Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Matt Talbot Way to Sobriety with Podcasts

Max Michili notified us on 10th October 2017 about a page he created on his website ( about Matt Talbot. 
"My mission with the site is to teach people to pray always."

Max stated he had previously no idea who Matt Talbot was until a friend mentioned that his devotion to Matt helped him overcome alcoholism. This friend was apparently very excited to share how the Lord has used the rosary and Jesus Prayer podcasts on Max’s site in conjunction with Matt Talbot's Way to become sober. “He suggested I make a concerted effort to integrate these devotions on my site, and I think it is a great idea.”
Therefore, what Max has posted thus far can be viewed at

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sobriety With Faith

Venerable Matthew Talbot Won Sobriety With Faith

"For anyone who has ever struggled with alcoholism, it should come as no surprise that Matthew Talbot, who sank to the depths of heavy drinking and soul crushing despair, also rose, through his struggle for sobriety, to the heights that the Church calls “venerable.” His story is an inspiration, not only to recovering alcoholics, but to anyone struggling with a seemingly overwhelming obsession.

Matt Talbot was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1856, the second of twelve children of Charles and Elizabeth Talbot. He began drinking when he was only 12 years old. after becoming a messenger for liquor merchants. In fact, with the exception of his oldest brother, all the Talbot men, father and sons, drank to excess often. 

For the next 15 years, Talbot continued to drink heavily. It wasn’t until he was 28 that he finally "hit bottom" and promised his mother he would "take the pledge." Her reply was prescient: "May God give you strength to keep it." Matt went to confession and attended daily Mass. He prayed as intensely as he used to drink.

From that time forward, Talbot was a changed man. He began to pray and attend Mass with the same zeal he had formerly devoted to drinking. In 1891, at the age of 35, he joined the Third Order of St. Francis. Once known for his drunken rages, he instead became known for piety, humility, and generosity. His drinking had compromised his health and he suffered from kidney and heart ailments.

On June 7, 1925, Matthew Talbot collapsed and died as he was walking to Mass on Trinity Sunday. Matthew Talbot was declared venerable by Pope Paul VI in 1973. His feast day is June 18th. 

Lord, in your servant, Matt Talbot you have given us a wonderful example of triumph over addiction, of devotion to duty, and of lifelong reverence for the Holy Sacrament. May his life of prayer and penance give us courage to take up our crosses and bravely follow Our Lord, Jesus Christ."

Saturday, October 7, 2017

A Venerable Matt Talbot Relic in Poland

Grzegorz Jakielski, a good friend and major promoter of Matt Talbot at, has posted the following photo today of Father Zbigniew Kaniecki with a Matt Talbot`s relic - piece of coffin in which his body rested for exhumation in 1952.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Remembering the "Angel of Hope" for Alcoholics

A decade after the death of Venerable Matt Talbot,
Alcoholic Anonymous was founded.
One of the key figures in the early years of Alcoholics Anonymous was a non-alcoholic known simply as Sister Ignatia.  As a hospital admissions officer in the 1930’s in Akron, Ohio, Sr. Ignatia befriended Dr. Bob Smith, co-founder of AA, and courageously arranged for the hospitalization of alcoholics at a time when alcoholism was viewed as a character weakness rather than a disease.

Sister Ignatia

Patrick McNamara, PhD
"In a 1951 article titled “A Catholic Looks at Alcoholics Anonymous,” author Katherine Neuhaus Haffner wrote:
What is Alcoholics Anonymous? AA is not, as is sometimes supposed, just another temperance movement, a new, fanatical reform crusade. It is a society, operating in groups, that is founded upon spiritual principles, and these principles closely parallel Catholic teaching.
In its reliance on grace, moral inventory taking, its confessional aspect and its emphasis on outreach, Haffner argued, “A Catholic member of AA should be a better Catholic as the result of his affiliation with this society and vice versa.”
Still, many are unaware of the role Catholics played in AA’s early years, or that one of the key figures was a nun from Ohio named Sister Ignatia Gavin, C.S.A. (1889-1966). At St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, she helped Dr. Robert H. Smith, AA’s co-founder, to dispel the notion that alcoholism was a moral defect, rather than a spiritual, mental and physical disease.

Bridget Della Mary Gavin was one of three children born to a farmer in County Mayo, Ireland. Even as a child, she had what her biographer calls a “raw compassion” for alcoholism:
Whenever I would see anyone under the influence of alcoholism, it actually made my heart sick. I would try to offer everlasting reparation to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord to make up for the offense against His Divine Majesty.
In 1896, the Gavins emigrated to Cleveland, Ohio. In an industrial city with a large working-class population, alcoholism was a big problem Parish priests started abstinence societies and young men took a “pledge” not to drink. Bridget graduated from Catholic schools, studied music, and taught music. Although she considered becoming a nun, her mother was opposed to it.

She dated and was even briefly engaged, but the call to religious life prevailed. In 1914, she joined the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, a community that ran schools and hospitals statewide. At 25, she was considered a “late vocation,” and given the name Ignatia. (Taking a new name signifies that a deep change has occurred in the person entering religious life.)

For many years, Sister Ignatia taught music in Cleveland schools until she suffered a physical breakdown. When she recovered, she transferred to hospital ministry. As her community opened St. Thomas Hospital in Akron in 1928, she was appointed the admitting officer. There she got to know Dr. Robert Holbrook Smith, who, after a bout with alcoholism, had been removed from the rosters of Akron’s more prestigious hospitals.

Beginning in 1934, Sister Ignatia began privately ministering to alcoholics with the help of a young intern, Dr. Thomas Scuderi. She tried to treat alcoholics from both a medical and pastoral standpoint, then an unchartered field. Scuderi recalled: “She was a great influence on my life as a physician. She taught me about loving people.” However, other doctors (and nuns, too) were less than supportive. Sister Ignatia later wrote:
I recalled very distinctly coming to the chapel for prayer shortly after five one morning, only to be met by the night supervisor who told me in unmistakable terms that the next time I admitted a D.T. [Delirium Tremens] to the hospital, I had better stay up all night and run around the corridors after him.
At a time when chronic alcoholics were routinely sent to mental asylums, Sister Ignatia realized that they needed a healing beyond what medicine could provide. At the same time, she noted, hospitals had “little enthusiasm about admitting people who were imbibing too freely.”

On August 16, 1939, Dr. Smith persuaded her to officially admit an alcoholic patient to St. Thomas. Back in 1935, Smith and Bill Wilson, a New York stockbroker, had founded Alcoholics Anonymous as a program of moral and spiritual regeneration. Working with them, Ignatia began the first hospital treatment center for alcoholics, which one historian calls “a model for many chemical treatment programs in the United States.”

Although slight and frail in appearance, her biographer Mary Darrah notes, “A knowing intensity of expression all at once overcame her otherwise fragile features.” Darrah further adds:
Put briefly, AA’s angel was a strong, empathetic woman who extracted goodness from every situation and resolved to leave the world a little better than she found it. Ignatia had all the charisma of an Irish anamchara, or soul friend, so she easily folded the troubled into her heart.
One patient recalled: “She saved my life. I found God and sobriety through her. She loved me when there was nothing about me to love. She was AA’s angel.” But hers was a “tough love” that required total abstinence from alcohol and drugs, acknowledgement of one’s dependence on a higher power, commitment to the AA program, and outreach to those still suffering.

Ignatia had a great devotion to the spiritual teachings of St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, particularly his notion of “love through action.” She found a strong parallel between the saint’s writings and AA’s Twelve Steps. She routinely carried around with her a compendium of Ignatius’s thoughts, along with the 14th-century classic The Imitation of Christ. She gave copies of both to patients in the program’s early days. But her spirituality was also ecumenical. To a Protestant patient, she said:
The importance of our religion lies in our making it heavenly to those around us. In its essentials Catholicism is not as far apart as you suppose, from the beliefs of our separated brethren … love can surmount every obstacle.
In 1952, Ignatia opened Rosary Hill Solarium in Cleveland, where she worked for 14 years. During her lifetIgnime, an estimated 15,000 alcoholics came under her care. As a result of her ministry, one author notes, “the alcoholics’ world changed.” At the time of her death in 1966, one commentator said: “If the Catholic Church doesn’t canonize her, the Protestants will make her a saint.” The Sisters poured more than 6,000 cups of coffee at her wake."

Note:  While we will post more about Sr. Ignatia at a later date, three additional references about her are at:

A speech given by Sr. Ignatia at the 25th Anniversary of Alcoholics Anonymous, held in Long Beach California, in 1960 can be heard at

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Meeting Matt Talbot

Such articles as this one help spread introductory information about Venerable Matt Talbot to those who are not yet familiar with his name and/or life.

 "He was a drunk. And now he's on the path to sainthood: Meet Matt Talbot." 
by Meg Hunter-Kilmer 

"Jesus fell three times under his cross to show us what it looks like to persevere in weakness, and Matt Talbot does just the same.
Matt Talbot was a drunk. His father was a drunk. Nearly every one of his brothers was a drunk. He was uneducated and unskilled and died in obscurity. And someday soon, God willing, Venerable Matt Talbot will be a saint.

Talbot (1856-1925) was the second of 12 children born to a working class Dublin family at a time when work and food were scarce and hope scarcer still. Matt’s home life was unstable and his schooling inconsistent. After a few years of sporadic attendance, Matt quit school entirely and entered the workforce. 

His first job was for a wine seller, and the occasional taste he took of the merchandise soon turned him into a full-fledged alcoholic. By the time he was 13, Matt’s life was driven by his need to drink. He spent all his wages on alcohol, even pawning his boots when he didn’t have enough for a pint. Matt’s father beat him and made him change jobs, but it was too late. The alcohol had taken hold of him and, as his father well knew, it wouldn’t let go without a fight.

But Matt didn’t want to fight. He wanted to drink. And only to drink. His friends later said that he “only wanted one thing—the drink; he wouldn’t go with us to a dance or a party or a school function. But for the drink he’d do anything.” For 15 years, Matt begged, borrowed, and stole whatever he needed to feed his addiction, once stealing the fiddle from a blind beggar to sell it for liquor.

Matt was a lost cause—so everybody said. But everybody reckoned without grace. 

Matt Talbot was the life of the party, but one day, when he was 28, he suddenly saw how false his happiness was, how false his friendships. He had been out of work for a few days and had drunk all his wages, so he stood outside a pub waiting for one of his many drinking buddies to offer to buy him a drink. But as one old friend after another passed him by, Talbot began to realize the emptiness of his life.

Disgusted with his friends and himself, he went home, to a mother very surprised to find her son home and sober so early in the day. After dinner, he announced his intention to “take the pledge,” to vow that he would abstain from all alcohol. His mother, whose pessimism was not unfounded, urged him not to make such a vow unless he intended to keep it. 

But Matt’s heart had been seized, first by misery, then by remorse, and soon by love. He made his first confession in years and returned to the Sacraments. He promised sobriety for three months, then six, then for all his life. He worked even harder at his blue-collar jobs and gave the money he would have spent on beer to the poor. He went to Mass daily, lived simply, and performed powerful acts of penance and asceticism. He became a Third Order Franciscan. He taught himself to read so that he could study the Bible and the lives of the Saints. Perhaps most importantly, he never touched a drop of alcohol again.

But he never stopped being an alcoholic; the temptation to drink remained with him. Early into his abstinence he decided never to carry money with him as it was too much of a temptation to go into a pub and buy a pint. After work, as his friends went off to the pub, Talbot went to church; if he didn’t fill his time with something, he knew he would relapse. “Never be too hard on the man who can’t give up drink,” he once said. “It’s as hard to give up the drink as it is to raise the dead to life again. But both are possible and even easy for our Lord. We have only to depend on him.”

On Trinity Sunday, at the age of 69, Matt Talbot was making his way slowly through the streets of Dublin on his way to Mass. His body weakened by decades of hard labor, he collapsed of heart failure and was discovered later, an unidentified elderly man found dead in the street. He died as he had lived, in simple obscurity. But he was born that day into glory.

Venerable Matt Talbot is proof that being a follower of Christ doesn’t make virtue easy, it just makes it possible. Jesus fell three times under his cross to show us what it looks like to persevere in weakness, and Matt Talbot does just the same, an example of what it is to live with an addiction without being ruled by it. 

Let’s ask his intercession for all those suffering from addiction, that God may give them the courage to persevere on the hard road of recovery. Venerable Matt Talbot, pray for us!"

A previous post by Meg that we have noted is available at

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Combating Alcoholism through the Example and Intercession of Matt Talbot

The following selection is an excerpt from Praying for Those with Addictions by Anne Costa (The Word Among Us Press, 2016). 

Venerable Matt Talbot, Patron Saint of Alcoholics:
Combating Alcoholism through the Example and Intercession of Matt Talbot
By: Anne Costa
September 7, 2017
Venerable Matt Talbot, Patron Saint of Alcoholics: Combating Alcoholism through the Example and Intercession of Matt Talbot by Anne Costa

In all difficult times and circumstances, throughout the history of humanity and the Church, God has raised up saints in our midst to help us. They are our sisters and brothers in the body of Christ.
They lived lives and encountered hardships that are very similar to our own. When we call upon the saints, we give our prayers an extra boost of intercessory power, and our own faith is bolstered in the process.

These ordinary people were given extraordinary graces and virtues to combat the darkness and trials that surrounded them. Five such individuals come to the forefront as guides on our mission of love, mercy, and hope for those we know who are addicted. They are St. Faustina, Venerable Matt Talbot, St. Monica and St. Augustine, and St. Maximilian Kolbe.

Venerable Matt Talbot

Venerable Matt Talbot (1856–1925) is the patron saint of alcoholics. He was one of twelve children born into extreme poverty in the tenements of Dublin, Ireland. His father was a heavy drinker who could not provide for his family, and so he moved them from place to place. As a result, Matt attended formal school only from the ages of eleven to twelve and could not read or write.

When Matt was twelve, he got his first job as a delivery boy for a beer bottling company and also took his first drink. This unhealthy combination seemed to seal his fate. By the time he was sixteen, Matt was a confirmed alcoholic. He was spending all of his money on alcohol and not supporting his family, who remained desperately poor. Matt recalled that he reached his lowest point “when he and his brothers stole a fiddle from a blind street player and sold it for the price of a drink.”

While these hardly seem like the actions of a man on his way to sainthood, God had another plan! One fateful Saturday afternoon, after twelve years of hard drinking, Matt found himself without a job, without a drink, and without a friend to help him get one. As he walked home that day, he experienced a moment of immense grace. He suddenly saw with an intense clarity in his mind and heart that he had been wasting his life. At the age of twenty-eight, he saw himself for what he truly was—a fool who had nothing to show for his life.

By the time he reached his home, Matt had made the decision to quit drinking. That very day he walked to Dublin Seminary and made his confession to a priest, who helped him “take the pledge” to renounce alcohol for three months. He returned at six months and then made the pledge for life—but it was not easy! There were no twelve-step programs or counselors or support groups to help him. Nevertheless, Matt maintained sobriety through a recovery program that centered on daily Mass, devotion to the Eucharist, a love for Mary, and spiritual reading. (He learned to read so that he could read the Bible.)

Matt Talbot is often referred to as an “urban ascetic.” After his conversion, he lived a life of quiet devotion, holiness, and extreme generosity in spirit and material goods in the midst of the flourishing city life that swirled around him. He offered a pious contrast and example of austerity and charity for those he worked with and those in his neighborhood.

Although there is no cause for sainthood presently open for Matt Talbot’s mother, Elizabeth, perhaps there should be! In addition to her husband, all but one of her seven sons were alcoholics. She had no money and barely a roof over her head but managed to remain steadfast in her prayers for her family. She took in work and held out hope that her family could be cured of its problems. Thanks to Matt, she was able to live the last twelve years of her life in relative peace and stability when he moved in to care for her after his father who passed away.

“Never be too hard on the man who can’t give up drink,” Matt Talbot is often quoted as saying. “It’s as hard to give up the drink as it is to raise the dead to life again. But both are possible and even easy for our Lord. We have only to depend on him.”. . . 

“Lord, you give us the example of Venerable Matt Talbot as a man who seemed completely lost and beyond your grace. In a single moment, you pierced his heart and changed his mind, leading him back to you. Jesus, I pray for this same conversion and transformation for _________ in your perfect will and timing and for your greater glory. Amen.”

Note: Matt Talbot (1856-1925) was declared “Venerable” by Pope Paul VI in 1975.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

"Matt Talbot: An Introduction"

Matt Talbot


A sixty four page book has been published by Veritas Publications, Ireland, at

The publisher’s book description:  

"This short book explains how a seemingly unremarkable Dubliner became an inspiration for those suffering from addiction around the world. Born into poverty in the mid-nineteenth century, Matt Talbot’s early adulthood was blighted by crippling alcoholism but, in a remarkable turn of events, he would go on to overcome his addiction, join the Pioneer Association and inspire Christians around the globe with his forbearance, spiritual zeal and charitable acts. Declared venerable by Pope Paul VI in 1975, Matt Talbot’s example of great faith triumphing over adversity continues to inspire those struggling with alcohol and drug dependence to this day."


While this book does not list the author’s name, a recent book review at states the original source of authorship: Mary Purcell (1906-1991).


“Though this little book is unsigned on the title page, it is actually extracted from Mary Purcell’s Remembering Matt Talbot published in 1954. Mary Purcell was once a well known writer and her authorship should be recognised on the title page. 


When local veneration of Matt Talbot began to emerge in 1930s Dublin the focus was on Matt Talbot’s stoic abasement of his flesh – this is the figure of Tom Kilroy’s play Talbot’s Box. Today, however, as his shrine in Sean McDermott Street shows, his name is associated with prayers for those who struggle with addiction to drugs or drink.


He was a quintessential working class Dubliner, and his life and circumstances will always be of interest. His escape from poverty was through the wonders of religious faith and a vision of something better, though the sinner in Matt Talbot was easier for the Church he lived with to encompass than the saint was.   


Irish society has so greatly changed that many of the younger generations have only the vaguest idea of what life and religion were like in the early part of the 20th Century. This little book will be a step towards deepening their knowledge."



Besides used copies of Mary Purcell’s books on Matt Talbot are available for sale online, two of her books can be read online at  and

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Updated Photographs of the Shrine of Venerable Matt Talbot, Dublin

These photographs were taken on July 16, 2017 at the Shrine of Matt Talbot, Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Sean McDermott Street, Dublin.

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Living the Hard Questions

This author has previously written about Venerable Matt Talbot, which is available at

Living the Hard Questions

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves.
Do not seek the answers that cannot be given you
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now.
Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing,
live along some distant day into the answer.
“Be Patient Toward All That is Unsolved” by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

“God has a plan,” she said nonchalantly, shrugging her shoulders before I left the office. I cringed but forced a smile and a slight nod as I gathered my purse and quickly exited the building.

Why do these words always repulse me? I thought. They’re true. But incomplete, sort of trite and hollow, leaving me feeling the same – trite and hollow. It’s much like when people say, “Everything happens for a reason” or “Things will get better; look at the bright side.” It’s not that these sayings aren’t true in a shallow sense. It’s that they fall short of encompassing life’s mysteries and how God operates in us.

As I left my doctor’s office, I knew she was right – God does have a plan. But what was it? And why is not knowing whether or not I’m following it insufficient for me?

I thought briefly of Thomas Merton’s heart prayer: “Lord, I do not know where I’m going. But the fact that I desire to please you does, in fact, please you.” I guess that’s it – all of the wrestling within, the questions that are never answered and pleas that are met with deafening silence – it’s part of His excruciating plan for me.

It’s excruciating, because I’m left in the dark. He has chosen to withhold knowledge and clarity of His will from me, thus leaving me to grope and grasp for His hand without seeing what He’s doing or where He’s leading.

The grasping feels like drowning to me, but really it’s surrender. I’m letting go – of the need to know, to control, to feel certainty and confidence. This spiritual vulnerability is something new to me, and it’s terrifying. I am left here with a gaping wound in my heart, an unfulfilled longing to do great things for God. Yet His response is to keep me waiting, and I am in agony, not knowing if I should stay or move.

The fact that I desire to please God does, in fact, please Him. These words mean far more to me than “God has a plan” or “You are where you should be right now.” I’m learning that trust is more than repeating someone else’s mantra. It’s more than believing clichés. It’s radical, raw plunging into the abyss of the unknown. It’s clinging to God, cleaving to Him at all costs, pressing into His Sacred Heart.

Even in the unknown, the stark darkness and painful pruning of what I cannot see or determine, I please Him with my yes, renewed every day by my faithfulness to Him. My yes isn’t always straightforward; often, it’s messy and mingled with doubt and frustration. But it is nonetheless a wholehearted and honest renewal of my fidelity and commitment to serve Him in some capacity, however menial I may deem it to be.

And Jesus kneads the knots in my heart, which hurts. My ‘yes’ feels like His ‘no’ as He molds and shapes me into a more perfect and complete image of who I’ve always meant to be.

I left my doctor’s office with no real answers, as often happens in life. There’s nothing satisfactory about hearing the platitude, “God has a plan.” It’s something I intrinsically know yet fail to understand. And it’s because I’m in the midst of this inner tempest that vies for my soul. I cannot see or know or feel the truth of “God has a plan,” but I choose to accept it. And with that acceptance, I walk away.

I keep moving forward, wherever that may lead me. “Always forward,” St. Juniperro Serra claimed as his life’s motto. Indeed. Always forward, never back. To look behind me would be pointless and leave me in the wake of defeat and despair. Now I must accept the not knowing, live the questions themselves, and move ahead of where I am standing in this moment.

Though I want definite solutions, I don’t need them. What I need is to bask in God’s goodness, to throw myself into Him with unbridled trust and to dwell there until He bids me to begin again and again.

The deepening of one’s spiritual growth is not so much succeeding in the possession of unfailing answers to impossible questions. It’s more about living the mystery and becoming Mystery. It’s a way to heaven by obscure faith that is unclear but certain.

I’ve learned enough to know God may or may not make me privy to what He is doing in and with me at any given moment. But it’s enough for me to rest in this hard, messy, disjointed, and jarring place of what is incomplete. Life is incomplete until I journey beyond earth, so I shrug my shoulders in resignation as I look at the emerging twilight and say, “I know You have a plan, and that’s enough for me.”

Friday, August 11, 2017

"No Prayer is Useless"

St. Augustine reminds us that no prayer is useless.

We learn as children that praying doesn’t always “work”: we prayed and still failed that math test, we prayed and still were ignored by our crush, we prayed and our sick grandmother never got better. As adults, our worries increase, as do our disappointments in prayer: we pray and still don’t get hired, we pray and still our spouse wanders, we pray and we ourselves never get better. So, what’s the point? Why pray for things that we want if we don’t always get them? Is God listening? Does God care?

Of course, he does. But not in the way that we might expect. To correct the common notion of God as an invisible granter of wishes, Jesus instructs us in the Sermon on the Mount: “When praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Mt 6:7–8).
This is a profound statement on the nature of prayer. Jesus teaches that God never learns of our needs. Our prayer reveals nothing to him, for he already knows everything. Thus, we shouldn’t pray like the pagans, who think that their prayers introduce human need to the divine mind. Rather, our prayer should acknowledge the fact of God’s omniscient providence. “Pray then like this,” Jesus says: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. They kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven …” (Mt 6:9–10).
Jesus teaches us to pray to the Father as the all-knowing and all-powerful creator and governor of the universe. In other words, we are to pray knowing that nothing occurs in creation that escapes God’s notice. 

There is no birth nor death, no gain nor loss, no joy nor sorrow of which God remains ignorant. As Jesus says elsewhere: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s will.” No, not one of them; all unfolds within God’s providence. It can’t be otherwise. 

Consequently, Jesus assures his disciples: “Even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Mt 10:29–31). As creatures, we possess nothing that God fails to count.

This is a consoling truth, but our question still remains: why pray? If God is the all-knowing and all-powerful ruler of the universe—if all unfolds under his watchful eye, and if he knows what we need before we ask—then what good can praying possibly do? 

Well, it depends on what we think prayer should do. If we think that praying should change God, then our prayer is indeed useless. We’d sooner yell the bark off a tree than change God’s mind about something. But if we think that praying should change us, then we pray as Jesus taught.

Centuries ago, St. Augustine explained the mystery of Christian prayer to a noblewoman named Proba. A young widow who fled the Sack of Rome (410 AD), Proba wrote to Augustine and asked how she should pray, her life spiraling into ever greater chaos.

Augustine responded that she should pray for a happy life, which the holy bishop described thus: “He is truly happy who has all that he wishes to have, and wishes to have nothing which he ought not to wish.” 

When we offer to God all of our desires for a happy life, Augustine explained, over time our offering is purified. As we draw closer to God, and as our wills align to his, we wish more for what he wants to give us and less for what we want to give ourselves. Praying does not change God, therefore; it changes us—in our hearts and in our desires. 

“The Lord our God requires us to ask not that thereby our wish may be intimated to Him, for to Him it cannot be unknown,” Augustine explained, “but in order that by prayer there may be exercised in us by supplications that desire by which we may receive what He prepares to bestow.” 

In other words, we pray always and in every situation not to alert God of our needs, but so that we might grow in our desire for the good things that God wants to give us for a happy life, leading up to eternal life.  

The mystery of Christian prayer as Augustine described it unfolds even in situations of great distress. In moments of trouble or trauma, we might not know how to pray as we ought, asking God simply to remove the cause of our trouble. Augustine granted that this prayer is natural and common. But in those moments, Augustine continued, “we ought to exercise such submission to the will of the Lord our God, that if He does not remove those vexations we do not suppose ourselves to be neglected by Him, but rather, in patient endurance of evil, hope to be made partakers of greater good, for so His strength is perfected in our weakness.” 

When troubled, we pray for the removal of our trouble, though acknowledging all the while that the trouble itself may provide a path to some greater good. In order to pray this kind of prayer, we can look to a reliable model: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Mt 26:39).

No prayer is useless, therefore. At any given moment, our prayer manifests either a heart aligning to God’s will or a heart already aligned to it. In either case, we pray confidently as creatures of a provident God, who wills that nothing of his ever be lost (Jn 6:39).

Fr. Aquinas Guilbeau, O.P., serves as senior editor of Aleteia English.

Note:  For some very simply prayers see 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Praying for Ourselves and Others

"Today we pray for ourselves, that we may know our addictions and admit them. We pray that we become detached and free from whatever holds us back and kills our joy that comes from God. We pray that every day, we may attach our spirits in humble prayer to the God who made them and the God for whom they were made. 

We pray for all those whose lives are being destroyed by addiction here and beyond. May this be the time when new hope is born and many souls turn back again to God. Matt Talbot, pray for us."


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Venerable Matt Talbot: From Addict to Ascetic

From Addict to Ascetic

One Saturday in 1884, twenty-eight-year-old Matt Talbot stood outside O’Meary’s pub in Dublin, Ireland. He was low on cash. Workers streamed by him, men with whom he had often labored, and he waited for one of them to invite him in for a drink. Work hard; drink hard—this had been his rhythm of life since he was a young man. All his money went to pubs. And when he was out of work and had no money, he found ways to get it—selling his shoes or clothes, or, once, stealing a fiddle from a blind street performer and pawning it. But this Saturday no one stopped to invite him in.

Something inspired Matt to leave his post by the pub door that day and return home to tell his mother that he would make the pledge—a promise to give up alcohol for three months. He went to a nearby seminary for confession. Three months later he renewed the pledge and never had a drink again. After over a decade as an obstinate drunk, Matt dropped the habit.

He lived his remaining years in quiet, hidden penance, growing in the spiritual life through prayer, the sacraments, and acts of charity. His life was so quiet, in fact, that he probably would be forgotten today except that when he died on the way to church on June 7, 1925, he was discovered to be wearing chains of devotion and penance under his clothes. Though his struggle from alcoholism to asceticism was mostly unknown to others, after his death Matt became recognized by the universal Church as a holy man, a role model and inspiration to those struggling with addiction.

I learned about Matt Talbot’s story this summer, which I have spent in Baltimore working at a soup kitchen with the poor and homeless. This city has been called the U.S. Heroin Capital. Every day I see people stooped over, swaying, stumbling to their seats, unaware of the ground under their feet, and falling asleep in their food. In Baltimore, an estimated one out of every ten citizens is addicted to opioids. And the city is only one hotspot in an epidemic that killed fifty-two thousand Americans in 2015.

Lives consumed by substance abuse make particularly obvious the misery of sin. Sin leads to more sin, and a life of sin leads to destitution and a profound unhappiness on the edge of despair. Those of us who personally know people being destroyed by addiction may begin to wonder how, or if, such darkness can be overcome. But Matt Talbot’s life shines a light into this darkness. He is reported to have said, “Never think harshly of a person because of the drink. It’s easier to get out of hell than to give up the drink. For me it was only possible with the help of God and our Blessed Mother.”

Matt only could address his perverted love of alcohol when he encountered a greater love—the love of the Father who welcomes home a wayward, profligate son; the love of the King who searches out the neglected to come celebrate his son’s wedding feast; the love of the shepherd who seeks the one wandering lamb, who prays that none may be lost. Matt Talbot’s story shows that this love is real and efficacious, able to free us from even the strongest of sinful bonds.

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Review of ‘Holy Desperation’

The subject of this book review is Heather King, an essayist, memoirist, blogger and former lawyer. She writes a monthly column, "Credible Witnesses," in MAGNIFICAT  and "The Crux," a weekly column on arts and culture in TIDINGS, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of L.A. One of the many holy persons she has written
about is Venerable Matt Talbot as well as conducted a Matt Talbot Retreat. 

In her 11th book, the relentlessly honest and passionate writer talks about praying as if one's life depends upon it.

Heather King knows all about praying as if her life depended on it, because her life literally did. After spending 20 solid years in what she calls “a twilight-zone alcoholic haze,” King’s knees finally hit the ground in desperation after a moment of “clarity” during which she realized she had to give up the drink or die.
I was strung out and half-drunk, and I had a cigarette in my hand.  I was thirty-four and it was the first time in my life I had ever sincerely prayed.
 That desperate prayer over 30 years ago got King sober, and the prayers she’s prayed ever since have converted her, healed her and awakened her to God and to life—a story she tells in her 11th book, Holy Desperation: Praying As If Your Life Depends On It.

King’s jagged journey eventually led her into the Catholic Church, where she now spends her days as a “contemplative laywoman” and a writer—with the passion that’s consumed her ever since she “woke up” from a “semicomatose haze of loneliness, depression, self-pity, neurotically self-centered fear, and paralysis.”

King doesn’t hold back, whether it comes to sharing her struggles or her love of the Catholic Church:
One thing I love about the Catholic Church is that it attracts nutcases. Otherwise, how could there be a place for me? 
I love it all: Mass, the angels and saints, holy days, incense, candles, bloody statues, relics, pilgrimages.  I especially love that miracles—and the “simple,” “deluded” people who claim to have experienced them—tend to drive nonbelievers mad.
Aside from the radical honesty and profound wisdom with which Holy Desperation is filled, this book is a must read for the sheer joy of savoring King’s prose, which offers a thoroughly relevant, fresh presentation of the Gospel that is both humorous and theologically astute. King writes:
I used to think I was open-minded because I’d invite the cabdriver upstairs. No, no, that’s not open-mindedness. That’s promiscuity. That’s looseness.
The open-mindedness, honesty, and willingness required in our quest for God seem to involve an imagination that’s willing to catch fire: a capacity to be moved, to be touched, to have a sense of humor about ourselves, a taste for the wild-card surprise; and a profound awareness of our vulnerability, brokenness, and need.
Beyond King’s clarity and honesty, Holy Desperation is a deep tome on prayer, conversion and inner transformation.  So much so that I’d say it’s the most challenging, daring articulation of the Gospel I have read in a long time.  In fact, I found myself stopping to pray and reflect on practically every page as I was prompted to take a personal inventory of my own willingness to let God love me, transform me, and use me as his instrument to love and serve others. King’s book drove me not just to prayer but to change, which she proposes should be a major fruit of a relationship with Christ and a life of prayer. As King puts it:
We’ll come to agree with the Church’s teachings, including those on the family, abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, capitalism, usury, war, and violence of all kinds.  We won’t arbitrarily pluck out one or two isolated issues that happen to be easy for us to follow and ignore the many teachings we’d rather not look at too closely because they might require the very kind of radical change we so vociferously demand of others.
With utter orthodoxy and blistering accuracy—and without being the least bit preachy—King names and critiques many of the idols we must confront and stare down in ourselves and in the culture if we are to become more Christ-like. Her point is that prayer is meant to equip us to do just that: by giving us hearts that more readily seek God, eyes that more easily see God, hands that more willingly share God and the humility to openly admit that we’ll never really “get” God. As the contemplative writer observes, “Prayer doesn’t make us more excellent. If we’re lucky, prayer makes us more human.”

Amen, Heather King.  And thanks for not only a great read, but for a beautiful, timely and sorely needed enunciation of the central truths of our faith.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Exploring our Powerlessness

Although we have not had a label titled “powerlessness,” a word  search of this site will link multiple articles that relate to this word.

An extensive newsletter article that is not listed that may be beneficial to consider at this time is "Step One: We Admitted We Were Powerless" by Fr Emmerich Vogt, O.P. at


Sunday, July 23, 2017

For the Healing of an Addiction, One Day at a Time

The following prayer was posted ( in the weekly bulletin of Our Lady of Hope Parish, a Jesuit ministry, in Portland, Maine:
For the healing of an addiction, one day at a time

This day I have within me the resolve of Matt Talbot.
    This day I have within me the disciple of St. Brigid. 
    This day I have within me the triune faith of St. Patrick.     
    This day I have within me the courage of St. Brendan. 
    This day a pilgrimage, one step at a time.
    Let me walk with Matt Talbot and the pioneers of sobriety. 
    This day a pilgrimage, one step at a time.
Let me walk with Brigid, her staff a guide and discipline.
    This day a pilgrimage, one step at a time. 
    Let me walk with Patrick, his breastplate my daily shield.     
    This day a pilgrimage, one step at a time. 
    Let me sail with Brendan, safe, sober, and clean at day's

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Pope approves new path to sainthood

Pope approves new path to sainthood: heroic act of loving service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis has approved a fourth pathway to possible sainthood -- giving one's life in a heroic act of loving service to others.

In a new apostolic letter, the pope approved new norms allowing for candidates to be considered for sainthood because of the heroic way they freely risked their lives and died prematurely because of "an extreme act of charity."

The document, given "motu proprio" (on his own initiative) went into effect the same day of its publication July 11, with the title "Maiorem hac dilectionem," which comes from the Gospel according to St. John (15:13): "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."

Archbishop Marcello Bartolucci, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Saints' Causes, said the addition is meant "to promote heroic Christian testimony, (that has been) up to now without a specific process, precisely because it did not completely fit within the case of martyrdom or heroic virtues."

For centuries, consideration for the sainthood process required that a Servant of God heroically lived a life of Christian virtues or had been martyred for the faith. The third, less common way, is called an equivalent or equipollent canonization: when there is evidence of strong devotion among the faithful to a holy man or woman, the pope can waive a lengthy formal canonical investigation and can authorize their veneration as saints.

While these three roads to sainthood remain unchanged, they were not adequate "for interpreting all possible cases" of holiness, the archbishop wrote in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, July 11.

According to the apostolic letter, any causes for beatification according to the new pathway of "offering of life" would have to meet the following criteria:

-- Free and willing offer of one's life and a heroic acceptance, out of love, of a certain and early death; the heroic act of charity and the premature death are connected.
-- Evidence of having lived out the Christian virtues -- at least in an ordinary, and not necessarily heroic, way -- before having offered one's life to others and until one's death.
-- Evidence of a reputation for holiness, at least after death.
-- A miracle attributed to the candidate's intercession is needed for beatification.

Archbishop Bartolucci wrote that the new norms arise from the sainthood congregation wanting to look into the question of whether men and women who, "inspired by Christ's example, freely and willingly offered and sacrificed their life" for others "in a supreme act of charity, which was the direct cause of death," were worthy of beatification. For example, throughout history there have been Christians who willingly put themselves at risk and died of infection or disease because of aiding and serving others, he wrote.

Pope Francis approved the congregation carrying out an in-depth study of the new proposal in early 2014, the archbishop wrote. After extensive input, discussion and the work of experts, the cardinal and bishop members of the Congregation for Saints' Causes approved in 2016 "a new pathway for beatification of those who offered their lives with explicit and recognized Christian" reasons.

Archbishop Bartolucci wrote that the new provisions do nothing to alter church doctrine concerning Christian holiness leading to sainthood and the traditional procedure for beatification.
Rather, the addition offers an enrichment, he wrote, with "new horizons and opportunities for the edification of the people of God, who, in their saints, see the face of Christ, the presence of God in history and the exemplary implementation of the Gospel."

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

How to Slay Your Goliath

by Fr. Michael Najim

12-Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous have helped countless people around the world to win the battle over addiction.  The 12 Step program, which is really a lived spirituality, helps people to see their Goliath, to name their Goliath, and, with God’s help, to overcome their Goliath.  I call it a Goliath because most people in the grip of addiction feel that the giant is just too big, that they can’t defeat it.  And the truth is that they can’t defeat it, not with their own will power.  But more on that point in a moment.

You need not have a serious addiction to benefit from the 12-Step program.  We all have Goliaths in our lives: things that keep us down, that we feel are too big to be defeated.  So what does this biblical story (1 Samuel 17) teach us about defeating the Goliath in our lives?

The young and fearless David is determined to fight the experienced Philistine warrior, Goliath.  Saul admonishes David that he’s too young to fight Goliath; but David is confident that the Lord will give him the strength for victory.  David says to Goliath: “You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar, but I come against you in the name of the LORD of hosts…For the battle is the Lord’s, and he shall deliver you into our hands.”

We know the end of the story.  David strikes Goliath in the head with a stone from his sling.  Goliath drops, and then David cuts off his head.

The first step in the 12-Step program is: “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable.”  The second step: “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  Isn’t that what David did?  He never claimed he was going to take out Goliath by his own power.  David made it clear that the Lord was going to be the one to win the victory.  David wasn’t relying on willpower; he was relying on the Lord.

Sometimes we try to fight our Goliath with will power.  That doesn’t work.  It’s humbling, but we must admit we are powerless over it, whatever “it” is.  We must believe what David believed: “The battle is the Lord’s.”  This is why the third step in the 12-Step program is so important: “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”

So, what is your Goliath?  Is it a particular sin or habit?  Is it an addiction?  Is it a memory?  Is it a thought pattern?  Is it a situation or problem in your life?

It’s important to name your Goliath.  Honesty is really important.  Find someone you can confide in and name it.  You see, if we live in fear of our Goliath we empower it; but if we name it, if we look it in the face, we begin to experience freedom.

Make a decision to let go and let the Lord fight your battles.  I know, it seems counterintuitive: when we face a giant we feel we need to fight or flee; but in our lives with the Lord we do neither.  We surrender to God and let him fight for us.  He takes care of us (step 3).  And if we let him, he will slay our Goliath.

It’s okay to give up. No. I don’t mean to give in to despair or to give in to your addiction or bad habit.  I’m simply saying it’s okay to give up the battle and to tell the Lord that you can’t fight anymore, that you’re tired, that He has to do it for you. To overcome sin, addictions, bad habits, or any other situation in our lives, we must throw willpower out the window.  The only decision we need to make with our will is to surrender to the Lord and let Him take over.

Don’t be afraid of your Goliath. Look at it.  Name it.  Admit that you can’t defeat it.  And then surrender your life and will to the Lord.  Let him take care of it for you.  He wants to take it from you.  After all, it’s His job.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Feast Day of a Martyred Saint Who Died an Active Addict

St. Mark Ji Tianxiang was an opium addict. Not had been an opium addict. He was an opium addict at the time of his death. 

For years, Tianxiang was a respectable Christian, raised in a Christian family in 19th-century China. He was a leader in the Christian community, a well-off doctor who served the poor for free. But he became ill with a violent stomach ailment and treated himself with opium. It was a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but Tianxiang soon became addicted to the drug, an addiction that was considered shameful and gravely scandalous.

As his circumstances deteriorated, Tianxiang continued to fight his addiction. He went frequently to confession, refusing to embrace this affliction that had taken control of him. Unfortunately, the priest to whom he confessed (along with nearly everybody in the 19th century) didn’t understand addiction as a disease. Since Tianxiang kept confessing the same sin, he thought, that was evidence that he had no firm purpose of amendment, no desire to do better.

Without resolve to repent and sin no more, confession is invalid. After a few years, Tianxiang’s confessor told him to stop coming back until he got clean. For many, this would be an invitation to leave the Church in anger or shame, but for all his fallenness, Tianxiang knew himself to be loved by the Father. He knew that the Lord wanted his heart, even if he couldn’t manage to give over his life. He couldn’t stay sober, but he could keep showing up.

And show up he did, for 30 years. For 30 years, he was barred from receiving the sacraments. And for 30 years he prayed that he would die a martyr. It seemed to Tianxiang that the only way he could be saved was through a martyr’s crown. 

In 1900, when the Boxer Rebels began to turn against foreigners and Christians, Tianxiang got his chance. He was rounded up with dozens of other Christians, including his son, six grandchilden, and two daughters-in-law. Many of those imprisoned with him were likely disgusted by his presence there among them, this man who couldn’t go a day without a hit. Surely he would be the first to deny the Lord.
But while Tianxiang was never given the grace to beat his addiction, he was, in the end, flooded with the grace of final perseverance. No threat could shake him, no torture make him waver. He was determined to follow the Lord who had never abandoned him. 

As Tianxiang and his family were dragged to prison to await their execution, his grandson looked fearfully at him. “Grandpa, where are we going?” he asked. “We’re going home,” came the answer.
Tianxiang begged his captors to kill him last so that none of his family would have to die alone. He stood beside all nine of them as they were beheaded. In the end, he went to his death singing the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And though he had been barred from the sacraments for decades, he is a canonized saint.

St. Mark Ji Tianxiang is a beautiful witness to the grace of God at work in the most hidden ways, to God’s ability to make great Saints of the most unlikely among us, and to the grace poured out on those who remain faithful when it seems even the Church herself is driving them away. 

On July 9, the feast of St. Mark Ji Tianxiang, let’s ask his intercession for all addicts and for all those who are unable to receive the sacraments, that they may have the courage to be faithful to the Church and that they may always grow in their love for and trust in the Lord. 
St. Mark Ji Tianxiang, pray for us!

Note two related articles: