Matt Talbot: a drunk on the path to sainthood

Matt Talbot was a drunk. His father was a drunk.

Nearly every one of his brothers was a drunk. He was uneducated and unskilled, and he died in obscurity. And someday soon, God willing, Venerable Matt Talbot will be a saint.

Talbot (1856-1925) was the second of 12 children born to a working class Dublin family at a time when work and food were scarce and hope scarcer still.

Matt’s home life was unstable and his schooling inconsistent. After a few years of sporadic attendance, Matt quit school entirely and entered the workforce.

His first job was for a wine seller, and the occasional taste he took of the merchandise soon turned him into a full-fledged alcoholic. By the time he was 13, Matt’s life was driven by his need to drink.

He spent all his wages on alcohol, even pawning his boots when he didn’t have enough for a pint. Matt’s father beat him and made him change jobs, but it was too late.

The alcohol had taken hold of him and, as his father well knew, it wouldn’t let go without a fight.

But Matt didn’t want to fight. He wanted to drink. And only to drink.

His friends later said that he “only wanted one thing — the drink; he wouldn’t go with us to a dance or a party or a school function. But for the drink he’d do anything.”

For 15 years, Matt begged, borrowed, and stole whatever he needed to feed his addiction, once stealing the fiddle from a blind beggar to sell it for liquor.

Matt was a lost cause — so everybody said. But nobody reckoned on grace.

Matt Talbot was the life of the party but, one day, when he was 28, he suddenly saw how false his happiness was, how false his friendships.

He had been out of work for a few days and had drunk all his wages, so he stood outside a pub waiting for one of his many drinking buddies to offer to buy him a drink.

But as one old friend after another passed him by, Talbot began to realize the emptiness of his life. Continue reading


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