Venerable Matt Talbot
Franciscan Tertiary (1856–1925)

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Venerable Matt Talbot

Matt Talbot was one of twelve children born to a poor family in Dublin. His first job, working for a wine merchant when he was just twelve, was also the beginning of his drinking life. Before long drink had become the primary focus of his life. All the wages he earned in his later job of carrying bricks went to support his addiction. What funds he lacked, he begged, borrowed, or stole.  

This lasted until the age of twenty-eight, when he was overcome with disgust for his life. Entering a church, he made his confession and took the pledge of abstinence for three months. Those first three months were agonizing. At one point he collapsed on the steps of a church, in despair at the thought of breaking his oath. But he kept at it, renewed it for another three months, and thus, by constant vigilance, remained sober for the rest of his life.  

From that point the focus of his life shifted dramatically. He became a Franciscan tertiary, attended daily Mass, ate sparingly, prayed half the night, and gave generously to charity. (He never carried money on him—always fearful of the temptation to step into a pub.)  

On June 7, 1925, Talbot collapsed in the street and died. It was discovered that his body was wrapped in penitential chains, which were buried with him. His cause for canonization was soon opened, and in 1975 he was declared venerable. He is the patron of alcoholics.  

“Three things I cannot escape: the eye of God, the voice of conscience, the stroke of death. In company, guard your tongue. In your family, guard your temper. When alone guard your thoughts.”  

—Venerable Matt Talbot 

Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.