Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Venerable Matt Talbot and Today's Readings

Most folks probably have no idea who Matt Talbot is. If you have any struggles with alcohol or know someone who has, he is a good friend to have.

He was an Irishman who started working in booze outfits when he was twelve years old. As you can expect, this led him into alcoholism. After 16 years of suffering from this affliction, he managed to kick the habit and became something of an ascetic. He prayed and fasted fervently. He attended daily Mass. He became a Third Order Franciscan. He repaid his debts and gave much of his meager wages to the Church.
He did all this without anyone really knowing. Nobody would have thought anything more of Matt Talbot until his death. Once he passed away, his body was found wrapped in chains and cords under his clothes. He wore them as penance for his years of boozing. Of course, modernity would condemn an ascetic such as this as a lunatic (see any article that mentions Opus Dei as an example). The idea of such acts as signs of holiness is no longer an option.

Matt's manner of humility in his virtue echoes the Master's words in today's Gospel:
“Take care not to perform righteous deedsin order that people may see them;otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you,as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streetsto win the praise of others.Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.But when you give alms,do not let your left hand know what your right is doing,so that your almsgiving may be secret.And your Father who sees in secret will repay you."

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