Matt Talbot was one of twelve children born to a poor family in Dublin. His addiction to alcohol began at twelve, when he got his first job with a wine merchant. Before long, drink had become the primary focus of his life. All the wages he earned carrying bricks went to support his addiction. What funds he lacked, he begged, borrowed, or stole.
This lasted until the age of twenty-eight, when he was overcome with disgust for his life. Entering a church, he made his confession and took the pledge of abstinence for three months. His mother had cautioned him: “Go, in God’s name, but don’t take it unless you are going to keep it.” Those first three months were agonizing. At one point he collapsed on the steps of a church, in despair at the thought of breaking his oath. But he kept at it, renewed it for another three months, and thus, by constant vigilance, remained sober for the next forty-one years.
From the point that he took the pledge, the focus of his life shifted dramatically. He became a Franciscan tertiary, attended daily Mass, ate sparingly, prayed half the night, and gave generously to charity. (He never carried money with him – always fearful of the temptation to step into a pub.)
On June 7, 1925, Talbot collapsed in the street and died. It was discovered that his body was wrapped in penitential chains, which were buried with him. His cause of canonization was soon opened, and in 1975 he was declared venerable. He is the patron of alcoholics.