Saturday, December 29, 2007

Resource Center blessing

We thank Rev. Damian O'Reilly, Vice-Postulator of the Cause for the Venerable Matt Talbot in Dublin, Ireland, for his blessing on the Venerable Matt Talbot Resource Center, blogspot, and you, the reader. (JB)

----- Original Message -----
From: Fr. Damian
To: John Blair
Cc: Fr. Damian
Sent: Monday, December 10, 2007 12:16 PM
Subject: Website blessing


I pray God's blessing on this wonderful work you have undertaken with this web site. I pray that all who log on to this site may be blessed with the power of God's love and peace in particular all those who are under the burden of alcoholism.

My very best wishes to you for Christmas and the new year.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Matt Talbot medal

Matt Talbot medals are available through various profit and non-profit outlets. Some sell only the medal for less than one US dollar while others may also include a printed card, prayer, or message, such as the advertised example below, which is posted only for illustrative purposes. Some people purchase a quantity of metals, print their own message, and pass them on to others free-of-charge. (JB)

"This is a Catholic medal depicting Matt Talbot. It is cast in silver tone metal. On the reverse are the words "Pray for Us." There is a jump ring so the medal is ready to put on a chain or on your scapular.

If it hadn’t been for the chains he wore as a symbol of his "slavery" to the Virgin Mary, the Irish ascetic who may attain the honors of the Church, would have remained as anonymous in death as he had been in life. These chains, found embedded in the flesh of his body when he dropped dead on a Dublin street in 1925, attracted the interest of an astonished 20th century world and led to an investigation of his life.

Holiness did not come easily to Matt Talbot. The crisis in his life was universal in aspect – the struggle of the spirit for mastery over the flesh; but for Matt, the cruelty of the struggle was intensified by his addiction to alcohol. A confirmed drinker as a child of 12, he continued to live from one hang-over to the next throughout adolescence and young manhood.

The day that Matt, painfully and pennilessly sober for the first time in 16 years, suddenly faced the reality of his rotted past marked the beginning of his transformation. Matt’s strategy during the years of conflict and throughout his later life was difficult but effective – prayer, daily Mass and Communion, meditation, spiritual reading, charity and penances of extraordinary severity. Thus, the onetime "proper bowsie" of the alehouses and pubs became a faithful servant of God.

Though Matt’s life is an encouraging success story particularly for alcoholics, his meaning in the modern world extends far beyond being the patron of ex-drunkards. There is something in his story of everyone – worker, sinner, Christian, skeptic, apostle – some glimmer of greatness, humility and charity that cannot fail to inspire and amaze. "

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Matt Talbot as a saintly example of alcoholism

Although the focus of Ordinary Suffering of Extraordinary Saints (2000), about one hundred six saintly persons who experienced afflictions common to all people, is pastoral in purpose, it is surprising that Matt Talbot is referred to as "blessed" rather than "venerable" by the author, Fr. Vincent O'Malley, C.M. His source (Wallace, 1992) does not use the word "blessed" or "venerable."
Fr. O'Malley is the author of additional books about saints.

The MT content can be read at:,M1

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Take each day as it comes

18th Jun 1st Reading - Take each day as it comes
2 Corinthians 6:1-10

As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,
‘At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you.’
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger; 6by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything

The person we remember today is Venerable Matt Talbot (1856-1925) who is also can be considered the patron of men and women struggling with alcoholism. Today is the first time I am actually reading about him from the Veritas Website. Below is an entry that is taken from there and which appeared on the print edition of Day by Day With Followers of Francis and Clare.

Matt can be considered the patron of men and women struggling with alcoholism.
Matt was born in Dublin, where his father worked on the docks and had a difficult time supporting his family. After a few years of schooling, Matt obtained work as a messenger for some liquor merchants; there he began to drink excessively. For 15 years—until he was 30—Matt was an active alcoholic.

One day he decided to take "the pledge" for three months, make a general confession and begin to attend daily Mass. There is evidence that Matt’s first seven years after taking the pledge were especially difficult. Avoiding his former drinking places was hard. He began to pray as intensely as he used to drink. He also tried to pay back people from whom he had borrowed or stolen money while he was drinking.

Most of his life Matt worked as a builder’s laborer. He joined the Secular Franciscan Order and began a life of strict penance; he abstained from meat nine months a year. Matt spent hours every night avidly reading Scripture and the lives of the saints. He prayed the rosary conscientiously. Though his job did not make him rich, Matt contributed generously to the missions.

After 1923 his health failed and Matt was forced to quit work. He died on his way to church on Trinity Sunday. Fifty years later Pope Paul VI gave him the title venerable.

In looking at the life of Matt Talbot, we may easily focus on the later years when he had stopped drinking for some time and was leading a penitential life. Only alcoholic men and women who have stopped drinking can fully appreciate how difficult the earliest years of sobriety were for Matt.

He had to take one day at a time. So do the rest of us.

What struck me in today's reading was the spirit of acceptance that came forth in Paul's letter to the Corinthians. He speaks of the torture and suffering he faced in a very matter of fact way, with no desire to seek any sympathy or glory. He just tells it as it is.

In the above comment, "He had to take one day at a time. So do the rest of us", there is also the spirit of acceptence.

I didn’t used to know any alcoholic until abt two years or so ago, when I first chanced upon a blog of an alcoholic, someone living far away from me and someone I dun even know. Yet in her writing and many others that I have started reading through links, I have gotten to peep into their lives, their struggles and their victories. One thing that has always struck me is how honest they can be about their struggles and how sweet it can be to just celebrate the little victories they got in their lives, marking the days as they count to increasing days of sobriety. In the same way as Paul does, they write of their story just as it is (though often they might wonder to themselves if they have been pity-pots, I say no!) It has indeed been my honour and grace to share in their journey.

Today I am reminded to walk the journey, to take each day as they come.. To go with the flow. :)

Right now, as I embark on something new, I am not sure how long I will last in there... Yet I know I need to do this, I need to try. Or else it will bother me for a long time to come, as it has already bothered me for a long time since. So I too am not sure how long I will last or how the journey will go but I will take one day at a time, just as Matt did.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Matt Talbot had no doubt as to the identity of his "higher power;" tis
the One whose birth is celebrated today.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Chosen by Matt Talbot: Musings of a Non-Alcoholic


August 16, 2007

"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."

This lovely man...Matthew Talbot.

I was chosen by this Saint to be his special charge for the remainder of the year 2007. I went to the website where one can request a special Patron Saint for a year and this Saint will be sent to one's email address. Then, reading up on the Saint, one can take what one wants from his/her life and apply it where it fits.

Ven. Matthew Talbot, it seems, has chosen me. I have heard of him before, but I never really went into his life in any great detail...'til now. I 'googled' his name and all kinds of interesting sites came up ~ Patron Saints Index,, all the usuals. Then I found some that were not quite so well-known, but just as interesting.

For example, from out of Ireland, his home country, there is a special site dedicated only to him. He is declared by the Church as venerable, but so far has not been beatified, let alone canonized. No miracles yet ~ at least, not as of the last update! :) And, reading up on this holy man, I could not at first figure out what we had in common, or why he would choose me, of all people.

He was Irish; I have a bit o' the Green in me, but my family has much more Scottish and English than Irish, and we were all born here in the States.

I am not an alchoholic ~ I used to drink regularly(weekend parties, that kind of thing) but it was always 'social', never more than that. I don't smoke ~ haven't for 25+ years. He was a problem drinker, and a heavy smoker. I quit drinking when I first became pregnant with our eldest, have not drunk much since...and as far as my smoking days are concerned, I haven't touched a cigarette since April, 1982.

He hated school, always skipped out, barely got a year's worth of education. I have a BS in Fine Arts and Education.

I have never worked in a wine bottling plant. I didn't have to help support my family from my childhood onward; as a matter of fact, I grew up quite comfortably...not wealthy, but my parents were not hurting by any means. While he was born in the slums of downtown Dublin, I came to this life to parents who lived in the suburbs, had a summer cottage on the lake, three squares a day...

So, if I have so little in common with this man, why on earth did he pick me to sponsor? What does he see about my life that so closely parallels his own? So far, this is what I have come up with...

Even tho' I don't really drink anymore, I have other addictions, some of which may even qualify as being sinful, I'm sure. While I won't go into detail here (I will be telling Fr. Ben all about it, you can bet) I will say that perhaps this is what drew Ven. Matt to me. Maybe he sees a bit of himself in my life; his addiction to alchohol and smoke is not the point ~ his addiction, what ever it was, is like mine ~ what ever mine may be. We all have bad habits we need to shake, and I need the help of as many Saints as I can get!

And so, being thoroughly Irish, he might see a chance to make his influence felt, shall we say? The Irish, lovely people that they are, are quite fond of making their presence known, to be I'd be willing to bet that even tho' he's in Heaven now, he still has that bit o' the Green in him!

In the quote above, he mentions his conscience...which comes to us, by grace of the Holy Spirit, and quite unquestionably as the voice of our Guardian Angel. Since I have a devotion to my own Friend, perhaps Ven. Matt sees this in common, as he could not escape the voice of his own Angel, and he knows that I seek peace and quiet so as to listen more closely to my own (per the Opus Angelorum). Our conscience is with us always; we cannot turn it off, altho' many have tried...

After he had taken an oath of sobriety, he began to attend daily Holy Mass. For the past several weeks, I have been telling my husband Mike that I want to start this practice...if I cannot get there every single day, at least a few extra during the week. For instance, tomorrow (Friday) I am going to the 12:00 noon Holy Mass, not because of having to, but because of wanting to...and I will most likely stay for an hour of Adoration afterwards, if I'm lucky. I believe that Ven. Matt is trying to let me know that this would be a good idea ~ and perhaps with his help, I just may be able to do it.

According to one website, he became a Third Order Franciscan later on in his life...and since he had practiced quiet acts of penance and charity since taking his life-long oath, this was a natural extension for a simple, austere lifestyle, wearing a penitential chain in secret, morning Holy Mass and evening prayers to the Holy Virgin, especially his Rosary. Even with the little education he had had, he was able to spend many hours in spiritual reading, as what he lacked in formal education, he made up for in knowledge of God and the things that really matter.

I have been trying to find more quiet time to spend in prayer myself...all the reading I have been doing about the Angels, in preparation for becoming a member of the OA, my daily prayers connected to the Blue Army (WAF), and whatever else I can find to do...maybe he is one that is leading me to do more of that?
Perhaps all along, all this time, he has been my patron and I never knew 'til now?

I do know this: I plan to make more time to get to know this man, in Heaven as he is, looking down on me today, perhaps doing what he can to learn more about me? Maybe he's thinking, 'If you give me more time, I'm sure you will find what you seek about me...and how I got to be where I am today. I would like to help you get here, too!'

Ah, yes...what a lovely man, this Ven. Matthew Talbot. Even after all his sins of drunkenness, he came home to his God, and there he remains forever. After all my the grace of God...there will I be forever?

Dearest Ven. Matt Talbot, patron of alchoholics, addicts, those 'staggering to Heaven' ~ please pray for me!
We have taken the liberty of changing the title of this reflection for posting purposes.
Like this author, one certainly does not have to have a personal connection with alcoholism to have an interest in Matt Talbot.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Matt Talbot, AA, and the Blessed Sacrament

Matt Talbot
by Leslie K.
Leslie's Univesal/Catholic Thoughts
Public Journal
January 4, 2006

Matt Talbot (1856 - 1925) was born in the poverty of Dublin's inner city. He began drinking at twelve years of age and became a chronic alcoholic. It was the drug culture of the 19th century. Matt was an addict. After sixteen years he decided to 'kick the habit'. A priest helped him, giving him a rehabilitation programme, which providentially incorporated the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. That was fifty years before AA was founded. After a horrendous struggle, he found sobriety through prayer and self-sacrifice. His Higher Power was the Christian God. He remained sober for forty years until his death. His life story has been an inspiration for alcoholics and addicts throughout the world. He is a candidate for canonisation in the Catholic Church.

Today, I thought of Matt and the struggle he had getting and staying sober. During my morning meditation it occured to me that the blessings I have received in my life are too many to count, but the hard times can be easily numbered. Interesting, isn't it?

Last night I sat quietly before the Blessed Sacrament and just understood that the incredible power available to me through the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of my Savior, Jesus Christ would have remained behind a locked door if not for AA and my willingness to say, "Yes" to one question - Are you willing to go to any lengths to stay sober?

The ongoing question must become, am I willing today to go to any lengths to stay sober TODAY? It becomes much more than simply following my heart. It means following those few simple steps and embracing the life that the Holy Spirit has revealed to be available to me.

I remember once having a sponsee say to me that she was worried that if she really did the third step, really gave her life over to a Power Greater than herself, that it would mean she would turn into one of those people who walk around talking to themselves.

I look at my lifestyle today and realize I have become one of those people. I take my walks (when it is not storming) and pray the those who do not understand prayer they would think, "Look, a crazy woman muttering to herself". I go to three meetings a week, and try to preceed those meetings with the celebration of the Eucharist - to a person in AA who does not understand they might think, "Uh oh, that's what happens at 13 years sober. You become a religious fanatic".

Yet what has happened to me (and for me) is I have finally begun to move closer to the Power needed to stay sober, the whole purpose of the Big Book, the reason for doing the Steps - Jesus Christ, in the Blessed Sacrament, the Power of the Eucharist. Being able to be there, in HIS PRESENCE and feel the overwhelming comfort of that power is something I never wish to lose.

Today is the Feast Day of St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton, the Mother of the Catholic School System in the United States. The woman who, though born to wealth and comfort, did not find herself until she found the True Presence in the Eucharist.

Mother Seaton, pray with me and for me today, that I may walk like you and become the woman I am supposed to be rather than the woman I think I want to be - in HIS name, amen.

Understanding is the booby-prize of life. One may understand that his
car is out of gas, why it ran out, why more wasn't put in, how far it
would go until it ran out, every aspect, facet and tangent of the entire
running-out-of-gas experiene. But until you put some fuel in, it will
just sit there, with or without understanding
. Peter Stavrianoudakis

We have taken the liberty of changing the title of this reflection for posting purposes.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Matt Talbot and 12-Step Spirituality

In a recommended booklet titled, Matt Tablot: Hope for Addicts (2002 ed), Fr. Morgan Costelloe, the long-term Vice-Postulator of the Cause of Matt Talbot, briefly discusses Matt's recovery approach from the perspective of the twelve-steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, which was founded a few years after Matt's death.

A more detailed resource about the 12 steps from a Catholic and biblical perspective has been published by Fr. Emmerich Vogt, O.P. Each of the twelve steps is clearly explained in a separate pamphlet. The content of the "Step One: We are Powerless" pamphlet can be read online at Also recommended is "The Spirituality of 12 Steps" lecture series on audio tapes and CDs. by Fr. Emmerich.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Other Proposed Uses of the " Matt Talbot Way"

The name, Matt Talbot, is overwhelmingly thought of solely in the context of alcoholism. Yet, a few have suggested other applications for "his way." For example, Philip Maynard, in his book, TO SLAKE A THIRST: The Matt Talbot Way to Sobriety (2000), has written a chapter on using "the MT way" in giving up cigarettes and another for controlling weight. Terry Nelson suggests a possible application for celibacy at

Please note our resource center Disclaimer: The placing of information on this blogspot from external linked sources does not necessarily imply agreement with that information.

Although it was his mother's wish that he marry before she died, Matt chose to remain single and be celibate. In her very readable but highly selective biography, Matt Talbot: His Struggle and His Victory Over Alcoholism (1992), Susan Helen Wallace, FSP, notes that in 1892 a "good Catholic girl," who worked as the cook for a Protestant clergyman, informed Matt that she had saved enough money to buy a house and live comfortably and asked if he (age 36 and in his eighth year of sobriety) would consider marrying her. In response Matt said he would make a novena to Our Lady and ask her for the will of her Son. Nine days later he informed this young woman that Our Lady had told him not to marry. Also according to Wallace (2000), Matt told a trusted friend years later that because he did not have a wife and children, he believed he had an obligation to be generous and self-sacrificing with others.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mary, the Rosary, and a Matt Talbot Story

This story appears at the end of the "Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God" homily given by Fr. John J. Lombardi. The complete homily is available on the "Source" link

Story: I was giving a talk to some drug addicts recently, speaking about Mary and the Rosary and how one drinker-man, Irishman Matt Talbott used and wore a Rosary in his overcoming of his addiction (Pope John Paul declared him "Venerable," the first step to becoming a saint). . A client-man at the talk, obviously worn by life and drugs, became intrigued by this sacred story, and with the sacred discipline and sacramental beauty of the Rosary. He looked around-seemingly wanting one of these "weapons" and helps--a Rosary. Then I noticed my friend, Paul, whom I brought with me on this venture, sitting next to the guy, taking his Rosary off his hand-which he kept and had religiously (!)-and then gave it to the man. A selfless act, I remember thinking. The man, a non-Catholic as far as I know, put it on his wrist and his face registered a spiritually liberating contentment-now more fully empowered and armored for The Battle. So: do what saints do-like that man-both of them-- give the Love of Mary, the Rosary and its prayerful power--away to others. And: reach out for one. She can help save souls. She, Mary, is Our Mother-and the neediest, drug addicts included, are looking for you to help them -to Jesus thru Mary


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Matt Talbot as a "Holy Fool"

Brief sketches about Matt Talbot have appeared in a number of books with interesting titles. This link is from the book, Perfect Fools, which places Matt in a section titled, "The Holy Fools of Modern Ireland."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


By Kenneth L. Woodward
Updated: 12:21 PM ET Oct 16, 2007

Giuseppe Frassinetti (died 1868), a holy priest and founder of a religious order, would be a saint today--like his sister, Paola--except for one thing: he lacks two miracles credited to his intercession. The Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints has a list of several hundred candidates who need one or more of the miracles required for canonization. Some are recent and sure to be saints, like Pope John XXIII and Mother Teresa, who already has 600 "divine favors" (unverified, possible miracles) credited to her intercession. Other candidates, like Jesuit Father Miguel Pro, who was executed by the Mexican government in the "Christero" rebellion in 1927, and Belgian Father Damien DeVeuster (1840-1889), who ministered to lepers on the island of Molokai, have been stalled for decades.

Last month Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone of Genoa, formerly a high Vatican official, caused a huge stir in the European press by openly criticizing the church's rules for making saints. Frassinetti would be a saint today, he complained, if the church would only relax the miracle requirement. Indeed, Bertone said that his former boss, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the pope's closest adviser on church doctrine, had told him he would take up the matter with John Paul II himself.

Is the church about to change the millennium-old requirement that miracles are necessary for canonization? Not in this pope's lifetime. John Paul II has already eased the path to sainthood by reducing the number of required miracles from four to two: one for beatification, a second following beatification for canonization. More he will not do. "I spoke with the pope about this issue some years ago," says Jesuit Peter Gumpel, a senior member of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. "The pope said, 'I will leave that problem to my successor.' He smiled when he said it."

The power to work miracles has always been expected of saints--not only in the Roman Catholic tradition but among Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims as well. But in the Catholic Church, only miracles worked after the saint's death are considered as "divine signs," confirming that the candidate is truly worthy of veneration. This presupposes that there are believers who will pray to the candidate for miracles, usually cures. And there's the rub. For example, buried in a side altar inside St. Peter's Basilica lie the remains of Pope Innocent XI. He died in 1689 and, because of fierce political opposition from the French, was not beatified until 1956. But few Catholics living today remember him, and fewer yet are likely to seek his intercession for a miracle.

The bigger problem, however, is that most modern miracles approved by the church are inexplicable healings that require testimony from attending physicians. The church solicits a doctor's statement and records it to be sure that the cures wrought through prayer cannot be explained by science. "Getting doctors to collaborate is not always easy," says Father Paul Chavasse, the British priest in charge of the cause of Cardinal John Henry Newman, a towering figure in 19th-century Catholicism. The pope acknowledged as much when he declared in 1986 that "the cases of physical healings are becoming more rare."

In response, some members of the saints congregation have argued for recognition of nonphysical "moral miracles." For instance, many reformed drunks kicked the habit after praying to an Irish candidate, Matt Talbot, a reformed alcoholic himself. But one member of the saints congregation, Dominican Friar Ambrose Esser, believes the best proof of such a miracle would still be a physical one: the reformed drunk who took a drink and did not become addicted again.

There is in any case considerable evidence that the reluctance of many physicians to corroborate miraculous cures is largely a cultural issue. In highly secular northern Europe, doctors are very likely to believe that science will someday explain cures that today they themselves cannot. But in most other cultures, doctors are not so agnostic about inexplicable healings. In a recent survey of 1,100 office-based physicians in the United States, conducted for the Jewish Theological Seminary, 55 percent said that they had witnessed "medical miracles" in their work. Even so, the church believes God makes many more saints than the official few credited with miracles.


Monday, December 17, 2007


Mother M. Angelica

The Call

"It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit, and then you will be my disciples." (Jn. 15:8)

Holiness of life is not the privilege of a chosen few—it is the obligation, the call and the will of God for every Christian.

We cannot put up stumbling blocks of well defined excuses to reason our way out of the reality that "our sanctification is the Will of God." (1 Th. 4:3) We were created by God for the express purpose of radiating His Son, Jesus in our own particular and unique way. We give Him glory by freely choosing to be what His Wisdom designed us to be.

A Christian is to be a "sign of contradiction"—a light on top of the mountain—a thorn in the side of the world. His entire life is a silent reproach to sinners, a beacon of hope to the oppressed, a ray of sunshine to the saddened, a source of encouragement to the destitute and a visible sign of the invisible reality of grace.

Saints are ordinary people, who love Jesus, try to be like Him, are faithful to the duties of their state in life, sacrifice themselves for their neighbor and keep their hearts and minds tree of this world.

They live in the world, but rise above its mediocre standards. They enjoy living because life is a challenge, not an indulgence. They may not understand the reason for the cross, but faith gives them that special quality to find hope within it. They do understand they are to walk in their Master's footsteps and everything that happens to them is turned to their good.

Saints are ordinary people, who do what they do for the love of Jesus-say what they must say without fear-love their neighbor even when they are cursed by him and live without regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow.

No one is exempt from the call to holiness. Men, women and children have climbed the ladder of life and reached high degrees of sanctity. These holy Christians have come from every conceivable state and vocation.

There was 9 year old Tarcisus, who defended the Eucharist with his life. Maria Goretti, age eleven, defended her virginity as she was stabbed over and over by her assailant. Her sanctity shone brightly when she forgave her murderer and prayed for his conversion.

Mary of Egypt was a prostitute at sixteen. She joined a group of pilgrims to the Holy Land in an effort to ply her trade. When she reached the Church, an invisible force kept her from entering. Frightened by the experience, she gazed at a statue of Mary and realized the enormity of her sins. She determined to change her life and never again offend God. Forty years later, she died, a woman renowned for her holiness of life.

Matt Talbot was a hopeless alcoholic for most of his life. The disdain of his friends as he stood before them trembling for a drink, awakened his soul to its plight. He changed his life and directed his energies toward being like Jesus and looking toward eternal life.

The saints of the past were human beings with human frailties. St. Jerome had a violent temper and fought against that weakness his entire life. Dismas was a thief, who ended his life with one act of love and repentance and was privileged to have Jesus promise him Paradise. Both Charles de Foucald and Francis of Assisi were playboys, who finally surrendered to the Hound of Heaven.

Every saint struggled and fought against his weaknesses all his life and as he acquired habits of virtue, he never lost sight of the dying embers of his weaknesses. He conquered by continual vigilance, always aware of what he was and what he could become. This uneasiness as to his own evil capabilities threw him into the arms of God. He depended on Him for everything and gave Him the credit for the least act of virtue in his life.

Men are not born saints with special gifts and privileges. They fight against the world, the flesh and the devil and as they conquer, the Spirit of Jesus begins to shine through with more clarity. We sometimes contuse the particular mission of the saints with their holiness. If compassion were to radiate through one, then healing would be given to that individual to manifest the power of God. But the charism is not part of holiness, it is merely an off-shoot—a gift to be given to others. It was God's gift to the saint for the benefit of the people of God. It is possible to possess charisma and not be holy We see this clearly in the life of Judas. He spent three years with Jesus and possessed the power to heal, preach and deliver, but he himself did not grow in holiness. His weaknesses were aggravated by the power Jesus gave him for he saw it as a gift that bore his own person and pocket little profit.

We cannot hide under the cozy excuse of not being chosen—or not possessing special qualities. If we are Christians we have been chosen. If we have been chosen, then those qualities peculiar to the degree of the holiness God calls us to will blossom out as we grow.

A little acorn has no resemblance to the mighty oak it will one day become, but none-the-less, all the material necessary in that giant tree is compressed into a small seed. Time, rain, sunshine, cold and storm are all necessary to bring out the hidden beauty, great height, and strong trunk that will give shade and delight to the heart of man.

Jesus has compared each of us to a seed sown in the soil of His grace. In parable form He described how some of us respond to the Sower's efforts to make us grow. He also described what obstacles prevent us from growing.

Before we see how we can become holy, it may be well to see what reasons Jesus gave for our not arriving at that holy state. We need to dispense with our well-worn excuses and tailor-made objections.

Why We Are Not Holy

"When anyone hears the word of the Kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart. This is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path" (Matt. 13:18-23) There are many souls on the "edge of the path They live in the midst of noise and chaos. When any truth begins to take hold of them they merely increase the noise level in their lives and drown out the Word. They truly live on the edge of the path-hearing, but not understanding-filled with the distractions of the world. This type of person sluffs off the idea of sanctity because it means walking in the path of Jesus. He is so comfortable in his own path at the edge, he cannot conceive of a change. The old familiar rut is his home and source of consolation.

"The one who received the word on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. but he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls at once." This is the impetuous Christian. He both receives and rejects Christianity "at once." There was a semblance of faith in his mind, but that faith never led to love. When the thrill of being "new-born" wears off, this man easily succumbs in time of trial. He may read the lives of the saints and begin to imagine himself in a state of ecstasy or martyrdom or performing some other heroic deed. In his meditations the big sacrifices come easily, but life is not tilled with too many big events in which he can prove his love for God. It is little every day trials that prove love and prune souls. When a man endures the ridicule of his neighbor because of his Christian principles, or intimidation for his orthodox stand in faith and morals, that man suffers persecution. These every day trials prove whether or not the Word has taken "root" in his soul. The question is not whether or not this kind of individual is called to holiness- the question is, what does he do with the events in his life designed to make him holy? Does he endure with faith and grow in love or does he reject, run and resist?

"The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the Word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the Word and so he produces nothing." This is certainly a graphic description of the deception filling so many hearts today. What are the worries of this world? Perhaps Jesus was thinking of the man who covets intellectual snobbery, sophisticated attitudes vanity, and worldly glory. The one who spends his time and energy in the vain pursuit of the things that "moth consumes and rust destroys." When we add the "lure of riches" to this litany of day dreams, we can easily see why Jesus used the word "choke." These kinds of unrealized desires literally crowd out of the mind and heart the Word of God. It is the call to be humble, poor, chaste, compassionate, guileless, loving and self-sacrificing that is choked out by the consuming fire of self-indulgence, pride, deceit, lust and greed. God spoke the Word meant to give life to one whose ears were opened only to the sound of his own voice.

"And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundred-fold, now sixty, now thirty." This part of the parable explanation that Jesus gave us is encouraging. He is telling us that there will be times we reap much fruit in our lives but there will be other times we do not measure up completely, but we still bear fruit.

Our motives may not be the best, our patience worn thin, our endurance near the end, but Jesus looks for the sign of virtue and goodness so He can bear fruit in us. He takes every scrap of virtue and touches it with His love and it is changed into an eternal reward. His mercy envelops us and reaches into the depths of our souls to renew, change, transform and build.

He brings good out of everything that happens to us as His love builds up everything we do well and reshapes the effects of our failures. His Spirit is always working for our good—nothing is wasted-there are no throw-aways—no discards. We are the ones who reject Him—He never rejects us. We think only of perfection—the feeling of a job well done. He looks for deep humility in our hearts—self-knowledge in our minds and effort in our will. He will bear the fruit in us as we grow in our desires and efforts.

The day we realize we have nothing to give Him that is totally ours except our sins and weaknesses—on that day we shall bear a hundred-fold fruit. Only then shall we be empty of our illusions, conscious of our dependence on Him and aware of the reality of His action in our souls. We will take our eyes off ourselves and what we accomplish and keep our eyes on Jesus. We will accept ourselves as we are, striving to be better, conforming our lives to His life, and our will to His Will and our hearts to His Heart.

Those Human Saints

The concept of the perfect, faultless saint is unrealistic. We have only to look at the gospels to see how imperfect the Apostles and first Christians were. There was a point in their lives when they changed. We call that point the time of their "conversion," their encounter with the Sanctifying Spirit. For the Apostles it was Pentecost, for Paul it was a blinding light on the road to Damascus, for Cornelius it was the mere presence of Peter. However, most of the saints did not have dramatic experiences. As we have already seen in the life of Matt Talbot, it was pain, disappointment, and a feeling of emptiness that pushed him into the arms of God. No matter what happened, the saints determined at some point to follow Jesus. A vacuum deep in their souls began to be filled, for they found the pearl of great price. They all changed their lives, some their state in life, but they did not get rid of their weaknesses. They fought harder, conquered more often and grew, like Jesus, in grace and wisdom before God and men."

In the Acts we see Peter's vacilating spirit making him and everyone else miserable as he took so much time deciding the fate of the Gentiles. Paul's temper flared quickly as he argued his point before the gathering of Apostles. John, called by Jesus a son of thunder, had little patience with those who would not follow Jesus.

In the lives of all the saints we find the following similarities: love for God and neighbor, determination to imitate Jesus an immediate rising after a fall, a complete break-away from grievous sin, growth in virtue and prayer, and the accomplishment of God's Will.

These factors are available to every human being they do not exclude imperfections and faults. We must make a distinction between faults and sins. A saintly person keeps the Commandments, however, he may possess various human qualities, dispositions that make the imitation of Jesus a sanctifying process. These weaknesses make him choose constantly between himself and God. It is in this emptying of oneself and the "putting on of Jesus" that he becomes holy.

Holiness is a "growth experience" and growth consists in advancing in knowledge, love, self-control and all those other imitable virtues of Jesus. We must not lose sight of holiness as we grow, for holiness only means that Jesus is more to us than anyone or anything else in the world. But this desire to belong entirely to God does not exclude being loving to our neighbor, compassionate, caring, patient and kind. Our desire to belong to God enhances all these virtues in our souls, increases our love for our neighbor and makes us more unselfish.

A housewife becomes holy by being a loving wife and mother, filled with compassion for her family because she is filled with the compassionate Jesus.

A husband and father becomes holy by being a good provider, hard working, honest and understanding because his model is the provident Jesus.

Both husband and wife become holy together as their love for Jesus grows. Love makes them see themselves and change those frailties that are not like their Model. In doing this, life together is less complicated and more loving and understanding. They are bound together by love and prayer, mutual striving and forgiving.

Children become holy by being obedient, thoughtful, joyful and loving. These qualities are maintained by grace and prayer.

Being faithful to the duties of ones state in life and faithful to the grace of the moment are not as easy as they appear. Our temperament, weaknesses, society, work and even the weather clamor for our attention. Living a spiritual life in an unspiritual world and maintaining the principles of Jesus over the principles of this world is hard, but within reach of all. The paradox is that if we choose evil over good it is hell all the way to hell and that is harder.

Christianity is a way of life—a way of thought—a way of action that is contrary to the way of the world. This makes the Christian stand alone and it is this aloneness that discourages him from striving for holiness. However, it is this same aloneness that makes him stand out in a crowd. He becomes a beacon for those who do not enjoy the darkness-a light that enlightens the minds of all around him-a fire that warms cold hearts.

He struggles as all men struggle, he works, eats, sleeps, cries and laughs, but the spirit in which he accomplishes ordinary human needs and demands makes him holy. He does not always make the right decisions but he learns from his mistakes. He does not correspond to every grace, but he accepts his failures with humility and tries harder to be like the Master. He does not condone sin, and though he is ever aware of his own sinner condition, he loves his neighbor enough to correct him with gentleness when his soul is in danger.

He is free to have or have not, for his real treasure is Jesus and the invisible realities. He can possess with detachment or be dispossessed without bitterness.

He knows his Father well enough to entrust his past to His mercy. The Spirit is a friend who guides his steps and straightens the crooked paths ahead. His time and talents are spent in the imitation of Jesus in the ever present now.

The saint is the person who loves Jesus on a personal level-loves Him enough to want to be like Him in every day life—loves Him enough to take on some of His loveable characteristics. Like Jesus, he lovingly accomplishes the Father's Will, knowing that all things are turned to good because he is loved personally by such a great God.

Let us not be confused by the talents and missions of other Saints. Let us be the kind of saints we were created to be. There are no little or great saints-only men and women who struggled and prayed to be like Jesus-doing the Father's Will from moment to moment wherever they are and whatever they are doing.

Saints are ordinary people with the compassion of the Father in their souls, the humility of Jesus in their minds and the love of the Spirit in their hearts. When these beautiful qualities grow day by day in everyday situations, holiness is born.

The Father gave His Son so we would become His children and heirs of His Kingdom. Jesus was born, lived and died and rose to show us the way to the Father. The Spirit gave us His gifts so we would be clothed with the jewels of virtue, the gold of love, the emeralds of hope and the brilliant diamonds of faith.

Let us not be content with the scotch tape and the aluminum foil of this world.

Be Holy—Wherever you are!

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SOURCE: We underlined the reference to Matt Talbot. (JB)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

All are called for "deep down conversion" as was Matt Talbot

Homily: 26th Sunday In Ordinary Time

Fr. Christensen (USA)
September 26, 2005

There was a young man by the name of Matt Talbot. He was born in the late 1800’s into a poor family in Dublin Ireland , and he began drinking when he was only twelve years old, and not long after that he was sinking deep into alcoholism. He even got to the point where he started every day with beer. His mother knew he had had a problem and prayed very hard for him. It was 1 or 2 every morning when he came home from drinking and partying, but he wasn’t happy. Deep inside he wanted to cry and shout and beg for help, but he wasn’t ready just yet. He did not have the strength to part with his addiction.

Then came his conversion. Matt was 28 years old and had been drinking for sixteen years. He knew it would take faith to quit, more faith than he had, but he knew his mother’s faith would help him to ask the Lord for courage. He walked to the seminary of the Dublin archdiocese to find a priest so he could make confession and promise to stay sober. It had been three years since his last Confession and he had been drunk every single day except that day. A kind priest helped him make his confession and he made a promise to renounce alcohol for three months.

He thought three months of sobriety would be an eternity and he knew the first three months were going to be a terrible struggle. He did not believe he could do it on his own, but he knew where he would get his strength - he would go to Mass the next morning. In fact he went to Mass every morning after that for the rest of his life. It seemed like the church was the only place in all of Dublin where he felt safe from himself, so he decided he would fight his struggle in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.

Having remained sober for three months he took the pledge for another three months and at the end of that he took it for a year and at the end of the year he make a lifelong promise of sobriety. He wanted to do penance to make up for his sixteen years of drinking, so he slept on boards with a block of wood for his pillow, he fasted frequently and ate only enough food to stay alive. He also gave a lot of his weekly wages to charities. He was a changed man. He had truly converted in the depths of his being, not just on the outside, and now all these years later the investigation by the Church to declare him a saint has begun.

I tell this story about Matt Talbot because it reminds me of today’s Gospel where Jesus calls us to true, deep down conversion – one like Matt Talbot had. The gospel is quite clear that mere lip service will get us nowhere. No matter how many times we say we have converted and changed our sinful attitudes and habits, until we really turn to God with all our heart and soul nothing will truly change. Until we put our words into action, we are not really living our faith as fully as we could be. Sometimes it is all too easy to tell the Lord like the man in the parable “Yes Lord, I will work in your vineyard, I will follow you,” but then do just the opposite. It’s easy for us to say “I am Catholic,” but then reject many of the Church’s teachings. It’s easy to say “I am pro-life” but do nothing about the problem, or to say that we love Jesus, but never show that love by our prayer.

So today’s challenge is this: let’s all put our words into action – it’s never too late. If even tax collectors and prostitutes can change and enter the kingdom of heaven before those who only pay lip service to their faith, then it’s never too late for us. Like John Talbot we can make a good confession and reform our sinful attitudes and actions.

Now you are probably waiting for me to give you an example of something we can all do to put our words into action, so please put your pews in their full upright position and fasten your seatbelts, cause here it comes. As Catholics we believe that every life is valuable and has dignity no matter how small. We as Catholics are pro-life. It’s easy to throw that phrase around and proclaim to those around us that we are pro-life, but when was the last time that we did something about it. For many of us, we have, and I commend you wholeheartedly. You are truly working in Gods vineyard, not just paying lip service to it. For those of us who maybe haven’t put our words into action in a while your chance is coming soon. Next Sunday at 2 in the afternoon is the annual life chain. It’s a perfect opportunity for us to put our beliefs and words into action. It’s an opportunity to publicly witness to the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death, and all you have to do is stand there and pray. There are flyers available in the back of the Church for those of you who are interested. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every member of Holy Spirit parish who was available took part in the life chain? Imagine the witness it would provide to the entire city – truly we would be doing the work of God in his vineyard.

Of course this isn’t the only way that we can put our words into action; there are plenty of other ways. Things like finally committing to living your marriage as God intends, or if you are single living a chaste life free from impurity of any kind. It’s so easy to talk the talk, but Jesus asks us to go further than that. He calls us to walk the walk, so my brothers and sisters in Christ, strap on your walking shoes, and lets start walking.
Newer site for Fr. Christensen is

We are responsible for the title of this homily, not Fr. Christensen. (JB)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Irish in chains

Marc Abrahams
Tuesday November 13, 2007

Matt Talbot's corpse-girdling chains and cords are what attracted scholars' attention. But those scholars, like almost everyone else, utterly ignored the man while he was alive.

Later, when analysts wrote about Talbot, some did it with reverence, others with joking contempt. The two camps agree on the basic facts, but differ utterly on the explanation.

For those facts, and a few extras, consult Edward O'Connor's 1977 book, Spotlight on the Venerable Matt Talbot. O'Connor begins with the statement: "It's no ordinary man about whom a Pope, three Trade Union Leaders and the Yugoslav government have been concerned in the course of recent years." He finishes, 45 pages later, with a two-paragraph "Prayer for the Canonisation of Venerable Matt Talbot" and a mention that "Matt Talbot's tomb is in our Lady of Lourdes Church, Sean McDermott Street, Dublin."

Talbot alive was a loner's loner, a hard-drinking youth who became a pious, teetotalling, essentially friendless adult. On June 7, 1925, at age 71, he dropped dead on Granby Lane, Dublin, a few steps away from a church. Edward O'Connor describes the ensuing moment of surprise: "But in Jervis Street Hospital, two astonished attendants found on the remains (scrupulously clean) a chain around the body, two others around an arm and leg and a cord tightly drawn about the other arm. Thus did God begin to unmask the hidden holiness of his life."

That holiness may have been absent during Talbot's early years. O'Connor says the neighborhood sentiment at that time was simply, "Poor Matt! Oh, he's going to the Devil!" Matt Talbot took the pledge at 28. His remaining years were spent almost exclusively in, or shuttling between, church, home and his job at a timber yard.

Then came death. News of the chains and cords spread rapidly. A group called the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association vigorously disseminated the story, inspiring others to do the like. The Archbishop of Dublin began a campaign to have Talbot declared a saint. In 1975, the Pope certified him to be the Venerable Matt Talbot, just two steps away from sainthood.

Other scholars had their own take. For them, Matt Talbot - and especially his celebrants - demanded ridicule. The mockers were also, many of them, Irish literary giants. James Joyce, Sean O'Casey and others made Talbot into a fictional or half-fictional character. In Joyce's Finnegans Wake, his name is Tummy Tullbert. O'Casey's autobiography calls him Mutt Talbot.

A 1960 documentary film called "We Knew Matt Talbot" shows pretty much every living person who had any connection to Talbot. Their recollections are spare. "He was independent," says one man, "he was independent, don't you know." Talbot's niece, by then an old woman with a now-startling resemblance to the comedian John Cleese, evidently does not remember her uncle. But she says that her mother knew him.

The only known photo of Talbot, enlarged from a group photo of the timber yard labourers, is just a collection of dots. With Matt Talbot research currently at a lull, it symbolises how far we are from a clear consensus about the man.

· Marc Abrahams is editor of the bimonthly Annals of Improbable Research and organiser of the Ig Nobel Prize.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Will the real Matt Talbot please stand up?

[Disclaimer: The placing of information and opinion on the Venerable Matt Talbot Resource Center from external linked sources does not necessarily imply agreement with that information.] 

Harry Mary Andruschak

Last Sunday, at the Annual Luncheon for us Legion of Mary Auxiliaries,
my Godmother asked if I knew of Matt Talbot. I said no. She suggested
that I might want to look him up as an early example of a reformed
alcoholic before AA came along?

Never mind, I went on the Internet, and found at least three versions
of Matt Talbot.

The first version can be seen in the Matt Talbot Retreat Groups, here
in the USA. Matt is regarded as a recovered alcoholic working a
version of the 12 steps before they were formalized by Bill W. in
1939. Matt Talbot retreats are just 12 step retreats under a different
name, open to all regardless of religion

No problem there, AA has always insisted that there is nothing new
about the 12 steps, other then the way they are presented to the
alcoholic. Instead of "this is what you must do", they are informed
that "this is what we did". But the basic spiritual concepts of AA
have been around for at least 2,000 years.

The second version is best seen in the Pioneer Total Abstinence
Association in Ireland. Matt is a REFORMED Alcoholic. You can look it
up if you want, but the required pledge mentions the sin of
intemperance. "Sin"?

The Catholic Church in the USA no longer accepts that. We alcoholics
are not sinners trying to become saints, nor bad people trying to
become good, but sick people trying to become well. Ask for help from
a Priest, and he will refer you to AA. You may also ask for, and
receive, The Anointing Of The Sick.

Which brings us to the book TO SLACK A THIRST, by Philip Maynard. This
is a book about getting sober that does not use AA, but does use the
spiritual principles used by Matt, and it is fascinating reading for
someone like me. Of course I am one of those who sobered up in AA, but
now maintain that sobriety in the Catholic Church AS WELL AS IN AA.

Sub-titled THE MATT TALBOT WAY TO SOBRIETY, it involves a simple
prayer program, very much like what I am already doing. Philip claims
that he sobered up this way without AA, and others can to. And I can
believe it.

Unlike the regular 12 step programs, you start with step 11 and work
from there. It is assumed you have a belief in Christ as True God and
True man. You forgo alcohol (or whatever) as an expression of your
love for Jesus.

Obviously, this would never have worked for me 23 years ago. But I
note his suggested prayers are very much along the lines of what I am
doing now as a Franciscan 1221 penitent. Indeed, later on Matt became
a Franciscan Tertiary. Maynard tends to play down Matt's later
adventures into mortifications, as not what is needed for staying
sober. Probably true, although a lot of critics tend to concentrate on
the mortifications themselves rather then Matt's sobriety and
Christian living.

All in all, a lot to think about. Matt Talbot is now a Venerable.
Sainthood is a long way off. You need two authentic miracles.
Thousands and thousands of Catholic alcoholic have prayed to Matt for
help in getting sober and staying sober. It works. It really does. But
that is not the kind of miracle the Church wants.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Saints serve several functions

By Mary Costello
February 5, 2003

Every year about this time, in order to pay a debt and fulfill a promise, I write about Matt Talbot. Our family has been involved in 12 Step work for nearly 25 years and we owe so much of what has gone right with our family to an Irishman we never met: Matt Talbot.

Matt Talbot was born in Dublin in 1856 and died on his way to Mass (his third of the day) in 1923. He was born into a poor, hardworking alcoholic family and he himself, by his own account, was a drunk by the time he was in his early teens.

God had a plan for Matt, as he does for all of us. Only Matt was smart enough to listen to God speaking to him. When he was 28, Matt was broke and standing outside the neighborhood pub, hoping someone would invite him in for a nip. No one did. Why in that moment did Matt hear God whispering to him, and why did he have the strength to make the changes in his life he knew he had to make? We’ll never know. But make them he did. He went home and told his mother he was going to “take the pledge.” Mrs. Talbot (who perhaps should be canonized herself) said, “Well, if you take it, Matt, keep it.”

And he did. Without AA, without a Big Book, without a sponsor, without a home group, Matt never took another drink. From that day until his death in 1925, Matt lived the austere and holy life of a saint. He attended Mass every day (changing jobs when the Mass schedule changed so as to not miss his daily appointment with the Lord) and three Masses on Sunday; he spent much of his free time kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in the Jesuit church near his home. He taught himself to read so he could meet the Lord in the Holy Scriptures. Many days he fasted, other days he ate very little, sustaining his strength on a small crust of bread and cocoa or tea.

When he died, his neighbors and friends knew they had lost a holy man. People who knew of his victory over alcoholism soon started to pray to Matt for their loved ones still struggling with the addiction. And people got sober. The news spread throughout Dublin, then throughout Ireland and to the world. People sent names from near and far to be placed on Matt’s tomb, praying for a cure, praying for recovery. Matt was declared “Venerable” by Pope Pius VI in 1975. It is rumored that Pope John Paul II wants to canonize Matt but Matt does not cooperate by performing the necessary physical miracles.

Saints serve several functions for us, the “church militant,” doing battle each day with our faults and failures, our diverse addictions and our resentment and anger. They serve as intermediaries for us, bringing our worries and our struggles to the feet of the Lord; they plead for us at the Throne of the Almighty, especially when we are feeling so unworthy we cannot plead for ourselves. In addition, by reading and studying their lives, we realize that even the holiest of saints had their problems; they struggled, too.

By reading Matt’s life and learning about his love of the liturgy, his strict prayer regimen and his austere living habits, we might decide we want to incorporate a few of his habits into our daily lives. Maybe we will ever be as saintly as Matt, but we can be motivated to get up a little earlier now and again to attend daily Mass. Or spend a few more minutes in prayer over our lunch hour. The fact that Matt Talbot was himself an alcoholic who sobered up and became such a holy man that he is now being considered for canonization by the Catholic Church is a mind boggling shock to many people, especially those who are so broken by their disease they feel doomed. Matt’s canonization, and the ensuing publicity, would help even more people who are struggling with the disease of alcoholism. It would be a great gift to the alcoholic /addictions community throughout the world — it would give so many people hope.


Mary Costello (USA) is the author of A Little Book About Matt Talbot (2004), which is available from the "The Calix Society." (JB)