in the face of temptation and withdrawal symptoms. Thus, Domingos and the Doyles acknowledged that recovery is not guaranteed and that the specter of relapse may never be far away.
"People think, 'I've got this licked, I know when to stop.' Then they start all over again," Lauren Doyle said. "A lot of people don't want to commit. They don't want to follow the discipline you need in good recovery."
Theresa, Gary and their sons have managed to stick to their disciplines in recent years, and as a result "everybody is in recovery and doing well," Theresa said. Yet she said she doesn't assume that addiction won't flare up again, so she approaches all their recoveries as a daily process. Lauren Doyle said this is a wise mind-set, stressing the importance of meditation, prayer, exercise and attendance at support meetings in maintaining recovery and serenity.
The Doyles said they've seen numerous success stories over the years. Deacon Doyle, for instance, keeps in touch with a sexaholic who has begun a successful support ministry for other sex addicts, and with an alcoholic priest from another diocese who has returned to parish ministry "happy and content as can be."
"Many people still call us, living their lives with a lot of joy," Lauren Doyle said.
Deacon Doyle said people who have contact with addicts can play an important role in recovery as well, by understanding the stranglehold of addiction and not expecting the addicts to suddenly drop their destructive behaviors. Domingos agreed, saying addicts stand a better chance of recovery if those around them appreciate "the humanity behind addiction" and offer support rather than criticism.
"These are human beings who are just trying to, for the most part, live their life the way anybody else is. They all had the same dreams and aspirations as young people. I mean, addicts are not bad people. And I think a lot of society views them as bad people," Domingos said. "I truly don't believe that 99.5 percent of the addicted population wants to be addicted."
- See more at: http://catholiccourier.com/in-depth/health/previous-stories/the-many-faces-of-addiction/?keywords=matt%20talbot&tag=&searchSectionID=#sthash.leB4x42L.dpuf
You avoid abusing drugs and alcohol. That means you're not prone to addiction, right?

Before making that assumption, it may be worth asking yourself if you:
* Can't tear yourself away from your iPad or smart phone.
* Work 60 hours a week when you're not required to do so.
* Never manage to pass the supermarket lottery machine without dropping several dollars.
* Are so involved with your local church or social/fraternal organization that you often miss dinner with your spouse and children.
* Engage so frequently in other activities -- even those that may seem harmless or even admirable -- that your job, relationships, financial state and/or health are put at risk.

Deacon Gregory Doyle, who in 1981 founded Rochester's Matt Talbot Ministries to assist people with addictive behaviors and those affected by them, said his staff has been dealing in recent years with an expanded variety of addictions as science and social change have broadened the definition of addiction. Now included on the list of potential additions -- along with drinking and drugs -- are sex/pornography, the Internet, shopping, religion, sugar, gambling, caffeine, nicotine, work, television, reading, performance/exercise, stealing, food, perfectionism, relationships, control, laziness, manipulation, caretaking and lying.

Deacon Doyle and his daughter-in-law, Lauren, the executive director of Matt Talbot Ministries, explained that addiction occurs when one's life has become unmanageable and out of balance.

Social worker and counselor Ann Domingos, who has worked primarily with drug and alcohol addicts, agreed that the addictive mind works the same regardless of what has overtaken it.

"Addiction is addiction is addiction," said Domingos, who recently stepped down as director of Mercycare Addiction Treatment Center, a service of Hornell's St. James Mercy Hospital.

We're all prone to addiction simply because of our humanness, the Doyles observed, while Domingos pointed out that she's worked with people from all socioeconomic backgrounds and life circumstances.

"Addiction does not care where you come from," she remarked.

Loss of control

An addictive substance or activity provides feelings of pleasure or relief from pain, Domingos said, noting that the frequency of usage increases as addicts build their world around their addictions -- even when they're aware of the negative consequences.

"If someone is addicted, the rational part of your brain does not override the chemical piece of your brain," she said. "If you keep chasing that feeling, eventually you're going to (experience) a knee operation if it's running, credit-card debt if you're shopping, losing your family if you're always at work."
She observed that addiction starts out slowly, beginning with sporadic activity before becoming a habit and then a compulsion: "There's a progression to it; that's why there's denial. People lose control without really knowing that they've lost the control."

While it's hard to predict who will become addicts and who won't, Domingos said that many people have genetic dispositions that increase the likelihood of addiction. She added that addictions can overlap with compulsions and such mental conditions as obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Meanwhile, the Doyles noted that addiction can go beyond a dependence on substances or activities, surfacing as well within interpersonal relationships. Caretaking, for instance, "can go overboard. Nothing is left for you, your kids or God," Lauren Doyle said.

Theresa and Gary (not their real names) found this to be the case after they began visiting Matt Talbot Ministries nearly 20 years ago, as they struggled to cope with the drug and alcohol addictions of their two sons. Through their sessions there, they discovered that they, also, were addicted -- to caretaking. Theresa and Gary came to realize they'd fallen into codependency. Despite their good intentions, they had become so involved in their caretaking roles that they were ignoring their own needs and not helping their sons move toward recovery.

"It's easy to make excuses for them -- 'Sorry, he didn't feel well today' -- and believe that it's all going to be OK," Theresa said. "It's well-meaning, but it's misplaced well-meaning. We didn't want to see it. You kind of protect yourself from that kind of thing."

Theresa learned how to "not put yourself in a situation where you're focusing on these problems to where it takes your own sense of value away. Somehow you have to stop that chaos and live your life, and you let the (sons) go and let them find answers."

Gary added that he's now aware that "with addiction, those who are dealing with the addict are often the ones who have to change."

Spirituality in recovery

In order for such change to begin, Matt Talbot Ministries digs in on the four "Ds" -- denial, defense, delusion and dysfunction -- all of which stand in the way of honestly viewing the extent of an addiction.

"You have to be willing to acknowledge and accept your own stuff," Lauren Doyle said. Yet she said that with many addictions, "people think they're normal. They don't see the unmanageability." Rather, she said, they may focus on the addictions of others, such as celebrities: "They think, 'I'm not one of those.' They have an image of other people being worse."

Domingos added that addicts naturally dig in their heels because they can't bear the thought of parting with their addictions. Yet she said if they do seek help, that signals a crack in the facade that makes recovery possible.

"People don't want to stop their addiction until the consequences generally are painful," said Domingos, who left St. James Mercy in mid-August to become vice president of support services for Arbor Development, a housing agency in Bath for people in need.

"What happens for people is that the addiction stops working for them," Domingos continued. "It starts out as a tool for them but it stops working. Really, what they want to give up is the pain that's associated with it -- the pain for them, their families, their employers. I could write a book; some of it is very heartbreaking."

Mercycare and Matt Talbot Ministries employ many components of the 12-step program made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous. Among those steps are for the addict to admit powerlessness over the addiction; acknowledge a higher power to provide strength in recovery; and address past errors and make amends for them. Domingos also noted the importance of identifying the underlying feelings and circumstances that may have sparked the addiction.

Spirituality is the cornerstone of the nondenominational Matt Talbot Ministries, which depends less on science and psychology than many other rehabilitation services. The Doyles said their ministerial experience has shown their approach to be highly effective in recovery.

"That's why we're in business," Deacon Doyle said, explaining that addicts may feel recovery is impossible until they come to believe that with God, anything is possible.

"They can stop if they commit themselves to God," he stated. "On your own you can't stop, period."

"When you reach into the spirit, it's entirely different," Theresa added.

Toward serenity

Deacon Doyle said he believes addictive behavior is an essentially selfish act -- and that in order to restore a healthy spiritual balance to one's life, the addict must become more focused on the needs of others. In the process to remove all temptations, he noted, the addict also will have to alter his or her environment and social circles.

"Your friends change when you get into recovery," Deacon Doyle said.
But making such profound changes is a mighty tall order in the face of temptation and withdrawal symptoms. Thus, Domingos and the Doyles acknowledged that recovery is not guaranteed and that the specter of relapse may never be far away.

"People think, 'I've got this licked, I know when to stop.' Then they start all over again," Lauren Doyle said. "A lot of people don't want to commit. They don't want to follow the discipline you need in good recovery."

Theresa, Gary and their sons have managed to stick to their disciplines in recent years, and as a result "everybody is in recovery and doing well," Theresa said. Yet she said she doesn't assume that addiction won't flare up again, so she approaches all their recoveries as a daily process. Lauren Doyle said this is a wise mind-set, stressing the importance of meditation, prayer, exercise and attendance at support meetings in maintaining recovery and serenity.

The Doyles said they've seen numerous success stories over the years. Deacon Doyle, for instance, keeps in touch with a sexaholic who has begun a successful support ministry for other sex addicts, and with an alcoholic priest from another diocese who has returned to parish ministry "happy and content as can be."

"Many people still call us, living their lives with a lot of joy," Lauren Doyle said.
Deacon Doyle said people who have contact with addicts can play an important role in recovery as well, by understanding the stranglehold of addiction and not expecting the addicts to suddenly drop their destructive behaviors. Domingos agreed, saying addicts stand a better chance of recovery if those around them appreciate "the humanity behind addiction" and offer support rather than criticism.

"These are human beings who are just trying to, for the most part, live their life the way anybody else is. They all had the same dreams and aspirations as young people. I mean, addicts are not bad people. And I think a lot of society views them as bad people," Domingos said. "I truly don't believe that 99.5 percent of the addicted population wants to be addicted."

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Venerable Matt Talbot: A Fool for Christ



In a series of video presentations titled, Fools for Christ: Stories of the Saints, host  Ray Boisvenue, SFO provides an eight minute introduction to the life of Venerable Matt Talbot, which was posted October 2016 at https://vimeo.com/188983314

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Final Matt Talbot Novena 2016 Session

Matt Talbot Novena Week 9

The ninth and final session of the Matt Talbot Novena 2016 will take place in SS John & Paul Church on Tuesday 29th November at 7pm. The speaker is Most Reverend Alphonsus Cullinan, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore.
 
All are welcome to attend or view the novena live at http://www.shannonparish.ie/our-parish/webcam/
An online petition is available using the form at http://www.shannonparish.ie/2016/11/matt-talbot-novena-week-9/.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Next Regularly Scheduled Holy Year

Pope Francis closed the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican today, ending the Jubilee Year of Mercy while noting that “the true door of mercy, which is the heart of Christ, always remains open for us.”
Unless Pope Francis or a future pope calls another special jubilee in the meantime, the next regularly scheduled Holy Year would take place in 2025...which would be the 100th anniversary of Venerable Matt Talbot`s death.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Closing of Holy Doors


As the Jubilee Year of Mercy comes to an end, Holy Doors that have been opened will close around the world. 

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin will close the Holy Door of Mercy in St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral on Sunday 13th November before 11.00am Mass.

Holy Doors of Mercy will also close on this date at: 

Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Sean Mc Dermott Street, Dublin, where the remains of Venerable Matt Talbot lie 

Church of St. Francis Xavier in Gardiner Street, which holds the Cross of Venerable John Sullivan

Parish Church of Sts. Peter and Mary in Arklow

House of Mercy in Baggot Street, established in 1827 by Catherine Mc Auley, foundress of the Sisters of Mercy


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Conversion Story of Zacchaeus, Matt Talbot and ?



PASTOR’S CORNER
Fr. Tom Huff
31st Sunday Gospel  Luke 19:1-10
We read in the First reading from the Book of Wisdom: “Lord . . . You have mercy on all . . . and You overlook people’s sins that they may repent.  For You love all things that are and loathe nothing that You have made; for You would not have fashioned what You hated.”

There is a blunt saying which says: “God doesn’t make junk!”  But the message is true!!!  God really doesn’t make junk!   It took Venerable Matt Talbot 28 years to understand the truth of this reality.  He was born in Ireland on May 2, 1856 and died at the age of 69 on June 7, 1925.  He was an unskilled laborer and had started drinking when he was 12 years old.  His conversion began 16 years later when he was 28.  One Saturday morning he was not able to get up for work because of his hangover, but that evening he went to the tavern where he and his buddies drank.  However his buddies strangely totally ignored him as if he wasn’t there. His initial anger turned into confusion and then into peace and calm. Grace somehow touched his heart and he went home without touching a drop.  “You’re home early”, his mother said.  He told to her, “I’m going to stop drinking for good.”  

He knew it would hard and decided it was time to go to confession.  It had been three years since his last confession and he had been drunk every day since then. During confession he took the pledge to renounce alcohol for three months.  He began to go to daily Mass, which he continued to do until the day he died.  Three months seemed like an eternity and involved a terrible struggle.  But he stayed away from the pub and his drinking friends.  He slept only four hours, spending the rest of the night reading spiritual books and praying.  He especially turned to reading the lives of the saints to replace his former friends who were still drinking.

Having remained sober for three months he took the pledge for another three months.  His thumping headaches and emotional turmoil began to subside and he felt new hope rise within.  He also stopped cursing.  After a year and a half of sobriety he took the pledge for life. He wanted to do penance to make up for his sixteen years of drinking.  He slept on boards with a block of wood for his pillow. He fasted eating only enough food to stay healthy.  He also gave much of his weekly wages to various charities. He certainly may be considered a “Patron Saint” of those struggling with alcoholism.  His story of conversion shows us that a very ordinary person can with God’s help can change, and it reminds us that our Lord came to seek out what was lost.

We don’t know all the details concerning the conversion of Zacchaeus, but like Matt Talbot we know the results: even though it was very hard, he changed his life for the better!  Zacchaeus gave away half of his wealth to the poor, and he restored four-fold any money he had falsely collected.  He went from being a selfish person, a thief and cheater, into a new person who now thought of others and sought to redress his wrongdoings.

In the Christian Tradition, we call the experiences of both Matt Talbot and Zacchaeus as one of repentance and conversion.  And these two examples remind us that no one here including ourselves or anyone else we know, no matter how hopeless they may appear, is beyond the grasp of God through repentance and conversion.

Let us pray daily for courage and fortitude, both for ourselves and for others, whom God may be calling to a holier way of life, to repentance and conversion.  Who knows who was praying and doing penance for Matt Talbot, most likely his mother.  Whoever it was, they understood that God doesn’t make junk, and that He overlooks people’s sins so that they may repent.

A View of Matt Talbot’s Place in History

Antoin O'Callaghan, Cork historian and author, addressed the gathering for the Matt Talbot 2016 Novena at the Way of the Cross Church,Togher, on Friday,19th February 2016. 
 
His talk, titled “Matt Talbot: An Ordinary Warrior,” has now been  published and can be read in the October 2016 issue of Pioneer Magazine at
http://www.pioneerassociation.ie/index.php/media-centre/10-news/525-october2016article

Friday, October 28, 2016

Vatican Tightens Rules on Miracles and Money in Sainthood Cases

New rules approved by Pope Francis and released by the Vatican on 09 September 2016 are designed to make the process for approving a miracle in a sainthood cause more stringent, and also to ensure there's a clear paper trail behind who's picking up the tab and how much is being spent.
The text was approved by Italian Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State, in the name of Pope Francis in August and released on Friday
.
Italian Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, the number two official at the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presented the highlights of the new measures in a note released by the Vatican’s Press Office.

The new rules include:
  • To approve a miracle, at least 5 out of the 7 members of the body of medical experts within the congregation must approve, or 4 out of 6, depending on the size of the group, as opposed to a simple majority.
  • In case a miracle report is rejected on the first go-around, it may only be reexamined a total of three times.
  • In order to reexamine a miracle claim, new members must be named to the consulting body.
  • The president of the consulting body may only be confirmed to one additional five-year term after the original mandate expires.
  • While in the past payments to experts could be made in person by cash or check, now the experts must be paid exclusively through a bank transfer.
In general, the going rate in sainthood causes is roughly $560 for each of the two medical personnel asked to perform a preliminary review, and about $4200 in total for the seven members of the medical consulting committee.

The new rules are not retroactive, and hence they do not invalidate any beatifications or canonizations performed under earlier procedures.

Bartolucci said work on the new rules began one year ago, around the same time that leaks of confidential Vatican financial documents raised questions about financial practices in the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

In his book “Merchants in the Temple,” Italian journalist Gianluigi Nuzzi charged the congregation was among the most reluctant Vatican offices to cooperate with new transparency measures imposed as part of Francis’s project of Vatican reform, and asserted that the average cost of a sainthood cause was about $550,000.
U.S. Catholic officials traditionally have used $250,000 as a benchmark for the cost of a cause from the initial investigation on a diocesan level, to a canonization Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, though that cost can increase depending in part of how many people take part in the canonization ceremony and the logistics of organizing the event.

In March, Pope Francis had already approved a new set of financial procedures for the congregation, outlining procedures for handling contributions and specifying which authorities are charged with overseeing the flow of money.

Under those measures, while the postulator, or promoter, of a sainthood cause can continue to administer the funds for each cause, the bishop of the diocese or the superior general of the religious order that initiates the cause or another church authority must review financial statements and approve the budgets for each cause.

The rules approved in March also confirm a “Solidarity Fund” created by St. Pope John Paul II in 1983 to help cover the costs of causes where resources are lacking, giving the congregation discretion to transfer unused money from one case into the fund to cover the expenses of another.

Pondering Miracles, Medical and Religious

Kingston, Ontario — THERE was no mistaking the diagnostic significance of that little red stick inside a deep blue cell: The Auer rod meant the mystery patient had acute myelogenous leukemia. As slide after slide went by, her bone marrow told a story: treatment, remission, relapse, treatment, remission, remission, remission.

I was reading these marrows in 1987, but the samples had been drawn in 1978 and 1979. Median survival of that lethal disease with treatment was about 18 months; however, given that she had already relapsed once, I knew that she had to be dead. Probably someone was being sued, and that was why my hematology colleagues had asked for a blind reading.

Imagining an aggressive cross-examination in court, I emphasized in my report that I knew neither the history nor why I was reading the marrows. After the work was submitted, I asked the treating physician what was going on. She smiled and said that my report had been sent to the Vatican. This leukemia case was being considered as the final miracle in the dossier of Marie-Marguerite d’Youville, the founder of the Order of Sisters of Charity of Montreal and a candidate to become the first Canadian-born saint.

As in the case of Mother Teresa, who was canonized Sunday by Pope Francis, miracles are still used as evidence that the candidate is in heaven and had interceded with God in response to a petition. Two miracles, usually cures that defy natural explanation, are generally required. For Mother Teresa, the Vatican concluded that prayers to her led to the disappearance of an Indian woman’s incurable tumor and the sudden recovery of a Brazilian man with a brain infection.

The “miracle” involving d’Youville had already been overturned once by the Vatican’s medical committee, unconvinced by the story of a first remission, a relapse, and a much longer second remission. The clerics argued that she had never relapsed and that her survival in first remission was rare but not impossibly so. But the panel and her advocates agreed that a “blind” reading of the evidence by another expert might provoke reconsideration. When my report confirmed what the Ottawa doctors found, that she had indeed had a short remission and then relapsed, the patient, who had prayed to d’Youville for help and, against all odds, was still alive, wanted me to testify.

The tribunal that questioned me was not juridical, but ecclesiastical. I was not asked about my faith. (For the record, I’m an atheist.) I was not asked if it was a miracle. I was asked if I could explain it scientifically. I could not, though I had come armed for my testimony with the most up-to-date hematological literature, which showed that long survivals following relapses were not seen.

When, at the end, the Vatican committee asked if I had anything more to say, I blurted out that as much as her survival, thus far, was remarkable, I fully expected her to relapse some day sooner or later. 

What would the Vatican do then, revoke the canonization? The clerics recorded my doubts. But the case went forward and d’Youville was canonized on Dec. 9, 1990.

That experience, as a hematologist, led me to a research project that I conducted in my other role, as a historian of medicine. I was curious: What were the other miracles used in past canonizations? How many were healings? How many involved up-to date treatments? How many were attended by skeptical physicians like me? How did all that change through time? And can we explain those outcomes now?

Over hundreds of hours in the Vatican archives, I examined the files of more than 1,400 miracle investigations — at least one from every canonization between 1588 and 1999. A vast majority — 93 percent over all and 96 percent for the 20th century — were stories of recovery from illness or injury, detailing treatment and testimony from baffled physicians.

If a sick person recovers through prayer and without medicine, that’s nice, but not a miracle. She had to be sick or dying despite receiving the best of care. The church finds no incompatibility between scientific medicine and religious faith; for believers, medicine is just one more manifestation of God’s work on earth.

Perversely then, this ancient religious process, intended to celebrate exemplary lives, is hostage to the relativistic wisdom and temporal opinions of modern science. Physicians, as nonpartisan witnesses and unaligned third parties, are necessary to corroborate the claims of hopeful postulants. For that reason alone, illness stories top miracle claims. I never expected such reverse skepticism and emphasis on science within the church.

I also learned more about medicine and its parallels with religion. Both are elaborate, evolving systems of belief. Medicine is rooted in natural explanations and causes, even in the absence of definitive evidence. Religion is defined by the supernatural and the possibility of transcendence. Both address our plight as mortals who suffer — one to postpone death and relieve symptoms, the other to console us and reconcile us to pain and loss.

Respect for our religious patients demands understanding and tolerance; their beliefs are as true for them as the “facts” may be for physicians. Now almost 40 years later, that mystery woman is still alive and I still cannot explain why. Along with the Vatican, she calls it a miracle. Why should my inability to offer an explanation trump her belief? However they are interpreted, miracles exist, because that is how they are lived in our world.



 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Father Ralph Pfau: A Strong Supporter of Matt Talbot


Glenn F. Chesnut, Professor Emeritus of Ancient History, renowned AA historian, founder of the Hindsfoot Foundation (http://www.hindsfoot.org/), and Moderator of the leading international webgroup for the study of Alcoholics Anonymous history and archives at http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/AAHistoryLovers/, has recently posted the final manuscript of his forthcoming book later this Fall titled, Father Ralph Pfau and the Golden Books: The Path to Recovery from* Alcoholism and Drug Addiction.

The subject of this book, Father Ralph Pfau (1904 -1967) aka Father John Doe, is recognized as the first Roman Catholic priest to become sober in Alcoholics Anonymous who wrote multiple ”Golden Books” about recovery topics under his imprint of “Sons of Matt Talbot Guild” in Indianapolis beginning in the early 1940's. These and Fr. Pfau’s major books (Sobriety and Beyond and Sobriety Without End as well as his autobiography, Prodigal Shepherd) are available at Hazelden Publishing and other sites as are multiple presentations.
 
Among early AA authors, according to Dr. Chesnut, Father Ralph Pfau was a strong supporter of Matt Talbot as an example of how a spiritual triumph over alcoholism could be accomplished.

For a PDF file of this final draft, go to http://hindsfoot.org/pfcath.pdf 
For an MS Word file of the final draft, go to http://hindsfoot.org/pfcath.doc

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Recovery Meditation on the Seven Sorrows of Mary



The USA headquarters of the Calix Society at http://calixsociety.org/ offers a 25 minute free download of a recovery meditation at http://calixde.org/front/images/Calix/Media/Audio/SorrowfulDolorsRecoveryMeditations.mp3 with the following comment:

"The Blessed Virgin Mary grants seven graces to the souls who honor her daily by saying seven Hail Mary's and meditating on her tears and dolors (sorrows). The devotion was passed on by St. Bridget of Sweden. In this recovery meditation, Our Lady shows us the way of humility and true compassion for the alcoholic and addict." 

Note: As Matt Talbot once commented to a sister, "Where would I be, only for God and His Blessed Mother. No one knows what a good mother She has been to me."

Friday, October 7, 2016

Breaking the Chains: Matt Talbot Novena during October and November 2016

In his yearly Matt Talbot Novena, Fr. Tom Ryan, author of Comfort my people: Prayers and Reflections Inspired by the Venerable Matt Talbot at  http://www.catholicireland.net/comfort-my-people-prayers-and-reflection-inspired-by-the-venerable-matt-talbot/, notes at the end of this article that petitions can be left at the shrine in both churches or, in an attempt to reach out to as many people as possible who are dealing with addiction, sent anonymously via the petition form on the Shannon parish website at www.shannonparish.ie. The Novena can be viewed live each week on Tuesdays at 7 pm on the Shannon parish website at http://www.shannonparish.ie/our-parish/webcam/.


Breaking the Chains
Fr. Tom Ryan P.P. 
Shannon Parish, Co Clare, Ireland 
http://www.shannonparish.ie/2016/09/breaking-the-chains/

As we prepare for the 24th Matt Talbot Novena next Tuesday (October 4th, 2016), I think on the many stories that have been shared and those that have yet to be told. Historically, addiction has been defined as physical and psychological dependence on substances such as alcohol, heroin and other drugs as well as tobacco, and some people may not realise that there are many more addictions that can affect our lives. As someone once said, “I didn’t know I was addicted until I tried to stop.” Nowadays addiction can also be described as a continued dependency on activities such as gambling, food, pornography, computers, work, exercise, watching TV, self-injury and shopping that can, at least, change personalities and, at worst, destroy lives.

I received the following from a parishioner via email. It’s the text of a reflection she shared at a Pastoral Council meeting some time ago, and I would like to share it now with you:

“It’s four years since my addiction with the cigarettes ended and since then, pretty much my new addiction to food started. The biggest effect on me giving up the cigarettes is the increased weight and nowadays this and sugar seems to be the new killer. During the last 4 years, I have lost the weight, put it on, lost it and put it on again; it’s like a yo yo. In January I said right, New Year, new me, and started the couch to 5K which I have achieved, not very fast but I did it. I began to think about all this lately and I’m wondering who am I trying to please??? Do I want the weight loss for me or society?? On every advert, Facebook post, magazine, and television screen it’s all about being slim and trim; great, I’m beginning to think Lent should be for 40 weeks instead of 40 days!! Having said all that, the pressure from society is huge and we can bring that pressure on ourselves, so for now my aim is to accept who I am and be happy for me or hope I get an addiction to healthy food!!!!”

There are 3 additional quotes I would like to share:

“I was at a funeral one day and the lady beside me said, “God love her, she’s the size she always wanted to be and she’s in the coffin.”

“If everyone in the world was blind, how many people would you impress?” 

And from the parish website: “Today count your blessings instead of calories and thank God you have calories to count.”

Addiction is nothing new. Matt Talbot was an unskilled labourer who was born in 1856 and lived all his life in Dublin. We probably would never have heard of him were it not for the cords and chains discovered on his body when he died suddenly on a Dublin street in 1925. On further investigation of his life it was learned that he had struggled with addiction to alcohol from a very early age but that he had found sobriety through prayer and self-sacrifice and that he remained sober for the next forty-one years until his sudden death.

His life story has been an inspiration for alcoholics and addicts throughout the world. Turning away from alcohol was only a small part of Matt’s transformation because he also turned to God. 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. He once told his sister “Never look down on a man who cannot give up the drink because it is easier to get out of hell!” and the same is true for any addiction but Matt’s life story shows us that a very ordinary person can totally transform.

For the past 24 years parishioners have gathered together for nine consecutive weeks at the Matt Talbot Novena to pray for people suffering from all forms of addictions and for those who share their lives at home and at work with people who endure such addictions. This year’s novena will begin on Tuesday 4th October in SS John & Paul Church, Shannon and will continue each Tuesday for the months of October and November. This year’s preachers include: Rev. Damien Nolan, Corofin, Rev. Pat Coffey, Golden Co Tipperary, Rev. Frank Bradley, Buncrana, Co Donegal, Rev. Pat Malone, Clarecastle, Mgr. Ken McCaffrey, Dundee, Scotland, Rev. Vincent Stapleton, Thurles, Rev. Ignatius McCormack, Quin, Rev. Pascal McDonnell OFM, Franciscan Friary, Ennis, and Most Rev. Alphonsus Cullinan, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore.

On one occasion Matt Talbot said, “Three things I cannot escape: The eye of God, the voice of conscience, the stroke of death. In company, guard your tongue. In your family, guard your temper. When alone, guard your thoughts.”

The Matt Talbot Novena is offered each year to give encouragement and spiritual support to people in times of suffering and stress. A warm welcome waits all who come.

Petitions can be left at the shrine in both churches or, in an attempt to reach out to as many people as possible who are dealing with addiction, sent anonymously via the petition form on the Shannon parish website at www.shannonparish.ie. The Novena can be viewed live each week on Tuesdays at 7pm on the Shannon parish website.