Matthew Talbot was born on
May 2, 1856, the second of 12 siblings, in . 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. Dublin,
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
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 to 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.
Here is a wonderful quote from Matthew to remember:
Matt was on his way to Holy Mass on Trinity Sunday,
7 June 1925, when he collapsed and
died of heart failure on Granby Lane
in Dublin. He was 69 years old. Nobody at the scene was
able to identify him. His body was taken to ,
where he was undressed, revealing the extent of his austerities. A chain had
been wound around his waist, with more chains around an arm and a leg, and
cords around the other arm and leg. The chains found on his body at death
were not some extreme penitential regime but a symbol of his devotion to Mary,
Mother of God that he wished to give himself to her totally as a slave. Talbot's
story quickly filtered through the community and there were many spectators
when his funeral took place at Jervis
Street Hospital on Glasnevin
Cemetery 11 June 1925. In 1972 his remains
were removed to a tomb in Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Sean
McDermott Street, Dublin, in
the area where Matt spent his life.
"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."
Prayer for the Canonisation 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 for the Most 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.