Monday 14 August 2023

Addict for Christ: The story of Venerable Matt Talbot - Francis Johnston - CTS Biographies

Addict for Christ: The story of Venerable Matt Talbot
Francis Johnston
ISBN 0851831702
ISBN 9780851831701
CTS Booklet B479
Addict for Christ: The story of Venerable Matt Talbot - Francis Johnston - CTS Biographies

This book was another that was harder to track down, it was not really worth doing so. Considering this volume was published fifty years after Matt’s death there are a number of factual errors in the volume. This is the 8th volume about Matt I have read. I love readings books that are part of the CTS Biographies series. I have read some published just this year (2023) and some over 100 years ago. This was published in 1976. I really cannot explain the factual errors. The description of this volume is:

“Matthew Talbot was a Dublin working-man; by the age of twenty-eight he was a penniless alcoholic. But he had a mother who believed in prayer. and her prayers seem to have- been answered. Matthew turned into an outstandingly holy man, who could take part in a General Strike with his mates and at the same time practise a devotion to the Eucharist and to the Mother of God which have led the authorities of the R.C. Church to pronounce him 'Venerable', a towards a possible beatification canonisation.”

And the sections in the volume are:

Slave of Alcohol
Penitent Extraordinary
The Worker
Man of Prayer
His Death

Quotes that based on my other readings are factual errors are:

“Matthew Talbot was born in Dublin on May 3rd 1856, the second of twelve children of a casual labourer in the port. His early life was scarred by poverty and hardship resulting from the heavy drinking of his father.”

Every other biography I have read states the opposite of this. Matt’s dad was not a drunk, or known to be a heavy drinker.

“Matt fell heavily in debt, sold his boots and clothing and even stole from a blind beggar."I broke my mother's heart," he sadly confessed years later. (After his conversion, he searched Dublin in vain for the beggar and finally had Masses said for his soul).”

The story appears in many other biographies, they were drinking and a fiddler joined them. When they ran out of money Matt and another pawned the fiddler’s fiddler and the group continued to drink. Matt did feel remorse for this and the loss of livelihood for the man. He did search for him, and did have masses offered for him.

“Despite his preoccupation with prayer, he maintained a close and sympathetic interest in the welfare of his work-mates, and shared their grievances over poor pay by joining the Dublin Dock Strike of 1900 and later, the General Strike of 1913. He never considered his own rights and declined to draw his strike pay. His colleagues discovered this and had to force it into his unwilling hands.”

All the other biographies state that he sympathized with the strikers. But that he himself did not strike. He refused the strike pay because he would not picket. But spent the time in prayer. His co-workers insisted he receive the pay because of his character.

Some quotes I do agree with and highlighted while reading this volume are:

“One Saturday morning when Matt was twenty-eight and penniless, he waited outside his favourite haunt, O'Meara's public house (now known as Cusack's), soliciting his friends to stand him a drink. To his dismay, not one of them obliged. The shock of their scornful refusal hurt him far more than the lack of a drink.”

It should be noted he skipped work and this was why he was not paid and did not have money for drink on this occasion.

“One morning, while Matt was hearing an early Mass in St. Francis Xavier's Church, Gardiner Street, he heard an inner voice deride all his efforts to reform. As he rose for Communion, an invisible force restrained him from moving forward. Dazed, he left the Church and heard a second Mass elsewhere. The experience was repeated, and again in a third Church. Arriving back at St. Francis Xavier's for the 9.45 am Mass, he fell on his knees and cried out to God and Our Lady for help. The invisible barrier melted away and Matt received Communion in a flood of joy and emotion.”

“It is the motivating love behind his penances, rather than the penances themselves, that should inspire imitation. Matt understood the truth of Our Lord 's words, 'Without Me you can do nothing,' and he acted on them with alacrity.”

“His wages went entirely to the missions and local charities after payments for his rent and scant food."He had no use for money," a friend recalled. Within a few years of his conversion, he had paid off all his drinking debts and was helping relatives and neighbours in financial difficulties.”

There is no indication in any of the other biographies that he had debts that needed to be worked off. He lived pay to pay. And drank till the pay was gone. He pawned his boots. But no indication of serious debt.

“His growing love of Christ led him to pray for a great gift of prayer, a grace- he received in full measure. Ten hours of every day were now spent on his knees in fervent prayer. He would rise from his plank bed at 2 am and pray with outstretched arms till 4 am when he prepared himself for his first Mass. If he arrived early, he would kneel outside the Church in all weathers on bare knees (his trouser legs having been slit to admit the penitential cold).”

“Only the sound of bad language disturbed him and he would tactfully intervene to stop it. His colleagues came to respect his candour and sincerity, and would listen with studied attention· when· he frequently spoke of God and the supernatural.”

“Each Sunday, Matt would be seen hurrying through the streets of Dublin, trying to attend the maximum possible number of Masses before his scant breakfast in the early afternoon. In 191 5, on two successive feasts of Our Lady, he managed the incredible total of twenty-one Masses heard - proof indeed of the extraordinary grace he had received.”

“An astonished hospital attendant found a chain tied round his body and two others round an arm and leg, and a cord drawn tightly round the other arm. "They were not embedded in the flesh," the Matron testified, "but had worn grooves in the skin as though he had been wearing them a long time."”

It should be noted it was a nun in attendance. And she called a second to be a witness when she encounter the chains while cutting off his clothes to prepare the body.

“His reputation for sanctity spread rapidly after his death and in 1931, Archbishop Byrne of Dublin opened the Informative Process which was later completed and submitted to Rome. His remains were finally enshrined in a splendid new tomb of Wicklow granite in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Dublin, in 1972. Tens of thousands from all over the world flock there and the number of favours attributed to Matt's intercession are legion, particularly for alcoholics and their families. Matt was declared 'Venerable' by Rome in 1975.”

This volume was published in 1976, 50 years after Matt’s death, and a year after he was named venerable. There is some good information in this volume, and a bit I did not know. But the 3 glaring errors starting with the first paragraph are shocking. I am not surprised this volume is long out of print for that reason alone. It would have been better if they had republished Life of Matt Talbot by Sir Joseph Glynn from Catholic Truth Society of Ireland. It was disappointing to spend the time and effort to track this down and have such glaring errors. I cannot in good conscience recommend this volume, and would be very hesitant to pick up others from Francis Johnston.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan! For other reviews of books from the Catholic Truth Society click here.

For reviews in the CTS Biographies Series Click here.
For all reviews of books about Matt Talbot Click here.

Books about Matt Talbot:
Matt Talbot and His Times - Mary Purcell
Matt Talbot: His Struggle, His Victory over Alcoholism - Susan Helen Wallace 
Matt Talbot - Xavier Carty 
Spotlight on Matt Talbot  - Edward O'Connor, S.J.
Matt Talbot - Simon O'Brynne 
The quest for Matt Talbot - Philip Rooney 
We knew Matt Talbot - Albert H Dolan
Matt Talbot - James F. Cassidy. 
An address to Pope John Paul II from the Parish of Matt Talbot, The Worker. 
Matt Talbot : the Irish worker's glory - James Francis Cassidy 
Matt Talbot - Albon White 
The Story of Matt Talbot - Malachy Gerard Carroll

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