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'Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water who is so useful, humble, precious, and pure.'

" The Canticle of the Creatures by St. Francis of Assisi

As we write this column in September, commonly known as "Oregon's Finest Month," a heavy rain continues to fall on the Willamette Valley. Only halfway through the month and Portland already has exceeded its average rainfall. Yet these two weeks – when we don't feel much like praising "Sister Water" – are merely irritatingly inconvenient. Much of the country is coping with a shortage of water; many parts of the world are living with drought. Much of the world is thirsty.

The Corporal Works of Mercy are how Jesus teaches us to put faith into action; they give us a model for how we must treat everyone, as if they were Christ in disguise. When we “give drink to the thirsty,” we are giving drink to Christ just as the Samaritan women did at the well.

Jesus understood the importance of water: He asked for a drink because he was thirsty; he chose to be baptized in water. He also pointed out the need to quench one’s spiritual thirst through him, the living water. Much of the world thirsts for living water.

Through living waters, we were baptized into the life of the One through whom all creation came to be. Water, as an element, sustains life. Water, through the sacrament of baptism, sustains our spiritual life. Our ongoing response to our baptismal call, is a call to give life-giving drink to the thirsty.

St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast day we celebrate Oct. 4, is the patron saint of ecology. Ecology is the relationship of everything in one glorious, messy, complex system of life where the cause and effect of our actions are studied, not ignored. Everything is connected. St. Francis’ connection of care for creation with care for the poor is an outstanding example of what it means to be an ecologist.

Pope Francis is an ecologist: “Just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.” Everything is connected: “A culture of water is a culture of life,” wrote the Bishops of The Columbia River Watershed Pastoral Letter. They, too, are ecologists.

“Water is much more than just a basic human need. It is an essential, irreplaceable element to ensuring the continuance of life.” Because we are a people of life and for life, we must ensure that all our brothers and sisters have safe drinking water. If it’s not safe drinking water, then what are we giving the thirsty to drink?

Sustained by living waters, we bring water to the thirsty.

We take it for granted that we have access to clean water, but it is not a given. Catholic Relief Services works overseas for universal, equitable and sustainable access to safe and affordable drinking water. Will future generations have access to clean water? You might be surprised about the consequences our “modern way of life” has on our water supply. Learn about local and federal clean water policies.

Health authorities commonly recommend we drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Bring water to the homeless and help them remain healthy.

St. Francis, pray for us that we commit to giving clean drink to the thirsty.

Cato is director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Archdiocese of Portland. Fr. Libra, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, is director of pro-life activities in the archdiocese.