Sunday, June 29, 2008

Conversion and Deep Transformation

Although we may not have had such a dramatic conversion as St. Paul, we, like Matt Talbot, have our own stories of "what we were like, what happened, and what we are like now." By God's grace, we can continue to choose to do God's will each moment of each day.

Sunday, June 29, 2008
The Word Among Us

2 Timothy 4:6-8,17-18


Today in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI will inaugurate a special year honoring the life and works of St. Paul. It is a year dedicated to celebrating a man who went from hating Jesus to loving him and giving his life so that everyone would come to know Jesus’ love.

The story of Paul’s conversion can fill us with great hope. He was guilty of a very serious wrong, hounding the followers of Jesus to their deaths. Yet Jesus showed him mercy and turned him into one of the greatest evangelists of all time. If he could do that for the “Terror of Tarsus,” imagine what he can do for us!

With St. Paul, however, we remember not only the dramatic conversion at the beginning of his walk with Jesus but also the ongoing work of conversion in his life. We might imagine Paul as a man who never lost his temper, was always kind and gentle, and never made a mistake. But the New Testament gives us a rather different picture. Paul publicly humiliated Peter in Antioch (Galatians 2:11-14). He got into a fight with Barnabas over John Mark that led to a division between these once-close brothers (Acts 15:36-40). He even called the Galatians—people he was called to pastor with the love of Christ—“stupid” (Galatians 3:1).

Like all of us, Paul had some character faults that took years for God to iron out. He was not always a model of perfection. He was a real human being who developed from self-love to love for Jesus. It may have taken a lifetime, but God remained faithful. And Paul kept fighting, pressing on to become more like Jesus. No matter where we are in our walk with the Lord, even if we fail miserably over and over again, God will work in us if we keep turning back to him. We can all be transformed just as powerfully as Paul was.

“Jesus, how great is your mercy to sinners! I am grateful that you bring about conversion and deep transformation by your Holy Spirit. Make me a saint, even as I see how great a sinner I am.”

Acts 12:1-11; Psalm 34:2-9; Matthew 16:13-19


Also see

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Saints and the Eucharist

"The instinct of faith: The saints and the Eucharist"

By Susan Brinkmann

The Catholic Standard & Times
Issue of March 2, 2006

Shortly after the death of her husband, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton sought a moment of comfort in her local church. Not yet Catholic, she took a seat in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in New York City.

She later wrote to a friend: “I got in a side pew in which I was positioned in such a way that I was facing St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in the next street. And I found myself speaking to the Most Blessed Sacrament in the Catholic Church, instead of looking at the naked altar where I was.”

Long before she became a saint, or even a Catholic, Elizabeth Ann Seton already had an instinct for God in the Eucharist.

“The saints were fully aware that Christ in the Blessed Sacrament was a reality,” writes the Catholic author and speaker Louis Kaczmarek, “that in the Blessed Sacrament, His heart is living, beating, waiting. …”

Kaczmarek’s book, “Hidden Treasure,” captures some of the most remarkable examples of that instinct in the souls of our best- known saints.

St. Ignatius of Loyola would pray for two hours after Mass. No one was permitted to speak to him during that time unless it was absolutely necessary — which it frequently was. Father Lewis Gonzales, who worked under the saint, said: “As often as I went to him at that time … I always saw his face shining with an air so bright and heavenly that, quite forgetting myself, I stood astonished in contemplating him.”

St. Rose of Lima was so in love with Jesus in the Eucharist that when she knelt before Him, one could see a kind of fire in her eyes. Afterward, asked to describe what was happening to her during these intense moments of prayer, she would stammer and say there were no words to express it. She said she “seemed to pass entirely into God,” and described herself as being so inundated with happiness that nothing in life could compare to it.

The raptures of St. Philip Neri before the Blessed Sacrament were even more extraordinary. Sometimes, he would be so filled with divine love and joy that he would roll upon the floor exclaiming “Enough, enough, Lord! I can bear no more.”

Friends once scolded St. Thomas More for wasting so much time going to Mass every day. “Your reasons for wanting me to stay away from holy Communion are exactly the ones which cause me to go so often,” he told them. “I have very much important business to handle; I need light and wisdom. It is for these very reasons that I go to holy Communion every day to consult Jesus about them.”

Centuries later, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen would have the same answer for why he was so successful in his various ministries. It was not because of the time he spent at work, he said, but because of the hour a day he spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

Many of our saints relied on the instinct of faith to tell them God was really present in the Eucharist.

St. Louis IX, the devout, Catholic king of France, was once interrupted by a messenger who cried, “Your majesty! Hasten to the Church! A great miracle is occurring there. A priest is saying holy Mass, and after the Consecration, instead of the host there is visible on the altar Jesus, Himself, in His human figure. Everybody is marveling at it. Hurry before it disappears.”

As Kaczmarek describes it, the saintly monarch turned to the messenger and said, in part: “Even if I saw Jesus on the altar in His visible form … I should not be more convinced that I am now that He is present in the consecrated Host. The word of Christ is sufficient for me. I need no miracle.”

He was not the only king to be convinced of the Real Presence. St. Wenceslaus, the King of Bohemia, was so enamored by the gift of the Eucharist that he insisted on making the altar bread with his own hands: Not only did he mix the proper ingredients, he personally directed the plowing, cultivating, sowing and reaping of the field where the grain was grown. He ground the grain himself, sifted out the finest particles of flour, baked the bread, and then presented it to the local priests.

But it is not only great clerics or saintly political figures that have had an instinct for the Eucharist.

Consider Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a simple Mohawk maiden who converted to the faith in the mid-17th century. She would kneel in the snow for two hours every morning before the church opened for Mass. She received the Lord with such reverence and bliss that people actually fought over who would sit next to her.

Young Matt Talbot, known as the “saint in overalls,” also knelt outside the doors of his church for hours every morning. Once inside, he would prostrate himself on the floor in the form of a cross before entering his pew. Every Sunday, he spent seven hours in Church without moving, “his arms crossed, his elbows not resting on anything, his body from the knees up as rigid and straight as the candles on the altar,” Kaczmarek writes. He did this every Sunday for 40 years.

The instinctive understanding of God’s presence in the Eucharist was also what made St. Peter Maldonado Lucero fight to the death to protect the Blessed Sacrament in 1937. A promoter of nocturnal adoration in Mexico during a time of great persecution of the Church, Father Maldonado was in hiding, like most priests at the time, and would spend many hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

When he was finally discovered by the authorities, rather than allow the soldiers to desecrate the Blessed Sacrament, he put the sacred Hosts in a pyx and held it close to his chest. The soldiers beat him with their rifles, screaming blasphemies at the “thing in his chest.”

According to Kaczmarek’s account, they beat him until all of his teeth were broken, his left eye destroyed, his right arm fractured and a leg dislocated. In spite of his agony, he held onto the pyx with what was left of his might.

Finally, his persecutors cut the cords of his hand with a knife so he could no longer clasp the pyx and it fell to the ground. One of his tormentors, a dormant Catholic, was so moved by the priest’s heroic faith in the Blessed Sacrament, he hurriedly consumed the hosts rather than let them be desecrated.

Even the sinful can have an instinct for God. Charles de Foucald, who was declared blessed in November 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI, is a perfect example.

Born into great wealth, he once described himself as being so wicked he was only one step away from insanity. One day, while on a religious quest, he stopped in St. Augustine’s Church in Paris where he experienced a profound conversion of heart during the consecration of the Mass. From that day forward, he was a changed man and the Eucharist became the center of his life.

He never stopped encouraging people to seek and find God in the tabernacle, and composed a prayer to say for that purpose: “Oh Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament in our churches, You give us solace and refuge; You give us faith, hope, love and hospitality. You build for us an inner retreat, an ardent repose. Help us to seek You and find You in the tabernacle.”


Friday, June 27, 2008

2012 International Eucharistic Congress

Earlier this week as the 49th International Eucharistic Congress was ending in Quebec City, Canada, Pope Benedict XVI announced that the 50th International Eucharistic Congress would be held in the city of Dublin, Ireland, in 2012. This is the second time that Dublin will host the congress; the Irish hosted the 31st congress in 1932. (

Just prior to the first congress held in Dublin in 1932, the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Rev. E. J.Byrne, D.D., had initiated the Cause for the Beatification of Matt Talbot in November, 1931. Attending this congress was Jean Cardinal Verdier (1864-1940), Archbishop of Paris, who knew of Matt Talbot. During his visit to Dublin, Cardinal Verdier "...knelt and prayed in the room in No. 18 Upper Rutland Street where Matt Talbot had kept vigil with Jesus down many years and, deeply moved by his experiences, had kissed the floor..." (Glynn, 1942)) Cardinal Verdier's concern about alcoholism was apparent early in his tenure as Archbishop when he ordered all French priests to conduct an extensive survey into any alcoholism existing in their parishes. (Time Magazine, July 14, 1930)

Although the theme for the 2012 IEC in Dublin has not been set at this time, it would seem appropriate that Venerable Matt Talbot might be officially or unofficially noted in some way since Eucharistic adoration was especially important to Matt. Even during the times he was hospitalized for heart disease prior to his death, Matt spent much time in Eucharistic adoration in the hospital chapel. In addition, Matt had noted on more than one occasion that he found it difficult for anyone to be lonely, especially when one could spend time before the Blessed Sacrament.

Glynn, Sir Joseph A. Life of Matt Talbot. The full text is available online at
Time Magazine. "Cocktails, Confidence, Aberration.," July 14, 1930, found at,9171,739775,00.html

Monday, June 23, 2008

How might Matt Talbot answer?

For those who are regular readers of our posts about Matt Talbot and are learning more about him, we might begin to think
about what Matt's thoughts and reactions might be to the content of various readings that we ourselves are regularly reading and consider in light of our own lives.

After you have read and answered the questions in this meditation for yourself, for example, consider how Matt might have answered them, prior to and after his conversion and recovery. (As with any posting, you are welcome to email your response. See email address in the profile link in the lower right-hand column.)

The Word Among Us
Monday, June 23, 2008

2 Kings 17:5-8,13-15,18

The vanity they pursued, they themselves became. (2 Kings 17:15)

What a sad commentary on the idolatry of Israel and where it led them! According to the sacred writer, the Israelites weren’t taken into captivity because their enemies were stronger than Israel’s military defenses. Rather, it was their spiritual condition, their infidelity to God, that caused their defeat. They followed pagan deities that were no gods at all, and they became as insubstantial as those idols. They became what they pursued, and that left them devastatingly vulnerable.

What do we pursue, and how does it affect us? Those who try to amass more and more wealth never seem to have enough. Those who must have the latest gadget or means of entertainment are soon bored. Those who seek popular acclaim find out how fickle public opinion is and end up with no firm principles of their own. Those who work long hours in order to give their families “the best” often find themselves enslaved to their jobs and out of touch with life at home.

What of those who wholeheartedly seek the kingdom of God? They become like the God they pursue: overflowing with love, joy, and hope. They see him at work everywhere and are energized to work alongside him to bring his kingdom on earth. Because they need nothing more and are satisfied with nothing less than union with the Lord, they gratefully receive “all these things,” all that they need and much more, from his hand (Matthew 6:33). God provides for their daily needs almost as a by-product of their love for him and their service of his gospel.

What do I seek? What is the deepest desire of my heart? What am I doing to attain that goal? What kind of effect is it having on me? How am I becoming like the things I am pursuing? What adjustments might I need to make so that my desires align more closely with God’s desires for me and those around me? How should I reorder my life so that I am investing time, work, and prayer in pursuing what I say matters most to me in life?

“Lord, I want to put your kingdom before all other desirable things. As I run after you, let me become more and more like you.”

Psalm 60:3-5,12-13; Matthew 7:1-5


Friday, June 20, 2008

Learning From Matt Talbot and the Saints

This personal reflection is an excerpt of a June 19, 2008 posting at, and we have provided the title for this excerpt.
We do not necessarily agree with the contents of the entire original posting.

"I subscribe to a daily email blast from called 'Saint of the Day.' Go to their site and sign up. It's free and each day, you will receive a short biographical selection of a holy man or woman of God. As you read these sketches, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Suffering and Sanctity go hand in hand.
I am not talking physical suffering necessarily, but all kinds: depression, addictions, battles with carnality, temptations to despair and loss of faith, etc. You suddenly realize that the Saints are just like us. The big difference is that, unlike us, they didn't waste all of the graces that God gives us each nanosecond.

I was really impressed with Matt Talbot. His life gives me great hope, for he is the saint for those addicted to all the evils that our modern culture offers: alcohol, drugs, porn, sex...etc. His life shows that prayer and cooperation with God's inestimable and inexhaustible grace, changes things."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Venerable Matt Talbot and Today's Readings

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Most folks probably have no idea who Matt Talbot is. If you have any struggles with alcohol or know someone who has, he is a good friend to have.

He was an Irishman who started working in booze outfits when he was twelve years old. As you can expect, this led him into alcoholism. After 16 years of suffering from this affliction, he managed to kick the habit and became something of an ascetic. He prayed and fasted fervently. He attended daily Mass. He became a Third Order Franciscan. He repaid his debts and gave much of his meager wages to the Church.
He did all this without anyone really knowing. Nobody would have thought anything more of Matt Talbot until his death. Once he passed away, his body was found wrapped in chains and cords under his clothes. He wore them as penance for his years of boozing. Of course, modernity would condemn an ascetic such as this as a lunatic (see any article that mentions Opus Dei as an example). The idea of such acts as signs of holiness is no longer an option.

Matt's manner of humility in his virtue echoes the Master's words in today's Gospel (Mt 6:1-6, 16-18): Jesus said to his disciples:
“Take care not to perform righteous deeds
in order that people may see them;
otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.
When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you,
as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets
to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you give alms,
do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,
so that your almsgiving may be secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you."

Comment: This blogger noted that "most folks probably have no idea who Matt Talbot is." One indication of this may be that only ten or so bloggers posted a reference to Matt on June 18 (typically repeating the "Saint of the Day" link at, according to a "Google Alert."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Matt Talbot Remembrance Day Discrepancy

The date for remembering Matt Talbot appears to vary between June 18 and June 19, depending on the source. For example, the website at and the "Saint of the Day" at the Franciscan website,, both list June 18, 2008 for Matt Talbot. Last year, however, the latter website listed Matt Talbot on June 19, 2007 rather than June 18. Other websites that also list Matt for June 19 include the blog

Also regarding dates, the Vatican's traditional day of choice when designating the feast day of a person beatified or canonized is the day of the person's death. Perhaps when Matt is so recognized, June 7 will be his suggested feast day.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Franciscan Remembrance Day for Matt Talbot

One popular "Saint of the Day" website is that of, home of St. Anthony Messenger Press and multiple Catholic publications.

June 18, 2008 is their "Franciscan Remembrance Day" for the Venerable Matt Talbot, who joined the Third-Order Franciscans (Secular Franciscan Order) in 1890, six years into his recovery from alcoholism. Upon his death on June 7, 1925, he was buried in their habit.
Note, however, this correction: the remembrance states, "For 15 years--until he was 30--Matt was an active alcoholic." In actuality, Matt began drinking at age 12 and took his last drink at age 28, in 1884.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

One Recovering Alcoholic's Journey Inspired by Matt Talbot

Recovering alcoholic Keven O'Hara describes his St. Augustine-like journey back to the Faith of his Fathers.
Direct download: Episode_189.mp3
Category: Conversion Stories --

The Legacy of Venerable Matt Talbot
Recovering alcoholic Kevin O'Hara shares inspiration from Venerable Matt Talbot and from his own journey back to the Catholic Faith.
Direct download: Episode_190.mp3
Category: Conversion Stories --


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Today in U.S.A. History: Founding of Alcoholics Anonymous

"A seemingly unplanned meeting in Akron, Ohio in 1935 between two men, both of whom were termed "hopeless" alcoholics, began a program of recovery that has helped millions find sobriety and serenity.

Bill W. was one of those men. In fighting his own battle against drinking, he had already learned that helping other alcoholics was the key to maintaining his own sobriety, the principle that would later become step twelve in the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. A stock broker from New York, Bill W. had traveled to Akron, Ohio on May 12, 1935 for a shareholders' meeting and proxy fight, which did not turn out his way. Fighting desperately to maintain his sobriety, his immediate reaction was, "I've got to find another alcoholic."

A few inquiries lead him to a meeting with an Akron surgeon, forever to be remembered simply as "Dr. Bob," who had struggled for years with his own drinking problem.

The effect the meeting had on Dr. Bob was immediate, as he tells it in his own words, and soon he too put down the bottle (June 10, 1935), never to pick it up again. The bond formed between the two men would grow into a movement that would literally affect the lives of millions."

Information about Alcoholics Anonymous can be found at its world headquarters:

Although Matt Talbot died ten years before the founding of AA in the USA and in Dublin in 1946, Fr. Morgan Costelloe, long-time Vice- Postulator for the Cause of the Venerable Matt Talbot, has written that Matt's approach to overcoming alcoholism essentially incorporated the twelve steps of AA. (See Fr. Costelloe's booklet, Matt Talbot: Hope for Addicts (2001 edition), Veritas Publications, Dublin and also available through Matt Talbot Retreats.)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Today in Irish History: Matt Talbot's Death

"June 7, 1925 - Death of Matt Talbot. With the help of a priest friend, Matt overcomes chronic alcoholism and models his life on that of the monks, who lived in Ireland in the 6th and 7th centuries. It is a tough programme of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. He gives away most of his wages every week to the poor at home and abroad. He is also keenly aware of his fellow workers struggle for social justice. A loyal member of Ireland's Transport and General Workers Union, a Union leader, Stephen McGonagle, describes him as "a beacon of light to Irish workers". After a life of heroic perseverance, he dies suddenly on the way to Mass. A candidate for canonization, his statue stands at the south end of the Liffey, by the bridge named after him."

Matt's birth is not listed, however, in "Today in Irish History" for 2 May 1856.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Searching for Matt Talbot Biographies on "Amazon"

One very useful resource to search for books about Matt Talbot is at "" It will provide you with most books that have been written about him since his death in 1925. Some more recent books are available for purchase but most are currently unavailable; some of these titles do, however, become available at a later date.

For those books that are currently unavailable, it may still be worthwhile to click the title and see the date and publisher. We have occasionally noted that a long out-of-print small book has been found elsewhere on the web in booklet or pamphlet format for free or a small cost through a nonprofit organization.

A few of the books within the "Matt Talbot" search do not seem to relate to Matt. Others, however, may have an "excerpt," in which Matt Talbot is mentioned. By clicking the highlighted page number, the "Amazon Online Reader" may appear which allows you to read that which pertains to Matt and sometimes even other parts of the book. For example, one book listed is titled, Healing, by Francis MacNutt; Matt is mentioned on page 129 in the introduction of a chapter on "The Basic Four Types of Healing." It is possible that this chapter is something you might want to read beyond just the reference to Matt.

It might be worthwhile to also check We have noted that at least a few books and publishers in Ireland and the United Kingdom do not necessarily appear at

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Searching for Non-English Matt Talbot Biographies

This is only one of multiple links on the web to purchase out-of-print Matt Talbot biographies in languages other than English. Some are reasonably priced (but check the shipping cost) while other books are expensive.

Using WorldCat for Identifying Matt Talbot Biographies

For those of you who are interested in identifying books about Matt Talbot located in libraries near where you live, WorldCat is a very beneficial resource.

Simply go to and type "Matt Talbot" in the white box for "books" or "search everything."

When you click a book of interest, look down the page for "Libraries" and type in your postal code, state, province or country. Libraries that have that particular book in their collection and its mileage or kilometers from your address will be indicated.

Note that a few references listed in your search are not about "our" Matt Talbot and especially not as an author.