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, 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 The Novena can be viewed live each week on Tuesdays at 7 pm on the Shannon parish website at

Breaking the Chains
Fr. Tom Ryan P.P. 
Shannon Parish, Co Clare, Ireland

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 The Novena can be viewed live each week on Tuesdays at 7pm on the Shannon parish website.