Even those who consider themselves late entrants to the world-wide-web, will be familiar with the Amazon brand. Other service providers are, of course, available. What they each have in common is a feature known as 'one click purchase'. By this means, the transaction is rendered effortless. With a single electronic gesture, it is possible to commit to a transaction when further reflection might have counselled otherwise. Many readers will be familiar with the scenario in which family members of a certain vintage, novices in the world of web-based buying, have become recipients of a range of items of which they were, seemingly, unwitting purchasers.
The proposed meeting of Bishops of the pan-Amazon region scheduled to commence on 6 October 2019 has received a good deal of journalistic commentary. Speculation and prediction abound. What the various commentators agree upon is that the "synod" has the potential to have ramifications way beyond the territory to which it seemingly relates.
Those who have maintained a close eye on developments, will be aware that the Synod has been been the subject of previous statements by Pope Francis and has prompted a provisional report and the nomination of Cardinal Hummes as General Rapporteur.
From these sources, one is able to identify sentiments which express the need for an authentic church; an indigenous church for indigenous peoples. On this theme Cardinal Hummes has himself posited the question whether it is possible to achieve this objective without "indigenous clergy". To many seasoned observers, expressions such as these constitute unwelcome overtures for the revision of the norms of celibacy. Are they right to be concerned? Will the synod - like its online purchasing namesake- propose other subjects which its subscribers 'might also like'? Alternatively, and equally possibly, will the synod manifest a click and purchase culture which may result in deliveries which are 'left with a neighbour'?
Some may consider that the Synod has been choreographed upon a stage which is susceptible to pontifical manipulation; carefully selected as offering little or no episcopal resistance. One thing is certain: there will be others far removed from the cultural and geographical demands of the Amazon Basin, who will wish to harvest whatever will be attractive to them from the synod itself.
The scheduled date for the synod is 6 October 2019; the feast of St Bruno. The first reading for the feast is taken from the letter to the Hebrews:
"The rash one has no integrity;
but the just one, because of his faith, shall live."
The wisdom of these words cannot be faulted. It is to be hoped that on-line purchasers and synod attendees will harken to them with equal measure. For some, the status of St Bruno as one of the patron saints of Germany might well fuel wider expectations for Europe itself. For all who have an interest in the synod, the common symbols with which St Bruno is depicted (i.e. the skull and the cross) provide a much needed reminder that what must be given precedence is not a form of ecclesial accessibility or consumerism, but two inescapable realities: the mortality of man and the salvation of the cross. There is no alternative purchase option for either.