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#