Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Striving for Christian Virtue

In his 2010 book, Young Men Rise Up, Australian Roman Catholic priest Fr. Ken Barker addresses faith, prudence, temperance, love, justice and mercy, fortitude, and hope.
Within the topic of temperance, Fr. Barker discusses sobriety beginning on page 57 and devotes pages 63-65 to Venerable Matt Talbot. To access the content, type “Matt Talbot” in the “search inside” box at Young Men Rise Up - Father Ken Barker - Google Books

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What's in a name?

[The following remembrance of Brother Talbot (1931-1999) was posted June 4, 2013 at]

Remember Brother Talbot McSharry

James Patrick McSharry attended Cardinal Hayes High School and St. Joseph’s Juniorate before entering the congregation on September 19, 1950. At vestition he received the name “Talbot” in honor of the Venerable Matt Talbot, a saintly man from Dublin, Ireland who struggled long and fiercely to overcome the addictive bonds of alcoholism. Little could young James have foreseen at the age of eighteen the ironic twist in his life that would reflect the life of his Irish Patron.

Remarkably, over his thirty-four year high school teaching career, Talbot was stationed at only two missions: six years at Mount St. Joseph’s in Baltimore and twenty-eight years at St. Joseph’s Regional High School, Montvale, New Jersey, where he was among the pioneer group that established the school. There, besides teaching history and criminal justice, he served for a while as dean of discipline and as first varsity soccer coach. For ten years he was chaplain to the Montvale Police Department.

Singing was one of Talbot’s passions. Irish music was in his DNA. He served as a second tenor in the Glee Club of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick in New York, and in the 1970′s recorded an album entitled “Songs of the Irish Provinces.” He was also a member of the Tri-county Pipe Band where he played drums and served as drum major. Every year to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, this compulsive Irish balladeer would sing endlessly the night before with the Friendly Sons and then on the day itself would jauntily march up New York’s Fifth Avenue, clad in tartan kilts, proud to be Irish.

In 1991, Talbot embarked on a new career. He served as prison chaplain at two facilities on Long Island and later at a string of prisons in Tennessee. He became a vocal advocate for the rights of prisoners. Beneath his brash exterior beat an empathetic heart.

Throughout much of his life, Talbot struggled with alcoholism. The disease finally took its toll. In December of 1998 he was transferred from Tennessee to Ryken House, Louisville, where, for the last four months of this life, alcohol-free, he had a final concerted effort to regain sobriety, recommitting himself to AA meetings. With God’s grace, he won that massive struggle, but soon his ravaged body suffered a massive breakdown. He died of a stroke in a Louisville hospital.

Talbot was a colorful, gregarious person. As one observer noted, “When you were around Talbot, things happened! He was not a lackluster fellow!” He was also a good community man, always faithful to his prayer life, and ever a gracious host. He was a member of the congregation for forty-nine years.

Remembrance of Brother Talbot by a reader on June 4, 2013: “I remember meeting Brother Talbot and commenting how he had someone’s last name. Apparently when the name ‘Matt Talbot’ was available, one of his classmates took ‘Matt’ and he took ‘Talbot’. How ironic that alcohol played a part in his life. May he rest in peace.”

Monday, July 22, 2013

Venerable Matt Talbot: Patron of "Rio in Dublin"

Coinciding with “World Youth Day” ( which begins tomorrow, July 23rd to July 28th, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and led by Pope Francis, “Rio in Dublin” is a faith event 
While WYD in Rio has a list of Saints and Blessed chosen as patrons and intercessors, “Rio in Dublin” has its own list of patrons, including Venerable Matt Talbot (, which should expand awareness of him among those 18-35 years of age.


Friday, July 19, 2013

The Gift of Self and Cooperation

“The multiplication of the loaves: Meditation during a retreat on the gift of self and cooperation.

Father Alberto Hurtado, S.J. (1901-1952)*


Indecision, faintheartedness is the great obstacle in the plan of cooperation. We think: “I’m not worth all that much”, and from this comes discouragement: “It makes no difference whether I act or fail to act. Our powers of action are so limited. Is my unpretentious work worthwhile? Does my abstaining from this have any meaning? If I fail to sacrifice myself nothing changes. No one needs me… A mediocre vocation?” How many vocations are lost. It is the advice of the devil that is partly true. The difficulty must be faced.

The solution

5,000 men along with women and children have been hungry for three days… Food? They would need at least 200 denarii to feed them and this is the approximate yearly salary of a laborer. In the desert! “Tell them to go!” But Andrew, more observant says: “There are 5 loaves and 2 fish, but what are these among so many!” Here we have our same problem: the disproportion.

And the loaves. Made of barley, hard as rocks (the Jews used wheat). And the fish. They were from the lake, small, rather mushy in texture, carried by a young boy in a sack that had lain on the ground for 3 days in the heat… not much of a solution.

Did the Lord despise this offering? No, and with his blessing he fed all the hungry and had leftovers. Neither did he despise the leftovers: 12 baskets of the surplus were gathered, fish heads and bones, but even this he valued.

The young boy consented to give Christ his poor offering, not realizing that he would feed the multitude. He believed that he had lost his small possession but he found instead that there was even a surplus and that he had cooperated for the good of the others.

And me… like those fish (less than those loaves) bruised and perhaps decomposing but in the hands of Christ my action may have a divine scope a divine reach.

Remember Ignatius, Augustine, Camillus de Lellis, and Matt Talbot, base sinners whose lives were converted into spiritual nourishment for millions who will continue to feed on their witness.

My actions and my desires can have a divine scope and can change the face of the earth. I will not know it, the fish did not know it either. I can do a great deal if I remain in Christ; I can accomplish much if I cooperate with Christ…”

*Note:  Popularly known in Chile as Padre Hurtado,  Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga was beatified on October 16, 1994 by Pope John Paul II and canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 23, 2005. St. Alberto Hurtado Cruchaga was one of the first people to be elevated to sainthood during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI; he was also the second Chilean saint, after Saint Teresa of Los Andes.

Two brief biographies include and

To diffuse the writings (and biography) of Padre Hurtado among a wider public, A Fire that Lights other Fires: Selected pages from Father Alberto Hurtado, S.J. (2012) is available free online at

(With their canonization later this year, two additional saints who knew of Matt Talbot are Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII.)

Update:  The Vatican has confirmed that John XXIII and John Paul II will be canonized in the same ceremony on April 27, 2014

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Prayer for Addicts

Dear Lord,
bless those who seek
solace in substances;
helplessly hurting their bodies,
trying to feed their souls.

Father, let them see
You are the food they crave.
Envelop them in the warm blanket
of Your eternal love.

God, please keep them safe
from the perils of their actions.
Protect those around them as well.

Give them the strength, O Lord,
to see that it is You they've been searching for.
For there is no void You cannot fill.
And You are always with them.

With You there is no fear, no pain, no judgment -
And all their sins will be forgiven.

They need only look
to Your hopeful light within them all,
Instead of the demons that beckon.

We pray they know
they are always worthy of Your love,
And can forever bask in Your Holy Grace.
May peace be theirs.

by Dawn Rodonski.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Freedom is Close at Hand

[This article gives us pause to consider our own "prisons."]

“He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up hearts that are broken;
to proclaim liberty to captives,
freedom to those in prison."

Few, majestically selected words from Isaiah as the books comes to a close end. It is not until we look at the saints who have struggled in some previous form of lives that we get a newer dimension of the scope of the prisons meant hereby. For instance, alcohol has become such a painful dear in the lives of many couples, family and mostly unnoticed, the victims themselves. It is pathetic to realize just how some of the victims struggle to lay of this habit that becomes a key part of them albeit in despair and lost self esteem and hope.

Today we have a look at one of the Venerables, Venerable Matt Talbot, born in Ireland on May 2, 1856. Talbot was the second born in a family of twelve to his parents, Charles and Elizabeth Talbot. The family was primarily poor and his father and all Talbot's younger brothers were heavy drinkers. At the age of 12 Matt left school and started working in a wine merchant's store. He was now best placed to start sampling their wares the very commodity he was at the heart of. In little time Matt was working in the whiskey stores. In matter of some more time, Matt was a confirmed alcoholic. He now joined the league of his brothers and friends in frequenting pubs in the city and ended up more often than not spending most or all of his wages and running up debts. He reportedly went to the extent of once stealing a fiddle from a street entertainer and selling it to buy drink.

This may serve as a classic example of how what we thought would just be a happy night out, or once in a while may end up in such a scenario. Matt was not genetically or in any other way inclined to alcohol than most of his friends who never ended up drinking were. But what separates Matt from the rest of the world is what follows after he is caught up in this his new necessity of his system.

One evening in 1884 a penniless Talbot waited patiently and great hope outside a pub for somebody who would invite him in for a drink. After several friends had passed him without offering to treat him, he went home in disgust and announced to his mother that he was going to "take the pledge" and renounce drinking. Matt took a pledge of three months at Holy Cross College, Clonliffe. At the end of the three months, he took the pledge for six months, then for life.

Having drunk excessively for 16 years, Talbot maintained sobriety for the following forty years of his life. He found strength in prayer, began to attend daily Mass, and read religious books and pamphlets. He repaid all his debts scrupulously. Having searched for the fiddler whose instrument he had stolen, and failed to find him, he gave the money to the church to have Mass said for him.

Talbot worked hard from being an indifferent Catholic in his drinking days. He became increasingly devoutu under the guidance of Dr. Michael Hickey, Professor of Philosophy in Clonliffe College. He read widely and wore a chains as a form of penance. In 1980 he joined Third Order Franciscan in 1890 and was a member of several other associations and sodalities. Though poor himself, Talbot was a generous man and gave generously to neighbours and fellow workers, to charitable institutions and the church. He ate very little and after his mother's death in 1915 he lived in a small flat with very little furniture. He slept on a plank bed with a piece of timber for a pillow. He rose at 5 a.m. every day so as to attend Mass before work. At work, whenever he had spare time, he found a quiet place to pray. He spent most of every evening on his knees. On Sundays he attended several Masses. He walked quickly, with his head down, so that he appeared to be hurrying from one Mass to another.

Talbot was on his way to Mass on Sunday, 7 June 1925, when he collapsed and died of heart failure on Granby Lane in Dublin. Nobody at the scene was able to identify him. His body was taken to Jervis Street Hospital, where he was undressed, revealing the extent of his austerities. A heavy chain had been wound around his waist, with more chains around an arm and a leg, and cords around the other arm and leg.

Matt Talbot's story is one that often reminds me of how close to far and close to hope and liberty we are from the points of the prison sentences each of us could be serving. St Augustine proofs to us that not even the ordinary men on the path to sainthood are free of this hurdles in life. In his confessions, St Augustine remembers of his early prayer, "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet". He confesses that lust is one of the evils he had to fight so hard as it always faced him the hard way, as attributed to his former life. But that at the end never prevented him from fulfilling what was the will of the Father, to be a key instrument and personality in the Gospel and Theology close to 1700 years since His death.

Let us all remember that as much as we have control of own selves, sometimes things may get the better part of us. Lets keep in prayers and we seek liberty from our several prisons, those of lust, fatigue, concupisence, reliance on various substances as we seek the intercession of Venerable Matt Talbot.

Friday, July 5, 2013

New Venerable Matt Talbot YouTube links

On June 17 & 18, 2013 two new YouTube links were posted by the same source about Venerable Matt Talbot. One is two minutes in duration (The Venerable Matt Talbot - June 18 – YouTube) while the second one, The Matt Talbot Story – YouTube, is nine minutes in length. The script for the latter is from the Wikipedia link for Matt Talbot (

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

This I Believe

October 21, 2005

Alcohol has always had a hold on me. Though I gave it up years ago, it still has a grip of sorts on me.

After many years of loving it, abusing it, and then trying to control it, I finally admitted that I couldn't go on drinking; I gave it up completely. Though I haven’t had a drink in years, my life still seems to revolve around it. More important, I believe my experience may help many others who want to quit.

No. I don’t go to A.A. meetings. I tried A.A. several times and was extremely impressed by many of the gripping stories and how these alcoholics were able to turn their lives around. A.A. insists that alcoholics are powerless about their drinking. Just go to meetings, follow the 12 Steps and you’ll be able to quit. But that way was not for me. If I was going to quit, I had to be in charge. A.A. says that alcoholics must rely on a Higher Power — presumably God—to keep them sober. But that was not good enough for me; I had to be in charge. I wanted power, control over my life. Substituting one dependency for another wouldn’t do. I was tired of being powerless over alcohol.

After these false starts with A.A., I remembered the story of Matt Talbot that I had heard years earlier. Matt Talbot was a poor Irishman, a Catholic, who as a teenager had turned to drink. After years of drinking, with the grace of God he was able to quit. He became a sort of patron saint of alcoholics after his death in 1925. In fact, he is up for canonization in the Catholic Church. But I had conveniently forgotten all this during my drinking days.

So I developed a plan, taking the experience of Matt Talbot as my guide. I, too, was a Catholic, and had slowly come to realize I would be able to quit only by having a greater love for something else — and that something else could only be God. Unlike A. A., I wouldn’t depend on God to keep me sober. Rather, I turned the tables; I would give up alcohol for love of God — though I believe that the power to do this, to do anything, comes from God. It sounds a bit pious for me to say that I don’t drink for love of God, but I do it in a totally hidden way, with no outward display. From the very start, I was able to quit completely, with no relapses. I can honestly say that it’s not been one day at a time for me. I’ve had no daily battles to fight — should I drink or should I not? — though every day I do make a gift to God of my sobriety. Yes, to this extent alcohol still has a hold on me.

When I finally quit I was overjoyed. And completely surprised at how easy it was. An all without going to meetings. I was amazed. I couldn’t contain myself, so I wrote a book about it. The do-it-yourself method, which I call the Matt Talbot way to sobriety, is much more complicated than what I have described here.

This I believe: Much good can come of my battle with alcohol other than my own sobriety. Many of the alcoholics who have failed to quit the A.A. way or simply don’t want to go to its meetings or any other meetings, and who are Christian, may also be able to quit the Matt Talbot way.

[Note:  Readers of this essay by Philip might be interested in exploring this website ( not only for articles on addiction but many other
topics. The book he is referring to is, To Slake a Thirst: The Matt Talbot Way to Sobriety (2000).]