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The Catholic Defender: Venerable Matt Talbot


Matt can be considered the patron of men and women struggling with alcoholism. He was born in Dublin, where his father worked on the docks and had a difficult time supporting his family. After a few years of schooling, Matt obtained work as a messenger for some liquor merchants; there he began to drink excessively. For 15 years—until he was almost 30—Matt was an active alcoholic.


One day he decided to take “the pledge” for three months, make a general confession and begin to attend daily Mass. There is evidence that Matt’s first seven years after taking the pledge were especially difficult. Avoiding his former drinking places was hard. He began to pray as intensely as he used to drink. He also tried to pay back people from whom he had borrowed or stolen money while he was drinking.


Most of his life Matt worked as a builder’s laborer. He joined the Secular Franciscan Order and began a life of strict penance; he abstained from meat nine months a year. Matt spent hours every night avidly reading Scripture and the lives of the saints. He prayed the rosary conscientiously. Though his job did not make him rich, Matt contributed generously to the missions.


After 1923, Matt’s health failed, and he was forced to quit work. He died on his way to church on Trinity Sunday. Fifty years later, Pope Paul VI gave Matt Talbot the title venerable. His liturgical feast is celebrated on June 19.


Matt Talbot was declared Venerable in 1973 which means the Church has decided that from a human point of view he has the qualifications of a Saint. Timothy Schmalz, a Canadian sculptor, donated this memorial to the Pro-Cathedral on the 150th anniversary of Matt's birth and baptism.


In looking at the life of Matt Talbot, we may easily focus on the later years when he had stopped drinking for some time and was leading a penitential life.


Only alcoholic men and women who have stopped drinking can fully appreciate how difficult the earliest years of sobriety were for Matt.


He had to take one day at a time. So do the rest of us.


His shrine is located in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Dublin.


As you approach the altar, on the left, you will find his tomb. Many votives are left here and pilgrims come to offer their petitions and prayers.


Venerable Matt Talbot (1856–1925) is the patron saint of alcoholics.


He was one of twelve children born into extreme poverty in the tenements of Dublin, Ireland. His father was a heavy drinker who could not provide for his family, and so he moved them from place to place.

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