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The Holy Well as a Window onto Irish Life (Part 2)


After these historical distinctions, it may be permitted to offer some more general theological reflections which abstract from historical differences, attempting to paint a larger picture of the theological interest and significance of holy wells.
(1) The Catholic faith is characterized by a logic of hierarchical mediation – unlike Protestantism, in which the relationship between the individual soul and its Maker is lived in a much more immediate way. This explains a difference that used to be important historically: whereas Catholic lay people used to be discouraged from reading Scripture (because of its inherent difficulty and, thus, the need for guidance from appropriately schooled clergymen), the Reformation embraced the principle of ‘Scripture alone’ (sola Scriptura), contributing significantly to the dissemination of Bibles in the vernacular languages. Again, depending on the Protestant denomination, the number of sacraments – material vehicles for the communication of grace – is greatly reduced as post-Reformation churches emphasize the encounter with the Lord through his word.

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