01 July 2011

The Sacred Heart and the Venerable Matt Talbot

Today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The video above, produced by the Apostleship of Prayer, tells us something of the struggle of the Venerable Matt Talbot (2 May 1856 – 7 June 1925) with alcoholism. It mentions the fact that he didn't have the benefit of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), which hadn't yet come on the scene. But it doesn't mention that he was one of the earliest members of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart.

The Pioneer Association, or PTAA, describes its mission and vision as follows:

Our mission is to address the problems in society caused by excess alcohol consumption and drug usage. We do this through:

Faith and prayer
Self denial
Activities based on presenting alternatives to individuals, particularly the young

Our vision - based on the love in the Heart of Christ, as expressed in The Gospels - is to help to build a society where people live to their full potential and alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation avoiding the ills that arise in society from excess in its use.

For most of its history - the movement was founded in 1898 in Dublin by Fr James Cullen SJ - members voluntarily abstained from alcohol. But illegal drugs have become such a huge problem in Ireland in recent decades, spawning crime in a way that alcohol never did, that The Pioneers have included them too in their mission.


The Heroic Offering (prayed by members daily)

For thy greater Glory and consolation, O most Sacred Heart of Jesus, for Thy sake, to give good example, to practice self-denial, to make reparation to Thee for the sins of intemperance and for the conversion of excessive drinkers, I will abstain for life from all intoxicating drinks, Amen.

Prayer for Drug Users

We commend to you, O Sacred Heart of Jesus, all whose lives have been broken through the misuse of drugs. We ask you, Lord, to protect them from harm and restore them to health, so that they can live out the years you have given them in serenity and joy. Praise to the Heart of Jesus, our King and our God!

Juvenile Pioneer Offering

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, through the most pure Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works and sufferings in union with your own for the grace to keep my pledge faithfully. Sweet Heart of Jesus, be my love always! Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation!

Young Pioneer Prayer

Lord, for your sake, for the recovery of problem drinkers and victim of substance abuse, to make amends to your Sacred Heart for the intemperance in all our lives, I promise not to take alcoholic drink until I am at least 18, and to keep off drugs for life.

The heading to the video says ‘Matthew Talbot’, though he’s referred to throughout the video itself as ‘Matt Talbot’. He was baptized ‘Matthew’ but is known to Dubliners and many others as ‘Matt’, just as fellow-Dubliner Francis Michael Duff, Servant of God and founder of the Legion of Mary, a younger contemporary of Matt Talbot, is universally known as ‘Frank’.

On Sunday 3 July the annual Mass for the beatification of the Venerable Matt Talbot will be held in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Sean McDermott St, at 3pm. His remains are in a shrine there. The church, not yet built when Matt was alive, is in the heart of the area of Dublin where he lived.

The Pioneer Pilgrimage to Knock in Honour of Matt Talbot will take place on Sunday 17 July.

Statue of Talbot near Dublin's Matt Talbot Bridge, February 2011

The only extant writing by Matt in existence is a note in the archives of the Society of St Columban (Columban Fathers), of which I am a member, with a donation he sent in the very early days of our existence. His wages were small and he gave most of his little money away.

Official Prayer for the Canonization of Matt Talbot

Lord, in your servant, Matt Talbot you have given us a wonderful example of triumph over addiction, of devotion to duty, and of lifelong reverence of the Holy Sacrament. May his life of prayer and penance give us courage to take up our crosses and follow in the footsteps of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Father, if it be your will that your beloved servant should be glorified by your Church, make known by your heavenly favours the power he enjoys in your sight. We ask this through the same Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.

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