• Sarah Raad


For twenty centuries we have been given two weapons in our spiritual battles. Firstly, prayer, which includes sacrifice and mortification which are physical prayer of the senses. And the second is the sacraments. (Saint Josemaria Escriva).

The Triumph of Christianity over Paganism (Gustave Doré)

Recently, I read a story that Pope John Paul I told about the servant of Jonathan Swift. Jonathan Swift was a 19th century Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet and Anglican cleric.

And the story that the pontiff told goes like this…

One day Jonathan Swift came home from a long ride and asked his servant to wash the mud from his boots. His servant refused the task and told Swift that washing that mud was a waste of time because, “They will only get dirty again.”

Swift made no response to that comment and instead went straight to bed that night. The next morning, when he awoke, Swift called the servant and told him to get ready because he wanted to go out immediately. The servant protested because he had not yet eaten his breakfast. Swift replied, “So what? You will only get hungry again.”

And I have been reflecting on this story over the last few weeks since I first heard it.

You see, it reminds me of the sacraments and most particularly of the Sacrament of Reconciliation…

For I am a flawed human being. I confess my sins in this Sacrament and then walk outside and sin again. And I try with all my might to persevere and avoid sin – but my nature is weak and my discipline is lacking and I am soft and frail – and it does not take me long to fall into old habits.

I could very easily reason to myself that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a complete waste of time. After all, I will only sin again – I have no power (or so it seems) to stop myself… After all, I promise not to swear – then I lose my temper and swear. I promise not to be uncharitable – then I see something annoying, and immediately launch into my bad habits. I promise not to judge or gossip – then somebody upsets me, and I call a friend or a sister to complain… And the list goes on and on and on…

And yet, I still receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation as often as I possibly can, because I think of that sacrament as my armour in battle.

Saint Josemaria Escriva spoke of relying on two weapons in our spiritual battles – prayer (which includes sacrifice and mortification which are physical prayer of the senses) and the sacraments.

He knew what he was talking about…

For the sacraments are like armour.

And every time I confess my sins, my Beloved adds another coating onto my armour. It is true that my armour is not perfect. It is battered and broken and has had many knocks and dings on it, which occur every time I sin. But what is also true is that each time I receive the sacraments, and particularly the Sacrament of Reconciliation, my Beloved comes to polish my armour, and He shines and cleans it too – just as He washed the feet of His Apostles on the night before He died.

And I would not go an instant without such armour – for of myself I am nothing – but through Him I am all things…

How awesome is my Lord and God, King of the Universe, who cleans me and makes me new time and time and time again…

How awesome is my Lord and God, King of the Universe, and how much I love Him…

For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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