Planets form in the presence of abundant interstellar water inherited as ices from the parent molecular cloud.   (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC-Caltech)/ESO/J. Emerson/VISTA/Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit)

Planets form in the presence of abundant interstellar water inherited as ices from the parent molecular cloud.
(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC-Caltech)/ESO/J. Emerson/VISTA/Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit)

This is our time in history. We are the people on stage. Do we know our lines? Do we even have the right vocabulary?

We’ll need to learn quickly, creating awareness of the dangers that lie in the future and forming the collective human response that will be needed to carry the story forward.

An example of one crisis of our time: we are quickly running out of clean, plentiful water. Water, which covers about 70 percent of Earth’s surface and composes 80 percent of the human body, is essential for all life on this planet. Water not only keeps us alive physically, it nourishes us spiritually and psychologically.

Yet, in our world today, waterways that were once clean are now polluted with rubbish, chemicals and harmful bacteria. About one sixth of the world’s population does not have fresh drinking water.

What can be done about this growing problem? How can we—those of us making decisions today—help to ensure the possibility of a sustainable and viable future? Thomas Berry, a well-known prophetic voice for the entire Earth community, suggests that at the root of our present situation is our alienation from the natural world. In other words, our most basic need is to develop an intimate relationship with nature, a personal relationship with lakes and rivers, with fields and forests, and with the astounding creatures of this world. Berry urges parents to spend time with their children exploring the wonders of nature: “Let’s go out into the sunshine, let’s go wade in the creek, let’s go meet the trees.”

On a similar note, Swiss naturalist Louis Agassiz once remarked, “I spent the summer traveling. I got halfway across my backyard.”

Both men speak of coming to know the sacredness of creation through experience, through forming a spiritual connection to Earth. They suggest that this is the way in which the decision-makers of tomorrow will acquire the knowledge, learn the values and mature within a cosmology of care.

Most of us can remember times in our own lives when we felt transfixed by nature’s beauty. Who of us has not, standing in our own back yard at night gazing upward into a starlit sky, experienced an encounter with mystery? This is a basic religious experience. This is meeting the “Holy.”

Water, too, invites us into prayerful space. Its beauty can be mesmerizing, inspiring poetry as well as prayer. Wendell Berry, in his poem Water, speaks of how sweet it is to hear rain on the roof after days of dry heat. Carl Sandburg writes about how old stones remember past rains and how willows sleep on the shoulders of running water. Saint Francis spoke to Sister Water, so useful, humble, precious and chaste.

But in our crisis today, we, who need the rain to soak into dry ground, who rejoice in the small streams that sing their way down a mountain side, who rely on reservoirs that are full as we cry out for clean water to quench our thirst, we are the ones to move our vision forward. What is it that connects such a common element as water to all that is sacred.

We might begin with the deep realization that everything that supports life, including water, was birthed in the original fireball that exploded in a great burst of energy about fifteen billion years ago. In the same explosion of dust and gas out of which the stars and planets eventually emerged, water also was made possible. Scientists speculate that water molecules were part of the same dusty swirl from which our own solar system was formed. Water—sacred water—is part of the original gift that is the universe.

Now, some 4.5 billion years after Earth itself came into being with all that was needed for life, we are in great need of treasuring the gifts our Creator has given to us out of Great Love. We need to expand our awareness of the “big picture,” to see that the way in which each of us lives our lives is truly significant. The natural world is the location for sacred communion.

Fortunately, people are responding as individuals and as members of a variety of organizations. Here are some basic facts to consider, some discouraging and some hopeful:
• 20% of water pollution comes from the runoff of toxic products used in lawn care, and over 8,000,000,000 gallons of water are used to water those lawns.
• Americans use 70,000,000 pounds of pesticides on their gardens each year. These chemicals find their way into our water source.
• However, the number of people responding to the challenge of protecting water is growing rapidly. New organizations are rising up across the world devoted to this issue. A few of these are: Green Faith, Food and Water Watch, Catholic Climate Covenant and Water without Borders.

What are YOU doing for water in this time of history? What more can you do?


Two Prairiewoods friends offered to write poems inspired by water for this article. Below are their beautiful works of art …

Vidi Aquam

by Nina Shepard, FSPA

He sat on a boulder
in the middle of a flowing stream,
and sang the entire Vidi Aquam.
“I saw water…”
I, too, have seen water in its many forms,
as glacier, icicle, snow, hoarfrost,
dew, drizzle, downpour
dripping, running, gushing,
thundering, trickling, seeping.
It speaks to us with many voices,
singing, humming, gurgling,
proclaiming, shouting, laughing.
And if we listen carefully, we can hear
the voice of the One who pours out
torrents of love and mercy.
We are bathed in love forever.

Vidi Aquam, part of Psalm 117, is used in the rite of sprinkling the congregation with holy water during Easter-tide. Translated it reads: “I saw water flowing from the right side of the temple, alleluia; and all they to whom that water came were saved, and they shall say, alleluia, alleluia.”


Quenching Our Thirst

by Jean Elliott Junis

Spring rains are back,
The woods are awakening
in all shades of green,
some we’ve never seen.

The plain peony bush out back
silently sips moisture. Until,
a tight round belly bursts open.
Then another, and another!
Magenta flower-puffs sway,
Feeding us fragrance.

Meanwhile, the waterfall is showing off again,
Like a bride, dressed in flowing white veils.
guests push forward
To feel her beauty,
Mist upon them like holy water.

Evening baths on warm nights
are swirling, calling out
to tired workers and giggly children,
Rinse off today’s field sweat and fallen sand castles,
Tonight, it’s just you!

Rain drops of liquid life-force
Know well what we need, even if we don’t.
Oh, the waters of the earth are constantly begging us,
Come! Quench your thirst!