In October 1993 our first session of the Matt Talbot Novena took place with 600 people attending, and this continued for the next 8 weeks with a different speaker each week leading people in prayer and reflection. The response of people attending was very encouraging, but equally the great number of people from around the country who wrote asking to be remembered in prayer and telling their story of their challenge of coping with addiction or living with or working with a family member/colleague who had an addiction made us all more aware of the problem of addictions, not just alcohol or drugs, but so many other types of addictions. The following year, we repeated the experience and this time our colleagues in West Clare joined us, bringing together people from 9 different parishes to a central venue in Kilrush Parish Church. We used the same preacher each week on different days and, between both centres, Kilrush and Shannon, 1300 people were praying and reflecting together each week for nine weeks during the months of October and November. This has continued each year since and, in recent years, the Parish of Tulla have organised the Novena during Lent for the Parishes of East Clare. Matt Talbot was chosen as a model, because it was primarily through a spiritual response that he got the strength to face the addictions of his life and the strength and confidence to be able to live a fulfilled life. The story of Matt Talbot’s life and struggle with his addiction is similar to the many stories of people today who are caught up or trapped by addictions of many and varied kinds. The Novena offers a spiritual response to help people to cope and to give people hope. It is not a substitute to seeking and following professional intervention, be it medical, counselling or group support. It is offered in the context of wholeness where, when one part of the body is not right, then the whole body is affected. It is offered to complement the work that medical and professional centres offer to people who are seeking to be set free from their addiction.
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