If you or someone you love struggles with alcoholism or if you’re a recovering alcoholic, faith is an important place to turn for support. It can be helpful to have holy men and women who have overcome the same crosses to inspire us in our journey.
Look no further than Venerable Matt Talbot.
Matt was born in 1856 in Dublin, Ireland. As a young man, he left school and began working for a wine seller. Is was there that he began drinking excessively and became an alcoholic at the very young age of about 13.
His life spiraled and revolved around his next drink. “He was in the barroom scene, fighting, cursing, swearing, taking the Holy Name of Jesus, stealing, robbing, all that. And he would do anything for a drink—he would sell his shoes, he would sell his shirt. One time they robbed the violin from a beggar and then sold the violin and got money for the drink,” explained Fr. Douglas McKay, national chaplain of the Calix Society, an organization that helps Catholic recovering alcoholics.
After hitting rock bottom, Matt Talbot went to his mother who like St. Monica had prayed unceasingly for her son’s conversion. He told his mother that he was going to take a pledge to stop drinking. “She says, Matt don’t take it if you’re not going to keep it. And he says, I will keep it by the grace of God. He goes to Confession, takes the pledge, and the next day he goes to Mass,” said Fr. McKay.
Decades before Alcoholic Anonymous was founded, Matt found a way to become sober without steps and meetings. He never drank again for the rest of his life—41 years of sobriety! His secret was the same as many recovered addicts today—he turned to his faith.
He became a secular Franciscan, frequented the sacraments, and prayed the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross. He worked hard at his jobs to earn money to give to the poor. He learned to read so that he could study Scripture and the lives of the saints. He even became a mystic and practiced harsh penances.
After his conversion, Matt tried his best to make amends to the people he had hurt during his fifteen years as an active alcoholic. He paid back money to those he had borrowed or stolen from. “Later on he tried to find that beggar so that he could restore that violin. But he couldn’t so he had Masses said for him,” said Fr. McKay.
Prayer for the Canonization of Matt Talbot
“Lord, in your servant, Matt Talbot you have given us a wonderful example of triumph over addiction, of devotion to duty, and of lifelong reverence of the Holy Sacrament. May his life of prayer and penance give us courage to take up our crosses and follow in the footsteps of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Father, if it be your will that your beloved servant should be glorified by your Church, make known by your heavenly favours the power he enjoys in your sight. We ask this through the same Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.”
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