Venerable Matt Talbot Annual Pilgrimage “In the Footsteps of the Venerable Matt Talbot” is the title given to a Pilgrimage which took place through the streets of Dublin’s North East Inner City on Sunday 13th. May. The purpose of this walk was to honour this ordinary working man, who managed to move from a life of addiction to alcohol to a life of prayer and penance. He was born on 2 May 1856 at Aldborough Court, Dublin 1, near The Five Lamps. He was the second of a family of twelve, of whom nine survived. He was baptised in the Pro-Cathedral on 5 May.
The Pilgrimage began at 3.00 p.m. at O’Connell School, North Richmond St. where Matt was enrolled as a pupil in order to be prepared for the Sacraments.
The School register of 1868 records the words “a mitcher”, where details of Matt’s attendance and progress would normally be reported. The fact that he belonged to a large family and that his mother had to work as a cleaner in order to provide the barest necessities might have accounted for many of his absences. A brief summary of Matt’s early life was given by Br. Christy O’Carroll, outlining the hard times in which Matt lived, his problem with alcohol until he took the pledge in 1884.
The Procession of about two hundred people walked through Summer St., led by a Cross. A Portrait of Matt in prayer was carried by two bearers. Other bearers had a banner “The Matt Talbot Committee”. The next stop was at 18 Upr. Rutland St. the site of Matt’s last home. His mother spent the last twelve years of her life here. When his mother died, Matt moved from the basement to the attic. His little room was so sparsely furnished that it resembled a monastic cell. Matt spent many hours in his room either in prayer or at spiritual reading. He loved the Old Testament especially The Psalms, St. Matthew’s Gospel and the Lives of the Saints. Here his great prayer life was highlighted, especially his devotion to Mary, whom he referred to as “The Good Queen”.
The pilgrims wended their way around two sides of Mountjoy Square to Gardiner St. Church. This is where Matt attended daily Mass at 5 a.m. before going to work. Here he spent many hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, kneeling upright without support. His spiritual director, Fr. James Walshe SJ, lived in the house adjoining the church. The pilgrims were addressed by Fr. Edmund Grace SJ, who highlighted Matt’s great devotion to the Mass and to the Blessed Sacrament. During the visit 20 lights, corresponding to the number of parishes represented on the pilgrimage, were placed in front of the shrine of Ven. Matt Talbot.
The next stage of the walk took the pilgrims across Parnell Square, where they were met by the SIPTU Band, who led them into Granby Lane. This was where Matt collapsed and died on his way to Mass in the Dominican Church on 7th. June 1925. Fr. Morgan Costelloe, Vice-Postulator of the Cause, spoke about Matt’s last days and gave a detailed account of Matt’s death as given by eye-witnesses. He also explained that it was out of devotion to Mary, as promoted by St. Louis de Montfort, that Matt was wearing chains on that particular day. He urged people to pray to the Venerable Matt Talbot for favours and cures A verifiable miracle was needed for Matt to be beatified.
A new plaque in memory of Matt Talbot was unveiled by Mr. John McDonnell, General Secretary of SIPTU. (Matt was a member of the ITGWU, which preceded SIPTU.). He paid a great tribute to Matt’s involvement in the union and his campaign for social justice. He emphasised the fact that the issues being demanded in Matt’s time were the same issues that need to be addressed by present authorities. The pilgrimage continued on to O’Connell St. before turning into Cathal Brugha St to head for Our Lady Of Lourdes Church, Sean McDermott St. Bishop Fiachra O Ceallaigh officiated at the ceremony at Matt’s Tomb, which brought the pilgrimage to a close. In his homily he highlighted Matt’s generosity, his concern for colleagues in dire straits and in particular his donations to the Missions. Fr. Michael Casey PP. thanked all who had taken part in the pilgrimage and reminded them that on the First Sunday of every month a special Matt Talbot Mass is celebrated in Our Lady of Lourdes Church at 3.00 p.m.
After the ceremony the pilgrims were treated to a welcome cup of tea.