Feast Day: June 19
Venerated: October 3, 1975
Matt was born in 1856 and to a poor family with 12 children in Dublin, Ireland. His father and several of his brothers were alcoholics. Matt began working as a messenger boy when he was 12 years old. He also began drinking alcohol around the same time.
Once he began drinking, Matt could not stop. Alcohol became the most important thing in his life. He spent all his money on liquor, and when he did not have money from his regular job, he often stood outside a pub waiting for a friend to invite him in and buy him a drink. Soon he had no friends left. He once stole a fiddle from a blind man, pawned the fiddle and used the money to buy alcohol. Whenever he drank, he got into fights.
When he was 28 years old, Matt decided to stop drinking. He went to a priest for confession and then “took the pledge,” a common custom in Matt’s time. Alcoholics often made a promise to God in the presence of a priest as a sign that they were going to give up drinking. Matt’s first pledge was for three months.
Matt turned to God for help. He began to go to daily Mass. He often spent his free time—the time he used to spend in the pub—praying. He became especially close to Mary. He knew that our Blessed Mother wanted to help him live a happy life. He read stories of the saints and joined the Third Order of St. Francis.
Matt stopped carrying the money he earned from his job in a lumberyard. He wanted to avoid the temptation to spend it on liquor. Instead, he gave his wages away to friends who needed money for rent or to buy food or shoes for their children. He was also generous in donating money to his church.
Matt stayed sober for the rest of his life—almost 40 years. He was a man of simplicity, on his way to Mass when he died on a neighborhood street of a heart attack.
Matt Talbot has been declared “Venerable” by the Catholic Church. This is the first step on the journey to sainthood. Matt was healed from his addiction by God’s love and his faith. Like Matt, we can bring our troubles to God and Mary in prayer. We can remember that God hears and answers all of our prayers. Today, many men and women who struggle with alcohol addiction carry with them a “Matt Talbot,” a medal with Talbot’s likeness on it, to help them in their struggle.
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The Story of Jesus, unit 3