Water is Such a Blessing! I have been thinking a lot of how blessed I am to have such easy access to clean water – we have some nine faucets in our house, and with most of them we can draw unlimited amounts of cold water or hot water; we have several flushable toilets; we can take refreshing showers whenever we want; we have enough water to cook with, to water the plants, to wash the floors, to brush our teeth, to drink day and night. I feel so blessed! At Notre Dame Seminary, just around the corner from our house, there is a beautiful sculpture of Jesus with the woman at the well; hearing Jesus in this Gospel story ask the woman for a drink of water makes me think of Catalino’s letter “can you give us water because my wife and children are dying of thirst?” Though I feel blessed and privileged to have easy access to an abundance of clean water, how can I not feel sad thinking of the more than a billion people like Catalino’s family who do not have such access. How can I feel good knowing that children are dying by the minute from unclean water?
At the same time that I appreciate and enjoy water in my corner of the world, I know that I must pay attention to the reality of the global water crisis. I must be concerned that so many of my brothers and sisters are not experiencing this blessing. Yet access to clean water has been a concern of the Church for quite some time. In fact, “the Catholic Church was among the first major international institutions to defend the idea that access to fresh water is a fundamental human right, and it has enshrined this idea in authoritative teachings, such as the 2004 Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.”(NCR 4/20/18) Our present Holy Father, Pope Francis, devoted a section of his encyclical On Care for Our Common Home: Laudato Sí to the issue of water. (cf: LS #27-31). He says unequivocally: “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.” (LS #30) The water crisis is a right to life issue! He goes on to say: “Our world has a grave social debt toward the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.” In many of his homilies and speeches, Pope Francis reiterates over and over the need for all in the world community to make better use of our resources - to insure that all peoples would share in the blessing of clean water. He, along with others, speaks about the growing threat that the shortage of water in undeveloped countries poses to the safety of peoples and the world as a whole. Some even say that the crisis over the shortage of water could be the cause of the next world war. Realizing just this one blessing of easy access to clean water (there are many other blessings we could acknowledge!) do we not see why so many impoverished people from undeveloped countries risk their lives trying to cross our borders to get into the land of plenty?
So What? In all of these reflections and meditations, I have been hearing the call to act more responsibly. I dare to say this is a call to all of us here in the developed world. So what does acting more responsibly look like? Pope Francis has named a few ideas in his writings and talks, eg: “we cannot sustain our present level of consumption; we must stop wasting and discarding; we need to attend to the pollution we are producing by certain mining, farming and industrial activities – detergent and chemical products, commonly used in many places of the world, continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas; we must not turn water into a commodity subject to the laws of the market. ” (LS #29);
This Reflection On A Letter From Wilton leaves me with a number of haunting questions:
- Making Connections: Do I really believe that we live in a completely inter-dependent world – that what I do affects the common good? Should knowing that the exorbitant amount of water it takes to produce 1 pound of beef (1,799 gallons) affect my meat consumption? If tap water has been proven as safe as and significantly less expensive than bottled water, and doesn’t add great amounts of plastic which pollute our oceans, am I justified in my use of bottled water? Am I willing to examine the ramifications of my decisions?
- Curbing My Wastefulness of Water: Am I willing to change some of my daily actions in order not to waste so much water? Pope Francis keeps saying we have to make an “ecological conversion.”(LS #216-221) – does that apply to me and the way that I waste water. . . The American Wildlife Foundation states that “every day, the average American family uses about 552 gallons of water compared to the average African family, which uses about 5 gallons of water a day.” What can I do to stop using so much water? [cf: 20 Ways to Conserve Water: https://www.care2.com/greenliving/20-ways-to-conserve-water-at- home.html]
- Be A Provider: Catalino asked me to provide water for his family. Am I being asked by more of my brothers and sisters in the world to provide them with water? Should I not connect with and donate to organizations working to provide water to people in other parts of the world? [cf: https://www.classy.org/blog/5-nonprofits-make-clean-water-global-reality/]
- Appreciate and Enjoy! Maybe one of the most important things I am being called to do is to stop taking water for granted! To take my time as I drink water or wash with it or water my garden. Maybe there is a call here – to better appreciate water and to really enjoy it!
I’ll never forget how impressed I was when I first read Laudato Sí and heard Pope Francis quoting the bishops of Brazil saying that “nature as a whole not only manifests God but is also a locus (the place) of God’s presence.” (LS #88) Sort of reminds me of that quote from Genesis – God’s Spirit is still hovering over the waters!