Church of St. Joseph Aims to Redefine Sobriety, Alcoholism

Members honor Venerable Matt Talbot, Trinity Sober Homes president gives testimony.

The Church of St. Joseph in Rosemount was silent as members celebrated the Feast of Venerable Matt Talbot, the Irish patron saint of sobriety, and aimed to redefine what alcoholism means for those struggling to recover from it.

The Rev. Paul Jarvis celebrated Mass on June 17 to recognize Talbot’s life and to hear the testimony of Tim Murray, a former alcoholic and current president of St. Paul-based Trinity Sober Homes.

Jarvis said Talbot is considered the patron saint of “those embracing sobriety and those attempting to embrace sobriety and those in need of sobriety.”

Talbot, born in Dublin in 1856, worked for liquor merchants and became a drunkard until he was 30 years old, when he took a pledge of sobriety and joined the Secular Franciscan Order.

In 1975, Pope Paul VI declared him Venerable Matt Talbot. Jarvis said he will soon be titled Blessed Matt Talbot.

Jarvis led a sermon along the theme of the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done.” Jarvis said the Lord’s Prayer should remind members that alcoholism is an example of those seeking their own will rather than God’s will.

But Jarvis said that the June 17 Mass wasn’t meant to point out the sinners’ sins. It was meant for members to set aside their sins and remember God’s will for them.

Murray gave his testimony of how God transformed him from a “hopeless drunk” to a university professor and business consultant.

“I was a sick man when I showed up at Father (Martin Fleming’s) doorstep nearly five years ago,” Murray said.

Fleming of St. Paul founded Trinity Sober Homes in 1979, a group of Catholic homes that provides housing and spiritual counseling for alcoholics. According to Murray, 83 men have gone through the homes since 2011, and 72 percent remain sober today.

“I was a drunk,” Murray said. “I was a broken man living in my car. I was broke physically, morally, spiritually. I was ashamed of my past.”

Then he said Fleming helped reorder his thinking to what alcoholism really is: “Alcoholism is a disease; it is not a moral defect,” Murray said.

Murray said that alcoholism isn’t merely drinking excessively; it is the habit of constantly wanting something more than what one already has.

Murray said even after he stopped drinking, he still had the habits of an alcoholic, from which Fleming helped free him.

Murray said he was “transforming into a better version of myself, the version that God’s always wanted me to be.”

Murray ended his speech by pretending to receive a call from God on his cellphone.

“Let me see if I have this right,” Murray said. “You want me to tell these wonderful folks here at Rosemount that all of the drunkards … whom you have bestowed the gift of sobriety – we were chosen because we were outcasts of the world and the kind of people that your Son loved to hang out with when He was down here.

“And our experiences as drunkards have made us humbly alert to the cries of distress that come from the lowly hearts of alcoholics and their families everywhere.”

When Murray “hung up” on his phone call, he said to the members, “So the solution is God. It’s not you.”

Murray encouraged the St. Joseph members to go to Trinity Sober Homes, AA or Al-Anon if they or anyone they know are struggling with alcoholism.

“We will love you until you can love yourself,” he said.

In quoting what Fleming told him, Murray ended by saying, “Remember, alcoholism is a disease, and the church is a hospital for sinners and not a museum for saints.”

Jarvis ended the celebration of Mass with prayer and communion, inviting members to feel free to speak to either Murray or Fleming if they have any concerns or know anyone with alcoholism.

Trinity Sober Homes’s business office is located on 550 S. Snelling Ave. in St. Paul. There are currently two homes: St. Michael House and St. Gabriel House, both in St. Paul. Murray said the Homes are working on acquiring a third home.

Source: Hometown Source by Hannah Gullickson