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Venerable Matt Talbot

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In this statue, Venerable Matt Talbot, Catholic folk patron of addicts and alcoholics, is shown kneeling in prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary
In this statue, Venerable Matt Talbot, Catholic folk patron of addicts and alcoholics, is shown kneeling in prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary

Matt Talbot is hailed as a patron of addicts and alcoholics, having ceased his own drinking through prayer in 1884 when he was 28 years old.

Born on May 2, 1856, in Dublin Ireland, Matt Talbot started to drink alcohol when he was about 12 years old, following in the footsteps of his father, a known alcoholic. Some stories have him working in bars, wineries or breweries, others merely as a messenger boy. Regardless, his downward slide was rapid, aided in part by a fiery temper that got him into drunken brawls. By adulthood he was spending all his money on drink, going into debt and even stealing to support his habit.

When, at long last, not one of his friends would buy him a drink, he told his mother that he would finally "take the pledge." His mother reportedly said, "May God give you strength to keep it." Matt went straight to confession at Clonliffe College, pledging not to drink for three months. He would never go back into addiction, eventually giving up his pipe and tobacco as well. He reportedly told the altar boy Sean T. O'Ceallaigh, who later became the President of Ireland, that it was more difficult to give up tobacco than alcohol.

A hard worker and a member of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, Talbot gave away much of what he earned. His piety took an ascetic form, with a humble lifestyle, fasting, and acts of mortification, and he joined the Third Order of St. Francis in 1890. He died on June 7, 1925 while walking to Mass. Addiction treatment centers around the world now bear his name. He was venerated by the Catholic Church in 1975 and he remains on the road to canonization and sainthood.

Venerable Matt Talbot is usually depicted dressed in late 19th or early 20th century workman's clothing, kneeling in prayer amidst empty liquor bottles, while behind him the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Grace supports and guides him after the fashion of a Guardian Angel.

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