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Matthew Talbot was born on May 2, 1856, the second of 12 siblings,
in Dublin, Ireland. He had three sisters and nine brothers, three
of whom died young. His father Charles was a dockworker and his
mother, Elizabeth, was a housewife. When Matthew was about 12
years old, he started to drink alcohol. His father was a known
alcoholic as well as all his brothers. The eldest brother, John,
was the exception. Charles tried to dissuade Matthew with severe
punishments but without success.
Matthew worked as a messenger boy when he was twelve and then
transferred to another messenger job at the same place his father
worked. After working there for three years, he became a bricklayer's
laborer. He was a hodman, which meant he fetched mortar and bricks
for the bricklayers. He was considered "the best hodman in
As he grew into an adult, he continued to drink excessively,
He continued to work but spent all his wages on heavy drinking.
When he got drunk, he became very hot-tempered, got into fights,
and swore. He became so desperate for more drinks that he would
buy drinks on credit, sell his boots or possessions, or steal
people's possession so he could exchange it for more drinks. He
refused to listen to his mother's plea to stop drinking. He eventually
lost his own self-respect. One day when he was broke, he loitered
around a street corner waiting for his "friends", who
were leaving work after they were paid their wages. He had hoped
that they would invite him for a drink but they ignored him. Dejected,
he went home and publicly resolved to his mother, "I'm going
to take the pledge." His mother smiled and responded, "Go,
in God's name, but don't take it unless you are going to keep
it." As Matthew was leaving, she continued, "May God
give you strength to keep it."
Matthew went straight to confession at Clonliffe College and
took a pledge not to drink for three months. The next day he went
back to Church and received communion for the first time in years.
From that moment on, in 1884 when he was 28 years old, he became
a new man. After the he successfully fulfilled his pledge for
three months, he made a life long pledge. He even made a pledge
to give up his pipe and tobacco. He used to use about seven ounces
of tobacco a week. He said to the late Sean T. O'Ceallaigh, former
President of Ireland, that it cost him more to give up tobacco
that to give up alcohol.
The new converted Matthew never swore. He was good humored and
amicable to everyone. He continued to work as a hodman and then
as a laborer for timber merchants. He used his wages to pay back
all his debts. He lived modestly and his home was very spartan.
He developed into a very pious individual who prayed every chance
he got. He attended Mass every morning and made devotions like
the Stations of the Cross or devotions the Blessed mother in the
evenings. He fasted, performed acts of mortification, and financially
supported many religious organizations. He read biographies of
St. Teresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Catherine
of Sienna. He later joined the Third Order of St. Francis on October
18, 1891 even though a young pious girl proposed to marry him.
Physically, he suffered from kidney and heart ailments. During
the two times he was hospitalized, he spent much time in Eucharistic
adoration in the hospital chapel. Eventually, Matthew died on
June 7, 1925 while walking to Mass. He was 69 years old. Here
is a wonderful quote from Matthew to remember:
"Three things I cannot escape: the eye of God, the voice
of conscience, the stroke of death. In company, guard your tongue.
In your family, guard your temper. When alone guard your thoughts."