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Bishop Denis’ Message for Lent 2023

A Message for Lent 2023

Lent offers us a scaffold, a template, a tool that supports our journey of personal renewal. I often hold up the example of Venerable Matt Talbot as someone we could emulate during this penitential season. Born in 1856, dying in 1925 on June 7th on Granby Lane. I feel a close association with Matt, maybe it’s because he died on my birthday.

Matt grew up in a loving but tough family where poverty was never far from the front door and like many in his time had to work from an early age. His work in a Wine Merchants store gave him easy access to drink, too easy. A turning point was his rejection by his friends, at the age of 28 he stood outside a pub but was penniless. One by one his friends, his associates who he felt would now give him a dig out passed him by. He went home later and told his mother he would take the pledge, to which she replied, if you take it, keep it.

He took a temporary pledge in Clonliffe College. He even went into a bar during that time, tempted by the smell of beer, the barman paid little attention to him and he left it humiliated for a second time. He found his way to Gardiner Street Church. He realised taking the pledge was the easy bit, keeping it needed a discipline of prayer. Dropping into a church to rest became a frequent part of his walk. He turned to God for help. This was another huge turning point. He decided to attend daily Mass and take the pledge for life. He lived an austere life, modelling his life on the early monks.

Matt got a heart attack on his way to Mass on Trinity Sunday – June 7th, 1925. Nobody was able to identify him, his body was taken to Jervis Street Hospital, where the extent of his austere life was revealed as the body was prepared for embalmment. In 1975 he was conferred the title ‘Venerable’, it’s high time he was recognised for the journey so many take from drunkenness to sobriety. I pray I will see this day. We all need an influencer to get us through Lent, Matt’s mine, maybe he should also be yours this Lent! And as always, a simple acronym on the word LENT:

L – to do with less

E – to examine our life and make amends

N – to say ‘No’ not in a negative way, but in the knowledge that denying ourselves sometimes is good for us

T – to give God a little more time this year, it might be making Mass more often, it could be saying a prayer as we walk, drive or go out for a run.

Blessings on your journey of forty days and may Venerable Matt Talbot be one of your constant companions on that journey.


Resources for Lent, including a Scripture Sharing Booklet to download can be found at the following link