Today’s Saint

Daily Journey with the Saints


June 7 | Deny Yourself

Venerable Matt Talbot

A.D. 1856–1925



How often do you say no to yourself?

When was the last time you said no to yourself in something that was difficult? Are you clear about the value of saying no to yourself?

“Deny yourself.” (Matthew 16:24) This is what Jesus tells his followers they must do in order to truly be his disciples.

Venerable Matt Talbot learned to embrace this difficult teaching and it allowed Jesus to transform his life.

Matt Talbot was an Irish dock worker, and an alcoholic from the age of twelve. When he was twenty-eight, he pledged never to drink alcohol again, and he kept that pledge for the next forty years, until his death. He spent those forty years practicing self-denial, working hard, paying back his debts, giving everything he had to the poor, sleeping on nothing but a wooden plank, and praying for several hours a day.

After his death, Talbot became an icon of Ireland’s temperance movement, and his story spread around the world. He is quoted as saying, “Never be too hard on the man who can’t give up drink. It’s as hard to give up the drink as it is to raise the dead to life again. But both are possible and even easy for Our Lord. We have only to depend on him.” Today one of Dublin’s bridges bears his name, as do many addiction clinics and homeless shelters around the world, from Warsaw to Nebraska to Sydney.

Self-denial is the condition that Jesus sets for discipleship. Why is denying ourselves so important? Is it the centerpiece of Jesus’ teachings? No. Why then does Jesus set it as a foundation of discipleship? It’s about freedom and self-possession. The essence of Jesus’ teaching is love, but you can only love to the extent that you are free, and we are only free to the extent that we are able to say yes or no to anything.

Someone who has no self-control is completely incapable of love. We see this on full display in people seriously addicted to drugs and alcohol. On the other hand, someone who has great self-control, who can direct his or her thoughts and actions at will toward what is good, true, noble, and just, is truly free and capable of immense love. 

This is what Jesus desires for you. He wants his disciples to be capable of immense love. This requires the freedom of self-possession, which can only be developed through the rigorous spiritual discipline of denying yourself. 

How can you deny yourself today?

WHAT IS ONE SMALL WAY I CAN DENY MYSELF TODAY? HOW WOULD MY LIFE CHANGE IF I SAW DENYING MYSELF AS THE PATH TO FREEDOM?

I will deny myself and embrace the path to freedom.


This reflection is brought to you from book title.


Patron Saint of: Alcoholics and Addicts

Declared Venerable: October 3, 1975

Declared Venerable By: Pope Paul VI

Feast Day: June 7—The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (2024)

Feast Day Shared By: Saint Anthony Mary Gianelli

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