Monday, September 30, 2019

Matt Talbot: An old friend on the modern journey to recovery

Gina is quite active in speaking and writing about Matt Talbot.

Matt Talbot: An old friend on the modern journey to recovery
By Gina Christian
Catholic News Service
September 16, 2019

After 30 years of drug and alcohol abuse, Pat — a Philadelphia native with tattooed arms and a Rocky Balboa accent — made an unlikely new friend: Matt Talbot, an Irish laborer who’d been dead for about a century.

“I’d never heard of him until I got sober,” said Pat, now a member of the Calix Society, a Catholic support group for those in addiction recovery.

During a Calix meeting that Pat attended after getting clean, the group’s national chaplain, Father Douglas McKay, showed a film on Talbot, who had battled the bottle throughout adolescence and early adulthood.

After taking an abstinence pledge at age 28, Talbot remained sober for decades until his death in 1925, living a quiet, ascetic life that included daily Mass, prayer, Scripture reading and charitable works.

Collapsing on a Dublin street en route to Mass, Talbot was discovered to have regularly worn penitential chains. Declared “venerable” by Pope Paul VI in 1975, Talbot is now invoked as an intercessor by a number of groups that minister to those suffering from addiction, including the Calix Society, which was founded in the U.S. some 20 years after Talbot’s death.

During his August 2018 visit to Ireland, Pope Francis stopped at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Dublin to pray before several relics of Talbot, whose tomb is just feet from the church’s altar.

For Pat, learning about Talbot was life-changing, and he began praying to the would-be saint, whose intercession he also credits for his healing from an intestinal rupture that required 14 hours of emergency surgery.

After his hospitalization, Pat attended a Matt Talbot-themed retreat, where he was able to release many of the resentments that had fueled his addiction.

“I found forgiveness not only for myself, but for the people who had molested me as a child, and for anybody that had ever hurt me,” he said. “I finally saw everyone as being worthy of God’s love.”

Longtime Calix member Kathy Diering said that Talbot, in his resolute example of holiness, “speaks volumes without even speaking.”

“When you look at his hiddenness, his spirituality, you see that he really knew that the body and blood of Christ were his true source of life,” she said. “He was steadfast, and that’s been an inspiration for me, because he shows what is possible.”

Talbot’s conversion from sot to saint, made all the more dramatic by the severity of his alcoholism, resonates with those looking to free themselves from addiction. In fact, many of those devoted to Matt Talbot say that his sanctity was the real key to his sobriety. “He knew that everyone else might leave him, but God wouldn’t,” said Diering. “And that’s where his strength was.
Holiness is a sign of authentic recovery from addiction, said Father McKay, who is looking to create a national shrine to Matt Talbot in Philadelphia. While addiction is a complex disease of body, mind and spirit, he said, too often treatment only focuses on the first two, without addressing the soul’s deep hunger for connection with the divine.

Globally, some 35 million people now struggle with drug addiction, according to the United Nations. A separate study projects that alcohol consumption (which rose 10% between 1990 and 2017) will increase by another 17% worldwide over the next decade.

In the face of such daunting statistics, Talbot’s appeal as a role model and intercessor continues to grow internationally, thanks to the dedicated efforts of those who work to share, online and in person, the Irishman’s message of hope.

From his native Poland, Gregory Jakielski has been diligently spreading devotion to this saint-in-the-making for the past seven years, maintaining both a website and Facebook page that feature a number of Matt Talbot resources. In August 2018, he collected hundreds of names that were placed by a pilgrim on Matt Talbot’s tomb in Dublin.

For Pat, Matt Talbot's simplicity makes clear the path to both sobriety and sanctity. "He had no real possessions, he said. He didn't need anything but God's love, and he wanted to make others feel that too."

Sunday, September 22, 2019

A Perspective on Drinking in Dublin

The author of this article serves as Director of Formation for Catholic Schools and Catechesis at the Archdiocese of Denver and teaches at the Augustine Institute (USA).  Photographs accompanying this article are found on the link below.

Drinking . . . and Not Drinking in Dublin
by Jared Staudt
September 16, 2019
We began our Beauty of Faith Pilgrimage to Ireland in Dublin, visiting its churches and its saints/saints in the making: St. Valentine-the Roman saint whose relics are at the Whitefriar Street church; St. John Henry Newman’s University Church where he delivered some of the discourses that became An Idea of a University; St. Lawrence O’Toole, medieval bishop of the city, and Bl. John Sullivan, a Jesuit with a gift for healing. 

Watching over our pilgrimage, however, were two holy figures from Dublin to make sure we consumed in moderation (both of whom appear in The Beer Option.  Fr. Theobald Matthew (1790-1856) formed the Total Abstinence Society to combat the sin of drunkenness and administered the pledge to over 3 million people in Ireland, and also traveled in Britain and the United States. Alcohol clearly falls within Jesus’ teaching on the Sermon on the Mount: “If your eyes causes you to sin, pluck it out.” The other is Ven. Matt Talbot (1856-1925), who became an alcoholic at a young age, while working in a liquor store. He fell to such a level that his friends mocked him and refused to help him, causing him to wake up, go to confession, and take the pledge. He became a Third Order Franciscan, consecrated his life to Our Lady following St. Louis de Montfort, adopted strict penances, and spent his life serving his fellow, poor workers in Dublin.

The Catholic tradition embraces the festivity of eating and drinking, but within the context of fasting and friendship so that, as Paul says, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Our pilgrimage experience in Dublin testified to the right balance of drinking and abstaining, both witnessed by the saints.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Learning From Venerable Matt Talbot About Attachment and Detachment of Addictions*

Homily For Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (C) 
by Fr. Billy Swan
July 30, 2019

"Dear friends. I would like to share a few thoughts this week on addiction. I do so not only because it is topical and relevant to our society today but because it is found in the Gospel story this weekend of the man who wasn’t contented with his rich harvest but wanted an even greater return the following year – a year he would never see because of his premature death. Like many addictions, his was to ‘having more’. What he had was never enough.

Now when we talk about addictions, we might be tempted to think only of the big ones we hear about – addictions to alcohol, to smoking, drugs, gambling or pornography. If we do then we might be tempted to cod ourselves in thinking that addictions effect other people but not me. That I’m ok. The truth is that all of us are prone to any number of addictions at any time. Most of us are probably struggling with some addiction right now. It’s not a question of if we are, but more a question of ‘to what am I addicted?’ This is because the human spirit always seeks to attach itself to something greater than itself. And it is this attachment that will either destroy us or fill us with joy in this life and the next.

One man who came full circle on this journey of attachment and detachment was Matt Talbot. It is said that he was a hopeless alcoholic by the time he was 14. He was so addicted to drink that he would do anything and lose everything just to have another drink. He pawned his clothes and boots to get money for alcohol. On one occasion, he stole a fiddle from a street entertainer in Dublin and sold it to buy drink. His addiction to alcohol turned him into someone he hated to be. When he hit rock bottom, he turned to God in desperate prayer and pledged with his grace to detach himself from drink and to attach himself ever more faithfully to God. In his efforts to turn his life around, Matt Talbot was successful but credited everything to God and his mercy.

We can learn so much from his story. The most important thing to learn is how his addiction, like our addictions and every addiction, is a spiritual problem that needs a spiritual cure. Before his conversion, Matt Talbot tried to satisfy his need for God with alcohol before he realised that there is no chemical solution to a spiritual problem. We are prone to addictions when God is not in first place and what comes first instead in our lives are things that can never replace him. Matt Talbot’s detachment from drink corresponded to his attachment to God. To help him make this painful transition, we know he read the writings of St Frances de Sales who urges us not just to give up our addictions but to give up our love for them. So for Matt Talbot, it wasn’t just a question of giving up the drink. It was just as much about giving up his love for it. Since his death on 7th June 1925, Matt Talbot has been an inspiration and sign of hope to people like us who struggle with addictions. He was declared Venerable by Pope Paul VI in 1975 and how wonderful it would be if one day he is declared a saint. He once wrote: ‘Never be too hard on the person who can’t give up drink. It’s as hard to give up the drink as it is to raise the dead to life again. But both are possible and even easy for Our Lord. We have only to depend on him.’

Today we pray for ourselves, that we may know our addictions and admit them. We pray that we become detached and free from whatever holds us back and kills our joy that comes from God. We pray that every day, we may attach our spirits in humble prayer to the God who made them and the God for whom they were made. We pray for all those whose lives are being destroyed by addiction here and beyond. May this be the time when new hope is born and many souls turn back again to God. Matt Talbot, pray for us."

*Note:  We are responsible for this title.