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Mary Costello's article about Matt Talbot

Some of you who receive the Catholic paper, The Southern Nebraska Register might have already read about the miracle performed by God through the intercession of Matt Talbot. But the wonderful news to those of us here in Lincoln is that the family involved in the miracle heard about the man they prayed to because of the Kitchen and Outreach center here in Lincoln, Nebraska!

Many of us who are concerned with alcoholism and addictions have been praying, working and hoping for a verifiable, physical miracle to be performed through the intercession of Matt Talbot for 75 years. But while Matt continues to help thousands of men and women, wives and husbands, sons and daughters, moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas return to lives of sobriety and serenity, these are considered psychological miracles and cannot be considered by the Congregation of Rites, the folks who decide these things in Rome. They need physical miracles to move a candidate from the status of “Venerable” where Matt stands today, to “Blessed” and then, Praise God one day, to the level of “Saint.”

Yes, there has been a miracle in the suburb of Overland Park, Kans. A young couple, Shannon and Patrick Watkins, traveled to Lincoln for the baptism of a relative’s baby and heard about our work and decided to name their baby Talbot. I’ll explain more about the miracle when I come to see you all in November.

I know many people, even people associated with MTK & O really don’t know much about the man, Matt Talbot. No, he wasn’t a relative of mine, nor a friend! Let me tell you a little about this marvelous man and, hopefully, soon-to-be-saint: he was born into a very poor, alcoholic family in Dublin, Ireland in 1856. He had very little education and admits himself he was probably an alcoholic by his early teens. He went to work when he was only 12, which was the custom and because of another interesting Irish custom (the biggest employer being one of the world’s largest brewers) the paychecks were not sent home with the workers but were deposited with the local pub owners. Sounds incredible, but true. (It was the Catholic Church that finally led efforts to change this custom, but not until the 1920’s!)

Therefore, every worker had to pass through the neighborhood watering hole before he arrived home on payday. We can only surmise how many ever made it home with a few shillings still jangling in his pockets. This was at a time when Ireland was still recovering from the Great Famine of the late 1840’s and 1850’s; thousands of people were unemployed, starving farmers were streaming in from the west and soldiers were coming home from the Crimean War. Dublin was a sea of destitution and poverty.

Matt Talbot and his brothers were some of the unfortunates who usually happily received their paychecks on Saturday noon and had drained it by Tuesday night. The rest of the week they drank “on the cuff” or on the charity of their friends. But one week when Matt was 28, he had been sick all week. He didn’t draw a paycheck at all. One Saturday noon he stood outside his favorite pub waiting for one of his pals to invite him in for a nip or two. No one did. Matt walked a few steps to the bridge overlooking the Royal Canal. He had never been a particularly spiritual person. His religious education had taken him only to his First Communion and Confirmation and while he attended Mass most Sundays he did not receive the Sacraments. There was in Ireland at the time a practice called “Taking the Pledge” designed by a Catholic priest, Fr. Mathew, to stem the tide of the horrendous problem of alcoholism in Ireland in the mid-Nineteenth Century.

We don’t know what God whispered to Matt that afternoon in 1874, but it must have been something wonderful. Matt walked home and said to this mother, “I’m going to take the Pledge,” and she said, “Don’ take it unless you’re going to keep it.” He said, “I am going to keep it.”

But the way that he kept it was the great thing, the thing that turned him into a saint. From home that first day, Matt walked to Conliffe College, a seminary in Dublin, where he went to Confession and took the Pledge. The next morning, he went to Mass and Communion for the first time in many years. During the week, he got up early and went to daily Mass, praying that the Lord would help him stay sober. After work, instead of going to the bar, he visited the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. He asked the priests at the College to teach him to read (he could barely read and write his name) so he could read the lives of the saints and he ended up reading and understanding deep theology.

Matt Talbot especially loved Our Lady under the title of Our Lady of Wisdom and he slept with a statue of her in his arms. For the next 40+ years, he ate only enough to keep himself alive and gave away most of his earnings (the Columban Fathers were one of his favorite charities; he lived simply, sleeping on planks for only a few hours a night and spending many hours a day in prayer or spiritual reading. He died on his way to his third Mass of the day on Trinity Sunday, June 7, 1925. After years of study, he was declared “Venerable” by Pope Paul VI in 1975 indicating that this man had lived a life of heroic virtue.

Since his death, Matt has performed many, many miracles, well, of course God performs the miracles but we pray to Matt and he intercedes at God’s throne for us. But this is the first physical, verifiable miracle that has been performed through Matt’s intercession. When I come to talk to the group, I will tell you more about Matt, and more about the miracle.

If you would like more information about Matt Talbot, please contact me at marykcostello@yahoo.com or at 3901 S, 27th St, unit 4, Lincoln Ne. 68502. I have prayer cards and medals available.