The Church is investigating a potential miracle that could see Matt Talbot on the road to sainthood.
The Dubliner, who died in 1925, was renowned for his holiness and having overcome a crippling alcohol addiction, has been a heroic inspiration to many people in Ireland and abroad battling addiction.
The report of a possible miracle in the United States, if verified by the Vatican, would mean that Matt Talbot would be declared ‘Blessed’ by Pope Francis, a major step on the road to sainthood.
“There is a lot of positivity around the whole story and please God it will happen,” Fr Brian Lawless, the man charged with leading the cause for canonisation, told The Irish Catholic.
Fr Lawless has travelled to the United States in his role as vice-postulator of the cause of Matt Talbot to interview Patrick and Shannon Watkins who attribute the safe delivery of their sixth child, Talbot Joseph, to the intercession of Matt Talbot.
His parents didn’t have a devotion to Matt Talbot, but all their children have Irish names and when they drove past the Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach on a trip to Nebraska the name appealed to them.
When Sharon was a couple of days overdue in her pregnancy tests indicated what medics described as “chromosomal abnormalities”, loops in the bowels and doctors suspected Down syndrome or cystic fibrosis.
Sharon’s sister immediately mobilised a prayer chain and since the child would be named Talbot she asked everyone to pray for Matt Talbot’s intercession.
Three days later, baby Talbot was born with no bowel loops, no Down syndrome or any evidence of health problems. Doctors described the outcome as “medically inexplicable”.
Now, the Church will appoint a panel of medical experts to review the case and if the inquiry finds that the cure was, in fact, medically inexplicable, the case will be forwarded to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
“We have a good feeling about it,” said Fr Lawless. “Hopefully, in the near future, we will have word about the outcome of these inquiries.
“Matt Talbot is very highly regarded, particularly in the US. With all the difficulties and problems people are facing as result of addictions, now is the time that people need a patron and Matt is the obvious choice,” Fr Lawless said.
Fr Richard Ebejer, parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Dublin’s north inner-city, which hosts the mortal remains of Matt Talbot, said it would be wonderful for his cause to move forward this year during his 90th anniversary.
The parish is holding a number of events to celebrate his legacy, including the opening of an exhibition this month at the entrance of the church illustrating his life.
“When someone reaches bottom he offers hope,” Fr Ebejer told The Irish Catholic.
“We want to present Matt Talbot as a role model to young people. Many think of him as an old man but his conversion was at 28. He can speak to today’s young people,” Fr Ebejer said.
Matt Talbot was born in a socially deprived area of Dublin in 1856 and, like many people at the time, he turned to alcohol at an early age.
He was considered a “hopeless alcoholic” by the age of 13. However, at the age of 28 he renounced alcohol and found strength in prayer. He soon became renowned for his piety, works of charity and mortification of the flesh.
In 1931, the Archdiocese of Dublin began investigating whether or not Matt Talbot should be considered for sainthood. His case was forwarded to the Vatican in 1947 and in 1972 his remains were removed from Glasnevin Cemetery and brought to the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes on Sean McDermott Street.
Three years later, Pope Paul VI recognised his ‘heroic virtue’ and declared him ‘Venerable’ an important step in the process to becoming a saint.