June 19 is the Day We Remember Venerable Matt Talbot

“Never be too hard on the man 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.” Matt Talbot

talbotMatt Talbot was declared “venerable” in 1975. He is remembered each year on this day, June 19. The most complete resource for information on Matt Talbot can be found here: Matt Talbot Resource Center

If you get the chance, “like” the Matt Talbot Facebook page here.

From Circle of Prayer: (click for link) Matt Talbot was born in the poverty of Dublin’s inner city. He began drinking at twelve years of age and became a chronic alcoholic. It was the drug culture of the 19th century. Matt was an addict. After sixteen years he decided to ‘kick the habit’.

A priest helped him, giving him a rehabilitation program, which providentially incorporated the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. With the help of this Priest friend Matt modeled his life on that of the monks, who lived in Ireland in the 6th and 7th centuries.

It was a tough program of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. That was fifty years before AA was founded. After a horrendous struggle, he found sobriety through prayer and self-sacrifice. His Higher Power was the Christian God. He remained sober for forty years until his death. His life story has been an inspiration for alcoholics and addicts throughout the world. He is a candidate for canonization in the Catholic Church

Here is a link to a Matt Talbot Retreat Group.

To his neighbors and his work mates in the timber yards, he was a cheerful, happy friend. He gave away most of his wages every week to the poor at home and abroad. “Matt had no time for money”, his sister remarked. He was keenly aware of his fellow workers struggle for social justice. A loyal member of Ireland’s Transport and General Workers Union, a Union leader, Stephen McGonagle, described him as “a beacon of light to Irish workers”. After a life of heroic perseverance, he died suddenly on the way to Mass on 7th June 1925.

Matt’s program of recovery was built around devotion to the Eucharist, love of Mary, Mother of God, spiritual reading, self-discipline and manual work. But he never forgot his struggle with his addiction. “Never look down on a man, who cannot give up the drink”, he told his sister, “it is easier to get out of hell!”.

Most of the favors attributed to his intercession world-wide are for addicts and their families. Hundreds have been reported. Some day he may be declared the patron saint for addicts.

History of the Matt Talbot movement–click here.

Talbot was declared Venerable in 1975 which means that the church has decided that from a human point of view, he has the qualifications of a Saint. However a physical miracle is required to show Gods Approval of this judgment before he will be Beatified and another Miracle after that, before he will be canonized.

The Holy father believes that Matt Talbot has been chosen by God as a model for addicts. He was a recovered Alcoholic. It is now known that the rehabilitation program given to him in 1884 incorporated the 12 step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. although these steps were not formulated for another 50 years.

Devotees of Matt Talbot may be interested to learn that the present Pope wrote a paper on Matt when he was a young man.

My friend Paul at Sober Catholic created a Yahoo group for Catholic alcoholics called the “Matt Talbot Way.”

Official Prayer for the Canonization of Blessed 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 Savior, Jesus Christ. Father, if it be your will that your beloved servant should be glorified by your Church, make known by your heavenly favors the power he enjoys in your sight. We ask this through the same Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

7 Quick Takes Friday: 7 Role Models for Catholic Alcoholics

matt talbot

Here we go again with our 7 Quick Takes Friday hosted by Jennifer Fulwiler over at Conversion Diary. We reciprocate links to her blog and then post 7 “quick-takes” on our blogs.

7 Role Models for Catholic Alcoholics

1. Venerable Matt Talbott

Matt Talbott was born in the poverty of Dublin’s inner city. He began drinking at twelve years of age and became a chronic alcoholic. It was the drug culture of the 19th century. Matt was an addict.

After a horrendous sixteen year struggle, he found sobriety.  He decided to ‘kick the habit’. A priest helped him, giving him a rehabilitation program, which providentially incorporated aspects and principles of the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. With the help of this Priest friend Matt modeled his life on that of the monks, who lived in Ireland in the 6th and 7th centuries.7quicktakes

He remained sober for forty years until his death. His life story has been an inspiration for alcoholics and addicts throughout the world. He is a candidate for canonization in the Church and has achieved the title of “venerable.”

Matt’s program of recovery was built around devotion to the Eucharist, love of Mary, Mother of God, spiritual reading, self-discipline and manual work. But he never forgot his struggle with his addiction.

“Never look down on a man, who cannot give up the drink”, he told his sister, “it is easier to get out of hell!” (Matt Talbott)

Here is an 8 minute YouTube video telling the story of Matt Talbott.

seeds of grace book2. “Sister Molly Monahan” (not her real name), author of Seeds of Grace

Sister Molly Monahan” wrote a wonderful book a decade or so ago about her experiences with alcoholism and recovery through Alcoholics Anonymous. She had been drinking, quietly and compulsively, for years when she finally decided to attend her first AA meeting. There she found the emotional support that AA is famous for-but she also found a surprising source of spiritual strength. In this unique book, she reflects on how a nonreligious group brought about such a powerful reawakening of faith-and explores gratitude, community, forgiveness, prayer, and many more subjects of interest not only to alcoholics but to anyone on a spiritual quest.

“Monahan’s unique understanding of both the human and spiritual side of alcoholism forms an important, personal understanding of theology in action.” (Library Journal)

Sister “Molly” was trained in the methods of Ignatian Spirituality, had made week-long retreats annually, had studied spirituality and obtained a graduate degree in theology, yet as she writes, “None of this prevented me from becoming an alcoholic.” And she claims that without Alcoholics Anonymous’ spiritual program of recovery she would be “spiritually bereft.” That is a big statement!  She had all the spirituality and knowledge of Catholic sacramental life yet still couldn’t break the alcoholism cycle until she made it into AA.

I wrote a review of her book here.

Vogt3. Father Emmerich Vogt, “12-Step Review”

Fr. Emmerich Vogt, O.P. is a Dominican priest of the Western Dominican Province. Educated by the Dominican Order at its seminary in California, Fr. Emmerich went on to receive a MA degree in Theology from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and a graduate degree in Near Eastern Religions from University of California.

THE 12 STEP REVIEW is a publication of the Western Dominican Province, a nonprofit organization of the Dominican Fathers and Brothers, and is founded and edited by Fr. Emmerich Vogt, O.P. It is published four times a year through donations. Father Vogt travels around the country giving retreat talks on Christian principles within 12 Step spirituality. Sober for 30 years, Vogt wrote a book published last year The Freedom to Love and continues to make his talks and retreats available on CD and DVD.

The site 12 Step Review is maintained by volunteers and offers a wonderful resource for today’s recovering Catholic alcoholic. My mother attended sessions of his retreat in Johns Creek, Georgia a couple of weeks ago and said they were wonderful and appealing to all types of relationship dilemmas, with the focus on 12 Step process of recovery.

father jim4. Father Jim McKenna (1953 – 2006)

Fr. Jim’s lifelong dream to become a Catholic priest came true in 1960. At that time he took a pledge to refrain from alcohol for five years. In 1965, while he was fulfilling his priestly duties he started enjoying occasional cocktails.

He later went for an evaluation and it was decided that while he was a good priest, he was also an alcoholic. After three months in Guest House in Minnesota, an addiction treatment rehab for Catholic clergy and religious, he returned to Bergen County and attended AA meetings.

Fr. Jim was assigned to Oradell’s St. Joseph’s R.C. Church where he started the recovery mass for anyone affected by the disease of alcoholism, with the hope of giving more people an opportunity to leave the “Hell” of Alcoholism and Drug Addiction and perhaps find the “Heaven of Sobriety.” The Third Saturday mass began with 18 people and quickly spread to over 500. Fr. Jim began each mass with, “Hello, my name is Jim and I am an alcoholic”; and all felt welcome.

This is a special Mass for all who are affected by the disease of Alcoholism. The Recovery Mass continues on even after Father Jim’s death and is held on the third Saturday of every month.

“Alcoholism is a disease, not a bad habit.” (Father Jim)

FatherCanavan5. Father Francis Canavan (1917 – 2009)

An author of more than 10 books and a political philosopher who inspired and encouraged many students at Fordham, Father Canavan taught for 22 years in the Department of Political Science. He wrote prolifically about liberalism and Catholic social teaching, and, during the 1960s, served as associate editor of America magazine. He was also a member of the advisory board of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists.

During the 1980s, Father Francis Canavan had given inspirational talks to members of the Calix Society, which were compiled into a pair of books, The Light of Faith and By the Grace of God. I haven’t read them but intend to. They are both available via the Calix Society website.  He was the spiritual director for the Calix Society for many years.

Here is part of the talk he gave on the topic of the 2nd Step “Coming to Believe:”

“[Coming] to believe is a process that goes on all our lives and is never completely finished. No matter how deeply we believe, we can always believe more deeply, and God will lead us to a steadily more profound faith through the experiences of our lives, if we will let Him. But what is of immediate interest to us here is the coming to believe of the person who has little or no faith in God. “Acting as if” is the way in which he begins the process of coming to believe.” (Father Canavan)

fathermartinpicture6. Father Joseph Martin (1924 – 2009)

Father Joseph Martin, after ten years of priesthood, was encouraged to get help for his alcoholism. He was treated at the Guest House in Orion, Michigan. After getting sober he presented the “Chalk Talk”- a blackboard presentation that helped earn Father Martin national recognition as an authority on addiction.

“Chalk Talk” was filmed by the U.S. Navy for use in drug and alcohol education around the world. Father Martin later received multiple awards for his work with addiction in various branches of the military.

Father Martin and Mae Abraham (an alcoholic who was helped by the “Chalk Talk.”) sought resources to open a chemical addiction treatment center based on Father Martin’s philosophies of treatment, including his heartfelt belief that every addict is worth saving. A 20-acre property, the Oakington estate in Havre de Grace, Maryland was the perfect location for a treatment center.

Finally, Father Martin’s Ashley opened its doors to the first group of patients. The center was named for co-founder Father Martin, as it was his treatment philosophy that would be the basis of patient care. Soon he helped establish the Ashley Relapse Treatment program, which incorporates the Gorski Relapse Prevention Model, 12 Step approaches and Father Martin’s treatment philosophy.

Father Martin’s published a book No Laughing Matter, compiling three of his talks—”The Chalk Talk”, “Guidelines” and “Alcoholism and the Family.” The Rainbow of Hope Children’s Program was started at FMA. Held one Saturday each month, the program is open to all children who live in homes with addiction.

“He (Father Martin) is the master mentor who teaches and touches at the same time.” Robert Ackerman, Ph.D.

pfau7. Father Ralph Pfau (1904 – 1967)

He is believed to have been the first Roman Catholic priest to enter Alcoholics Anonymous and is affectionately known also as “Father John Doe.”

He was a priest in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, ordained at St. Meinrad Seminary, and received an MA in Education at Fordham University.

In the opening paragraph of his autobiography, “Prodigal Shepherd,” Father Pfau wrote:

“All my life, I will carry three indelible marks. I am a Roman Catholic priest. I am an alcoholic. And I am a neurotic.”

He had never a drink until about a year after his ordination. But by 1943 he was sufficiently worried about his drinking to investigate A.A. While responding to a call from a woman who said her husband was dying, he learned from the doctor that the man was not dying, but merely passed out from a combination of alcohol and barbital. As Fr. Pfau was leaving the house he noticed a book on a shelf and asked if he could borrow it. It was “Alcoholics Anonymous.”

AA history recalled by a member who attended the first International A.A. Convention in Cleveland in 1950, speaks of how Father Pfau helped insist that AA remain non-religious.

In this first Convention in 1950, at the ‘Spiritual Meeting’ the main speaker’s topic, “dealt with the idea that the alcoholic was to be the instrument that God would use to regenerate and save the world. He expounded the idea that alcoholics were God’s Chosen People and he was starting to talk about AA being ‘The Third Covenant,’ when he was interrupted by shouted objections from the back of the room. The objector, who turned out to be a small Catholic priest (Father Pfau), would not be hushed up. There was chaos and embarrassment as the meeting was quickly adjourned.” As the member recalls Father Pfau’s objections:

” How well we shall always remember that A.A. is never to be thought of as a religion. How firmly we shall insist that A.A. membership cannot depend upon any particular belief whatever; that our twelve steps contain no article of religious faith except faith in God — as each of us understands Him. How carefully we shall henceforth avoid any situation which could possibly lead us to debate matters of personal religious belief.”

***

So there you go! This is a great list but where are all the Catholic alcoholic women?  “Sister Molly Monahan” on this list but she remains anonymous.  hmmmm..  I am going to have to scout out Google (or Bing, if I’m feeling counter-cultural) for women Catholic alcoholics.  Where are we?

Prayer for the Addicted

prayer guyPRAYER FOR THE ADDICTED

God of mercy, we bless you in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who ministered to all who come to Him. Give your strength to (name of the one I am praying for), who is bound by the chains of addiction. Enfold him/her in your love and restore him/her to freedom through your grace.

Lord, look with compassion on all those who have lost their health and have broken relationships because of their attachment to the object of their addiction. Restore to them the assurance of your unfailing mercy, and strengthen them in the work of recovery. To those who care for them, grant patient understanding and a love that perseveres.

Lord, in your servant, Venerable 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 (name of the one I am praying for) courage to take up his/her cross and follow in the footsteps of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Father, we ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Venerable Matt Talbot, a Model for Catholic Alcoholics

matt talbotMatt Talbot was declared Venerable in 1975 which means that the Church has decided from a human point of view, he has the qualifications of a Saint. However a physical miracle is required to show Gods approval of this judgement before he will be Beatified and another miracle after that, before he will be canonized.

The Holy father believed that Matt Talbot had been chosen by God as a model for alcoholics and addicts. He was a recovered alcoholic. The program of recovery and sobriety used by him in 1884 incorporated practices very similar to the 12 steps of the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, although these steps were not formulated for another 50 years.

On an otherwise blank page in one of Matt’s books, the following is written:

“God console thee and make thee a saint. To arrive at the perfection of humility four things are necessary: to despise the world, to despise no one, to despise self, to despise being despised by others.”

In all modern psychological fairness, the meaning of “despise” the world and self does not mean the same as it does today. To “despise” the self simply means to recognize how little I am in relation to God and even in relation to the whole of humanity. I “despise” self when I refuse to think so much of my own needs and begin instead to think of the needs of others first.

Devotees of Matt Talbot may be interested to learn that Pope John Paul II wrote a paper on Matt when he was a young man.

I intend to devote considerable attention to Venerable Matt Talbot on my blog and the best resource for information is the Venerable Matt Talbot Resource Center. This resource center was created to provide a central internet location of public information about and references to the Venerable Matt Talbot that did not previously exist online.

Official Prayer for the Canonization of Blessed 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.”

Matt Talbot and the 12 Steps

Matt Talbot did not have the recovery option of Alcoholics Anonymous, which would not be developed for another half-century. However, former Vice-Postulator of the Cause for Canonization of Matt Talbot, Fr. Morgan Costello, has noted in his publication,“Matt Talbot: Hope for Addicts” (1987; 2001), that elements of A.A.’s twelve-steps can be identified in Matt’s alcoholism recovery.  In his Winter, 2012, quarterly newsletter, The Twelve-Step Review, Fr. Emmerich Vogt, O.P. discusses the value of belonging to an anonymous fellowship today, not only for the addict but also for spouses, parents, children, or friends of addicts. His article, “Do I Need a 12 Step Group?” is helpful for those skeptical about 12 Step Programs.

Talbot Program of Recovery

Matthew Talbot (1856 – 1925) was born in the poverty of Dublin’s inner city. He began drinking at twelve years of age and became a chronic alcoholic. It was the drug culture of the 19th century. Matt was an addict. After sixteen years he decided to ‘kick the habit’. A priest helped him, giving him a rehabilitation programme, which providentially incorporated the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. With the help of this Priest friend Matt modeled his life on that of the monks, who lived in Ireland in the 6th and 7th centuries.


It was a tough programme of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.That was fifty years before AA was founded. After a horrendous struggle, he found sobriety through prayer and self-sacrifice. His Higher Power was the Christian God. He remained sober for forty years until his death. His life story has been an inspiration for alcoholics and addicts throughout the world. He is a candidate for canonisation in the Catholic Church

To his neighbours and his work mates in the timber yards, he was a cheerful, happy friend. He gave away most of his wages every week to the poor at home and abroad. “Matt had no time for money”, his sister remarked. He was keenly aware of his fellow workers struggle for social justice. A loyal member of Ireland’s Transport and General Workers Union, a Union leader, Stephen McGonagle, described him as “a beacon of light to Irish workers”. After a life of heroic perseverance, he died suddenly on the way to Mass on 7th June 1925.

Matt’s programme of recovery was built around devotion to the Eucharist, love of Mary, Mother of God, spiritual reading, self-discipline and manual work. But he never forgot his struggle with his addiction. “Never look down on a man, who cannot give up the drink”, he told his sister, “it is easier to get out of hell!”.

Most of the favours attributed to his intercession world-wide are for addicts and their families. Hundreds have been reported. Some day he may be declared the patron saint for addicts.

Short version of the prayer for his help:

“May Matt Talbot’s triumph over addiction, brings hope to our community and strength to our hearts, may he intercede for …name… who struggles with his/her addiction, through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

Official Prayer for Canonization of Matt Talbot

Official Prayer for the Canonisation of Blessed 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.”

Venerable Matthew Talbot

VENERABLE MATTHEW TALBOT

1856-1925
Matthew Talbot was born on May 2, 1856, the second of 12 siblings, in Dublin, Ireland. He had three sisters and nine brothers, three of whom died young. His father Charles was a dockworker and his mother, Elizabeth, was a housewife. When Matthew was about 12 years old, he started to drink alcohol. His father was a known alcoholic as well as all his brothers. The eldest brother, John, was the exception. Charles tried to dissuade Matthew with severe punishments but without success.

Matthew worked as a messenger boy when he was twelve and then transferred to another messenger job at the same place his father worked. After working there for three years, he became a bricklayer’s laborer. He was a hodman, which meant he fetched mortar and bricks for the bricklayers. He was considered “the best hodman in Dublin.

As he grew into an adult, he continued to drink excessively, He continued to work but spent all his wages on heavy drinking. When he got drunk, he became very hot-tempered, got into fights, and swore. He became so desperate for more drinks that he would buy drinks on credit, sell his boots or possessions, or steal people’s possession so he could exchange it for more drinks. He refused to listen to his mother’s plea to stop drinking. He eventually lost his own self-respect. One day when he was broke, he loitered around a street corner waiting for his “friends”, who were leaving work after they were paid their wages. He had hoped that they would invite him for a drink but they ignored him. Dejected, he went home and publicly resolved to his mother, “I’m going to take the pledge.” His mother smiled and responded, “Go, in God’s name, but don’t take it unless you are going to keep it.” As Matthew was leaving, she continued, “May God give you strength to keep it.”

Matthew went straight to confession at Clonliffe College and took a pledge not to drink for three months. The next day he went back to Church and received communion for the first time in years. From that moment on, in 1884 when he was 28 years old, he became a new man. After the he successfully fulfilled his pledge for three months, he made a life long pledge. He even made a pledge to give up his pipe and tobacco. He used to use about seven ounces of tobacco a week. He said to the late Sean T. O’Ceallaigh, former President of Ireland, that it cost him more to give up tobacco that to give up alcohol.

The new converted Matthew never swore. He was good humored and amicable to everyone. He continued to work as a hodman and then as a laborer for timber merchants. He used his wages to pay back all his debts. He lived modestly and his home was very spartan. He developed into a very pious individual who prayed every chance he got. He attended Mass every morning and made devotions like the Stations of the Cross or devotions the Blessed mother in the evenings. He fasted, performed acts of mortification, and financially supported many religious organizations.

He read biographies of St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Catherine of Sienna. He later joined the Third Order of St. Francis on October 18, 1891 even though a young pious girl proposed to marry him. Physically, he suffered from kidney and heart ailments. During the two times he was hospitalized, he spent much time in Eucharistic adoration in the hospital chapel. Eventually, Matthew died on June 7, 1925 while walking to Mass. He was 69 years old. Here is a wonderful quote from Matthew to remember:

“Three things I cannot escape: the eye of God, the voice of conscience, the stroke of death. In company, guard your tongue. In your family, guard your temper. When alone guard your thoughts.”