National Holy Wells Day will be celebrated on Sunday 18 June. On that day people all over Ireland are encouraged to visit a Holy Well to pray for the protection and fair distribution of water on our planet. They are also invited to reflect on what they can do to protect and conserve water for future generations.
As a people we have a long and rich tradition of praying at Holy Wells, of which there are some 3,000 around the countryside. National Holy Wells Day aims to raise awareness and to create a national network of appreciation and care for water.
Pope Francis addressed the issue of water in his Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ in 2015. He said, “Fresh drinking water is an issue of primary importance, since it is indispensable for human life and for supporting terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Sources of fresh water are necessary for health care, agriculture and industry. Water supplies used to be relatively constant, but now in many places demand exceeds the sustainable supply, with dramatic consequences in the short and long term. Large cities dependent on significant supplies of water have experienced periods of shortage, and at critical moments these have not always been administered with sufficient oversight and impartiality. Water poverty especially affects Africa where large sectors of the population have no access to safe drinking water or experience droughts which impede agricultural production. Some countries have areas rich in water while others endure drastic scarcity.”
The Holy Father went on to say, “One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Every day, unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases, including those caused by microorganisms and chemical substances. Dysentery and cholera, linked to inadequate hygiene and water supplies, are a significant cause of suffering and of infant mortality. Underground water sources in many places are threatened by the pollution produced in certain mining, farming and industrial activities, especially in countries lacking adequate regulation or controls. It is not only a question of industrial waste. Detergents and chemical products, commonly used in many places of the world, continue to pour into our rivers, lakes and seas.
“Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity. This debt can be paid partly by an increase in funding to provide clean water and sanitary services among the poor. But water continues to be wasted, not only in the developed world but also in developing countries which possess it in abundance. This shows that the problem of water is partly an educational and cultural issue, since there is little awareness of the seriousness of such behaviour within a context of great inequality.”
Pope Francis said that greater scarcity of water will lead to an increase in the cost of food and the various products which depend on its use. Some studies warn that an acute water shortage may occur within a few decades unless urgent action is taken. The environmental repercussions could affect billions of people; it is also conceivable that the control of water by large multinational businesses may become a major source of conflict in this century.
National Holy Wells Day is an initiative of Loving Sister Earth and the Columba Community, Derry and it is hoped that it will be an annual event.
The following prayer has been offered for use on Sunday 18 June:
Prayer for the protection of water
O God of All Creation,
Teach us how to protect Water
On which all living things depend,
plants, animals, fish, birds, humans.
Help us to ensure that Water may always flow freely and purely
for all of your Creation.
May Your Spirit soften our hearts and enlighten us
So that we may act responsibly to protect Water,
The vital source of life
in Our Common Home.
For more information see www.lovingsisterearth.com.