Tag Archives: drinking



O God, my Father, to show my love for thee, to make reparation to thy wounded honour, to obtain the salvation of souls, I firmly propose to take this day neither wine nor beer, nor any intoxicating drink.

I offer thee this act of mortification, in union with the sacrifice of thy Son Jesus Christ, Who daily offers Himself a Victim on the altar for thy greater glory. Amen.

[300 days’ Indulgence. – Pius X., Br., March 29th, 1904.]


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“Alcohol addictions are at times so strong that those closest to the alcoholic are led to believe that he will never overcome his addiction, and the alcoholic himself is tempted to lose all hope. It is good then to remember Jesus’ resurrection. This reminds us that failure is never God’s last word.”


“In a street in Dublin, Ireland, on the morning of Trinity Sunday, June 7, 1925, a man who was making his way to a nearby church suddenly collapsed, dead. His body was taken to the hospital to be washed by a religious nurse. She was greatly amazed when, in removing the deceased’s clothing, she discovered a chain from which hung religious medals, wound twice around his waist. Other chains or cords encircled his arms and legs. Although these rusty chains were embedded in his skin, his body was impeccably clean. So who was this man? Was he insane or a saint?



Matt Talbot was born in Dublin in May 1856, the sixth child in a family of twelve. As a young boy, he was placed in the school of the Brothers of the Christian Doctrine, where he did not do well in his studies. At the age of 12, he began work in a brewery. Working in an atmosphere where alcohol was everywhere, he soon followed the bad example of the other employees and began to empty the bottles. Seeing him come home every evening in unusually good spirits, his father intervened and found him another job, under his own supervision, with the port and dock committee. But Matt’s situation got worse – he got into the habit of swearing and using the dockers’ strong language. To top it all off, his new work buddies introduced him to whiskey! His father tried to dissuade him, and came to blows over it with him, but to no use.

To his parents’ despair, Matt removed himself from the paternal authority and sunk into drunkenness. However, the young man was a kindhearted soul. Realising the dishonour he had brought upon his father, he left the docks and was hired as a mason. He then spent every evening in cabarets and regularly went home drunk. He spent his entire wages on booze. He sank to such a point of vice that sometimes he resorted to stealing to get hold of alcohol.

His body was slowly being destroyed. But, more serious still is the sin that gives death to the soul: intemperate use of drink offends the Creator. Through alcoholism, just as through drugs, man voluntarily deprives himself of the use of reason, the most noble attribute of human nature. This licentiousness, when carried out in full knowledge and voluntarily, is a serious sin against God and also against the neighbour whom one, in a state of drunkenness, puts himself in danger of seriously offending.


In spite of his debasement, Matt retained a degree of propriety. He did not have illicit relations. Every morning, no matter the libations of the night before, he was up at six o’clock to go to work. He also faithfully attended Sunday Mass, even if he did not receive the Sacraments. One Saturday in 1884, divine grace knocked at his door. After having been out of work for a week, Matt, 28 years old, found himself without money and unable to buy alcohol. And yet, he was tormented by desire. Around noon, he went to station himself with Philip, his younger brother, on a street corner where workers passed after having received their pay. Surely one or another would invite him to have a drink. The workers passed and greet him, but no one invited him.

Matt was cut to the quick. To be deprived of alcohol cost him dearly, but most of all, he was wounded by the harshness of his friends, to whom he had frequently offered a round at the cabaret. He apruptly went home.

His mother was quite surprised to see him arrive so early, and sober. His mother! Matt was seized with the thought that he had been so ungrateful towards her. He had given his parents almost nothing toward board and lodging (all his money went to buy alcohol!) And now his heart was broken for having left them to suffer alone, while he went off to drink in a selfish manner.

At this time in Ireland, it was not unusual for a man who wanted to give up drinking to make a pledge. After the meal, sitting alone with his mother, Matt suddenly said, ‘I am going to make the pledge.’


‘Good heavens! Do it, but don’t make it if you can’t keep it!’
‘I will make it, in God’s name.’
After having carefully dressed himself, he went to the College of the Holy Cross, asked to see a priest, and confessed. On the priest’s prudent advice, Matt made his pledge for a three-month period. The next day, he went to hear the five o’clock Mass at Saint Francis Xavier Church, received Communion and returned home renewed.

But to remain faithful to his pledge, the struggle would be terrible. Matt therefore decided to draw from daily Communion the spiritual strength he would need to keep his resolution. The most difficult time was in the evening, after work. To avoid temptation, the newly-converted began to take walks in the city. One day, however, he entered a cabaret at the same time as a number of other customers. The bartender, who was busy, seemed to ignore Matt, who, offended by his inattention, left as quickly as possible, having decided never again to set foot in a pub.


During his walks, Matt met with another difficulty: alcohol had ruined his health, and he grew tired quickly. So, entering a church, he knelt before the Tabernacle and began to pray, begging God to strengthen him. He thus got into the habit of visiting the house of God. Nevertheless, the three months were long. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal – hallucinations, depression, nausea, – were for him a veritable Calvary.


At times, the old passion awakened in him – he had to struggle desperately and prolong his prayers.

One day, returning home, he collapsed into a chair and sadly said to his mother: ‘It’s all no use, Mother – once these three months are over, I will drink again…’ But his mother comforted him and encouraged him to pray. Following this advice to the letter, Matt acquired a taste for prayer, and therein found his salvation. Indeed, prayer allows us to get out of situations that are hopeless in human terms. ‘For God all things are possible’ (Mt 19:26). When the three months were over, astonished to have ‘stuck it out’, Matt renewed his vow for another six months, at the end of which he promised never to drink alcohol again.


Matt began a new life, a life of intimacy with God, of which daily Mass was the pillar. But, in 1892, the 5 a.m. Mass at which Matt usually received Communion was cancelled. The first Mass from then on was at 6.15. Despite the real skill he had acquired in his work, he did not hesitate to change jobs, and was hired as a simple manual labourer at a wood merchant’s, where work didn’t start until eight o’clock. His new job consisted of loading trucks. At night, as soon as work was over, he washed with care, put on his best clothes – because he did not want to enter the house of God with his work clothes on – and went to the church to visit the Blessed Sacrament.

One day, he admitted to his confessor: ‘I greatly desired the gift of prayer, and my wish has been fully granted.’His existence from then on was completely directed towards God, and especially the true presence of the Lord in the Tabernacle. ‘While the Eucharist is reserved in churches or oratories – Christ is truly Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us’,’ wrote Pope Paul VI. ‘For He is in the midst of us day and night; He dwells in us with the fullness of grace and of truth. He raises the level of morals, fosters virtue, comforts the sorrowful, strengthens the weak and stirs up those who draw near to Him to imitate Him, so that they may learn from His example to be meek and humble of heart, and to seek not their own interests but those of God. Anyone who has a special devotion to the sacred Eucharist and who tries to repay Christ’s infinite love for us with an eager and unselfish love of his own, will experience and fully understand – and this will bring great delight and benefit to his soul – just how precious life hidden with Christ in God and just how worthwhile it is to carry on a conversation with Christ, for there is nothing more consoling here on earth, nothing more efficacious for progress along the paths of holiness (Encyclical ‘Mysterium Fidei’, September 3, 1965)


Matt Talbot cherished a tender devotion to the Mother of Jesus. Every day, he recited the Rosary and the office of the Blessed Virgin. Around 1912, he read the ‘Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin’, by Saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort. In this book, he learned to practise ‘holy slavery’ through the consecration of his entire being and all his possessions to the service of Mary. [The consecration prayer and information can be found on this blog; please type “The prayer of consecration to Jesus through Mary” into this blog’s search facility; for information about living the consecration, please enter, “Living the consecration to Jesus through Mary” (4 instalments).]

Naturally quick tempered, Matt came to find it very difficult to endure his companions’ swearing and coarse language. When they took the Lord’s name in vain, he respectfully lifted his hat. Seeing this gesture, his friends would redouble their bad language. Matt would severely reprimand them, but later he limited himself to gently saying, ‘Jesus Christ hears you.’ One day, he sharply criticised his foreman for a less than generous charitable contribution. His boss called him back to respect and, the next day, Matt reported to his boss: ‘Our Lord,’ he declared, ‘told me that I must ask your forgiveness. I am coming to do it.’ His exemplary life ended up inspiring respect. What is more, he was a pleasant companion, always the first to laugh at a good joke, provided that it was within the limits of propriety.


In imitation of the ancient Irish monks who followed the tradition of Saint Columba, Matt imposed upon himself their [vegetarian] ascetic dietary regimen, both for the expiation of his sins as well as to mortify himself and promote in himself the life of the spirit. However, when friends invited him, he ate like everyone else.

Entering the Third Order of St Francis, he applied himself to imitate Christ’s poverty, reducing his needs to a bare minimum, and giving the rest to the poor. At the beginning of his conversion, he had kept the habit of smoking. One day, one of his friends asked him for tobacco. He had just bought a pipe and a bag of tobacco. In a heroic gesture, he gave them both away, and would never smoke again. He ordinarily wore shabby and threadbare clothes, and one day, someone gave him a new suit. He wanted to refuse it, but his confessor intervened – ‘Talbot, your clothes look wretched. They are offering you a new suit…’ – ‘Father, I promised God never to wear new clothes.’ – ‘Well!’ replied the Father. ‘It is God Who is sending you these!’ – ‘All right, if it is God Who is sending them to me, I’ll take them.’

If there was one luxury that Matt allowed himself, it was books. He loved to spend time reading, his favourite reading material being the Holy Scriptures and the writings of the Saints. Flipping through the Bible found in his home after his death, one could notice that he was especially fond of the Psalms, particularly the penitential Psalms in which the sinner expresses regret to God for his sins [They can be found on this blog, please type “Penitential Psalms” into the search facility], but also unshakeable confidence in divine mercy: ‘Have mercy on me, O God, in Your goodness: in the greatness of Your compassion wipe out my offence. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and from my sin cleanse me… Give me back the joy of Your salvation… (Psalm 50).

He also made notes that reveal an astonishing elevation of thought for a man of very rudimentary schooling. Some examples of his reflections: ‘Our time in this life is only a race to death, in which no man can stop… Freedom of the mind is gained by freeing oneself from pride, which makes the soul disposed to do the will of God in the smallest things… Applying the will consists in doing good, abusing it consists in doing evil… In meditation, we seek God through reason and commendable acts, but in contemplation, we see effortlessly…’ This life of prayer and penitence was strengthened by exceptional graces. One day he confided to his sister: ‘How sad it is to see what little love people have for God! .. Oh Susan! If you knew the profound joy I felt last night as I was conversing with God and His Blessed Mother!’, then, realising that he was talking about himself, he changed the subject.

There was profound unrest in Ireland in the period from 1911 to 1921 – labour conflicts marked by unemployment and strikes, the struggle for home rule, the First World War, then the war between Ireland and England. In the midst of this unrest, Matt kept his soul in peace. Nevertheless, the workers’ cause was close to his heart. He candidly condemned the inadequacy of the salaries of married workers, who he helped financiaally as much as he could. But he never demanded anything for himself. When friends quit their jobs or were dismissed, he expressed support of their cause.


At the age of sixty-seven, Matt Talbot was physically spent – shortness of breath and heart palpitations forced him to ease up on his activities. After two hospital stays in 1923 and 1925, he recovered to some degree and took up his work again. During these stays, as soon as he was able, he would go to the chapel. To a nun who scolded him for the fright he had given her when he disappeared from the room, he answered, smiling, ‘I have thanked the sisters and the doctors – was it not right to thank the Great Healer?’

On Sunday, June 7, 1925, he was making his way to the Church of the Holy Saviour. Exhausted, he collapsed on the pavement. A lady gave him a glass of water. Matt opened his eyes, smiled and let his head fall down gain – this was the great encounter so desired with Christ Who came ‘to call, not the self-righteous, but sinners’ (Mt 9:13). In 1975 Matt Talbot received the title ‘Venerable’. Today, many charitable organisations dedicated to helping victims of alcohol and drugs place themselves under his patronage.


Matt Talbot is a model for all men and women. To victims of alcoholism or drugs, he shows through his example that, with the grace of God, recovery is possible. ‘Alcohol addictions are at times so strong that those closest to the alcoholic are led to believe that he will never overcome his addiction, and the alcoholic himself is tempted to lose all hope. It is good then to remember Jesus’ resurrection. This reminds us that failure is never God’s last word’ (Social Commission of French Bishops, December 1st 1998). To those who are slaves to other sins, he reminds them that one must ‘never despair of God’s mercy’ in accordance with Saint Benedict’s recommendation (Rule, ch.4). Our Lord promised St Margaret Mary that sinners would find in His Heart the source and the infinite ocean of mercy. Just as it is the nature of a ship to sail on the water, it is God’s nature to forgive and be merciful, as the Church confirms in one of her prayers.

Saint Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church, also was able to write near the end of her manuscripts: ‘Even if I had on my conscience all the sinst that can be committed, I would go, my heart broken with repentance, to throw myself into the arms of Jesus, for I know how much He loves the prodigal child who returns to Him.’ She added: ‘If I had committed all the crimes it is possible to commit, I would still have the same confidence, I would feel that this multitude of offences would be like a drop of water thrown into a blazing fire.’

Matt Talbot’s life eloquently proves that by turning faithfully to the Lord to ask forgiveness, one may, through the Sacrament of Penance, the normal way of Reconciliation with God, begin a new life under Mary’s maternal gaze.”
– Dom Antoine Marie OSB. This article was published in “The Little Way Association” (Helping the Missions side by side with St Therese), issue number 88. For more information and donations to The Little Way Association, please contact them at: Sacred Heart House, 119 Cedars Road, Clapham Common, London SW4 0PR. Tel.: +44 (0)20 7622 0466


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The CALIX SOCIETY LONDON was founded in 1947 by recovering alcoholics who saw their Catholic faith as a sure path to serenity without alcohol. Calix exists to guide its members in a search that will lead them back to God. It also helps them appreciate the way God’s grace may have helped them in a 12-step recovery programme.


• St Pius X, St Charles Square, London W10, 1st Thursday of the month,
7pm-9pm: Holy Mass followed by topic discussion on the 12 steps.

• Westminster Cathedral, 2nd Friday of the month, 6.30pm-8pm:
Meditation group and topic discussion on the 12 steps.
Mass in Cathedral at 5.30pm.

• The Church of Our Lady, St Johns Wood, London NW8 8LA,
3rd Thursday of the month, 7pm-9pm: A monthly study of St Matthew’s
Gospel chapter by chapter, month by month; group sharing inspired by
the gospel sharing, followed by Holy Mass.

For more information please go to (external link).


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Knocking off unwanted pounds is a battle that many people have to wage nowadays, but with the majority it seems to always end up as a losing battle that they wage. The negative outcome seems to stem from a confusion that arises in the person’s mind – a confusion between two similar realities: pleasure and happiness.

Happiness is what we are all made for, and even Jesus in his final discourse encouraged his disciples, saying, “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (Jn 15:11) and again, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete (Jn 16:24). Further Jesus observes, “But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves” (Jn 17:13).

Because of this inner mental confusion, we fail to see that while there are a few similarities between the two, they are as different as chalk is from cheese.

Pleasure is generally localised at some point in the human body, is intense but fleeting and short-lived and hence leaves behind a feeling of dissatisfaction and a craving for more. Again, pleasure is experienced mainly when we get something for ourselves. Happiness is more spiritual and can last much longer than does pleasure and is generally associated with giving to others, making them happy, meeting their needs and helping to solve their difficulties.


No wonder Jesus could say in his famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’: “Blessed (How happy) are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt 5:3-12).


Another strange fact with regard to chasing after pleasure is that the more we taste of it the more insistently do we go after it; we never seem to be satisfied! While with genuine happiness it does remain with us sometimes even with a mingling of some painful aspects and no matter how long or short its duration it somehow makes us glow from within. Adapting the line from the psalm (84:10) we could say, ‘One moment of true happiness is better than a thousand fleeting moments of pleasure!’

Applying all this to the question of losing weight, we see that while this exercise does not often bring us pleasure – rather we have to forego a lot of pleasure if we are to truly lose weight and keep it down – but there is a lot of genuine happiness in being a person who is fit and totally in control of one’s life.


When Jesus walked this earth, he told his disciples several times, “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full!” (Jn 10:10). But to attain that fullness of life, one would need to ‘take up one’s cross and follow Jesus!’ In fact, one of the key reasons why we celebrate Eucharist each Sunday [go to Mass at least once a week] is precisely to bring our own little sufferings and unite them with the suffering of Jesus as he offers them to the Father. United with his redemptive suffering, our little aches and pains take on a tremendous value and become redemptive too ‘for the life of the world’. But this is true only if we do unite our crosses consciously to the sufferings of Christ. That is one of the reasons why the liturgical rubrics at the time of the presentation of Gifts suggests that if at all there is singing it should be ONLY while the gifts are brought up in procession.

Once they reach the altar, the singing should stop. Or, if there is no substantial procession, then preferably there should be no singing. This is to allow the people enough silence to figure out what exactly they mean to unite with the gifts of Jesus as the second part of the Eucharist begins. The more clearly we think this out the better would be the “fruit” of our celebration.


It is worth noting also that while the gifts are presented, there is no real ‘offering’ as our gifts by themselves have no great value. It is only after the Institution Narrative in which our gifts are transformed into ‘the body and blood of Jesus’ that they are OFFERED to the Father (see Eucharistic Prayer III where the word ‘offer’ and ‘offering’ come only after the Consecration). Unfortunately, most Christians are accustomed to singing a hymn at this time – in fact they feel that if they do not sing at this point, they do something wrong! But the unfortunate effect is that they have neither the freedom nor the atmosphere to quietly reflect on what really do they present to God as symbols of themselves!


If we place ten hosts on the altar at the Presentation, Jesus would be able to transform only those ten, while if we did place a hundred, it is a hundred that he would transform. The principle then is, that Jesus can transform only what we consciously place before him on the altar. So, if we place only 2% of our lives together with the bread and wine on the altar, Jesus will be able to transform nothing more than those 2% of our lives because that is all we have surrendered. Even if the rest of ourselves is present before the altar, he will not forcibly transform that which hasn’t been freely and lovingly surrendered. So, by our unnecessary singing we could be reducing the effectiveness of our participation in the Eucharist. [Returning to the weight loss/comfort eating/lack of exercise – issues, or other habits we find difficult to quit or change, it is important to bring these before Jesus instead of participating in singing.] The more deeply we are conscious of how much we are blessed, the more heartfelt and sincere (and lasting) our gratitude.

How deeply do we appreciate God’s blessings showered on us so lavishly that we often take them for granted? How deeply do we value the freedom God gives us to take charge of our lives and become the kind of persons we freely choose to be?!?
– This is an excerpt of an article by Fr Erasto Fernandez, entitled “You are What You Make of Yourself”; published in “Don Bosco’s Madonna”, issue May 2012. For subscriptions etc., contact: Shrine of Don Bosco’s Madonna, Matunga – Mumbai – 400 019 – India


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“His body is withering away, not only from cold and hunger, but also of excess alcohol…Wine is his faithful companion, and cirrhosis of the liver and other sicknesses slowly consumes his body.”



Paul is seated on the cold stones of the Church of St James in a small village of Bavaria (Germany). As always he is there to beg alms. Before Mass begins, he opens the doors of the church to the faithful entering and gives them a friendly smile, thus showing a mouth practically with no teeth.

He is fifty years old and is one of those homeless beggars struggling to survive. His body is withering away, not only from cold and hunger, but also because of excess alcohol. He seems much older than he is. If only he had the determination to fight against this vice, he continuously thought…and he renews his firm resolution not to drink.
With nightfall, though, comes the memory of his family lost in a tragic accident, his resistance fades away, and he again consoles himself with the bottle. The alcohol lessens the emptiness of his soul, at least for a short period of time. Wine is his faithful companion, and cirrhosis of the liver and other sicknesses slowly consume his body. The colour of his face does not bode well for his health. Paul became an integral part of the stairs of the Church in the eyes of those living in the neighbourhood, just as if he were a statue, and this is how they treated him. Most paid no attention to him, and those that did asked themselves how long he would last.

The parish priest and his pastoral aide still worry about him, but more does especially Sister Petra, a young missionary who visits him every day. He enjoys visits of the nun who always brings him something to eat. However, even this young religious is unable to take Paul off the street. He does not want to enter the presbytery even just to eat or wash himself.

Each night when darkness fell and no one could see him, Paul slipped into the empty and dark church and sat in the first bench right in front of the Tabernacle. There he would remain in silence, almost without moving, for about one hour. He would then get up, shuffle down the centre aisle and leave by the main door, disappearing into the dark night. To where? Nobody knows. The next day, however, he would be there sitting on the stairs in front of the main doors of the church.
So the days passed. Once Sister Petra asked him, “Paul, I see you entering the church every evening. What do you do there so late? Do you by chance pray?”
“No, I do not pray,” Paul answered. “How could I pray? I have not prayed since I was a child and went to religion classes. I have forgotten all the prayers. I do not remember any of them. So what do I do in the church? It is simple. I go to the Tabernacle where Jesus is alone in His small house and I say to Him: ‘Jesus, it is I, Paul. I have come to visit you.’ There I stay a while so at least someone keeps Him company.”


On Christmas morning, the spot on the stairs that Paul had occupied for years was empty. Worried, Sister Petra looked for him and finally found him in the hospital near the church. In the early morning hours some passers-by had found him unconscious on a bridge and called an ambulance. Paul was now on a sick bed.


When the missionary saw him, she was shocked. Paul was full of tubes and his breathing was weak. His face had the pallor of the dying.
“Are you his relative?” The voice of the doctor awoke Sister Petra from her thoughts.
“No, but I will take care of him,” she answered spontaneously.
“Unfortunately there is not much that can be done; he is dying.” Shaking his head, the doctor left the room.
Sister Petra sat next to Paul, took his hand, and prayed for a long time. Then, very sad, she made her way back to the presbytery.
The next day she returned to the hospital, braced for the bad news that Paul had died.

“Oh, what has happened?” She cannot believe her eyes. Paul is sitting in bed and has shaven. With lively open eyes he is happy at seeing the nun. An expression of ineffable joy shines over his radiant face. Sister Petra thinks to herself, “Is this really the man that was fighting for his life yesterday?”

“Paul, this is incredible. You are practically resurrected. You are unrecognisable. What happened?”

“It happened not long after you left yesterday evening. I was not feeling well at all. However, all of a sudden, I saw someone next to my bed. He was beautiful, indescribably splendourous…You can have no idea! He smiled at me and said, “Paul, it is I, Jesus. I have come to visit you.'”

From that moment Paul never touched a drop of alcohol again. Sister Petra arranged for him to have a room in the presbytery and employment as a gardener. His life was transformed entirely from that Christmas on. Paul found new friends in the parish and, whenever he could, he helped Sister Petra with her duties. One thing, though, always remained the same: when night fell, Paul would slip into the church, sit before the Tabernacle and say, “Jesus, it is I, Paul. I have come to visit you.”

– fr. ‘Woechentliche Depesche christlicher Nachrichten’, RU 50/2010; in TFP Viewpoint, December 2012. Contact TFP Viewpoint at: The Editor, TFP Viewpoint, 24/2 Old Brompton Road, London SW7 3DQ; email:


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