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.