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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Hundred Bottles of Beer on the Wall

What a terrible week!
We're holding onto our habits for all the people who will be affected by the financial meltdown. I'm sure it will affect every single person in ways we haven't even guessed. I'm watching with consternation the transfer of power that is taking place as result. Am I the only person noticing this? I think we just became a socialist republic. Overnight. Oh well.

It's enough to drive us to drink. Happily for Catholics, we can drink. Drinking can be a sin, but it is not a sin in itself. It's one of those slippery slope sins. We've discussed the issue before.

Which brings me to today's question from a reader:

Dear Sister, do you know of a particular saint with whom one might ask for a little extra help with a loved one with problems in not being able to see how alcohol problems are usurping life? (Other than that of going straight to the source of strength, or BVM and her Motherliness?)

The BVM is no slouch. I wouldn't hesitate to contact her and ask her to pray for you.

But there is a patron saint for drinking. Technically, he's not a saint yet. He's venerable. That means he's waiting for a couple of miracles to be attributed to him. One miracle and he becomes Blessed. Two and he's a saint.

Venerable means that he lived a life of heroic virtue, and is worthy of our veneration.

I'm speaking of the Venerable Matt Talbot. He didn't start out leading a life of heroic virtue, or any other kind of virtue, as far as I can tell. Matt was a roaring drunk.

He lived in Ireland and he came from a large family of brothers. Nine, if memory serves. I'm sure everyone had a few suds on any given day, but Matt was in a class by himself. His sainted mother prayed for him. His friends shook their heads. He couldn't hold down a job.

As a result he eventually couldn't buy his own beer. He sold his shoes for a bottle of booze. He got people to buy drinks for him. Perhaps Matt was not a friendly happy drunk, because at some point, people refused to buy him even one more drink. He found himself standing outside of a bar, begging for someone to buy him a drink and when no one would, he had an epiphany.

He went home and told his sainted mother that he would not be drinking anymore ever again. His mother told him it would be very, very hard.

It was very, very hard. There was no AA back then. Matt had to figure things out for himself. He prayed a lot.

There are three things that stand out in my mind about the Venerable Matt Talbot.

The first is that, although he said that giving up drinking was enormously difficult, he often said that quitting smoking was much harder! It must be, because I've seen people leaving AA meetings, or taking a break during AA meetings, and they are all out there smoking like stacks. One addiction at a time, I guess.

The second is that Matt Talbot started a whole movement to help people with alcohol addiction. It has been very successful and there are Matt Talbot houses all over the world.

The third is my favorite. Matt Talbot was rewarded in this life with a happy death. He was walking down the street on his way to Mass and he fell over dead. I really think that's the best thing that can happen to you, deathwise. "Drop dead" is not really a bad thing to wish on someone. The alternatives are much worse. It's hard on the family, but for you, it's the easiest way as long you you are actually dead before you hit the ground so you don't hit you head really hard in the last moment of your life.

I hope this helps. No one is hopeless.


Anonymous said...

My father-in-law dropped dead. It was a shock for the family but great for him. He wasn't much of a drinker tho. Bad heart.

Anonymous said...

Socialist republic? Still think we're not living if not in the end, close to it?
I do think if Venerable Matt Talbot had died coming home from Mass, he would have been even better off! Just my opinion!
Love your blog!

Anonymous said...

My husband has been sober for 20 years, due to AA and to prayers to Matt Talbot. Isn't that a miracle? I think so!

Beth said...

I, too am concerned. But, your blog is putting a great big grin on my face!

Anonymous said...

My great uncle Cletus just died last week. Apparently he bent over to tie his shoe and fell over dead. I think it was the weight of the giant crucifix he hung around his neck. :)

Anonymous said...


Very astute observation about our society.

I enjoyed the Matt Talbot information.

I especially enjoyed the last couple of sentences of your post.

You have a gift of getting your point across, helping me think and leaving me smiling.

Kazimer - "Kaz"

Tom in Vegas said...

If anyone wants to gain an insight into fighting alcoholism from a Catholic perspective, they should visit Adrienne's Catholic Corner. Off to the left of the blog you will not a section called "12 Steps For Catholics." They are very informative and inspiring, and can be applied to a wide variety of addictions, not just alcoholism.

Adrienne has been sober for quite some time now.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure the people back in 29 thought we were near the end times as well. Like the song says; "it's the end of the world as we know it, but I feel fine."

Ida said...

I love your blog, sister. :D

Anonymous said...

Re quitting smoking being harder than quitting drinking ... I once read a doctor's article on nicotine addicition ... he said it was a more powerful addiction than heroin. Hence the low rate of quitting for smokers. Something has to be "hardest" I guess.

Thank you for your always informative and entertaining articles, Sister :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Sister, for your loving response as well as to fellow-blogger. I went straight to the references to find out about Mr. Talbott. It is interesting to me to note relevant similarities with my situation.

I'd been occasionally thinking of my sister's intercession (as she's long past purgatory, I hope), but then, even as the Godmother, she'd never understand the loneliness and mindbending of alcohol's effects, or singularity of any addiction. So, onto finding out more about Ven. Matt!

As for the socialist issues, I'm afraid that this election time has brought out a lot of controversial aspects of our heritage. Perhaps it's a cliche to say that 'controversy is good', at least it gets folks out thinking and talking. And, it might be exaggeration to compare controversy to wound-healing, wherein preparation of damaged areas are made for repair and healing regranulation.

Anonymous said...

Extensive information about Matt Talbot can be found at http://venerablematttalbotresourcecenter.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Sister, you often have said that we are not required to believe in the private revelations of individuals. It has long bothered me that St Paul's vision on the road to Damascus was a private revelation and yet he is considered a father of the church, something like 13 of his epistles are in the bible. And yet, Paul never met Jesus in life, and was frequently at odds with the apostles *who were there with Jesus*. I think this is behind the protestant argument that Catholics are not Christians: so much of Catholic teaching is based on the teaching of Paul, rather than Jesus. It was private revelation!

Lola said...

When I first heard of Matt Talbot, I started asking him to pray for a few people I love. Four Big Boozers.
So far 2 of the 4 are Clean and Sober. The other two, well I'll keep pestering Matty for a little more help.

Thanks for re-introducing Mr. Talbot. So many people need help with addictions.

Anonymous said...

Sister, thank you so much for spreading the word about Ven. Matt Talbot. More people need to hear about him. Truly, his was a miraculous recovery.

Anonymous said...

Totally off subject here, Sister, but is there a patron saint for those in physically abusive relationships? Maybe for safety and help in getting out?

Anonymous said...

Sister Mary Martha where are you? I miss reading your blog. Are those 7th graders keeping you too busy?

Anonymous said...

O! For the first time ever I violently disagree with you. Though what you say is so outrageous that I suspect you were joking.

"From a sudden and unprovided death, deliver us, Lord."

Do any saints recommend praying for a sudden death? Has it ever been pious practice?

I mean, I am not actually longing for an agonising death with tuberculosis in my bone marrow and kidneys, but a *sudden* death?

Anonymous said...

I think the key word is "unprovided." A sudden death is no bad thing, if fortified with the rites of the Church.

Anonymous said...

Dropping dead in the street right after confessing and receiving Communion?

Could be worse. But I certainly don't make every Communion as though it were my last.