Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Don't write anyone off

As the old year ends and the new one begins, don’t write anyone off.

Msgr. Charles Pope shares the following story:
 “...I know a man (who is now deceased) but he told me his story, of how he was raised in the Church, got all his Sacraments, went to Church regularly, and was a God-fearing man. But in his early 40s he descended into alcoholism, began to be unfaithful to his wife, stopped going to Church and was dismissive of God. Were you or I to have seen him at that time, we might have easily concluded it looked bad. But somewhere in his early 60s, he knows not how, (except that someone was praying for him), he pulled out of his rebellion and re-entered the vineyard. He sought help for his drinking and reconciled with his wife and children. Daily mass, weekly confession, daily rosary, and Stations of the Cross, yes, when he returned, he really returned. But he said to me he had done a lot of sinning, and now it was time to do a lot of praying, making up for lost time, as he put it. He died a penitent in the bosom of the Church.
You just never know. Don’t write anyone off. Nothing stabs evangelization in the heart more that the presumption by many of us that someone is an unlikely candidate for conversion. Keep praying and keep working. Jesus tells us of a son who told his father to buzz off, but later repented and went into the vineyard. Pray, hope and work, you just never know. Don’t give up.”
Earlier today a group of folks were sharing their highlights of 2013.  One man (who apparently does not have a drinking problem but works the Al-Anon program) stated that his most significant highlight for the year was a call from his best friend who has had a drinking problem for the past 27 years  and to whom he had given a copy of Alcoholics Anonymous in 2011. He was thrilled to hear that his old friend had finally begun reading the gift book two months ago, attended AA meetings and was beginning to work the 12 steps with a sponsor.  Don’t write anyone off.

Regarding Venerable Matt Talbot, his mother, Elizabeth, prayed for Matt and other family members years before Matt finally gave up alcohol. She never gave up.

Monday, December 30, 2013


This committee membership posted 28/11/2013 at http://www.dublindiocese.ie/content/matt-talbot-committee consists of: 

Chairman: Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin.

Executive Chairman: V. Rev. Brian Lawless, S.T.L.
46 North William Street, Dublin 1. Tel: 8554078 
Email: frbrian@stagathasparish.ie

Secretary: Breege Morris


Website: www.matttalbot.ie
Tel: 01 8554078.

Members: Mr. Patrick Behan, Brother Christopher Carroll, C.F.C.,

Mr. Anthony Malone, Paula Murray, Vera Brady,

Sr. Briget O’Connor, D.C., Mr. Des Kelly, Mr Michael Murphy,

Mr. Shay O'Melia, Very Rev. Tim Wrenn & Mr. Michael Wall

Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Matt Talbot Temperance Card for Youth

Disciple of Christ- Education in Virtue is a Christian curriculum structured on the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas regarding the virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit.”
One of their cards for the virtue of temperance features Venerable Matt Talbot, shown below:

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Advent Past and Present

Penance, abstinence and fasting are some of the words we might typically associate with Matt Talbot.
In terms of liturgical seasons we, like Matt, think of these three words in terms of Lent but do we also associate these words with Advent as did Matt?
A topic search suggests that an increasing number of writers are reflecting on changes in Advent practices, such as Monsignor Charles Pope in the following article.
I was explaining to a new Catholic recently that the color purple (violet) used in advent is akin to its use in Lent, in that both are considered penitential seasons. Hence we are to give special attention to our sins and our need for salvation. Traditionally Advent was a time we would, like Lent take part in penitential practices such as fasting and abstinence.

Of course, in recent decades Advent has almost wholly lost any real penitential practices. There is no fasting or abstinence required, they are not really even mentioned. Confession is encouraged and the readings still retain a kind of focus on repentance and a focus on the Last Judgment.

But long gone are the days of a forty day fast beginning on Nov 12. The observances in the period of the Middle Ages were every bit as strict as Lent. St. Martin’s Feast Day was a day of carnival (which means literally “farewell to meat” (carnis + vale)). In those days the rose vestments of Gaudete (Rejoice Sunday) were really something to rejoice about, since the fast was relaxed for a day. Then back into the fast until Christmas. Lent too began with Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), as the last of the fat was used used up and the fast was enjoined beginning the next day.

And the fast and abstinence were far more than the tokenary observances we have today. In most places, all animal products were strictly forbidden during Advent and Lent. There were many regional differences about the rest of the details. While most areas permitted fish, others permitted fish and fowl. Some prohibited fruit and eggs, and some places like monasteries ate little more than bread. In some places, on Fridays of Lent and Advent, believers abstained from food for an entire day; others took only one meal. In most places, however, the practice was to abstain from eating until the evening, when a small meal without vegetables or alcohol was eaten.

Yes, those were the day of the Giants! When fasting and abstinence were real things.

Our little token fast on only two days (and only in Lent) really isn’t much of a fast: two small meals + one regular meal; is that really a fast at all? And we abstain from meat only on the Fridays of Lent, instead of all forty days.

What is most remarkable to me is that such fasts of old were undertaken by men, women and children who had a lot less to eat than we do. Not only was there less food, but is was far more seasonal and its supply less predictable. Further, famines and food shortages were more a fact of life than today. Yet despite all this they were able to fast, and twice a year at that, for eighty days total. There were also “ember days” sporadically through the year when a day long fast was enjoined.

Frankly I doubt we moderns could pull off the fast of the ancients, and even the elders of more recent centuries. Can you imagine all the belly-aching (pun intended) if the Church called us to follow the strict norms of even 200 years ago? We would hear that such demands were unrealistic, even unhealthy.

Perhaps it is a good illustration of how our abundance enslaves us. The more we get, the more we want. And the more we want the more we think we can’t live without. To some degree or another we are so easily owned by what we claim to own, we are enslaved by our abundance and we experience little freedom to go without.

I look back to the Catholics of 100 years and before and think of them like giants compared to us. They had so little compared to me, but they seem to have been so much freer. They could fast. And though poor, they built grand Churches and had large families. They crowded into homes and lived and worked in conditions few of us would be able to tolerate today. And sacrifice seemed more “normal” to them. I have not read of any huge outcries from those times, that the mean nasty Church imposed fasting and abstinence in Advent and Lent. (Though certainly there were exceptions for the very young, the old the sick, and also pregnant women). Neither have I read of outcries of the fasting from midnight before receiving Communion. Somehow they accepted these sacrifices and were largely able to undertake them. They had a freedom that I think many of us lack.

And then too, imagine the joy when, for a moment the fast lifted in these times: Immaculate Conception, Gaudete, Annunciation, St. Joseph’s Feast day, Laetare Sunday. Imagine the joy. For us its just a pink candle and a pondering, “Rejoice? Over what?” For them these were actual and literal “feast days.”

I admit, I am a man of my time and I find the fasting and abstinence described above nearly “impossible.” I did give up all wine for this Advent. Last Lent I banished radio and TV. But something makes me look back to the Giants of old, who, having far less than I, did such things as a matter of course.

There were giants in those days!

Note:  Two additional articles on this topic can be read at  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

From Alcoholic To Sainthood - The Story of Matt Talbot

In the January 2013 issue of Catholic Truth, a bi-monthly newsletter, the article about Matt Talbot is prefaced by the following comment:
“Much is made of the New Year holiday in Scotland, with many, if not most families affected in some way by the attendant drink problems.
Alcohol related health issues and crimes, notably domestic abuse and other violence, are a growing cause for concern in Scotland. 
We cross the Irish Sea,therefore, to draw hope and inspiration from the example of Matt Talbot who used his Catholic Faith to conquer his alcohol addiction.”
The article can be read at http://www.catholictruthscotland.com/JANUARYnewsletter13.pdf, pages 4-5.
Note that at the end of this article, the name and contact for the Vice-Postulator is not Fr. Flaherty but rather 
Fr. Brian Lawless
Parish of St. Agatha
North William Street
Dublin 1.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

“Venerable Matt Talbot: Recovered Alcoholic”

by Sr. Katherine Maria, MICM
From the Housetops
November, 2013

Matt Talbot is the subject of the feature article in this magazine. Its description is as follows:
“Matt Talbot's story is one of hope and encouragement to anyone suffering from addiction. Living through desperate times, politically and economically, with ample excuse to become an alcoholic, which he did, Venerable Matt Talbot overcame his addiction through the help of God. His story is one of tremendous struggle against the powerful force that requires great courage and humility. Matt Talbot leads the way to seek help from the right source. He is in the first stages of canonization.”
The first seven pages can be read free at http://issuu.com/fromthehousetops/docs/venerable_matt_talbot#

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A matter of identity

[Matt Talbot would certainly have answered these questions differently in his drinking days and later after his conversion and alcoholism recovery.]


Who Are You? What Is Your Purpose?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

We humans, in many ways, have lost our identity. While individuals might have answers to the big questions of life, that isn't the case with us as a community of persons. Our culture no longer has the answers to these questions:
  • Who am I?
  • What is the purpose to life?
  • Who is God?
  • Why was I created?
These questions and the corresponding answers directly affect what we believe, how we view life, and how we live. The root of the issue is this - without an identity in Christ, we cannot see ourselves, others or the world in the proper context. We mistake a lie for the truth.

What is the truth about you and I?
It is that each of us are created in the image and likeness of God. Big deal, you might think. But, it is. It is our identity. We are adopted into the family of God (the Trinity) and made partakers of the divine nature. This means we are caught up into the love of God, by our willing participation in God's divine life. Notice this work is always an act of God, but it requires our consent - through faith. God will never force us to participate in following Him.
If we do choose Him, a new-found identity in Christ means we can no longer look at ourselves or others in the same way. This is why the John Paul the Great quoted the following verse more than any other from Vatican II:
"Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear." -(Gaudium et Spes 22)
If we want to know who we are, who others are, and the answers to the other questions that have been planted deep within us, then we need to understand who Jesus is and who we are in light of Christ. When God became man in the Incarnation, He didn't lower His own divine nature, which is impossible - because God is unchangeable, rather He raise up our human nature higher. The document goes on to say our nature...
"has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man."
This is our "supreme calling" - to find who we are in Christ. To live fully in the Fathers' love, truth and grace. This is what we were made for.

This is the truth about the mystery of humanity. We were made to live this way, and called to find this truth. When we do so, we discover what real human "dignity" means. Which is why the document continues with:
"The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light." 
When we do not live in this truth we bring suffering upon ourselves and others...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Venerable Matt Talbot included in SAINTS ALIVE!

Saints Alive! the Gospel Witnessed, authored by Sr. Marie Paul Curley and Sr. Mary Lea Hill, has just been published by Pauline Books & Media. This collection of stories features 31 saints from different eras, continents, and walks of life. Each brief story highlights a particular aspect of or challenge in the saint's life and connects it to a Gospel verse. Themes include: conversion, discipleship, bearing witness, ministering to Christ, love, suffering, union with God, living the Word, and faith.
The companion book, Saints Alive! The Faith Proclaimed, featuring different saints and themes is described at http://www.amazon.com/Saints-Alive-Marie-Paul-Curley/dp/0819872865/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1384566724&sr=1-2&keywords=saints+alive!
Also note that online resources on the saints from Saints Alive! is available at http://www.pauline.org/Strength-for-Your-Day/Abide-in-Gods-Love/Abide-in-His-Love-Blog/ArticleID/192

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Feast of All Saints of Ireland

Today, the 6th of November, the Feast of All Saints of Ireland is celebrated in Ireland. This feast includes canonised saints as well as those who had a reputation for holiness and whose causes for canonisation have not yet been completed, such as Venerable Matt Talbot. 

For more information about this feast see the post of Sr. Mary-Louise PDDM at http://pilgrimsprogresspddm.blogspot.com/2012/11/6th-november-feast-of-all-saints-of.html and expanded at http://sacredspace102.blogspot.com/2013/11/6th-november-all-saints-of-ireland.html.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Short-Term Pledge for November

[Matt Talbot became one of the first members of The Total Abstinence League of the Sacred Heart in 1890,  which was renamed the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association in 1898.]

“The Pioneers have launched a campaign encouraging people to give up drink for the month of November.

“By a long-standing Irish custom, many people choose to abstain from alcohol for the month of November and offer this act as a sacrifice for the eternal salvation of their deceased loved ones, and for the Souls in Purgatory. You can do likewise,” a spokesperson for the group said.

In recent times the Pioneers have seen increased interest in short term pledges – sometimes for Lent but also for Advent and in November.

Padraig Brady, Pioneer Association CEO, said many who enjoy alcohol in moderation also like to periodically quit. “Some people take the pledge to detox from alcohol and also to create more space to think about their drinking habits, he explained.

Others who take the short term pledge offer up their own commitment to try and help somebody close to them who may be struggling with an alcohol or drug abuse problem...” (More at http://www.catholicireland.net/pioneers-urge-public-pledge-november/.)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

All Souls Day Homily

 Fr. Martin Fox
Today, All Souls’ Day,
is a day of remembrance,
but also a day full of hope.

This time of year,
the Church bids us consider eternity.

Yesterday was the great feast of All Saints.
The saints give us hope—
We long to join their company;
And it is God’s will that we do so.

There are only two final destinations,
after this life:
Either we go to heaven—
and then we will be a saint—
Or we go to the other place.

What about purgatory?
Purgatory is not a destination—
No one spends eternity in purgatory.

It isn’t really a “place” at all,
but a process:
It’s a stopping point on the way.
Purgatory is the “mud room” of heaven;
It’s the saints’ finishing school.

Some tell me they’re a little afraid of purgatory—
They think of it in terms of punishment.

Our late, beloved holy father, John Paul,
taught us otherwise.
He said, before entering
the perfect glory of heaven,
“Every trace of attachment to evil
must be eliminated,
every imperfection of the soul corrected.

“Those who, after death,
exist in a state of purification,
are already in the love of Christ
who removes from them
the remnants of imperfection.”

They “are united both with the blessed
who already enjoy the fullness of eternal life,
and with us on this earth
on our way towards the Father's house.”

Now, that doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Nothing to be afraid of.

We might wonder, is there pain in purgatory?
C.S. Lewis said this:
If there’s pain in purgatory,
it’s the pain of having Christ so near—
ah, but still something holds us back.

Because it’s the pain of healing,
Lewis said, it’s pain we’ll welcome.

The healing isn’t just about
those who have died;
It helps heal us, the living, as well.
Sometimes people die,
and maybe we have
unfinished business with them.

Or maybe we wonder—
what will become of them
in their moment of judgment?

We might fear for them.
But thanks be to God,
our ability to help them
doesn’t end at their death!

Now, I’m going to say something
a little mind-bending.
Think about this:

You and I live in time:
one day follows another,
Past to present to future—right?

But God doesn’t live in time—
Time in no way limits God.

So, I have a cousin,
who died at his own hand.
What did he believe or understand,
at that moment?
I don’t know.

But when I pray for him now,
That prayer can help him,
not just after he died,
But anywhere along the course of his life!

No, I can’t “go back in time”—but God can!

So all those people
you’ve ever worried about:
Pray for them now—
And who knows just where
along the course of their lives,
God may choose to apply your prayers?

When we remember the dead this time of year,
we remember that our existence, on earth,
is but one slice of reality.

Naturally, we think it’s the most important,
Or the most real, slice of life.

But it’s not.
We’re on our way to the most important,
most real, dimension of life:
Life after this life—
Not only life-after-death,
but life-after-resurrection!

There’s so much more still ahead!

And this is why Christ came,
Christ died, and rose for us:
To open the path and lead us there.

The prophet Daniel foresaw it;
St. Paul rejoices because the Holy Spirit,
poured into our hearts,
makes us long—thirst—pant!—
for this destiny!

In the Eucharist,
we get just a taste of this reality!

Christ leads us there—
there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Dare to be more

Although Venerable Matt Talbot has not been officially declared a saint yet by the Church, his desire and actions to turn his life around after descending to a virtual hell on earth of alcoholism is a testament to the power of God’s love, grace and mercy in all our lives. 
While Matt is not mentioned as an example in this homily for All Saints Day (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/deaconsbench/2013/10/homily-for-november-1-2013-all-saints-day/), he certainly was one who “dared to be more.”  Do each of us?

For one introductory source about this special day, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Saints%27_Day

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Matt Talbot and self-punishment

Within Part 2 of a manuscript being readied for publication, historian Glenn Chesnut addresses the "The Problem of Pain and Suffering," focusing on:

 ”(1) Emmet Fox and New Thought: pain and suffering are caused by wrong thoughts. If we change the way we think, the pain and suffering will disappear. As can be seen, Fox preached many radical New Thought ideas, but he had been born in Ireland, was brought up as a Catholic, and had been trained by the Jesuits. God as Creative Intelligence and the power of Being Itself.

(2) Matt Talbot and self-punishment, the very different path taken by another Irish Catholic, a laboring man in Dublin. Wearing chains around his body, sleeping on a bare wooden plank, and so on. We must atone for our sin and guilt by deliberately inflicting pain and hardship on ourselves before God will forgive us. The self-torture game.

(3) In Ignatian spirituality: pain and suffering exist because life in this fallen world is a war. As a good soldier, you must continue to do your duty and fight for the good down to your last breath, even when surrounded on every side by death and horror. The central Ignatian teaching of the Two Standards (Las Dos Banderas), choosing which of these two battle flags you will follow in the war between the forces of Good and the forces of Evil. Choosing between the way of Pride and the way of Humility. St. Augustine and the two cities: the City of God vs. the Earthly City, surrender of my ego to God vs. trying to play God myself.”

The overall outline of this 247 page manuscript can be viewed at http://www.hindsfoot.org/inProgr.html and worth reading first.

The section that addresses Matt Talbot is found on pages 63-69 at  PDF file or as MS Word DOC file.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A biographer’s note on Matt Talbot's reading and comprehension abilities

The first  American book published about Matt Talbot (http://cnp.stparchive.com/Archive/CNP/CNP04041947p40.php) was Matt Talbot, Alcoholic: The Story of a Slave to Alcohol who Became a Comrade of Christ’s (1947) by Fr. Albert H. Dolan, O.Carm. (1892-1951).  This quotation is from that book:

“What I remember best of Matt Talbot’s story as I heard it first years ago is the astounding character of the books he possessed, books found in his room after his death. This man, with practically no schooling, read and digested some of the most advanced and profound treatises of mystical theology.  The lives of the saints reveal that very holy souls with no education read books, the understanding of which would require light directly infused by the Holy Ghost. Once Matt told a friend that he was reading Newman’s ‘Apologia.’ The friend replied that a book like that was over Matt’s head, that he himself had found it beyond him. Matt answered that whenever he read a book he always prayed to God to give him light to understand it and that he thought he received enough light to understand most of what he read.”

Matt Talbot also discussed what he read with spiritual directors (see http://www.matttalbot.ie/new-matt.htm). More information about Fr. Dolan can be found at Fr. Albert H. Dolan.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Wisdom from the saints on the spiritual battle

"Guard Your Tongue, Guard Your Temper, Guard Your Thoughts:
Wisdom from the saints on the spiritual battle"
The Word Among Us
October, 2013, 33 (9), 20
Occupy your mind with good thoughts, or the enemy will fill them with bad ones.
—St. Thomas More

Prayer is more powerful than all the devils. He who is attacked by the spirits of darkness needs only to apply himself vigorously to prayer, and he will beat them back with great success.
—St. Bernard of Clairvaux

When the enemy wants to challenge me, I conduct myself valiantly. Knowing that to fight a duel is an unworthy act, I turn my back on the adversary without ever looking him in the face. Then I run to my Jesus.
—St. Thérèse of Lisieux

The devil’s snare doesn’t catch you unless you’re already nibbling on the devil’s bait.
—St. Ambrose

In company guard your tongue. In your family guard your temper. When alone guard your thoughts.
—Venerable Matt Talbot

Always and everywhere, a person should aim to live as if God were visibly present… . Such alertness requires that we turn our minds fully and decisively to the Lord.
—St. Bonaventure

Should we fall into sin, let us at once humble ourselves sorrowfully in his presence, and then, with an act of unbounded confidence, let us throw ourselves into the ocean of his goodness, where every failing will be cancelled and anxiety turned into love.
—St. Paul of the Cross

In two ways the presence of God is an antidote against sin: first, because God sees us and second, because we see God.
—St. Ignatius of Loyola

A man is really clean of heart when he is searching for the things of heaven, never failing to keep God before his eyes.
—St. Francis of Assisi

The soul that is united with God is feared by the devil as though it were God himself.
—St. John of the Cross


Note: This page of quotes appeared among featured articles on the topic of the path of victory over spiritual battle. As you noted Venerable Matt Talbot’s quotation was both included among those of very well known saints as well as selected for the title of this page. This is especially significant since Matt is known to have written (and sent) only one letter during his lifetime whereas the other saints listed wrote extensively (with many publications still available today).

As far as Matt’s quote is concerned, the entire quotation is, "Three things I cannot escape: the eye of God, the voice of conscience, the stroke of death. In company, guard your tongue. In your family, guard your temper. When alone guard your thoughts."
Source: Saintly Men of Modern Times - Page 238 - Google Books Result and many other sources available online.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Asking for the gift of prayer

The following quotation is from homily notes for 28 July 2013, 17th Sunday, at http://www.associationofcatholicpriests.ie/2013/07/28-july-2013-17th-sunday-of-year-c/

“A certain man once asked a Carthusian monk how he should pray, and the reply was, 'Pray in, not up' – just four words. It is indeed true that most of the time we imagine the One we are addressing in prayer as being somewhere above or outside ourselves. But scripture tells us that we are temples of the Holy Spirit, and we should focus on God’s Spirit dwelling within us. Furthermore, the Spirit pleads for us with sighs too deep for words, and intercedes for us according to the will of God. May we never leave off praying, but rather ask God daily for the gift of prayer, as did Matt Talbot, who set for us such an example of a life wholly dedicated to prayer, by day and by night, at home or at work.”

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Matt Talbot and the 1913 Dublin Lockout

The source of the following article by Fr. Tom Ryan is from http://www.shannonparish.ie/category/fr-toms-courier-column.
Information about the 21st Annual Matt Talbot Novena is also available with a list of the speakers at

“For the Tuesdays of October and November 2013, we invite you to join us for our 21st annual Matt Talbot Novena, praying for all suffering or sharing in the life of addiction.

Addiction is defined as a craving or obsession not only for substances such as alcohol, tobacco and other drugs but also a psychological dependency on things such as gambling, food, pornography, video games, internet, work, exercise, self harming etc. Addictions lead to all sorts of problems at home, work, school and in the community which can in turn cause guilt, shame, anxiety and rejection.

Matt Talbot’s addiction was alcohol. Matt’s programme of recovery was built around devotion to the Eucharist, love of Mary Mother of God and prayer, but he never forgot his struggle with his addiction. The life and example of Matt Talbot is an inspiration and help to people to overcome and accept their problems and difficulties.

This year marks the centenary of the 1913 Dublin Lockout. In the early autumn of that year, the heartless lords of industry locked out some 20,000 poorly paid Dublin workers, most of them with large hungry families. The reason for all of this was the spirited refusal of the workers to sever their connection with Jim Larkin’s founded Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union. The average weekly wage was five shillings (less that 90 cent in today’s Euro), working in excess of 80 hours per week.

Matt Talbot, as a poorly paid worker himself, admired and respected Jim Larkin and he became a member of the ITGWU, a link only severed by his death. Matt spent most of his time during the Lockout praying in Gardiner Street Church.

The final days of 1913 witnessed a rapid decline in the workers’ fortunes. Food supplies had dwindled disastrously and funds for fresh supplies were non-existent. During January and early February 1914, the men gradually returned to their work. As broken as they were with little or no improvement in their wages, they had yet gained a political victory. The employers, despite their best efforts, had failed to break Jim Larkin’s Union. In the ensuing years, the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union went from strength to strength. Matt was a fully paid up member of the ITGWU for the rest of his life. In 1923, Matt became very ill and was unable to work. He received sick pay, fifteen shillings from the Union.

He died in Granby Lane, Dublin on 7th June 1925 on his way to Church. It was the feast of The Holy Trinity. Matt’s life and story is not time bound. Matt was not a colourful character; he had a very simple personality. He was a man who had great faith rooted in prayer and the Eucharist; he possessed a great sense of justice, especially for workers. Matt was a man who overcame addiction by using primarily the spiritual resources that are available to all who suffer addiction. His conquering of addiction was with free will and the help of God. These two ingredients, free will and God’s help, are still readily available to all of us on our own journey through life, in our battles with our own addictions.”

Also note these references:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

“How your life is spent”

Fr. Jim Reinhart 

21st SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - Year C  - Luke 13:22-30



Long before the antidiscrimination laws, Mrs. Rosenberg was stranded one night at a fashionable resort on Cape Cod, one that did not admit Jews. The desk clerk looked at his book and said, “Sorry, no room. The hotel is full.”


The lady said, “But your sign says that you have vacancies.” The desk clerk stammered a bit and finally said, “Look, you know that we do not admit Jews. Please try the other side of town.” Mrs. Rosenberg stiffened. “I’ll have you know I have converted to your religion.”


The desk clerk replied, “Oh, yeah? Let me give you a little quiz. How was Jesus born?” “He was born to a virgin named Mary in a little town called Bethlehem,” she replied. “Very good,” the clerk said. “Tell me more.” “He was born in a manger.” “That’s right,” said the clerk. “And why was he born in a manger?” Mrs. Rosenberg said loudly, “Because some idiot behind a hotel desk wouldn’t give a Jewish lady a room for the night.  


There is the story of the evangelical conference. A man was late and arrived to find a huge auditorium packed to the brim until he spotted a chair way up front. He slowly edged his way up so as not to disturb the speaker; he leaned over to the woman next to it and whispered, “Is this chair saved?” She whispered back, “No, but we’re praying for it.”


So ends the issue about who's saved and who’s not, who's in and who’s out.   It’s a fruitless and irrelevant question-rightly ignored by Jesus. Since God calls every human being to salvation, the real issue is not numbers or trying to find out if I will be in the final count. But, how do we embrace God’s invitation and calculate the cost?


Matthew tells us, “as long as you did it for the least of my brothers, you did it for me” - OR NOT. The crucial question is how did you spend yourself in service to others?  Claiming you shared a few drinks is not going to cut it.


Someone who went beyond empty words and foolish numbers is an alcoholic by the name of Matt Talbot;  an Irishman was born in 1856 to very poor Irish working-class people.  At age 12 took his first job and his first drink.  It wasn’t long before the 12-year-old was coming home drunk.  Not unlike today’s drunken 14-year-olds getting off the train to go to teen night.


Matt later went to work at a brickyard and proved to be a good worker.  Now in his late teens with steady pay he headed for one of Dublin’s 2,000 pubs.  Alcoholism was a major problem in Ireland and a record from 1865 showed that the police arrested some 16,000 Dubliners for drunkenness, a third of them women.


The laborers were paid in the pubs and so the paycheck seldom left there. Matt Talbot was in the forefront wasting his pay on drink.  His addiction was such that sometimes he sold his boots or his shirt for a drink.  To feed his habit, he once stole a fiddle from a blind man who earned his living playing in the streets.


No one knew then that alcoholism was an illness, a terrible craving arising from a complex disease involving heredity, emotional factors, and the makeup of the brain.  Way back in 1784  Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia wrote a pamphlet  suggesting that alcoholism was an illness rather than a moral failing, but  it took nearly 2 centuries, 1958, for the American Medical Association to finally get around to that opinion.


One Saturday night Matt and his hard drinking brothers went to the local pub they were broke but expected their drinking buddies to treat them.  They didn’t.   Matt was so angry that he left in a huff, trudged home and told his mother that he was so mad he was going to take the pledge and stop drinking.  His mother said,   “Go in God’s name, but don’t take it, unless you intend to keep it.”


Keep it he did.   From that point on he never took another drink. Withdrawal, nausea, and all the horrible aftermath followed but Matt held fast.   They didn’t have AA or Al-Anon or the 12 steps in those days.  No friends of a New York stockbroker and the Ohio surgeon who founded AA in 1935 were around. Matt had to go it alone. But not quite - He had God and a devotion to Mary.


Up to this point Matt had been a nominal Catholic (after all, alcohol was his God and the bar was his altar), but after his conversion, he drew close to God. He started going to daily mass.  He would kneel on the steps a half-hour before church opened.  He made the Stations of the Cross, prayed the rosary daily, and gave much of his money to the poor.  He followed ancient penitential practices, like sleeping on a plank instead of a mattress, and he found a wise spiritual director in a Msgr. Michael Hickey.  He did this for years. A reformed alcoholic on the streets of Dublin, he had no time and less patience about who is saved or not.  Prayer and service were his concerns.


Matt had a heart and kidney condition and at age 69, on Trinity Sunday, 1925, on his way to church he fell in the street and died. He was given the last rites, taken to the hospital, but having only a rosary and a prayer book on him no one knew who he was until his sister identified him. When his body was undressed at the hospital it was found that he was wearing chains, an old form of Irish monastic asceticism. People at the hospital were astounded and soon word got out. People heard of the chains got interested in him and stories of his Holiness spread eventually to the Vatican.  He is now venerable Matt Talbot.


Lord, will only a few people be saved?” And Jesus said, “it’s a non-question, for people will come from the East and the West, from the North and the South, from Cape Cod and Dublin, and will recline at table in the kingdom. You’ve been invited. How you respond, how your life is spent, not saved, is the only issue. End of discussion.” End of homily.

Note:  The title of this post is ours.  The homilist is pastor of three small parishes in and near Campbellsville, KY, USA.

Monday, September 30, 2013

A reference to "the temperance of Matt Talbot"

The following excerpt that mentions Venerable Matt Talbot is from Christ the Savior, Based on the Writings of the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas, for the Confraternity of the Precious Blood by Frs. Walter Farrell and Martin Healy. This chapter can be read online at http://www.catholictradition.org/Christ/christ1-8.htm and the entire book at http://www.catholictradition.org/Christ/christ.htm.

“AS THERE ARE MANY and different members in a living human body, so, too, Christ and the Holy Spirit have placed numerous and diverse members in the Church. As we have just said, some members of the Church are placed in positions of authority, and they are endowed with the graces necessary for teaching, ruling and sanctifying. To the others are given the graces required for obeying and serving the Church. But in all the members of the Church, whether they be rulers or ruled, God produces an astonishing variety of graces which gives the Church the great beauty that is to be found in any living body. In the Church there are humble missioners with the gift of tongues or of persuasive preaching. We can find, also, intellectual geniuses such as St. Thomas or St. Bonaventure. In the Church God produces the zeal of St. Paul, the charity of St. John the Evangelist, the fortitude of Pope Gregory VII or  of St. Arnbrose, the temperance of Matt Talbot, the humility of the Cure of Ars, the purity of St. Agnes, the crusading spirit of St. Louis of France, the martyrdom of St. Maria Goretti.

Monday, September 23, 2013

1931 Sketch of Matt Talbot

Seán Dixon (1905-1946) completed this sketch in 1931 after the Oblate Fathers in Inchicore commissioned him to paint a portrait of Matt Talbot.
Dixon studied at the Dublin Metropolitan School of Art, and this sketch can be viewed at the The Little Museum of Dublin.

(Note the source link describes Matt as the “patron saint of
dipsomaniacs” rather than the more common “patron saint of alcoholics” or “patron saint of sobriety.”)

Matt Talbot

Note:  We appreciate Grzegorz  Jakielski, creator of https://www.facebook.com/pages/Matt-Talbot/304690079653019  and the website www.mateusztalbot.pl., alerting us about this sketch.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dublin Conference on “Overcoming Addiction"

This is a reminder that the general public is invited to the “The Spirit that Sets Us Free – Overcoming Addiction” conference taking place at Dublin’s All Hallows College over 28-29 September, 2013. Details are available at http://www.catholicireland.net/pioneer-association-addresses-problems-addiction-2/

Update:  A follow-up report on this conference is available at

Friday, September 13, 2013

Meeting Venerable Matt Talbot

[The author of this article, who is an artist, art critic, editor, and lecturer, discovered Matt in a rather unusual manner. It was originally published in First Things, September 12, 2013, but is now available only at the source link below. 
Part 2 of her article can be found at the end of this article.]

Venerable Matt Talbot

Maureen Mullarkey
Source: http://www.studiomatters.com/things-to-read/venerable-matt-talbot

"Have you met Matt Talbot? I have just met him myself.

Rummaging through the book bins in my local dump recycling center, I found a small red pamphlet Matt Talbot, Alcoholic.  Subtitled The Story of a Slave to Alcohol Who Became a Comrade of Christ’s, it was written in 1947 by Albert H. Dolan, a Carmelite priest sympathetic to the labor movement of the era and to the newly formed Alcoholics Anonymous. The red pulp cover, the length of the title, the graphics, the old imprimatur by Chicago’s esteemed Cardinal Stritch—how could it be left for the shredder?

I am grateful to have found it. It introduced me to a mystic to believe in.

Born in Dublin in 1856, Matt Talbot was no one in particular. A man of little schooling, he was a common laborer, an all-too-common drunk from the age of twelve until his conversion—metanoia in a man on the skids—from alcohol when he was twenty eight.  There were no names to drop on his behalf. He had no noticeable achievements, no wealth, no followers, no claims to sanctity, no recorded visions. He wrote no autobiography, left nothing to draw attention to himself. Yet within fifty years of his death he reached the first stage of canonization and was named Venerable Matt Talbot.

No saint had appeared on the street to call him to sobriety. His radical change of heart happened in quite an ordinary way. Fr. Dolan explains:

For the first time [1884] liquor had kept him from work. He devoted an entire week, day and night, to drinking. Saturday, pay day for all but him, found him thirsty but penniless. Believing that his drinking companions, fellow-laborers in the brick-yard, would sympathize with his thirst and offer to treat him, he took his stand between the yard and the tavern so that his friends with their pay in their pockets would see him. Several of them greeted him with a “Good day, Matt,” but not one stopped to ask if he would like a drink.

His drinking buddies had welcomed him when he had money for his drinks and theirs, but “for Matt penniless they had no use.” He was cut to the heart. It was, in its sad, unspectacular way, his Pauline moment.

. . . Matt surrendered. “I’ll go home,” he said. It was not his false friends who, as it were, slammed the door in his face; it was Divine Providence. Christ, the Good Shepherd, planned that day of desolation.

Dolan continues with a stanza from Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven. The stanza ends with what the writer calls “the theme song of Matt’s life:”

Rise, clasp My Hand and come!

Keeping sober was a battle. The temperance movement was strong but the habit of drink was stronger. Matt took the pledge of total abstinence in stages, uncertain he could make a lifetime commitment. He prayed for the will to conquer the craving. Prayer his only support, he threw himself into it like the strategist of a military campaign. Over time, as the craving for drink diminished, his craving for prayer increased. He lived another forty one years intoxicated by the sacraments, captivated by the lives of the saints, quickened by love of the God he had ignored through his youth. He met Christ, the Great Healer, in the Eucharist and in visits to the Blessed Sacrament.

In recompense for the years of drunkeness, the injustice of so much hurt to his parents, he mortified himself. With the knowledge of no one but his confessor, he wore chains—similar to tire chains—around his body day and night. His asceticism was his secret. Toward the end of his life, when illness sent him to the hospital, he removed the chains ahead of time. Only after his release, did they go back on.

Were it not for those chains, the name Matt Talbot might never have been known. One morning in 1925, he collapsed on the street on his way to early Mass. Discovery of chains on his body led to inquiries into his life. It was, in many ways, a harrowing one, as excruciating to modern imagination as it is heart-rending.

He did not pronounce on love of neighbor. He simply loved:

For the greater part of his life, his pay was about five dollars a week. More than half . . . disappeared in charitable donations. He lived on $1.20 a week, including his rent, until, after World War I, his wages increased to $15.00. The only change which the increase of wages made was to increase his charitable gifts, for thereafter he lived on $2.00 a week and gave the rest to charity.

He was a union man, indignant on behalf of laborers, especially married ones with families to support. Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day might have regarded him as a model of the Christian worker, intent on imitating the Carpenter’s Son, and a man committed to justice to both laborer and employer. Dolan’s tribute reverberates with the language of the time:

If workers everywhere were to take Matt as their model, they would seek satisfaction for their just complaints through Christian channels, and reject the false promise of Communism which is both Godless and anti-Christian.

Matt’s single possession was his personal library, a small miracle in itself. A man with virtually no schooling, “read and digested some of the most advance and profound treatises of mystical theology.” He once mentioned reading Newman’s Apologia. But was that not over his head, objected a friend? Matt replied that he prayed for understanding and seemed to have been granted enough light to grasp most of what he read.

He read kneeling, so close did he come to prayer in the reading.

There is more to know. But a single thing moves—and exhilarates—me more than anything I have read in a very long time. A friend who asked him what ever did he say to God in all his hours in church or in the little space he used on the job when things were slow: 'I say nothing to Him. I look at Him and He looks at me.'

The splendor of that! The ineffable comes in silence; and leaves silence behind.

Pray for us, Matt.

Note:  The second part of the author's article about Venerable Matt Talbot can be found at  http://www.studiomatters.com/things-to-read/matt-talbot-contd

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Triumph over addiction

[The following reflection appeared on the 9th June 2013 Facebook page of St. Canice’s Church, Finglas, Dublin, Ireland at https://www.facebook.com/stcaniceschurch/posts/498207693581443. More about this church can be found at

Matt Talbot was born on the 2nd May 1856 at 13, Aldborough Court in the Parish of St. Agatha. Matt was one of Dublin's poor, he lived in a tenement, wore second hand cloths, died in a laneway, and was buried in a pauper's grave. 

Coming from such a deprived background and with an alcoholic father and a  family history of neglect and poverty, Matt found himself sucked into the culture of addiction and the only choice of drug available to the poor of his day, alcohol.  Matt like so many others embraced alcohol as a means of escape from the misery and poverty of daily life. 
Today we live in an age of addictions more sophisticated perhaps than those of Matt's day, addictions to substances such as alcohol and other drugs soft or hard, prescription or illegal, addictions to gambling, pornography and the internet, addictions to  work, professional advancement, sex, money and power. All these have the ability to destroy our lives and like demons even our very souls as well.

Matt Talbot gradually came to this awareness and from the time of his conversion as a young man of 28, he spent the rest of his life living to a heroic extent the Christian virtues through prayer, spiritual reading, work and acts of charity. 

Matt sets before us a radical example which demonstrates that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. His life is a witness to the fact that people can by God's grace and their own self acceptance say no to that which leads to addiction or addictive behaviour.

His story is of triumph over addiction. It is a story of faith and of how the power of God's grace can help us overcome the struggles and difficulties of life.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Upcoming Addiction Conference in Dublin

Information about this public conference is provided by the links below.  The relics of two former  members of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart, Venerable Matt Talbot (1856-1925) and Fr. John Sullivan SJ (1861-1933), will be presented.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

"Our hearts are restless..."

[One of the many spiritual books that Matt Talbot read in sobriety was Confessions by St. Augustine, and Matt could certainly relate to the quoted first sentence below. 
Based on this book we learn about his mother, St Monica, who is frequently listed as a patron for alcoholics.]

GuestHouse Blog
 August 28, 2013

“You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”  This famous line from the pen of Augustine resonates in the heart of everyone, maybe most especially in the heart of those of us in recovery.

Augustine led a dissolute life before his conversion to Christianity.  His life story in his “Confessions” bespeaks many of our own errant ways before getting into sobriety.  It was only through the insistent prayer of Augustine’s mother, Monica, that he received the grace to turn his life around.  How many of us had the same kind of mother who fretted over us, who expressed alarm at our waywardness and yet kept hope through prayer that we would “turn around.”  I credit my own mother, Lord rest her soul, who interceded mightily for me after her death.

Yet now we realize that God and His Spirit was with us all the time, even in our darkest days and nights.  We can now say, as Augustine did, “late have I loved You, O Beauty both so ancient and so new!  And behold You were with me all the time.”

Today we make our own the Psalm of David, Ps 139:

You have searched me and you know me, Lord
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
From Your presence where can I flee?
If I go up to the heavens, You are there;
If I sink to the nether world, You are present there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall guide me,
And Your right hand hold me fast.
If I say, surely the darkness shall hide me,
And night shall be my light –
For You darkness itself is not dark,
And night shines as the day.
You have searched me and You know me, Lord.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

An Older Image of Venerable Matt Talbot

This image of Matt Talbot appeared in the print edition of Our Sunday Visitor, June 3, 2001, page 10, as a sidebar to the article, "A patron for the battle against the bottle."

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Historical Development of Matt Talbot's Cause

The interesting website at http://newsaints.faithweb.com/about_us.htm is the result of years of research and collaboration between the members of the Hagiography Circle with the Congregation of the Causes of Saints and the petitioners of beatification and canonization causes from the time of the French Revolution (1789) to today, including up-to-date news at http://newsaints.faithweb.com/index.htm.

Below is the listing for Venerable Matthew Talbot (http://newsaints.faithweb.com/year/1925.htm). The definition of each entry is available at http://newsaints.faithweb.com/databases.htm:

07 June in Dublin (Ireland)    

MATTHEW (MATT) TALBOT                                                                                       
 layperson of the archdiocese of Dublin;                               
  member, Secular Franciscans                                                 
born: 02 May 1856 in Dublin (Ireland) The                     
diocese of competent bishop: Dublin                                   
CCS protocol number: 101                                                    
type of cause: heroic virtues                                                    
opening of informative process: 06 November 1931           
closing of informative process: 1934
decree on writings: 27 November 1937
 introduction of cause: 28 February 1947
 decree “non-cultu”: 04 April 1948
 opening of apostolic process: 1948
 closing of apostolic process: 1953
 decree on validity of informative and apostolic processes: 19 February
 commission of CCS officials and consultants: 25 March 1975
 session of cardinal and bishop members of the CCS: 13 May 1975
 promulgation of decree on heroic virtues: 03 October 1975
 postulator: Mons. Liam Bergin
 petitioner: Archdiocese of Dublin, Drumcondra, Dublin 9 IRELAND
 website: www.matttalbot.ie