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 and the entire book at

“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  and the website, 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

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

"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

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 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.