A scene from my grandfather's childhood is vivid because of his daughter's (my aunt's) memory. The original Walter J. Kozlowski was only 8 or 9 years old. If he were that age today, he would be in third or fourth grade.

Instead, he had already begun his career as a breaker boy. He and other boys would spend the day sitting on planks set over chutes through which water propelled a rush of coal, slate and rocks. Their job was to pick out the slate and rocks from the coal. If they slackened for a moment, there was a sharp-eyed boss who got their attention with the whack of a stick.

The sharp-edged slate frequently cut the boys' fingers and the acid water heightened the pain. Aunt Catherine said her dad told her that when he got home from his 10-hour shift, he would lie behind the coal stove in the kitchen and whimper like a pup in pain.

Granddad eventually worked his way up to become an anthracite miner. The hard coal would leave the creases of his palms, whorls of his fingertips and cuticles of his nails blackened. No matter how long he scrubbed his hands, black reminders of his labors remained.

A similar phenomenon occurs to our soul. We receive God's forgiveness for our sins, but the lure of sin always remains. The cycle begins again when we give in to temptation.

Our hope is that the way we lived our lives will one day enable us to spend eternity with Our Lord. Then, and only then, will the blackness of sin be washed away completely by the Living Water.


God's forgiveness washes away our sins.