By Sarah Mac Donald - 25 May, 2020
Well known Jesuit, Fr Brian Grogan, has urged people to celebrate Ireland’s National Holy Wells Day by visiting a holy well locally if the coronavirus restrictions permit it.
The annual celebration takes place this year on 14 June.
Writing as part of the Loving Sister Earth initiative, a nationwide network of prayer for the earth focused on Ireland’s holy places, Fr Grogan highlighted that within Irish culture holy wells remain places to visit to ask for healing and solace in times of difficulty and personal need.
“Such times are with us now both in Ireland and globally due to the coronavirus,” Fr Grogan said.
He highlighted how given that there are more than 3,000 holy wells recorded in Ireland – an average of 30 per county, no one is very far from a well.
Although, he stressed that gatherings this year must be small with social distancing in place.
Explaining the significance of holy wells, he said that in Penal times when churches were forbidden, holy wells acted as the cathedrals of the poor and the oppressed.
“Holy wells have long been convenient gathering places, enabling community bonding to occur. Your visit will enable you to go back to your roots and think gratefully of the many who have used this well before you and whose lives are woven into its history.”
The former President of Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy in Dublin and Associate Professor of Spirituality said a new interest is emerging in holy wells, partly due to concern for the future of water on the planet.
“The landmark encyclical Laudato Si’ contains a strong message about the right of every citizen on the planet to have access to clean water, and Pope Francis never loses the opportunity to repeat this call,” he noted.
Fr Grogan was a founder of the Knock Prayer Guidance Ministry in 1990 and has helped to develop it for the past twenty-five years. He is currently a member of the Knock Faith Renewal Council.
In his article about holy wells, he said that many people visit them “simply for calming and restoration. The beauty of the surroundings revives the spirit: even motorists driving by stop for a moment’s prayer.”
He also noted that until recent times unbaptised children who were refused burial in consecrated ground were laid to rest near the local well.
“The desire to be in touch with the supernatural is strong in us, and the belief that God can be encountered in nature is endorsed in Pope Francis’ encyclical on care for our Common Home, Laudato Si.” The encyclical was published five years ago this month.
Fr Grogan also highlighted how community bonding often takes place on the Feast Day of the Saint associated with the well, known as the Pattern Day. “The well is hospitable and meets both human and religious needs.”
Elsewhere in the article the Jesuit said, “They are integral parts of our natural, human and sacred landscape. They are silent but have endless stories to tell. Today, now that the struggle for water has become the burning issue for the planet, they quietly call us to gather to reflect together on what we need to do both nationally and internationally, to conserve and protect creation’s greatest gift. Only where there is water will there be life.”
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