Monday, April 28, 2008

Montfortian links

For those who are interested in additional information about devotion to Mary from a Montfortian perspective, these links may be beneficial. provides a menu of references provides free online study of books by St. Lous Marie de Montfort provides a different link to the Commentary on the Letter by Pope John Paul II and the letter itself that was posted earlier today. has a reflection on the Pope's letter, "The Woman at the Cross," by Fr. Mitchell, S.M.M.

Pope John Paul II, St. Louis de Montfort, and Matt Talbot

Not only were the writings of St. Louis de Montfort influential for Matt Talbot, Pope John Paul II noted their importance to him in his youth. This quote from Pope John Paul II may help those who are concerned that a devotion to Mary may compromise their worship of Christ.

As far as I am concerned, the reading of this book [True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin by de Montfort] was a great help to me in my youth: "I found the answer to my doubts," which were due to a fear that worship given to Mary "if developed too much, might end by compromising the primacy of the worship of Christ" (My Vocation, Gift and Mystery, pg. 42). Under the wise guidance of St. Louis Marie de Montfort, I understood that, if we live the mystery of Mary in Christ, there is no such risk. This saint's Mariological thought, in fact, "is rooted in the Mystery of the Trinity and in the truth of the Incarnation of the Word of God" (ibid.)." This quote is from the letter of Pope John Paul II referred to below ( text of this letter).

Commentary on the Letter of Pope John Paul II


On 8 December 2003, Pope John Paul II wrote to the Religious of the Montfortian Congregations, a letter to commemorate the 160th anniversary of the publication in 1843 of the "Traité de la Vraie Dévotion à la Sainte Vierge" (True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin). In the letter he reflects on certain aspects of the teaching of St. Louis Marie de Montfort concerning consecration of oneself to Jesus through Mary. See the text of this letter.

St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, all his life, practised and preached in his missions and retreats a form of devotion to Our Blessed Lady which he called "the most perfect devotion" to her, and which is often referred to as "the Holy Slavery". About Autumn 1712, he set down his teaching on this devotion in a book which has become, as Pope John Paul says in this letter, a classic of Marian spirituality: "True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin". After St Louis Marie's death in 1716, his followers in the Company of Mary continued to make this devotion a major part of their teaching and preaching, but, for some reason, they never thought to publish his book, although they possessed the manuscript. They did, however, value the manuscript sufficiently that, when the French Revolution brought chaos to the Vendée region where the Mother-house of the Company of Mary was, they hid it, along with other precious papers, in a field nearby. After the revolutionary fury had abated, they retrieved these papers and put them back in the library of the Mother-house, but then, it seems, forgot about them. It was only in 1842 that one of the members of the Company of Mary, doing some research in the library, came across the old manuscript and recognised the handwriting of St. Louis Marie. The manuscript was quickly authenticated, and in 1843 was published for the first time as "Traité de la Vraie Dévotion à la Sainte Vierge" (Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin).

Some 20 years later, in 1862, Fr. Frederick William Faber, of the London Oratory, made the first English translation of the book and had it published in London. There have been a number of English editions published since that time, in the United States as well as in Gt. Britain. In 1883, Bishop Herbert Vaughan, at that time the Bishop of Salford in England, and the founder of the Mill Hill Missionaries, wrote a letter recommending St. Louis Marie's book to all the clergy of the diocese. When he was transferred to Westminster Archdiocese in 1892, he did the same for his clergy of that diocese.

St. Louis Marie's book has been an inspiration to many thousands of people throughout the 160 years since its first publication. Our present Holy Father has several times acknowledged its influence on him, as he does again in this letter. It is well known that Frank Duff, the founder of the Legion of Mary in the 1920s, made the "Holy Slavery" the basis of the Legion's spirituality. Others in the English-speaking world who have been deeply influenced by it include Matt Talbot, Mother Mary Potter (foundress of the Little Company of Mary), Eddie Doherty and Catherine de Hueck Doherty (these two the founders of the Madonna House apostolate based in Combermere, Ontario).

St. Louis Marie de Montfort and Matt Talbot

Today, April 28, is the feast day of St. Louis Marie de Montfort, whose writings had a significant influence on Matt Talbot during the last forty years of his life. The chains that were found on Matt's body after his death were part of his "Total Consecration to Mary," which was popularized by de Montford. Today, however, the wearing of a chain or medal reminding one of holy slavery to Mary is an optional practice.

Links for further reading:
one biography of St. Louis de Montfort's life

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Single Vocation

Bernard McGuckian, SJ
The Sacred Heart Messenger
August 2007

YOUR QUESTIONS ANSWERED: Each month, Fr. Bernard McGuckian answers some of the questions you ask about the faith and its practice..

There seems to be only two vocations spoken of in the Church: to marriage or to religious life. What about single celibate people, who neither want to marry nor take Holy Orders or enter a relig-ious congregation? Could ‘singledom’ be described as a vocation?

It is true that the two vocations mainly spoken about in the Church are marriage and relig-ious life with the result that the fulfilled single life that so many people live is largely a forgotten topic in religious literature and discussion. However we should not forget that the goodness of single people has not been overlooked.

Single and Heroic

Among the more than four hundred lay men and women beatified or canonized by the late Pope John Paul II many were single. In our own times the heroic virtue of both Venerable Matt Talbot (1856-1925) and Edel Quinn (1907-1944) has been officially recognized and the Cause of the Servant of God, Frank Duff (1889-1980), founder of the Legion of Mary has been recently introduced.

All three were single people who walked closely in the footsteps of Christ under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Venerable Matt, a working man whose excessive drinking led to problems in his early life, is now known worldwide for his subsequent asceticism. He changed so radically in his late twenties that the rest of his life took the form of an extraordinary re-sponse to Christ’s warning that ‘unless you do penance you will likewise perish’ (Lk.13:3).

Co. Cork-born Edel, both a competitive and competent tennis player and according to the Frenchman who fell in love with her, ‘a sylph-like dancer’, spent the last years of her short life (she was only 37 when she died) spreading the Gospel around East Africa, in spite of debilitating tuberculosis.

Frank Duff, a highly-placed civil servant, abandoned a promising career to spend his life in the service of the poor and marginalized. His work was so blessed that it turned into the Legion of Mary which still mobilizes millions of other lay people like himself in the cause of evangelization around the globe.

To these three ‘singles’ we could add a fourth: John Anthony McGuinness, a civil servant and member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul who combined Matt Talbot-like austerity with selfless dedication to the Dublin poor.

Completion of Baptism

None of these three people felt called to the Sacraments of Matrimony or Holy Orders nor did any of them take religious vows. All of them, however, in early adulthood became aware that at baptism, the first of the Christian sacraments, they had received a vocation.

The late distinguished Irish writer Mary Purcell, single herself and an exemplary lay Christian, suggested that the reason for not having ‘Amen’ in the baptismal formula was to indicate that the real ‘Amen’ was to be a life in keeping with the sacrament. This seems to have been the mind of the Church from the earliest days. Evidence for this appears in an inscription over a tomb in the ancient catacombs at Rome: ‘He has completed his baptism’.

A truly Christian death was seen as the completion of a journey that began at baptism. This is still true today. Whether we are married, religiously vowed or single, we have all still the same vocation. ‘This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you’ (Jn.15:12).

Body of Christ

To love one another is the vocation of all Christians. Whether the word ‘singledom’ is approp-riate for the vocation of some of us is a moot point. It would not be if it seemed to authorize opting out from involvement in the Body of Christ of which we all are members with a specific role to play. Membership of the Body of Christ excludes anything like setting out on a ‘solo run’. If anything, the single person is called to a more self-sacrificing and even more universal love.

The unmarried person, as St. Paul noted, is free to love and serve God and a large number of others in a way that would be well-nigh impossible for those with special and unavoidable obligations to members of their immediate family circle. Don’t we all know unmarried men and women who use this freedom, not to withdraw into some form of isolation and non-involvement but to throw themselves enthusiastically into the great Christian adventure?

Exceptional People

It has to be conceded that the qualities that led to the reputat-ion of holiness of the people mentioned above are hardly run-of-the-mill. Few so-called ‘ordinary’ single people lead lives that catch the popular imaginat-ion as did theirs. To most people Edel Quinn’s life seems more like that of an extraordinary foreign missionary in the mould of a St. Francis Xavier rather than of a modern young woman with a love for sport and dancing.
The rigorous fasting of Matt Talbot is more reminiscent of the penitential life of the legendary Curé d’Ars than of your ordinary working man who goes quietly about an honest day’s work without any song and dance. And Frank Duff seems more in the mould of the founder of a great religious order than of a self-effacing civil servant who took early retirement to do something different.

Yet the difference between the lives of these outstanding people and those of other single people is not so much a question of kind as of degree. Like Edel, Matt, Frank, Mary and John, every one, whether married or single, has a mission in life. As Cardinal Newman puts it: ‘God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission - I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.’


One of the main fruits of prayer, something that loomed large in the lives of all the people mentioned here, is that it helps shed light for each of us on our ‘mission’. We should all pray frequently in the words of St. Paul, when suddenly ovewhelmed on the road to Damascus: ‘Lord, what am I to do?’ (Acts 22:10). This was not a ‘once off’ prayer. Throughout his life he kept asking the Lord for further light as his situation and circumstances changed. If we follow this example of the great Apostle to the Gentiles we are unlikely to go too far astray.


Fr. McGuckian serves on the Matt Talbot Committee and has written other articles about Matt, which are posted on our site.
Even though Matt had the opportunity to marry in sobriety, he believed it was God's will to remain single and chaste.
Mary Purcell, who is mentioned in this article, has written significant biographies of Matt Talbot and are posted on our site.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Matt Talbot Sunday 2008

For those in or near Dublin, Ireland on June 1, 2008, there will be a Matt Talbot Sunday Mass at 4 p.m. at the Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Sean McDermott Steet. Matt's remains were enshrined in this church in 1972.

Fr. Damian O'Reilly, Vice-Postulator of the Cause for the Venerable Matt Talbot, will be the celebrant.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Matt Talbot Committee

Some of the articles that have been posted on this site refer to the
"Matt Talbot Committee," which is directly involved in furthering the cause of Matt Talbot for sainthood. Its 2008 membership follows:

Chairman: Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Executive Chairman: Rev. Damian O’Reilly, Vice Postulator
Secretary: Rev. Philip O’Driscoll, C.C.

: Mr. Patrick Behan, Mr. Thomas Brennan,
Brother Christopher Carroll, Mrs. Patricia Ferrari, V. Rev. Brendan Quinlan, P.P.,
Mr. Anthony Malone, Mrs. Mary McCann, Rev. Bernard McGuckian, S.J.,
Mr. Gerard McLaughlin, Mr. Bernard Nolan, V. Rev. Michael Casey,
Adm. Mr. Charles Sydner, Paula Murray, Vera Brady.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Who is Ireland's favourite saint?

A contest was held on the Gerry Ryan Show in 2005 to determine Ireland's favourite saint. The first article presents the story behind this quest. The second article details the effort to put forth Matt Talbot as the favourite saint. To enhance readability of these articles, click on each link after the word "SOURCE."

The story behind the Gerry Ryan Show’s great quest
by Evelyn O’Rourke

On Wednesday, the 12th October – which was the 30th anniversary of the canonisation of St Oliver Plunkett – we launched the ‘Gerry Ryan Show’ quest for Ireland’s favourite saint on RTÉ 2FM. The quest was to take about three weeks, with the winner due to be announced on November 1st, All Saints Day.

For weeks our desks were groaning with the weight of postcards, envelopes and scraps of school book paper as listeners rushed to nominate their favourite saint!
But how did this madcap adventure begin?

I have been working as the reporter on ‘The Gerry Ryan Show’ for three years now and we are always dreaming up weird and wonderful ways to entertain and stimulate our audience. I was in France at a friend’s wedding recently, and as I sat in the church, I suddenly thought that with the media’s current obsession with lists – everything from the ‘best movie’ to ‘the worst Eurovision song’ – wouldn’t it be great to tap into a religious theme and discover Ireland’s favourite saint?

Our listeners are a fantastically diverse bunch but whenever we touch on religious subjects we get an overwhelming response. I knew that Irish people in particular have huge affection for saints, regardless of their actual relationship with the church. I spoke to Gerry and the team about my idea and they were fully supportive from the outset. And so the masterplan was created….

On that first day, the 12th of October, we invited Fr Michael Collins (curate with Dundrum parish) to join Gerry Ryan and myself in studio as we launched the quest. We spent an hour or so on-air trawling through many, many possible contenders for the title.

After that first day we were able to collate the votes we had received and we issued a list of ten contenders. They were St Brighid, Venerable Matt Talbot, St Padre Pio, St Anthony, St Martha, St Martin de Porres, St Therese de Lisieux, St Gerard Majella, St Jude, and Pope John Paul II.

The inclusion of the late pope caused a stir, but interestingly he polled most favourably on the web as opposed to the phone or by post, so votes for him were probably reflective of the younger section of our audience. Another candidate whose huge fan base interested me was St Gerard Majella. He is the patron saint of expectant mothers and many mothers contacted us to say that they had relied on him during their pregnancy. The Venerable Matt Talbot was another popular candidate, due in no small part I believe, to the intervention of Fr Bernard McGuckian SJ, who enthusiastically canvassed on his behalf on the programme!

During the campaign we eliminated the candidates one by one, and finally the day came when we had to name the winning saint. After many thousands of votes on the web, by phone, by email, by text and by post, there could only be one winner.

While St Padre Pio had many, many supporters, in the end St Anthony, with his unique way of helping people find lost articles, won out.

St Anthony is officially (well, according to us anyway!) Ireland’s favourite saint…


Pushing the case for Matt Talbot as Ireland’s favourite saint
by Barney McGuckian SJ

Late in October, Evelyn from the Gerry Ryan Radio Show phoned. “We are looking for Ireland’s favourite saint. Will you “root” for Matt Talbot?”

A Reflection on Petitions to Matt Talbot

An innovative Pioneers novena in Co. Clare
by Pat Coyle

The lovely west Clare seaside holiday town of Kilrush (next stop America) looks a lot bleaker on a freezing cold November night, and as we were driving to it the voice of Ralph Mc Tell kept singing in my head –“Oh it’s a long long way from Clare to here…”

We travelled a few lonely, winding roads that dark evening so it was a great surprise to me that over 700 people had travelled along many similar roads for almost nine weeks to make the Matt Talbot Novena. It was organized by the Pioneer Association in Clare, in the beautiful St Senan’s Church, Kilrush, and I was the guest speaker on the second last night.

I’d been invited by Fr Tom Ryan the parish priest of Shannon and family friend who had been sent to my native Derry to help out some years ago. Whilst there he married my parents not long before they died. No – don’t re-read that sentence – you got it right – and don’t think scandalous thoughts about my mum or my dad (who, God rest him, had Alzheimer’s). One particularly bad day he got very agitated and wanted my mother to leave the house as he couldn’t remember marrying her and thought they were living in sin. She was at the end of her tether when Fr. Tom just dropped in for a visit. I asked him to marry them with a blessing, which, knowing the situation, he duly did, and daddy was happily settled for another while.

Anyway, that night I was deeply moved as I heard petitions to Matt Talbot read out. Heartfelt requests for people sick, in trouble, or alcoholic. One petition really touched me. ‘Dear Matt Talbot, please help me and my wife to stop drinking so much.’ I thought about their children and I spoke about alcoholism and how it affects families. I have direct experience of the disease which is a physical, mental and spiritual one, and I’m aware that whilst there is great help for the alcoholic it’s often family members who are traumatized, wounded by the illness, and indeed sick themselves, and who are totally neglected.

I don’t think I have ever spoken to a more receptive group. There was an incredible silence in the Church for the 20 minutes of my talk. Lovely, gentle people came up to me after to tell me their own stories, and each used the same phrase, that they would have heard a pin drop as I spoke. Nothing to do with me, but a lot to do with the reality of alcoholism in Ireland today and the painful tentacles the illness sends out to all who come in contact with it.

I am not a pioneer myself and would really miss my glass of wine, but I am deeply grateful to the pioneers for their generosity in giving up alcohol altogether as a spiritual gift to help those addicted and those suffering from the alcoholic’s behaviour. And as AA and AL-Anon (the twelve-step group for anybody affected by another’s drinking which has helped me greatly) will tell you, real and healthy recovery from the effects of the disease of alcoholism requires a spiritual dimension.

From Kilrush to Shannon, same novena, same talk, different people – 400 of them – many families and many young people. But similar petitions and the same great faith in Matt Talbot and a God who would hear their prayers. More people to talk to afterwards, more pain, more hope.

The whole experience was very moving. Fr. Tom, his parishioners and the people of West Clare were warm and welcoming. As he drove me to Limerick to catch the train for Dublin in the wee small foggy hours of Wednesday morning we talked of the importance of the novena, the people and the Pioneers.

“Well you’re from the Jesuit Communication Centre,” he said, “and the Pioneers in Kilrush and Ennis and further afield are the Jesuit link with Clare.” And it was great to have been with them. I have lovely memories as I write this at my computer in the JCC, still humming that lovely song but knowing it’s really not so long a way from Clare to here!

SOURCE: The title of this 2005 article was changed for posting purposes.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Venerable Matt Talbot: Can an Alcoholic Become a Saint"

by Fr. Kevin Shanley, O.Carm.

The late Fr. Kevin Shanley, O.Carm. gave the following 2004 talk about Matt Talbot as part of the "Life is Worth Giving" Series in Darian, IL., USA. The original, typed text of this article, which is dated 2002, can be read as is (with white background pages) or a blue background by clicking each page. Note that the birth date for Matt is incorrectly listed as 1853 rather than 1856.

This, like some other homilies and articles already posted, might be considered "introductions" to Matt Talbot.

Friday, April 11, 2008

"Life of Matt Talbot" (1942 Ed.) by Sir Joseph Glynn

The person most responsible for making Matt Talbot well known in Dublin and all of Ireland shortly after Matt's death in 1925 was Sir Joseph A. Glynn.

A friend of Glynn's, who knew Matt for 25 years, suggested that Glynn write a short sketch of Matt's holy life for his fellow Dublin workers, although Glynn had not previously heard of Matt Talbot. Within months Glynn wrote a twenty page pamphlet titled, "Life of Matt Talbot, a Dublin Labourer," which was published in 1926 by the Catholic Truth Society of Ireland and sold 10,000 copies within four days. Another edition was published in 1927 which sold 120,000 copies within a few months. In 1928 the first edition presumably in hardback with the title, Life of Matt Talbot, was published and subsequent editions have been published, including this 1942 edition that is available online at the link below. (These books have long been out-of-print but do periodically appear for sale at and eBay at a reasonable price.)

Being the first biographer of Matt's life so soon after his death, Glynn had the opportunity to interview many who knew and worked with Matt. Later biographers regularly used Glynn's editions for their own biographies. Mary Purcell's biographies, which were first published in 1954 and benefited from interviews at the two official Enquiries about Matt Talbot's holiness which opened in 1931 and again in 1948, are the most definitive and result in some different conclusions about Matt than does Glynn. Therefore, the serious student of Matt Talbot might begin by reading Glynn's 1942 edition followed by Mary Purcell's Matt Talbot and His Times (1977, American Edition) and her Remembering Matt Talbot (1990).

Glynn's Life of Matt Talbot is provided online courtesy of the University of Chicago and the Open Library website established by The Internet Archive.
Either click the homepage at and then click the flashing text to view the book to the left of your screen or go directly to to begin reading. Click the right page to turn the pages forward or click the left page for previous pages.

Friday, April 4, 2008

A personal reflection on Matt Talbot

November 29, 2007

Today, I have been reminded of one of my favorite Irishmen, a recovered alcoholic who long ago was asked to take another favorite Irishman of mine under his wing and intercession. Since then, I have added many others (Irish and non-Irish, bless their hearts) to his intercession.

This man began drinking at AGE 12!!

His life had become so unmanageable by the time he was 28 that he "took the pledge" to not take a drink for three months. Even his mother doubted his ability to stop, telling him not to do it if he did not mean it.

He did.

He found that there was only ONE who could help him succeed, and often begged the One not to let him slip back into where he HAD been. That One is the "Higher Power" of AA/Alanon, the "God as we understand Him" of the Old Timers in AA/Alanon, the God of the Old and New Testament. He is the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Matt Talbot spent the rest of his life serving His Lord, in prayer and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, 'working the fifth' by examining his conscience and frequent Confession, daily attendance at Mass, and giving most of his earnings away. This, years before the start of AA.

He read books (with LITTLE education) that I have not begun to desire to read by great men/women of the Church (like St John of the Cross). Few people outside his own little corner of Ireland knew of him. Until his death, that is .

When he died on the street of a heart problem, they were not even sure of who he was, but when he was identified, and his belongings taken from his room, they were amazed to learn of his devotion, his piety, his life. Within a short time, word spread, including to Rome.

Alcoholics the world over have gained strength to recover from his example. A recovering friend of mine said that there may NEVER be a physical miracle for his Beatification or Canonization, but there are MANY spiritual miracles as a result of his life, his recovery, and his intercession from Heaven. I pray that God allows two physical miracles in order for him to be called ST MATTHEW TALBOT.

Alcoholism is a physical affliction as well as spiritual. Body, mind and soul are all affected, as are every family member and friend of the person who has 'crossed the line' into dependency on the drug of alcohol (whether wine, beer or liquor). So in MY humble opinion, each and every person who has been aided by devotion to him IS already not only a spiritual miracle, but also an emotional and a physical miracle. Every family member and friend is also blessed and benefited by that miracle of sobriety. Lives are changed and restored.

But my opinions do not matter.

Venerable Matt Talbot, I once again ask you to aid my loved one, my family members, my friends, and all those that I have placed in your care over the last 20-25 yrs since I first heard of you. Bring them to the grace, presence, and the blessings of God. Bring them to recovery. Bring them to Him, the Author and Giver of Life so that they may also merit Eternal Life.

God bless!

"O Virgin, I ask only three things:
  • the grace of God,
  • the presence of God,
  • and the benediction of God."
~Prayer of the Venerable Matt Talbot