DUBLIN, Ireland. Venerable Matt Talbot was 28 years old when he found himself so desperate to buy alcohol that, having used up all his credit at local pubs, he stole a fiddle from a homeless man.
Standing at Newcomen Bridge in Dublin, Talbot made a decision.
“It was there that he had his conversion experience,” said Father Brian Lawless, a priest of the Archdiocese of Dublin who is vice postulator for Talbot’s cause for canonization. “At that time he came to the realization that his future looked as bleak as his past. And something would have to change. And so through, and as he described himself, the grace of God, he decided he would make a change in his life and he would take what was called a pledge and he would stop drinking.”
Father Lawless’ Aug. 23 presentation during the recent World Meeting of Families was titled, “The Journey From Addiction: What Families Can Learn from the Venerable Matt Talbot.” In his talk, Father Lawless described the factors that contributed to Talbot’s alcoholism.
Talbot had been the second oldest child of 12 and had to skip school often to look after his younger brothers and sisters while his father and mother worked. The family moved from place to place, Father Lawless said.
“That was all to do with the fact that his dad was an alcoholic,” Father Lawless said. “All the money that was brought into the home was used by the father to buy alcohol and really the Talbots had a very difficult and indeed very miserable life.”
At age 12, Talbott took a job bottling Guinness by hand, a job often done by children. Talbot later worked on the docks, where he began heavily drinking whiskey.
But when at age 28 he made a pledge to stop drinking, he stuck
to it, Father Lawless said. In those days, the pledge was taken before a priest.
After his dramatic conversion experience, Talbot became a daily Massgoer
and a secular Franciscan. He would scour the pourhouses
in Dublin searching for the man from whom he stole the fiddle, hoping to
make reparation. He never found him.
Talbot’s cause for canonization was opened shortly after his death in 1925 but had been stalled for some time. Luck struck when Pope Francis stopped at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Dublin to venerate his relics on Aug. 25.
He did so “to acknowledge the people of the North inner city but also the difficulties that all communities have (due to) the misuse of drugs and alcohol,” Father Lawless said.