Friday, October 26, 2018

Venerable Matt Talbot’s Road from Despair to Redemption


Venerable Matt Talbot – The Road from Despair to Redemption
October 10, 2018
The name of Matt Talbot is a very familiar one, especially to Dubliners and those of us who regularly pass through Granby Lane. However he is an inspiration to countless people and has become an icon for the Pioneer Total Abstinence Movement.

Matt was born on May 2, 1856. His father was a heavy drinker and because of this the large family were neglected. Matt like so many others of his time turned to alcohol as a way of deadening the misery and poverty of daily life. Back in those days in Ireland, children were not obliged to go to school. His drinking began aged twelve when he became a messenger boy for Messrs. Edward and John Burke, wine merchants. Matt used to take dregs from the bottom of bottles. He later admitted that from his early teens to his late twenties his only aim in life was heavy drinking.

When his wages were spent he borrowed and scrounged for money. He supplemented his earnings by minding horses outside a tavern and waiting for the owners to tip him on their departure. He pawned his clothes and boots. On one lamentable occasion he was drinking with friends when a blind fiddle player joined them. Matt stole the fiddle thereby depriving the poor man of his livelihood. The incident haunted him and years later he searched the city for the poor musician. Unable to find him he had Masses offered for his sake in restitution. By the time he was twenty-eight he was on the road to self-destruction, refusing to listen to his mother’s pleas to stop drinking.

The Pledge


Then an incident occurred. One day utterly broke he loitered outside O’Meara’s pub hoping that his friends for whom he had often bought drink would take pity on him and invite him in with them. However most ignored him. This was a moment of humiliation which years later he admitted had “cut to the heart”. Making his way home slowly his mother was amazed to see him sober and became even more so when he told her it was his intention to take the pledge.

At that time if you wanted to stop drinking the custom was to take a solemn pledge before a priest to abstain for a period of time. He went to Holy Cross Church where he asked for confession and took the pledge. The priest advised him to abstain from drink for 90 days and then revise the situation. These were 90 days of sheer hell. Now we are aware of the withdrawal symptoms of addiction and there is help available. There was no support then and Matt had to endure the sufferings, hallucinations, tremors, depression and nausea alone.

The Road to Redemption


Matt with time on his hands began to walk in the evenings. On one occasion passing Bushe’s Public House he was drawn in by the beer fumes wafting out. However he was a stranger and the bar man was too busy serving the locals to bother with him. Ignored he stormed off and ended up in a Jesuit Church nearby where he made a second solemn pledge; this time to abstain from drink for the rest of his life. This experience led to another resolution never to carry any money.

Dropping into churches became a way of life. At first they were places that substituted for the bars and taverns but gradually Matt, who was suffering terribly, began to pray to God to help him persevere. The strict life of the early Irish monks with its emphasis on prayer, penance, humility and manual labour appealed to him and he embraced a totally new way of living. The austere way he lived is a challenge to us today. We live at a time when not only do people regard comfort as a right but they tend to put individual needs before the needs of others

Matt began to attend Mass regularly and to read religious books. He became a Third Order Franciscan in 1890 and was a member of several other associations and sodalities.

Matt used his wages to pay back his debts and what little remained he gave to others. He fasted regularly and when his mother died the little flat that became his home was sparsely furnished. Included was a plank bed with a piece of timber on which to lay his head.


Matt was on his way to Mass in St Saviour' Church on Dominic Street on June 7th 1925 when he collapsed and died on Granby Lane. His life might have gone unnoticed were it not for the cords and chains discovered on his body. Inquiries revealed them to be a symbol of his devotion to Mary. The thinking was that a person who considered themselves a spiritual slave to the mother of God would remain close to her and to Jesus.

Following this discovery, allied to people’s experience of him, stories about his holiness began to spread. A process was put in place which culminated in Matt being declared Venerable by Pope Paul VI in 1975. If this opinion is confirmed by the miracles required by Canon Law, he will be declared a Saint.

Whether or not this comes to pass he will always remain an inspirational example of one man’s capacity to transform a long road of despair into one of redemption. Matt gives hope to those who share his addiction and who are inspired by his courage and faith. They know, he knew how difficult it is and can take courage from the fact that he still managed to find a way out of the darkness.

His shrine is located in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes on Sean MacDermott Street Lower in Dublin.

Note:  Photographs and prayers that accompany this article are available on the link.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Spirituality, Recovery & Prayer Booklets

Two informative (free) booklets can be read and/or downloaded from Guest House:

Mary Ellen Merrick, IHM, D. Min., MAC

Prayers and Reflections For Persons Suffering From Addiction and Their Loved Ones

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Saint Paul VI and Venerable Matt Talbot

Image result for st paul vi

In addition to six others, Pope Francis declared Pope Paul VI a saint today.

Born Giovanni Battista Montini in 1897 in the northern Italian province of Brescia, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1920 and was named archbishop of Milan in 1954. He was elected pope in 1963 and died at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo on 6 August 1978.
In her book, Remembering Matt Talbot, Mary Purcell wrote that during a visit to Ireland and staying at the presidential residence, Cardinal Montinni, the future Pope Paul VI, went to Glasnevin Cemetery to visit Matt Talbot’s grave. Not wanting to be recognized, he visited the cemetery by bike dressed as an ordinary priest, paid his respects to one whose life’s story he had read and in whose Cause he was deeply interested.
In a 1974 address in Rome to Calix Society members on the occasion of their twenty-fifth anniversary, Pope Paul VI” stated: “You have chosen to look upon Matt Talbot as an admirable exemplar of discipline and supernatural virtue. It is our hope that his success will encourage countless men and women throughout the world to realize the need for conversion, the possibility of real rehabilitation, the serenity of Christian reconciliation, and the peace and joy of helping others to overcome abuses, disorders and sin.”

On 3 October 1975, Pope Paul VI proclaimed the treatise on the heroic virtues of Matt Talbot, giving the Dublin worker the title of "Venerable."

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Prominence of God in Venerable Matt Talbot's Recovery

The author of this article serves on the Board of Trustees of Guest House in Michigan, which has been serving the Catholic Church for over six decades regarding information and treatment of addictions and other behavioral health conditions.

The God of Second Chances and the Venerable Matt Talbot
by Rev. Mark S. Stelzer, SThD
Education Director, Guest House
Sept 28, 2018
As we journey through life, we walk with a God who promises resurrection and new life, even this side of the grave. We walk with a God of Second Chances who allows U-turns on the road of life. We all know that U-turns can be painful. Yet, as the literature of Alcoholics Anonymous reminds us, pain is the touchstone of all spiritual growth; it is the price of our admission to a new life. Although we instinctively run from pain, it is through our pain that God speaks. The challenge is to stay with our pain long enough to hear the voice of the God of Second Chances breaking through that pain and offering us new insight and new hope.

One very ordinary person whose life speaks powerfully of the God of Second Chances is Matt Talbot. Matt Talbot was born May 1856 in Dublin Ireland. He was one of twelve children. His father was a heavy drinker, and, as a result, the family grew up in poverty. Typical of his era, Matt spent just two years at school. There was no compulsory education, leaving Matt unable to read or write. He entered the workforce at age twelve, employed by E & J Burke, a firm which bottled beer. There, Matt began his drinking career and within two years came home drunk every day.

By the time he was in his twenties, Matt Talbot spent all his wages and spare time in O’Meara’s Tavern. As far as the neighbors in that area of Dublin were concerned, Matt was a habitual drunk. Today, with our understanding of the disease of addiction, there is little doubt that Matt was already a chronic alcoholic. He became a thief, once stealing a fiddle from a blind man. One Saturday, he came home with just one shilling from his wages to help his mother support the family. The rest he had spent drinking.

By the time he was twenty-eight, Matt was well on the path of self-destruction. An eye-opening moment forever changed his life. On a Saturday morning in 1884, he waited outside O’Meara’s without a penny in his pocket. His problem, he told himself, would be quickly solved. Because he had freely shared whatever money he had in the past with his drinking friends, Matt reasoned they would readily offer him money.

To Matt’s surprise, they did not. One by one his old friends passed by him. Some greeted him; others ignored him. Perhaps because he had scrounged money from them so often, they left him standing on the corner. Matt was stunned and shocked. Years later, he said he felt “cut to the heart.” In reality, this refusal by friends was a moment of grace. After some time thinking about his predicament, Matt realized that he was totally enslaved to alcohol. With God’s grace, he stopped drinking.

To fill in the time he used to spend in O’Meara’s Tavern, Matt started taking long walks, followed by a visit to a nearby Jesuit Church. Matt was not a religious person but gradually began to pray and to ask God to help him.

To find the strength to remain sober, Matt decided to attend Mass every morning before work and to receive Holy Communion. This was very unusual in the 1880’s when most lay people went to Mass just on Sunday and received Holy Communion only at Easter and Christmas. At the end of three months, Matt took the pledge to abstain from alcohol for six months, and he eventually took the pledge for life.

Matt Talbot began to direct all his efforts to deepening his union with God and developing a life of prayer. The strict ascetical life of the early Irish monks attracted him. Their love of prayer with an emphasis on penance, humility and manual labor dedicated to God appealed to him. Matt turned to a Jesuit priest, Father James Walsh, to help him. Matt soon began spending countless hours praying at home and, when not at home, in an obscure corner of a nearby church.

Matt Talbot died suddenly following a heart attack in Granby Lane on the way to Mass on Sunday, June 7, 1925. He was buried in a pauper’s grave a few days later. In 1975, the Church conferred on Matt Talbot the title “Venerable.” This honor makes him eligible for canonization as a saint.

In the pain and darkness of his addiction, Matt Talbot met the God of Second Chances who offered him a word of blessing and hope. Through the example of Matt Talbot, may we find the courage to name our pain and, in the process, meet the God of Second Chances offering us a word of blessing and hope.

Prayer to the Venerable Matt Talbot for Help Overcoming Addiction:
God of mercy, we confidently come to you in the name of your son Jesus Christ who ministered to all who came to him in need. Through the powerful intercession of your servant, Matt Talbot, give strength to all your children who are bound by the chains of addiction. Enfold them in your love and bless them with the gift of true peace. Look with compassion, Lord, on all who have lost health, relationships, careers and freedom due to addiction. Give them the assurance of your unfailing mercy and strengthen them in the hard work of recovery. To friends and family who care for them, grant patient understanding and a love that perseveres. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Author’s note: Matt Talbot biographical information adapted from:

A previously posted article about the author is available at