Monday, December 31, 2012

Spending Advent with Four Saints

[Popular author of many book about saints, Bert Ghezzi, suggests spending Advent
season the with four holy people, including Venerable Matt Talbot. Such visibility of Matt to a wider audience is a positive sign for the possibility of identifying a miracle attributed to him and his eventual beatification.]

Spending this Advent season with the Saints!
By Bert Ghezzi!
OSV Newsweekly
December 02, 2012

Advent prepares us for Jesus’ coming at Christmas and for his coming into our lives afresh. And no one knows how to get ready to welcome Christ better than the saints. They express their love for him by putting him first in their hearts. They make room for him by clearing out the clutter of sins and faults. The saints pursue holiness by embracing the Lord’s teaching and
lifestyle. They respond to his graces by practicing spiritual disciplines like prayer, Scripture study, fasting and almsgiving. And the saints express their love for God by reaching out to others with the Good News. They especially dedicate themselves to caring for the poor and marginalized.

So let’s make the most of this Advent and spend it with four representative saints, imitating the
ways that they opened their hearts to Jesus.

St. Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897)
We are attracted to St. Therese because she was an ordinary person. Raised in a faithful Catholic family, she was doted on by her father, teased by her sisters and suffered the pain of loss. Her youth was troubled by her mother’s death and by two sisters entering the convent. But on Christmas 1887, Therese experienced a conversion that released her depression. “Love filled my heart, I forgot myself, and henceforth I was happy,” she said. 
The next year, when Therese was only 15, the bishop allowed her to join the Carmelite convent at Lisieux. She wanted to become a missionary and a martyr, but soon realized that neither option was open to a cloistered nun. So she sought the Holy Spirit for another way to serve the Lord. Reflecting on Scripture, Therese learned to do the loving thing in every situation, which she discovered was the fuel that fired the faith of martyrs and saints. Doing the least of actions for love became the secret of her “little way.”
What does a 19th century nun have to do with us? Juggling the duties of family, work or school, navigating freeways and keeping up with the digital world, we don’t have much time for pursuing holiness, do we? But that’s where Therese sets the example for us. Her simplicity shows us that we, too, can be holy.

Venerable Matt Talbot (1856-1925)
For 16 years, Venerable Matt Talbot was a daily drunk. Then one day, an unanticipated conversion transformed him and he became a model penitent.
As a child of a poor family in Dublin, Matt had to forgo school for a job. After a year of basic education, he started working for a wine seller. And Matt started drinking heavily at the early age of 12.
His father beat him and made him change jobs—but nothing could stop Matt’s habit. He said that when he was intoxicated, he occasionally thought about the Blessed Mother and prayed an
off-handed Hail Mary. Matt speculated later that she had something to do with his conversion.
One day in 1884 everything suddenly changed. Matt had been out of work several days and expected his buddies to take him drinking. When they snubbed him, he made a decision that transformed his life.
When he arrived at home, his mother said, “You’re home early, Matt, and you’re sober!” He replied, “Yes, mother, I am and I’m going to take the pledge.” The next day he went to confession and took the sobriety pledge for three months.
But Matt extended the three months into 41 years. In 1891, Matt found community support by joining the Franciscan Third Order. He lived to rest of his life quietly, working and praying. Pope Paul VI declared him venerable in 1975.
At a time when addictions to alcohol, other drugs and pornography are running rampant, Matt Talbot stands as an exemplar of the ways to freedom and holiness.

Blessed Anne Mary Taigi (1769-1837)
A model woman, Blessed Anne Mary managed a large household in Rome for nearly five decades. She handled finances with little money, patiently cared for a difficult extended family and entertained a constant stream of guests. She did all this full of faith and good cheer.
At age 21, Anne Mary married Domenico Taigi, a servant in a Roman palace. They had seven children, two of whom died at childbirth. Early in her marriage Anne Mary experienced a religious conversion. She simplified her life, initiating practices of prayer and self-denial that she pursued the rest of her life.
Anne Mary took the spiritual lead in her family. The day began with morning prayer and Mass and ended with reading lives of the saints and praying the Rosary.
The Taigis had little of their own, but she always found ways of providing for those who had less. She also took in her hard to-get-along with parents and her widowed daughter, Sophie, with her six children.
Domenico’s violent temper often disrupted the family. But Anne Mary was always able to calm him and restore peaceful relationships.
In his old age, Domenico gave this touching tribute to his wife: “With her wonderful tact she was able to maintain a heavenly peace in our home. And that even though we were a large household full of people with very different temperaments.“I often came home tired, moody and cross, but she always succeeded in soothing and cheering me. And due to her, I corrected  some of my faults. If I were a young man and could search the whole world to find such a wife, it would be vain. I believe that God has received her into heaven because of her great virtue. And I hope that she will pray for me and our family.”
We may imagine that becoming a saint requires heroics like founding a religious order or converting an aboriginal tribe. But Blessed Anne Mary shows us that the daily faithful care of a family requires more than enough heroism to make us holy.

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925)
Blessed Pope John Paul II celebrated Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati as a man of the Beatitudes.
Athletic and strong, he devoted himself to the weak and malformed. He was wealthy, but he lived in poverty so he could give everything to the poor. He was gregarious, but a lover of solitude.
He was rambunctious, the life of every party, and a practical joker, but at prayer he was solemn, reflective and quiet.
As a teenager, Pier Giorgio made friends of the poor in Turin’s back streets and gave them whatever he had– his money, his shoes, his overcoat. “Jesus comes to me every morning in holy Communion,” he replied to a friend who asked why the hovels did not repulse him. “I repay him in my very small way by visiting the poor. The house may be sordid, but I am going to Christ.”
Pier Giorgio saw the need for social change to relieve the causes of poverty. At the university he decided to major in mechanical engineering to that he would work with miners, who were especially disadvantaged. He was a leader in student political organizations and actively opposed Mussolini and the Fascists.
At the same time, he was the organizer of student parties, games and ski trips to the Alps, where he would lead his friends in prayer. Afterward, they relaxed and enjoyed food, wine, cigars and songs.
Blessed Pier Giorgio has become the hero of contemporary young Catholics. They recognize his high Christian ideals, still held while pursuing the same pleasures that they enjoy. They
gravitate to this handsome and charming saint who delighted in reciting the poetry of Dante, praying the Rosary in a booming voice and spending a night in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Source: Since this article can only be read in this publication by “login,” it is reprinted

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The "Hoped-For" Beatification That Didn't Happen

[One of the holy people that Pope John Paul II wanted to beatify during his pontificate was Matt Talbot; he thought that Matt’s example could be very valuable for those who are addicted to alcohol and drugs (

Although Pope John Paul II had visited Ireland in 1979 (, information released just this past week indicates that he was considering returning to Ireland in 1981.]

Pope John Paul II 'was considering returning for a second visit to Ireland'
By Ed Carty
Friday December 28 2012

Pope John Paul II’s "unpredictable" nature could have seen him make a return papal visit in 1981 for the beatification of Matt Talbot, state papers have revealed.

John Magee, the former bishop of Cloyne and an aide to three popes, confided in an Irish diplomat that there was a possibility the pontiff would make the extraordinary move.

In a letter to the Department of Foreign Affairs at Iveagh House, embassy officer Frank Coffey relayed the thinking in the Vatican in March 1981.

"Fr Magee thinks it is not inconceivable that if and when Matt Talbot is beatified, the Holy Father may decide to have the ceremony in Dublin," he wrote.

On a separate letter he said that such a beatification could be linked to the 90th anniversary of the 1891 Rerum Novarum, an open letter from Pope Leo XIII addressing the condition of the working classes.

"Pope John Paul has also thought that the beatification of Matt Talbot would be a particularly apposite way to mark the anniversary," he wrote.

"However, it does not appear that Matt Talbot's cause has advanced sufficiently for this to be done.

"Nonetheless, bearing in mind the present Pontiff's 'unpredictability' we cannot rule out his taking some extraordinary measures to permit beatification this year."

Talbot, known as Venerable Matt Talbot, pledged sobriety aged 28 and a life of prayer, fasting and service, never taking credit and trying to model himself on the sixth-century Irish monks.

He was a member of the Transport and General Workers Union and worked in a lumber yard in Dublin docks.

Talbot is in the second stage of becoming a saint being known as Venerable. His beatification is still pending.

The detail was contained in files on plans for the Pope's visit to Ireland under the code 2012/58/3.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Matt Talbot's Life in Verse

[Many years ago, Christy Bracken (of Co. Tipperary, Ireland) read about the life of Matt Talbot and was greatly impressed by its turnaround. He subsequently wrote this condensed account of Matt's life in verse form. 
It is Christy's (and our) hope that this posting might possibly help someone struggling with alcoholism or advance the cause of Matt’s beatification.]

The Servant Of God.
[Matt Talbot]

Silhouetted beneath the shimmering January moon,
a lone pilgrim, his bare knees,
kissing the penitential cold of granite stone,
awaits entry to the re-enactment of the perpetual drama.

 Not so alas in his youthful days,
for those hands now clasped in prayer,
with reckless ease were wrapped around
the “drink”, and all it’s snares,
from tavern to drunken tavern,
stumble, stagger, fall,
when the demons cravings had stripped him bare,
‘twas then You gave the call.

 With hands buried deep in penniless pockets,
on Newcomen bridge he took his stand,
pleading eyes from sunken sockets,
awaited in vain a welcoming glance.
A mother’s prayers had at least been answered,
from the debts of despair a glimmer of light,
a bitter experience of human friendship
shattered, he sighed, and sought comfort in flight.

 By the fireside she sat, when she heard him exclaim,
“Mother, Mother, I’m home”
startled, she cried,“Matt, what is it, what’s wrong?”
“I’m taking the pledge”, he intoned.
“Go now in God’s name, but only if you intend to keep it”
for she well knew his heavy load,
“I’ll go in God’s name” as he took
his first faltering steps down the straight and narrow road.

 “Bless me father for I have sinned”, a new life of grace lay ahead,
three months, six, finally for life,
many tears of repentance were shed.
Temptation, isolation, discouragement, pain,
the chains of indulgence proved strong,
but his spiritual food, now his daily diet,
proved strongest as the battle raged on.

 Instead of drink, now Matt consumed,
the fruits of kindred souls,
Augustine, Wisdom, the book of Psalms,
Our Lady, many secrets to Matt did unfold.
Fasting, solitude, almsgiving, prayer,
as he rises from his wooden bed
four hours sleep, his vigil he’d keep,
eternity, to lay down his head.

 To the casual eye in the builder’s yard,
nothing unwonted seemed done,
to the wiry little man who carried and fetched,
in wind, rain, and sun.
But deep within the Master’s hand,
to reshape and rebuild had begun,
‘till out of the debts, came the constant refrain,
“Thy will, Thy will be it done”.

 Down Granby Lane, on the seventh of June,
this foot soldier stumbled and fell,
of the milling crowd that gathered around,
his identity no one could tell.
In Jervis Street Hospital, bound in chains of love,
laid bare, this pilgrim who carried the hod,
Providence’s design would reveal in good time,
he was truly a Servant of God.

                                                      Christy Bracken


Friday, December 7, 2012

Interview about the Beatification of Matt Talbot

Father Brian Lawless talked with Joe Duffy of “Lifeline” at RTE Radio 1 in Ireland on October 03, 2012 “about the cause of Matt Talbot, the Dubliner who is regarded as a patron of those suffering with addiction. Brian is the vice postulator of the cause of Matt Talbot's beatification and spoke about the man's life and experiences and how he has become an inspiration for those in recovery from addictions.” [Programme description]

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Viewing Matt Talbot Relics

"On Tuesday 6th November 2012 Fr. Brian Lawless, Vice postulator of the cause Canonisation of Matt Talbot, brought with him relics and memorabilia of Matt Talbot to the Novena in Shannon including a first class relic which people were given the opportunity to be blessed with as well as being able to view and examine personal items belonging to Matt.”
Photographs can be viewed at (Clicking on a photo will enlarge it.)