Sunday, July 31, 2011

Recovering from Lust, the “Matt Talbot Way”

Posted on 07/16/2011

”Been reading a book recently, and I thought I'd share. It's called To Slake A Thirst: The Matt Talbot Way to Sobriety by Philip Maynard. It's written for alcoholics, but like so much, if you just replace every instance of "drink" with "lust" it makes perfect sense. It proposes a new way of overcoming addiction, based on the example of Irishman Matt Talbot. The book is especially pertinent to Catholics, but is written so that all Christians can profit by it.

The essentials of the book are that all addicts have the willpower to overcome their addiction; they simply do not have the motivation. When they want their fix, there is nothing else in life that is more important. So, the solution is to make something, or rather someone, more important. The book focuses relentlessly on prayers said throughout the day, at waking, internally while going about one's life, in community, etc., focusing exclusively on fostering love of Christ.

You do not pray to be relived of the addiction, you pray only and constantly to be brought closer to Christ. In doing so, you create a bond of love so real, palpable, and permanent, that it simply eclipses the other loves you have within you, for drink or sex or anything else. The desire for those things remains, but your love of Christ becomes so strong that you eagerly give them up for love of him. In fact, your painful addiction becomes a kind of joy, because you can offer up the pain of giving up those things to Christ as a gift, which only further increases your love of Him.

The book is straightforward, insightful, and moving, and I really recommend it (I'm sure it's on amazon). It's an excellent alternative to the mindset and methodology of 12-step programs, because it looks at the solution to addiction from a very Christian perspective, and truly proposes a path of heroic virtue and sacrifice as the proper path, which is much more appealing than the 12 steps, to me. It proposes that through Christ, lust can actually be conquered, instead of just repressed from day to day, as in 12 steps. Seriously, look it up.”

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Song about Matt Talbot by Derek Warfield

Derek Warfield wrote the words and music for his song, “Matt Talbot,” which is included in his album, Legacy. The lyrics follow:

Oh saintly matt talbot a labouring man
You worked and you toiled did the best
That you can.
There were times just for drinking you lived
Thru your life with reality clouded midst hardship and strife
For no hope it is offered there seemed no way out
And you found consilation in whiskey and stout
In to misery and suffering you soon were to stray
For this is the wage of the alcohol way:


Now the city of dublin had europe’s worst slums
But for faith and for prayer you’d never have won
But the spirit of enda and brendan retold
Gave you inspiration thru christian way’s old
Then the path of st. Ciaran and colman you choose
And above the dublin city your proud spirit rose
For you sought thru your prayer that your voice
Would be heard and you showed thru your penance
you loved and you cared

In this town of eblana you were barren of hope
And you prayed for a way you could live and could cope
Then one saturday evening you stood back from the edge
And in holy cross college you then took the pledge
From that day till your death you spent time on your knees
Wanting only to pray and yor god for to please
And the workers of dublin said barney a chara
For they knew that you prayed for all children of sorrow

Full chorus as above

With the minds of your masters all blinded by greed
To the cause of the workers and families in need
Oh you stood, by your comrades, you knew their cause just
And your stand although simple in matt talbot there’s trust
And the streets and the alleys all echo your name
Just to know that you walked them in penance and shame
And there’s many a dublin man husband or wife
Who whisper your name for to let in god’s light

Full chorus as above

Now the city of dublin
Had europe’s worst slums
But for faith and for prayer you’d never have won
But the spirit of endaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

A sample of this song can be played at the Legacy album link above.

Biographical information about Derek can be found at

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

In Praise of Lay Saints

In this weekly video commentary for America: The National Catholic Weekly, Fr. James Martin, S.J., discusses “why the Vatican needs to recognize ordinary men and women who have lead extraordinary lives of holiness.” It can be viewed at
His print article on “Why We Need to Canonize More Lay Saints” can be found at
Fr. Martin is the author of My Life with the Saints (2006) among other books.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

“An Almost-Saint who Knows Addiction”

In their parenting book titled, Good Parents, Tough Times: How Your Catholic Faith Provides Hope and Guidance in Times of Crisis (Loyola Press, 2004),
the authors Charlene Giannetti and Margaret Sagarese have a chapter on “hope.” Within it they introduce “Venerable Matt Talbot: An Almost-Saint who Knows Addiction.”
To read what they have written for a family struggling with substance abuse, please go to
Within the “Search within this book” box, type in "Matt Talbot" and note pages 98-102. You might also read about other saints mentioned in this chapter.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pope John XXIII referred to Matt Talbot in a letter

In a letter sent by Pope John XXIII (IOANNES XXIII PP.) to the Most Rev. John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, on the occasion of the Centenary of Holy Cross College, Clonliffe (then the Major Seminary of the Archdiocese of Dublin), he mentions Abbot Columba Marmion and Matt Talbot in the following excerpt:

“In this survey of the history of your Seminary, short though it may be, We cannot fail to mention the names of two personages whose virtues are renowned throughout the world: Abbot Columba Marmion, who was first a student and later a Professor in the College; and Matthew Talbot, who strove earnestly after great sanctity when he had been rescued from vice through the influence of one of the Professors of the College.”

On September 3, 2000 Pope John XXIII was declared “Blessed” by Pope John Paul II, who himself was declared “Blessed” in 2011.

Blessed Columba Marmion (1858-1923), beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 3, 2000, was one of the most popular and influential Catholic writers of the 20th century. Matt Talbot (1856-1925) was declared “Venerable” by Pope Paul VI on October 3, 1976.

For three references to Bl. Columba Marmion, see,/czehnder_bmarmion_sept06.asp
,, and

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Matt Talbot Sunday (2011)

by V. Rev. Eoin McCrystal, P.P.

Holy Trinity Parish


Welcome everyone, as we gather to celebrate Matt Talbot Sunday. The Sunday after Corpus Christi Sunday is always reserved for The Venerable Matt Talbot. I am conscious that a younger generation might not know too much about Matt Talbot and so I hope to share a little insight to his life.

Matt was born on the 2nd May 1856 at Aldborough Court in the city centre. He was the second of 12 children of which only 9 survived. He was baptised 3 days after his birth in the Pro Cathedral Dublin. His early school life was not a success; one report describes him as a “mitcher”. He got a job at around 12 years of age as a messenger boy for E & J Burke Ltd Wine Merchants, who bottled stout and ale and so began his drinking life. He was usually to be found in O’Meara’s Pub on the North Strand (now Cusack’s) and he received his pay in there every Saturday morning. He reached a low point when he stole a fiddle from a blind man in order to buy drink. When he became unemployed his “friends” in O’Meara’s ignored him and he decided to take the pledge. He went up to Clonliffe College and took a three month pledge and experienced the most difficult months of his life. Where can he go in order to avoid the pub! He takes refuge in the churches of the city, beginning his day with 5.30am Mass in Gardiner St. and joins the Men’s Sodalities in Gardiner St. and Merchants Quay. His father died in 1899 and he and his mother moved a number of times around the city after that. In 1909 he was working permanently for T & C Martin and was a member of the ITGWU. He went out on strike with the union in 1913 under Jim Larkin. His mother dies in 1915. The President of Clonliffe College becomes his anam-chara (soul friend, spiritual director) for the next 25 years. He took no part in the 1916 Rising but kept notes on the men shot and prayed for them. He has bouts of stays in the Mater Hospital in 1923 for heart and kidney problems. In 1925 on the 7th June he collapsed and died in the street on Granby Lane. In 1937 the Papal Decree introduced his cause and he was declared Venerable on the 3rd October 1975.

People who suffer with addiction to drink or drugs invoke his intercession as do families with an addict living among them. Matt understands the pain that is suffered by both. Today let us remember Matt and pray for those afflicted by addiction.

Matt Talbot: Denying All to Gain All

Matt Talbot was a drunk. He came to this state partly as a result of nature and nurture, as his father was an alcoholic, as were most of Matt’s brothers. Born into a poverty stricken home on May 2, 1856 in Dublin he became an unskilled laborer who blew most of his wages on feeding his addiction to drink. The worst thing he did to buy alcohol was to steal a fiddle from a street performer and sell it for booze. Penniless in 1884, he took the pledge not to drink and kept it for the remainder of his life.

However, turning away from alcohol was only a small part of his transformation. In order to truly change one’s life it is never enough to turn away from something. We must also turn to something. Talbot turned to God. He began to attend daily Mass and and read books and pamphlets on the Faith. He repaid his debts and, after a fruitless search for the fiddler whose fiddle he stole, donated the money he wanted to pay the fiddler for his stolen fiddle to the Church for Masses to be said for the fiddler.

Talbot led an ascetic life thereafter, eating little and giving away much of his wages to charities and to help his fellow workers. He wore heavy chains and cords under his clothes as a penance and on Sundays would hear several Masses. He got up early every day to go to daily Mass, and he would normally spend his evenings on his knees in prayer. He did all of this while continuing to earn his daily bread as a laborer. He lived with his mother until her death in 1915 and then alone until his own death in 1925. It is entirely possible that, other than by God, he would have been entirely forgotten after his death, except that he died on the streets of Dublin on his way to Mass on June 7, 1925, and after his death the chains and cords he wore under his clothes were discovered.

In his death, Matt Talbot achieved a fame that had been a complete stranger to him in his quiet and obscure life. He quickly became a symbol of the Irish temperance movement. John Paul II as a young man wrote a paper about him. He was declared Venerable by Pope Paul VI.

Irish playwright and drunk Brendan Behan contended that Matt Talbot had been a figure of ridicule among his fellow workers because of his piety. I have little doubt of it since sanctity can make a great many people uneasy, especially when the person exhibiting it seems otherwise to be quite ordinary. Venerable Matt Talbot through his life reminds us all that sainthood is within the grasp of each of us but that it sometimes, in Earthly terms, can be a daunting path. Matt Talbot led a life of prayer, religious devotion, asceticism, penance and voluntary poverty that emulated the extreme self-denial of a monk or a nun of a very strict order, and he did it all while living in the World. He gave up everything to gain everything.