BY GUEST BLOGGER | March 22, 2014
Last Lent, I wrote about a water fast—being aware of how much water we use, the ways we use it, and the importance of preserving it for others. We live in a world with a huge abundance of water, but not very much fresh water. Moreover, we use this water for a broad array of tasks, such as industrial manufacturing, energy, golf courses, cleaning and of course, drinking.
Historically, people who do water fasts consume only bread and water throughout Lent. As I proposed last year, we could have monumental impact if we fasted from water for forty days. We could take shorter or less frequent showers, use more efficient energy, or engage in activism. In the United States, many of us have the advantage of simply turning on a tap and fresh, clean water comes out for extremely low costs. The rest of the world is not necessarily as lucky—3.4 million people die from water-related illness each year (Water.org). Many more become incredibly sick. Most of these issues are effectively fought if we put in the time and effort.
Water fasts include three key aspects: lifestyle, education and activism. In lifestyle, we change the way we consume and use water. The simplest things, such as switching to reusable water bottles and shorter showers, have tremendous impact. In the U.S. alone, we waste 1.5 million barrels of oil in creating and throwing away plastic water bottles. The amount of water to drill the oil, refine it, create the plastic, and the water that goes into the bottles creates monumental waste that we can easily end. To change our lifestyle, we must be educated. Ask questions about how we access water, who has access, and how we use it. Finally, we embark upon activism. Our Catholic and Ignatian identities demand we change the world. We stand in solidarity with our communities, both local and distant.
Last year, I did a fast focusing primarily on cutting back my shower times and fighting fracking. To be truthful, it carried a lot of self-pity. Wrestling season and Lent coincide for a great part. I coach at Fordham Prep where it takes the coaches’ showers about ten minutes to heat up. As I attempted to keep my water use around five minutes, I took many frigid showers before entering the frigid New York winter. Eventually, I found myself thinking, “Well, at least I have running water, even if it’s cold. Many poor don’t have even that.” But this sentiment of pity left me unfulfilled and saddened.
Through more prayer, I found myself moving into more a sense of solidarity. I’m not participating in this fast for self-affirmation, but because my faith calls me to live the lives of all my brothers and sisters. The limited, and frequently cold, use of water serves to protect the environment and human rights. But more than that, the fast constantly called me to remember others, the poor and the oppressed. It brings our brothers and sisters to the fore of our minds, helping us to recall their faces, the face of Christ.
On Saturday, March 22, we celebrate World Water Day. This day commemorates the lives of those without access to clean water and spurs us to action. Let this day in Lent help us to remember our brothers and sisters, to see in them the face of Christ. What can be closer to the crucifixion than the painful words, “I thirst” (John 19:28). Let us be spurred to changed our lifestyles, learn, and enact change in our world. Together, we can protect the world and bring water to Christ thirsting on the cross, the poor and loved in our world.