Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Canonisations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II

On April 27, 2014, which is Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis will raise to the altars of the saints Blessed John Paul II and Blessed John XXIII.

In preparation for these canonisations, the Irish Catholic Bishops' Conference has created a special web feature to commemorate this historic event at This link includes:
  • The Process of Becoming a Saint
  • The miracles attributed to Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II
  • Life and ministry of John XXIII and John Paul II
  • Events in Ireland
  • Details of broadcast of the ceremonies
  • Details of Irish cinemas showing the ceremonies live in 3-D
  • Special commemorative booklets from Veritas Publications  (

Both of these popes knew of Venerable Matt Talbot. See, for example,

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Learning about Venerable Matt Talbot in Utah

We greatly appreciate those who spread the word about Venerable Matt Talbot. Yet, at times, one might be somewhat surprised by the geographical location of the writer and most likely readers.

Such might be the case with this article for those living in the U.S. state of Utah, where less than 10 percent of the state’s population are Roman Catholics and the overwhelming religious body is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Based on “The Word of Wisdom,” a health code Joseph Smith promulgated in 1833, Mormons are to abstain from tobacco, alcoholic beverages, tea and coffee and general physical and spiritual fitness is encouraged.

A patron saint for those suffering from alcoholism?

By Msgr. M. Francis Mannion*
Pastor emeritus of St. Vincent de Paul Parish
The Diocese of Salt Lake City.
Friday, Apr. 18, 2014
The name of Matt Talbot is not well known outside of Ireland, but Talbot will likely be canonized in the not-too-distant future and become the patron saint of alcoholics. He was declared Venerable by Pope Paul VI in 1975.

Matt Talbot was born in humble circumstances in Dublin in May 1856. At that time, Ireland was recovering from the devastating famine of the mid-1840s. This was an era of grinding poverty and appalling living conditions, especially in the larger cities. 

Heavy drinking and alcoholism were very severe problems in those years, and a deep-seated feature of Dublin life. Talbot’s father and older brothers were heavy drinkers. Alcohol provided one of the few means of escape from the harsh conditions of Dublin life, and it brought with it all the miseries of broken families and unfulfilled hopes.

From his early years up to the age of 24, Matt Talbot was a very heavy drinker, and clearly an alcoholic. This was a source of great distress to his mother. His paycheck each week went primarily for alcohol. He frequented pubs every night, and when he ran out of money, he borrowed and scrounged among his fellow drinkers. To sustain his habit, he pawned his clothes and boots to get money for alcohol. On one occasion, he stole a violin from a street musician and sold it to buy drink. Most of his jobs in that early period were deliberately with liquor merchants, where he had easy access to alcohol. 

In 1884, however, Talbot stopped drinking and made a three-month pledge to refrain from alcohol. Having been successful in that attempt, he made a year-long and then a life-long pledge. Despite great temptations, he never took a drink again. For the rest of his life, however, abstinence was for him a fierce spiritual and psychological struggle.

The remaining 41 years were lived heroically with Matt attending daily Mass, praying fervently, helping the poor, and living out a strict spiritual life. He modeled himself on the early Irish monks, whose lives were extremely severe. He constantly read Scripture, the lives of the saints, the writings of St. Francis de Sales, and works like the Confessions of St. Augustine. His spiritual director was a priest at the diocesan seminary, who gave him a chain to wear permanently around his waist as a sign of penance.

Talbot dropped dead of a heart attack on a Dublin street on Trinity Sunday, June 7, 1925 on his way to Mass, and he was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

News of Talbot’s death, of his severe penitential life, the discovery of the chains he wore, and, not least, his triumph over alcohol spread rapidly among Dublin Catholics. He was popularly hailed as a saint.

Within a few years of his death, Talbot was regarded as a patron and protector of those suffering from alcoholism. In 1972, his remains were exhumed and taken to Dublin’s Our Lady of Lourdes Church, in the area where Matt had spent his life. Every day pilgrims came to pray at his tomb, and organized pilgrimages from all over Ireland became frequent.

Since then, devotion to Talbot has spread among alcoholics and their families beyond Ireland, and many devotees look forward to his canonization.

Not a lot has been published about Matt Talbot. Two of the books I would recommend are: Eddie Doherty, Matt Talbot (Combermere, Ontario: Madonna House Publications, 2001); and Tom Ryan, Comfort My People: Prayers and Reflections Inspired by the Venerable Matt Talbot (Dublin: Veritas, 2001).

*Msgr. Mannion is pastor emeritus of St. Vincent de Paul parish in Salt Lake City. He holds a Ph.D in sacramental theology from The Catholic University of America. He was founding president of The Society for Catholic Liturgy in 1995 and the founding editor of the Societys journal, Antiphon. At the invitation of Cardinal Francis George of Chicago he founded the Mundelein Liturgical Institute in 2000.

Friday, April 18, 2014

“On attaining the freedom we truly desire”

Like recovering addicts today Venerable Matt Talbot did not attain the freedom he sought until he turned his life over to the care of God.

 By Fr. Alex Rebello
17 April, 2014

Addictions, like attachments assume several forms. They are not restricted to alcohol, drugs or sex alone. We can be addicted to power, popularity, places, positions and persons as well. Addictions teach us so many important lessons; but most of all, they confront us with our utter helplessness. They mirror to our misery. That can be both so self-revealing and chastening too. The humble confession of our own inability to cope with them by ourselves alone is the absolutely necessary pre-requisite if we are to overcome them and attain the freedom we desire.

But it takes a lot of honesty and humility to admit that we are helpless. We like to be on the winning side. We like to feel strong and self-sufficient. It hurts our pride to say that we are weak and cannot manage the mess into which we have fallen. It deflates our bloated ego to acknowledge that we need help. We try our very best to save ourselves and we struggle painfully without making any progress. In fact, the more we strive to rise above the tide of our addictions and attachments, the more we seem to slip and sink!

Salvation begins when we allow God to enter our lives, when we surrender our addictions and attachments to Him, when we admit our utter helplessness and hopelessness and humbly ask His help. We must stop trying to be our own saviours for that would be as futile as trying to hang on ourselves. The real breakthrough comes when God takes over, when we hand over to Him the messed up tangle of our lives and allow Him with consummate compassion and persevering patience to untie all those tangled knots and set loose our life threads once more!

There is at times a misplaced emphasis on ‘will power’. No one denies the fact that God needs our co-operation and will not save us against our will. Centuries ago, Augustine had remarked: He who created you without you, will not save you without you!” We need the will to do what lies in our power or powerlessness, to collaborate with God’s grace. But more than mere will power we need His power. We might battle and kick against the goad and still find ourselves shackled like slaves. When we feel despondent, discouraged and defeated by our own powerlessness in the face of so many addictions, we need to listen to and reflect on those comforting and consoling words of the Lord to St. Paul: “My grace is enough for you:  for power is at full stretch in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). Total surrender to the Lord of power brings not only serenity and security but also stamina and strength.

Ordained in 1968, Fr. Alex Rebello holds a Baccalaureate in education, a Master`s in History and Theology and a Doctorate in Spirituality from the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas, Rome. He was deputed to the Pontifical Council for Culture at the Vatican where he served for a decade. He has travelled extensively abroad guiding retreats and conducting seminars on prayer and spirituality. He is presently on loan from the Archdiocese of Mumbai as a missionary to the Diocese of Wrexham in Wales, U.K. His articles are also available on

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A Song about Venerable Matt Talbot by Paul Lisney

Paul Lisney, a Catholic singer/songwriter/guitarist for nearly 40 years and a mental health crisis interventionist by profession, “stumbled” across Matt Talbot through the internet in the summer of 2013 and later read biographies. He stated in an email that ”I was really impressed [with Matt] as soon as I started reading and knew that a song would come from it. It took longer than usual to write because of the "research" involved. I went to various sites on the internet for other details I needed for the song.”

The lyrics of his song about Matt Talbot are posted below and the link to his recording is available free at
Paul Lisney’s website is  

                                 Matt Talbot

On the corner Matt Talbot stood waiting, waiting
With his pockets empty and thirst raging, raging
Hoping for a friend to pass by
And invite him inside O’Meara’s for drink or two

It was Dublin, Ireland, 1884
He’d been drinking 15 years, maybe more
Spend his wages, pawn his clothing or his shoes
Just enough to buy another drink or two

Matt was home before noon that day, sober, sober
Told his mum my drinking days are over, over
Confessed before a priest, then took the pledge
And in those first days doubted that he could keep his word

And later Matt was heard to say
It cut him to the heart that day
When none of his friends said “Come inside,
have a drink on me”

5:00 a.m. Matt’s day began with daily Mass
After work he’d kneel in church, for hours on end
Anything to keep his promise, change his ways
And struggling through those 90 days he took the pledge again

Gave himself to Jesus through Mary, Mary
Read the saints and the Holy Scriptures daily, daily
Prayer, fasting, and service like the monks of old
He lived a life of solitude amidst a troubled world 

He never drank another drop
And made amends where he could
And nourished by the bread of life,
In virtue he grew

Matt would discipline himself any way he could
His bed was two rough planks, his pillow a block of wood
He lived on dry bread and cold cocoa with a pinch of tea
Would pray for hours on his knees, deprive himself of sleep

Matt worked most of his life in Martin’s timber yard
A quiet man with a ready smile, he was known for working hard
Touch his hat each time he heard the Lord’s
Name said in vain, and by example taught

He gave to those most in need
To missions and to families
And kept his pledge for 41 years
For the rest of his life

Sunday morning, June 7th, 1925
On his way to Mass Matt Talbot collapsed and died
Word spread about the holy man who died on Granby Lane
His chains of love giving him away
Reminding us all are born to be saints 

We all are born to be saints

Friday, April 4, 2014

New Postulator for the Cause of Venerable Matt Talbot

The postulator is the person in Rome who guides a cause for beatification or canonisation through the judicial processes required by the Roman Catholic Church.
The current Vice-Postulator is Rev. Brian Lawless, executive director of the DUBLIN DIOCESAN MATT TALBOT COMMITTEE.
"Favours received through the intercession of the Venerable Matt Talbot” should be sent promptly to or

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Matt Talbot - A Lenten Journey

Matt Talbot - A Lenten Journey is a wonderful new resource compiled and edited by Fr. Brian Lawless, Vice Postulator for the cause of the Venerable Matt Talbot, and Caroline Eaton. It can be viewed at /matt_talbot _a_lenten journey.pdf.

Fr. Lawless notes the following in the preface: 
‘The journey of life is like a journey through the pages of history. It is our story often dark, through which we are guided by the lights of others who journey with us; some lights brighter than others, each leading to the ultimate source of all light the Son of God, who has risen on high to dispel the darkness of sin and death, Jesus Christ the Lord. We all need lights by our side - people who shine with His light and so guide us along life’s way.
Matt Talbot is one such light.’ 

This "must read" 69 page resource is worthwhile for those who are not yet familiar with Venerable Matt Talbot as well as those who are familiar with him.