Matt Talbot was born in May 1856 in Dublin. Matt had to enter the workforce early out of necessity. He worked with a firm that bottled beer and he developed excessive drinking habits at an early age. By the time he was in his twenties, he spent all his wages and spare time in the pub. He was a chronic alcoholic. Drink had become Matt’s only interest in life. He even became a thief to support his drinking. His life had become unmanageable.
Matt Talbot thought his drinking pals would help in a time of need. But they didn’t. Years later, he said that this cut him to the heart. But, it was a moment of grace. After some time thinking about his problem, he realized that he was totally enslaved to drink.
He took a pledge for three months. Those three months were sheer hell. To fill in the time he used to spend in the pub, Matt went for a walk every evening after work. During one of those walks his resolution almost broke. But he made a resolution never to carry money with him again.
Dropping into a Church to rest during his walks became a habit. Gradually he began to pray, to ask God to help him. To find the strength to remain sober he decided to attend Mass every morning before work and to receive Holy Communion. At the end of three months, Matt took the pledge to abstain from alcohol for six months and finally took it for life.
Matt Talbot now turned all his effort to increasing his union with God and developing his life of prayer. The strict ascetical life of the early Irish monks attracted him. Their love of prayer with the emphasis on penance and humility, and manual labour dedicated to God appealed to him. He allowed himself just four or five hours sleep a night and arose about 5 a.m. to prepare for early Mass. Then he would return home for breakfast. Afterwards he would set off for work. He was a conscientious worker.
Since he was a member of many religious associations, he attended a meeting almost every evening. When he came home about 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., it was time for his spiritual reading. His spiritual reading ended about 1a.m., and he retired for four hours rest before beginning his daily routine again. He did not go to work on Sunday but went to one of the City Churches and would kneel in an obscure corner from the first mass at 6 a.m. until mid-day.
Many acquaintances knew about his generosity. Matt lent them money to buy clothes and shoes for their children or to pay overdue rent.
Matt Talbot died suddenly from a heart attack in Granby Lane on the way to Mass on Sunday, June 7th, 1925. The story of his life came to light because when his body was undressed, three chains were discovered wrapped around it. Inquiries disclosed that he practiced a devotion known as the slavery to Mary. The underlying idea was that a person who considered himself a spiritual slave to the Mother of God would remain close to her and to Jesus, her Son. (See www.matttalbotgroup1.com/matt-talbot-story.html (accessed 9 February 2018))
We can see clearly that Matt Talbot underwent a major spiritual transformation. At the age of 28, Matt began to tackle his serious alcohol addiction by relying solely on the grace of God. Matt shows us that with God’s help, we can turn our lives around and live them to the full again. We too can undertake a spiritual transformation.