Saturday, November 21, 2015

Father Ed Dowling and Bill Wilson

Glenn F. Chesnut, who earned a doctorate in theology at Oxford University and has had a long career teaching religion and history at multiple American universities, has published Father Ed  Dowling: Bill Wilson’s Sponsor (iUniverse, July 2015). 

“This is the story of Father Ed Dowling, S.J., the (non-alcoholic) Jesuit priest who served for twenty years as sponsor and spiritual guide to Bill Wilson, the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Father Ed said that the graces he received from meeting Bill Wilson were as great as those he had received from his ordination as a priest, and Bill in turn described encountering the Jesuit as being like a second conversion experience, where he could feel the transcendent presence of God filling the entire room with grace...”

There is much information about the early years of Alcoholics Anonymous and includes Matt Talbot in Chapter 7, which can be read at 

The entire text can be read at, with Chapter 7 beginning on page 76.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fr. Ralph Pfau and His Golden Books

Fr. Ralph Pfau (1904-1967) was the first U.S. Catholic priest to join Alcoholics Anonymous in 1943, on his 39th birthday. His “Golden Books” were published under the auspices of the "Society of Matt Talbot Guild." He founded an organization called the "Sons of Matt Talbot" for recovering alcoholics who wanted to learn more about the Catholic faith.

Professor Emeritus Glenn F. Chesnut has just released his Father Ralph Pfau and the Golden Books: The Path to Recovery from Alcoholism and Drug Addiction (October 2015), which can be downloaded at
Table of Contents
1. Ralph Pfau (“Father John Doe”) as Major Twelve-Step Leader
2. Early Life 
3. The Myth of Perfection, Natural Theology, and St.  Augustine 
4. Abraham Low and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy 
5. Forgiveness and Acceptance: Receiving God’s Sanction 
6. Simple Sanctity and the Little Way of St. Thérèse 
7. Winning Acceptance for A.A. within the Catholic Hierarchy 
8  Later Life 
9. Seeking Balance among the Natural Instincts
10. The Hierarchy of Spiritual Values 
11. The Higher Power as Truth Itself 
12. Making a Decision

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Request to Support a Venerable Matt Talbot Outreach in Poland

Our friend, Grzegorz Jakielski, is one of the most active supporters and promoters of Venerable Matt Talbot today, both online and in his travels.
He has a Facebook page in English at and a website in Polish at We exchange information about Matt and have posted some of his writings and photographs.

As noted in his November 10 message at, Grzegorz is seeking financial assistance to continue the Polish site by offering Matt Talbot prayer cards and handmade rosaries.

We encourage all to consider purchasing these items or simply make a donation. Your prayers would also be appreciated.

Friday, November 13, 2015

What Gift Have You Been Given to Share?

There is an old Christian tradition that God sends each person into this world with a special message to deliver, with a special song to sing for others, with a special act of love to bestow. No one else can speak my message, sing my song, or offer my act of love. These are entrusted only to me. (John Powell, Through Seasons of the Heart,1986).
We have noted that God chose Matt as a sign of hope for addicts   (
Take time to think about what song, message, act of love God has given you to bring into the world, to help God's kingdom on its way. Ask God to give you His power and His wisdom to use that gift bravely and well.

Venerable Matt Talbot: A Sign of Hope For Addicts

Matt Talbot Dublin Diocesan Committee

There is an old Christian tradition that God sends each person into this world with a special message to deliver, with a special song to sing for others, with a special act of love to bestow. No one else can speak that message, or sing that song, or offer that act of love and according to this tradition, the message may be spoken, the song sung, the act of love delivered only to a few, or to all the people in a small town, or to all the people in a large city, or even to all the people in the world. It all depends on God’s unique plan for each of us and this truth is no where more evident for us than in the life of Matt Talbot.

Matt did not speak with great eloquence but his message has touched the hearts of millions, he was no nightingale but his song of hope has soothed many a tortured soul and his acts of love continues to resonate in our world today, unaware of the impact his life would make God’s unique plan for Matt was gradually unveiled and the stage on which it was set was Dublin’s inner city during a time of great social and political unrest.

Jesus said: “I bless you Father Lord of heaven and earth for hiding these things from the learned and clever and revealing them to mere children.” Matt 11:25

Matt Talbot was not learned or clever he was one of Dublin’s poor he lived in a tenement, wore second hand clothes, died in a laneway and was buried in a pauper’s grave. Poorly educated he did not start school until he was 11 years old and with less than a year of formal education, the two words written in the remarks Column of the roll book in O’Connell’s sums up Matt’s time in school, a mitcher. 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 to 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. In a sense you might say they are the ancient enemies, even if the e-technologies and the e-drugs provide new faces for them and a new attraction and power that like demons, can take procession of our souls.

Matt Talbot gradually came to this awareness and from the time of his conversion from alcoholism to sobriety, as a young man of twenty eight, he spent the rest of his life living to a heroic extent the Christian virtues thro’ prayer, spiritual reading, work and love of neighbour. 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 behaviors and that in the meantime our communities must never lose hope and must continue to care for them.

Maybe it is because of this that so many have come to love and admire Matt Talbot. Matt’s friend Paddy Laird always found it extraordinary that there were only seven people at Matt’s funeral, but upon making public his life story hundreds of thousands have come to see him as a hero and a beacon of hope.

People need heroes, not in the sense of comic book or movie superheroes with superhuman powers, not pop stars or celebrities all art and pizzazz but with little or no moral substance. No what we need are ordinary people who against extraordinary odds do the right thing, like saying no to addiction or compulsion.

Matt Talbot understood this and he would say to others, “If I can do it so can you with the grace of God”. But Matt also understood the human condition he once said to his sister Susan, “never think harshly of a person because of the drink it’s easier to get out of hell than to give up the drink, for me it was only possible with the help of God and our blessed Mother”.

Matt’s example has inspired many institutions, movements and individuals around the world giving hope of recovery to those who are willing to accept their weakness and need. Such people stand as beacons in our world to the truth that we can overcome addiction rise above our weakness and achieve great things even sainthood.

Jesus said, “Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest shoulder my yoke and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls” Matt 11:28-30. Matt Talbot’s life as a labourer who was overburdened by addiction and guilt gradually grew in awareness through the gift of grace and the Holy Spirit that a life of meekness and humility of heart will lead to rest for our souls, and towards a better world where all self destructive drive will come to an end, where people will live in harmony of body, mind and spirit, in harmony too with each other, with creation and with God.

By following the example of Matt Talbot you tell the world that there is more to life than “sex, and drugs and rock n roll,” that there is hope for every broken heart and that by God’s love his kingdom comes into our hearts, our homes and our world.

At this time when so many of our communities are affected by the scourge of alcohol and substance misuse, God has chosen Matt to be set before us as a model of temperance and a source of strength and support to all who suffer from addiction or addictive behaviors.

Matt Talbot ascetic and urban spiritual mystic, who overcame addiction by the Grace of God, his higher power, whose faith was nourished by his extraordinary love of the Eucharist and his sublime devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

“You must therefore be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” Christ told his followers. When Matt found sobriety through prayer and spiritual guidance, his desire for drink was replaced by a desire for Christian perfection.

This is why God chose Matt as a sign of hope for addicts.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

"From Adversity to Hope, from Hope to Action”

This article was posted on 26th October 2015 at

 The only known letter that Matt Talbot ever wrote was to the Columban Missionaries. Matt was very ill at the time, in December 1924 and in a very poignant and moving letter he wrote: “Matt Talbot – have done no work for past 18 months. I have been sick and given over by priest and doctor. I don’t think I will work any more. There one pound from me and ten shillings from my sister.”

It was fitting therefore that the Matt Talbot Novena Mass for October, the month of the Missions, was animated by the Columban Missionaries. The Mass was held on Sunday 25th of October in Matt Talbot Shrine, Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Sean McDermott Street. The Eucharist was led by Fr Vincent, a Columban Missionary from Fiji presently studying in Ireland, while Fr Richard Ebejer and Fr Cyril Odia concelbrated; a sizeable crowd gathered for the occasion.

The theme for the evening was “From Adversity to Hope, from Hope to Action”: seeking to highlight Matt Talbot’s own love for the missions, and how in the midst of his own struggles, the hope that sustained him encouraged him to reach out to others.

Venerable Matt Talbot, who died in 1925, was renowned for his holiness, having overcome a crippling alcohol addiction, through prayer, penance and works of charity. He has been a heroic inspiration to many people in Ireland and abroad battling addiction. His shrine attracts quite a number of pilgrims who come seeking spiritual strength to be able to stay in recovery.

The occasion also marked the conclusion of the 90th Anniversary Year, during which the parish held a number of special activities to commemorate Matt Talbot and celebrate his legacy.
The Salesians of Don Bosco have been entrusted with the pastoral care of the Shrine and Parish in inner city Dublin for over twenty years. Though in the heart of the city, it is very much a ministry to the marginalized and those affected by social problems.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Matt Talbot included in “Spirited Lives”

Author Connie Clark has just published Spirited Lives: 20 Stories of Saints and Their Amazing Gifts (Twenty-Third Publications), a 64 page paperback  written for teens and young adults. 
The first section of seven chapters focuses on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the second section of thirteen focuses on the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Each chapter directs the reader to focus on how a particular saint, blessed, or venerable put a particular gift into action. “Self-control” is illustrated by Venerable Matt Talbot.
A selection of the contents of this book can be found at

Sunday, November 1, 2015

A Perspective on Pope Francis and his Canonizations

Matthew Bunson, one of the United States’ leading authorities on the papacy and the Church, has written an informative article on Pope Francis and his strong emphasis on promoting the lives of the saints at

At some point in his papacy, perhaps Venerable Matt Talbot will be one of the estimated 4,000 causes of saints currently working through the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that Pope Francis will promote.