California is facing its third straight year of lower than normal rainfall. The Golden State is no stranger to drought and - although one has not been officially declared – the low levels of reservoirs, Sierra snowpack and groundwater are becoming increasingly apparent.
“Water is essential to who we are as human beings,” said Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento and president of the California Catholic Conference of Bishops. “Our reliance on water reveals how much we are part of creation and creation is a part of us.”
If current trends continue, the 38 million residents of California could face many economic, health, safety and quality of life challenges from the current water shortage. Some of the highest unemployment in the nation, for instance, is already in California’s rural farming communities. Water shortages could make matters worse in these devastated communities.
Annually, wildfires threaten homes and livelihoods as well as the safety of the men and women who must fight the fires. Workers in the water-, outdoor- and snow-recreation industries face loss of income. Water is vital for food production, sanitation, power generation, environmental protection and transportation. In a severe drought people could also face increased respiratory ailments, heat related emergencies, and mental stress.
Balancing the needs of various water users in California has always been a challenge for our leaders and our communities.
Because of the potentially dangerous impact on people, industry and the environment, the Catholic Bishops of California are asking all people of faith to join in prayer for God’s mercy and compassion.
“As we work toward the common good of the state in this situation, we are reminded of our dependence on the Creator. Our relationship with Him calls us to be good stewards of the creation He has entrusted to us. As stewards of creation we can turn to the Divine Master asking that He see our plight and give ear to our plea for rain,” said Bishop Soto.
He offers this simple prayer:
May God open the heavens and let His mercy rain down upon our fields and mountains. Let us especially pray for those most impacted by water shortages and for the wisdom and charity to be good stewards of this precious gift. May our political leaders seek the common good as we learn to care and share God's gift of water for the good of all.
Bishops throughout California will be asking Catholics and others to pray for rain and for the relief of those impacted by the lack of water. Some sample prayers include:
- O God, in Whom we live move and have our being, grant us sufficient rain, so that, being supplied with what sustains us in this present life, we may seek more confidently what sustains us for eternity. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. (From The Roman Missal of the Catholic Church, #35)
- For those facing threats to their health, safety and well-being because of the lack of rainfalland snowpack in California. May God bring us rain and snow to alleviate their struggles and to care for the water needs of the people in the Golden State. For this we pray to the Lord.
- For those who manage our water and snowpack resources. May they be granted the wisdom and strength to balance the many needs of people and commerce as we share God’s gift of water among all Californians. For this we pray to the Lord.
- Almighty God, we are in need of rain. We realize now, looking up into the clear, blue sky, what a marvel even the least drop of rain really is. To think that so much water can really fall out of the sky, which now is empty and clear! We place our trust in You. We are sure that You know our needs. But You want us to ask you anyway, to show You that we know we are dependent on you. Look to our dry hills and fields, dear God, and bless them with the living blessing of soft rain. Then the land will rejoice and rivers will sing Your praises, and the hearts of all will be made glad. Amen. (Prayer for Rain from the National Catholic Rural Life Conference-Rural Life Prayer Book)
Additional Prayer Resources
- Send Your Living Waters - courtesy of Catholic Relief Services
- Walk With Me: A 21-Day Prayer Journey Around the World - A CRS series on world concerns including a prayer to relieve drought conditions in East Africa that can be adapted for local use.
Water is such an important element of life, that The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church highlights the need for its careful stewardship:
484. The principle of the universal destination of goods also applies naturally to water, considered in the Sacred Scriptures as a symbol of purification (cf. Ps 51:4; Jn 13:8) and of life (cf. Jn 3:5; Gal 3:27). “As a gift from God, water is a vital element essential to survival; thus, everyone has a right to it”. Satisfying the needs of all, especially of those who live in poverty, must guide the use of water and the services connected with it. Inadequate access to safe drinking water affects the well-being of a huge number of people and is often the cause of disease, suffering, conflicts, poverty and even death. For a suitable solution to this problem, it “must be set in context in order to establish moral criteria based precisely on the value of life and the respect for the rights and dignity of all human beings”.
485. By its very nature water cannot be treated as just another commodity among many, and it must be used rationally and in solidarity with others. The distribution of water is traditionally among the responsibilities that fall to public agencies, since water is considered a public good. If water distribution is entrusted to the private sector it should still be considered a public good. (Underline added.) The right to water, as all human rights, finds its basis in human dignity and not in any kind of merely quantitative assessment that considers water as a merely economic good. Without water, life is threatened. Therefore, the right to safe drinking water is a universal and inalienable right.