• Sarah Raad


If council-collections make everything feel so fresh and new and clean, can you imagine what the sacraments do?

The Seven Sacraments (Rogier van der Weyden)

In the previous suburb in which we lived, the council rates included 12 council-collections of rubbish and household waste annually. Our current council offers only two annual collections.

One would not think that the difference between the two councils was very significant, but that is before you lost the luxury of twelve collections and were constrained to only two collections. And this is especially inconvenient if you were used to ordering council-collections whenever the mood to sift through the clutter affected you.

These days, I value those two annual council-collections more than I ever valued any of the twelve that I was used to, because now I know that when I am in the mood to get rid of the rubbish, I must collect it neatly into a nice big pile and wait until I have enough so as not to waste a precious council-collection.

This rubbish removal is a really important public service to residents of a local council. And garbage collection is an issue about which residents feel strongly – though many do not realise it until there is a disruption of the service...

In England, in the 1970s, the longest serving (and only female) prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, effectively broke the backs of the trade unions over disputes about garbage collection. Interestingly though, until the garbage collectors stopped doing their job, most of the British people did not really feel very strongly about trade unionists and rubbish removal. It was only when that service was disrupted that their value for it increased and their indignation kicked in.

I have been thinking about these council-collections and rubbish removal since I saw a pile of rubbish on a Tuesday morning a few weeks ago, neatly piled up ready and waiting for the council-collectors to remove it for the residents of that home.

You see, the council-collections – and rubbish removal in general – are very similar to the blessed sacraments…

During the government-imposed restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time in my life – and in the lives of many others who live in the Western World – access to the blessed sacraments was restricted.

Previously, if you wished to baptise your child, you had only to call the local parish and book in an appropriate time. It was the same for a wedding. But, over the last couple of years we have had months and months and months where we could not access Mass, Reconciliation, private adoration – much less the sacraments of Baptism and Marriage.

And just like those residents of Britain in the 1970s, before this pandemic – I am ashamed to admit – that I did not have very strong feelings about the sacraments. You see, they were always accessible to me, and I did not have to work very hard to receive them, and so it was easy for me to take them for granted…

But now – now – things have changed.

You see, now, I know what it is like to LONG – with all my soul – to receive the Hidden Christ through the Sacrament of the Eucharist, and yet to be frustrated in that desire. Now, I know what it is to worry about babies born and unbaptised for the better part of a year – if not longer. Now, I know what it is to pity the engaged couples who wish to marry but are prevented from doing so.

For the sacraments are like council-collections – they allow us to remove the rubbish, which enables us to clear away the clutter and to refocus us on what is most important…

And if council-collections make everything feel so fresh and new and clean, can you imagine what the sacraments do?

No wonder, I have missed them so very much over the last few years… No wonder…

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

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