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World Water Day – The Maas River is a silent witness

Author: Saju George Aruvelil, SVD
Subject: Water, Laudato Si
Language: English, Spanish
Publisher: VivatDeus.org
Year: 2023

World Water Day, celebrated every March 22, reminds us of the importance of this vital element for the life of all living beings on planet Earth. The Laudato Si platform gives indications to all members of the great Arnoldine Family on the use and care of this divine gift for our life and mission. In a certain sense, the Maas River, on the banks of which the first mission house is located, is also part of our Arnoldine family.

While we need various resources for life, water has a sacred place. It is the beginning of life and as such appears in Sacred Scripture. There is no other element in the Bible that is more indispensable and important for human existence.

Thus, water makes life possible and sustains life. Water also has its religious, liturgical-sacramental use. The presence of the concept “water” in the Holy Scriptures of Judeo-Christianity [and Islam (Ar-Rahman, 55:19-20)] offers us a foundation to see the sacredness of this element for spirituality from the ecology. In the Old Testament [OT], we find the Hebrew term máyím more than 580 times. In the New Testament [NT], the Greek term is hydor and appears 80 times. The Bible names other forms derived from water: snow, frost, hail, rain, etc. Thus, the entire OT celebrates the magnificence of water. The New Testament will receive this heritage and will know how to use it, filling it with a wide symbolic and spiritual content.

Water is also the element of redemption for biblical man: the journey through the water of the Red Sea redeems him from the slavery of Pharaoh (Ex 14:15-31), the baptismal water frees him from original sin (Jn 3:5). Water also has an eschatological dimension (Is 55:1; Rev 21:6). Water, in its wide range of meanings, occupies in the Bible from the first page of the Genesis to the last one the Revelation. God says that whoever is thirsty, let him come. Whoever wants to drink freely of the water of life ( Rev 22:17). All the more reason why the mystic patron of spiritual ecology, St. Francis of Assisi, sang and praised: “Praised be you, my Lord, for sister water, which is very useful, humble, precious and chaste […]. Everything invites us to find a foundation for a radical Eco spirituality. From the Christian perspective, Christ is the only one who can give the water of life (Jn 4:14).

Since water is the symbol of life, the biblical command to give drink to the thirsty is very significant. Job is accused of not having done so: “You did not give water to the thirsty […]” (Job 22:7); the book of Proverbs goes further: “If he thirsts, give him water to drink” (Prov 25:21).

The water is synonymous with the sustenance of life (The encyclical Laudato Si 30) [LS]. The LS explores into the theme of drinking water with great concerns (LS 27-31). Clean and potable water represents a matter of primary importance, because it is indispensable for human life and for sustaining terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems (LS 28). Therein lies the hierarchical importance of water for the support of terrestrial life. Other living beings also always need water and use it in one way or another. Thus, in Church documents the term “water” also appears frequently: in the LS 40 times, in Instrumentum Laboris [IL], 15 times and in Dear Amazonia [QA], 16 times.

In the Amazon, the interrelationship between water and human beings is basic. “Life in the Amazon, interwoven by water, territory, identities, and spiritualities of its peoples, invites dialogue and learning about its biological and cultural diversity” (IL 48). “We know that water is a scarce and indispensable resource and is a fundamental right that conditions the exercise of other human rights. This is unquestionable and goes beyond any environmental impact analysis of a region” (LS 185). The United Nations Organization proclaimed the International Decade for Action for Sustainable Development, which began on World Water Day, March 22, 2018, and will end on March 22, 2028. (Cf. Water | United Nations).

For concluding, the Maas River is a silent witness to the life and growth of our St. Arnold missionary family. The water of the river itself serves in many ways the life of the members of the communities. The first missionaries had embarked from the small seaport of Steyl. Since then both Maas and the small harbour have remained as our natural allies.  Arnold Janssen lived long enough to see how the Divine Word Missionaries and the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Spirit who embarked from there, extended their missionary works in various countries (China, Argentina, Togo, Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Chile, USA and Japan – to mention some of the first missionary countries).

I can imagine how often St. Arnold and the other members of the Founding Generation would have sat by the river to contemplate the mystery of the water of life. In this image there is something biblical that recalls Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman (Jn 2:5-42), the miraculous catch of fish (Lk 5:1-11) or other events (Mt 13:1-16, Lk 5:1-25, Mk 5:35-5:43, Jn 2:1,42, 21:1-11).

Seeing the boats carrying passengers, how many would have said that soon they would also be among them to take the Good News of Jesus to the mission countries, so that the desire of the Founder would become a reality: Before the Light of the Word and the Spirit of Grace, the darkness of sin and the night of unbelief would disappear and the heart of Jesus would live in the hearts of all humanity. The water, the waves inspired them to undertake the journey to the distant missionary lands.

Caring for water is also a way of loving God, the neighbor it includes and all of creation. We could add this truth as part of the new missionary mandate. In this way we will make a choice to care for the life of all and commit ourselves to be guardians of this vital source and actively participate as Arnoldine Family in the activities of the JPIC dimension and the LS platform. Because water is the source of life for all and is, above all, sacred.



Saju George Aruvelil, SVD is from India. He is one of the first OTP who has gone to Argentina. He finished his theological studies for the priesthood also there. He then began his service in the education field in our SVD institutions. He obtained a licentiate in Spirituality from Pontifical University of Comillas, Madrid. He also holds a doctorate in Theology from the Pontifical University of Argentina, Buenos Aires. He also helps in the formation of laity and religious candidates. He gives retreats and leads workshops, seminars, etc. He has a radio program and writes in a local newspaper. At present he is a promoter of Laudato Si Movement for caring for the Earth together with his parish priestly pastoral activities.

Saju George Aruvelil, SVD 

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