Saturday, January 19, 2008

Matt Talbot's Connection with the Columban Fathers in China

"Matt Talbot's Connection with the Columbans" 

"In the September-October issue we featured Mary Gaffney’s article on the Venerable Matt Talbot, the Irishman who overcame alcoholism through a life of extraordinary holiness. He had a special bond with the Columbans, as this extract from The Mystery of Matt Talbot by Father Morgan Costelloe shows. A priest of the Archdiocese of Dublin, Fr Costelloe was for many years Vice-Postulator for the cause of Matt Talbot and is now retired.

 In 1918 a significant event took place that renewed Ireland’s interest in the foreign Missions. A number of priests founded the Maynooth Mission to China. Its official title was The Missionary Society of St Columban, which meant that it was dedicated to Matt Talbot’s favorite Irish saint. Matt was quick to recognize that it heralded a rekindling of the zeal of the Irish monks to leave all for the sake of Christ . . . Matt decided to contribute as much as he could to this Missionary Society . . .

 After his illness in 1923 Matt was destitute. He could not work, so the local Conference of the St Vincent de Paul supplemented about P40 weekly sick benefit, which he received from his Trade Union. His donations to the Maynooth Mission to China stopped suddenly.

Unaware of the reason for this, the priest who usually received Matt’s contribution sent him Christmas greetings in 1924 and added that since he had not heard from him for some time, he hoped that he was not ill. Matt had some pennies saved, ‘for a special occasion’. They amounted to thirty shillings (editor’s note: roughly a week’s wage) and in the shaky hand of a sick man he wrote what has become a famous letter: 

‘Matt Talbot have (sic) done no work for the past 18 months. I have been sick and given over by priest and doctor. I don’t think I will work any more. There (sic) one pound from me and ten shillings from my sister’.

 His contribution was four times his weekly benefit. He had given everything away. The Columban Fathers, who had no idea that the writer would one day be a Servant of God, were so impressed by the letter that they placed it in a special file. Today the letter is in the Vatican Library."