Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pope John Paul II joins Matt Talbot as "Venerable"

The late Pope John Paul II, who as a boy had written a paper about Matt Talbot and had supported the cause of the Venerable Matt Talbot as the patron of alcoholics, has now himself been declared "Venerable." (JB)

" Pope Benedict XVI has signed a decree recognizing the late Pope John Paul II's life of “heroic virtue.” With his signature, Benedict XVI throws the door wide open to the beatification of the much-loved Polish Pontiff and gives him the title "Venerable."

On Saturday morning, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints led by Archbishop Angelo Amato met with Pope Benedict XVI to celebrate their 40th anniversary as a dicastery of the Holy See and to present decrees for papal approval. Pope John Paul II's name was among the Congregation's nominations for those possessing “heroic virtue.”

The next step towards canonization of John Paul II is a second decree to be signed by the Pope that attributes a miracle to him. It is thought that this miracle will be one that has already taken place but has not yet been officially recognized. The miracle involves a French nun who was cured of Parkinson´s disease through John Paul II's intercession.

Following the approval of his first miracle, Venerable Karol Woytilya would be eligible for beatification, and pending a second miracle, he could be declared a saint.

The Vatican has processed his case in record time. Since the Pontiff´s death, less than five years have passed. Five years is the normal amount of time that must go by before the Holy See can begin the investigation process. In this case, Pope Benedict made an exception just a little over a month after John Paul II's death in March of 2005."

Source: Vatican City, Dec 19, 2009 / 11:28 am (CNA)

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Prayer for Facing Temptation

All of us face strong attachments, if not actual addictions. Matt Talbot prayed constantly and struggled mightily each day, especially during those early months of sobriety.

In those moments of temptation, among other things, we can say prayers of our own creation or recite those written by others, such as the following one. For those written by others, it may be helpful to actually write those out that have personal appeal and keep them with us for those moments of temptation that will repeatedly occur. (JB)

Gracious God,

I so easily fall prey to patterns of behavior that separate me from you and others.

I want to do the right thing, the good thing, the loving thing, but temptation stalks the rim of my life like a prowling animal.

Before I know it, I’ve fallen into its grasp and begun the downward spiral into what is less than full life.

Help me, Lord, to see when temptation is trying to cleverly captivate me.

Give me the strength and fortitude to make choices for health and spiritual wholeness.

Keep me faithful in my love for you and faithful to the wonder of being given the gift of life.

I ask this for the sake of your love.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Praying to Mary (and Matt Talbot) for Sobriety?

Comprehensive articles and biographies of Matt Talbot have noted that he had a special devotion for Mary, Mother of God.

A legitimate question, especially among non-Catholics, regarding Mary is posed below (and might be extended to praying to saints and the Venerable Matt Talbot for recovery from alcoholism). (JB)

"Glad You Asked"

Claretian Teaching Ministry

Fr. John Hampsch, C.M.F.

November 28, 2009

"If Jesus is the only mediator between God and humanity, isn't attention to Mary superfluous or even distracting from a focus on Christ?"

You are correct in stating that the Bible names Jesus as the only mediator between God and humans (l Tim. 2:5; Acts 4:12; Heb. 7:25). However, in each of these citations, as the context shows, it refers to him as redemptive mediator (Savior or Redeemer). Mary’s mediatorship is non-redemptive; it is only petitionary (impetrative) mediatorship, just as your own mediatorship would be if you prayed to God for me at my request. No Scripture passage states that Jesus is the only intercessor or prayer mediator – although he is the greatest one (Heb. 7:25, 9:24; Rom. 8:34; Is. 53:12; 1 Jn. 2:1), and the one through whom all prayer must ultimately pass to reach the Father (Jn. 14:6).

Vatican II states (Lumen Gentium, art. 62) that no creature, even Mary, can be put on the level of Jesus, the only Redeemer. However, just as Jesus’ singular eternal priesthood is shared by both his ministers and the laity in various ways (I Pet. 2:5), and as his one goodness is radiated among creatures in various ways (l Tim. 4:4), so also his unique mediation does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold shared mediation, in petitionary form, within which Mary’s is preeminent.

It was this petitionary mediation that Paul requested of the Ephesians, asking them to pray “for all the saints [believers]” and he “prayed” for them to pray for himself (Eph. 6: 18-19; 1 Thess. 5:25), while he himself prayed for others (Eph. 3:16; Col. 1:3), as did Epaphras (Col. 4:12). Mary’s intercessory power with Jesus is of the same type as that of St. Paul and Epaphras, and the same as yours or mine, namely petitionary. But as the “highly favored one – full of grace” (Lk. 1:28), hers is far more powerful, as evidenced by her successful intercession for the embarrassed host at the Cana wedding, persuading Jesus to work his first miracle, even before his planned time (In. 2:4).

Mary in heaven is not deprived of that intercessory power that she exercised on earth, since heaven is a place not of deprivation but fulfillment, as implied in Hebrews 11 :40. Even in the Old Testament we find examples of deceased persons (Jeremiah and Onias) prayerfully interceding for the living (2 Mac. 15: 12-16). Those in heaven have more prayer power than they had on earth, for they are not faith-limited in heaven, since they see God directly (Job 19:26; 1 Cor. 13:12; 1 In. 3:2).

In response to your assertion that Marian devotion “distracts” from Christocentric devotion: Vatican II in the Constitution on the Church (art. 51) states, “Let the faithful be taught that our communion with those in heaven [by veneration] … in no way diminishes the worship of adoration given to God the Father, through Christ, in the Spirit; on the contrary, it greatly enriches it.” In the treatise on Mariology the same document states that Mary’s salutary influence “flows from the merits of Christ, rests on his mediation … and draws all its power from it. It does not hinder in any way the immediate union of the faitlhful with Christ, but on the contrary, fosters it … it neither takes away nor adds anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ, the one Mediator” (art. 60 and 62, quoting a formulation of St. Ambrose).

Your phrase, “praying to Mary,” shows a misunderstanding common to both Catholics and non-Catholics, regarding Mary’s role in our devotion. The Catholic Church does not teach us to pray to Mary or to any saint; if the phrase “pray to” is used in the strictest theological sense, it can be said that we pray only to God. But we do “prayerfully address” Mary, asking her to pray for us and with us to God, as in the Hail Mary: “pray for us sinners … ”

Thus, Mary’s mediation is not a “relay” system; she does not relay our needs to God as if they go through her to him. Rather, our prayers to God “parallel” her prayers to God for us, like two arrows going simultaneously Godward, in tandem. Mary doesn’t stand “between” us and God to forward our prayers to him, but exercises her mediatorship by joining us in a fellowship of prayer, as mandated by Jesus: “If two of you agree to ask anything … ” (Mt. 18:19).


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Matt Talbot Medallion

Various Matt Talbot medals, medallions, tokens, prayer cards, and prayer beads are commercially available. One such medallion available at Matt Talbot Retreats can be viewed on their homepage and is available at
and the medallion for those who attend a retreat is described at:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Hope Does Not Disappoint*

Sustained by God's love, we can move mountains.

The Word Among Us

November 2009

Let’s face it. Life can be difficult at times.

It wouldn’t take much for us to come up with a list of woes that plague the world: War, famine, drug abuse, violence, and sexual abuse are just the first items that come to mind. In one way or another, we all feel the effects of these woes. Even if our lives are trouble free, just dwelling on global tragedies like grinding poverty, human trafficking, or ethnic wars can make us anxious. And then there are the times when we face painful difficulties in our own lives or those of our loved ones: a broken marriage, a wayward child, or an incurable illness.

Yet in the midst of all these difficulties, God wants us to know that he is with us. He wants to tell us that he suffers with us and that he wants to help us by affirming his love for us. In fact, we could make the case that God’s love is most present to us as we work through the difficulties and sufferings we all face.

This truth is spelled out most clearly in St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Reflecting on his own experience, even as he sketches out God’s overall plan of salvation, Paul wrote: “Affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

In these few verses, Paul reveals how God’s love helped him grow in holiness during his own times of trial. Paul discovered the liberating truth that God’s love is the one constant, guiding us through the storms of life, all the while making us like Jesus. Let’s take a closer look at these verses, examining three distinct ways that God’s love comes to us as we deal with suffering and affliction.

Love’s Three Effects. Before we look at these specific verses, it’s helpful to see that Paul himself prefaces them with uplifting, inspiring truths: We are justified by faith, we have peace with God, we are surrounded by his grace, and we even have the promise of eternal life with him (Romans 5:1-2). So it is critical for us to know that God’s love is at work in us even before we face any afflictions.

This is why Paul is able to say that we can endure any affliction that comes our way. It’s true that the trials of life can present serious challenges to our faith. They can lead us to question whether God is just or kind. We may even ask whether God is punishing us for some unknown sin. But because we are already in Christ, these trials also have the potential to help us push on with our faith. They can become opportunities to reassert our trust in the Lord regardless of what we are experiencing. As we take on this perspective, we find God’s love strengthening us, encouraging us to persevere, and even giving us supernatural strength to continue.

Paul says next that endurance through trial can have a positive effect on our character. When we persevere through our afflictions, we give the Lord the opportunity to shape our character. We grow in virtues such as kindness, compassion, loyalty, honesty, and obedience. What’s more, the character that is formed by our perseverance is not just any good character. It’s the very character of Christ. We begin to think and to love as Jesus did. Just as Jesus stayed close to his Father despite his many trials and difficulties, we too can stay close to him. And just as Jesus “learned obedience” through his suffering, we too can grow in godly virtue as we face our own sufferings with endurance and faith (Hebrews 5:8).

Finally, Paul tells us that there is a relationship between godly character and the virtue of hope. We all learn far more about ourselves—our strengths and our weaknesses—during times of stress than we do when life is going well. So when we see our character being transformed and built up in the midst of trial, we also see hope for our lives. We see that we are passing the test and that Jesus has not abandoned us. We grow in confidence. We see light at the end of the tunnel. We know that God is working in us, that we will make it through this trial, and that we will be better off for having gone through it.

All of this comes to us—amazingly, miraculously, and simply—because God has poured his love into us. It comes to us because he never stops pouring out his love.

Ever-Increasing Hope. Let’s be clear: Paul is not just speaking about a step-by-step psychological process in which one virtue leads naturally to another. And neither is he speaking only about the value of noble determination—although it does play a part. More than these, he is speaking about the power of God’s love, which helps us hold our ground and even grow closer to Jesus as we face life’s trials.

So what is this “hope” that doesn’t disappoint? At its core, it’s faith that Jesus is in charge of the whole universe. It’s faith that God has a good and loving plan for our lives. It’s faith that Jesus will come again to bring us into his kingdom. It’s faith that we will be with him in heaven. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). We put our faith and our hope in Jesus because we believe that he is faithful and loving. We believe that he will never abandon us.

Paul is not saying that the only way to grow in hope is through affliction and suffering. But he is telling us how to deal with the afflictions that come our way. He is giving us a strategy to help us see our way through difficult times—a strategy that both helps us endure with faith and that gives us the extra benefit of building us up in Christ. As we learn to rely on God’s love, which is constantly flowing to us, we can find the strength we need to persevere. It is his love that will sustain us, and it is his love that will shape us. It is his love, and only his love, that will move us to place our hope in Jesus and in his plan for our lives.

God’s Love Poured into Our Hearts. “Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5). Everything we have looked at so far depends on this one sentence. Without this outpouring of divine love, Paul’s line of reasoning cannot stand. He is not saying that affliction has the power in and of itself to transform us into the character of Christ. It’s the experience of God’s love that enables us to endure, to form a godly character, and to learn to live in real, lasting hope.

In your mind’s eye, try to picture God’s love as a steady, heavy downpour of rain. It’s not a light drizzle. It’s not an occasional sprinkling. It’s a constant showering of love, ministered to us by the Holy Spirit. It’s an outpouring of divine grace that comes to us like “water upon the thirsty ground, and streams upon the dry land” to refresh us and give us hope and courage (Isaiah 44:3).

We may think we don’t deserve such love. We may think that God has only a small amount set aside for us. We may even think that he will love us only if we are able to get rid of our sins. But none of these thoughts makes sense when we look at this one sentence from St. Paul. If God is constantly pouring out love over the whole world, why would we ever think he would exclude us?

An Everlasting Love. Brothers and sisters, God wants to show us his love every day. It doesn’t matter if we are in the midst of some serious affliction or if everything is going well. He wants to pour out his love upon us. He wants to teach us how to persevere and endure the challenges of life. He wants his love to be the primary force that shapes our character. He wants his love to become a foundation for our lives so that we can live in hope and confidence, not in fear or resignation.

God has loved us from the very beginning of creation. He loved us through all of Israel’s ups and downs. He loved us enough to send Jesus to redeem us by the cross. He loved us enough to send the Holy Spirit to us at Pentecost. And he will continue to love us every day of our lives—until the end of time.


*Note: There is much in this article that we can reflect on with regards to our own lives as well as the life of Matt Talbot.