Famed eighth century missionary Saint Boniface appeared at the Vatican yesterday for the kickoff of the Amazonian Synod.
Reading from the working document, the moderator was saying,
For the indigenous peoples of the Amazon Basin, the good life comes from living in communion with other people, with the world, with the creatures of their environment, and with the Creator. Indigenous peoples, in fact, live within the home that God created and gave them as a gift: the Earth. Their diverse spiritualities and beliefs motivate them to live in communion with the soil, water, trees, animals, and with day and night. Wise elders – called interchangeably “payés, mestres, wayanga or chamanes”, among others – promote the harmony of people among themselves and with the cosmos.
Suddenly the door burst open and the large, bearded British monk strode into the conference room and interrupted the proceedings.
“Where are the German bishops!” he cried in medieval Latin.
Cardinal Marx waved his hand, “Over here!”
Boniface marched over and stood before them as the hall was hushed.
“You German bishops! Do you not remember your own history? If it were not for me you would not be Catholics today. When I arrived in your land you were still worshipping Thor and a pantheon of strange gods in the sacred groves. You worshipped a tree! A tree! How ridiculous! You called it Donar’s Sacred Oak. In that form you and the rest of the Nordic peoples worshipped the god Yggdrasil. In this way you and your people worshipped Thor, Jupiter, Donar, Irminsul– demon pagan gods. You worshipped Yggdrasil in your sacred groves and in the form of the ancient oak, the ash and all the trees of the forest.”
The German bishops began muttering among themselves finally one stood up and called for security. “Remove this man. He’s an imposter!”
As the burly security man came forward St Boniface jumped on to a nearby table and crashed his crozier on the table top and stamped his foot.
Conference papers went flying and red robes were fluttering as bishops and cardinals ducked for cover.
“I am not an imposter, but St Boniface, Bishop and Monk–missionary to the Germans, witness to the gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ and a martyr for the faith!”
“And an Englishman too!” a bishop from Great Britain called out.
The saint turned and glared furiously…”Indeed I am an Englishman! Apostate bishop! The faith in your island is as cold and dead as it is among these Germans!”
Cardinal Marx stood up defiantly, “Brother, what is your complaint?”
The saint pounded his crozier on the table again, “I gave my life to bring the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ to your land–darkened with the worship of demons and sunk in the worship of trees and sacred forests, and now you are leading the faithful people back into the worship of forests and trees!”
“Not at all! Not at all!” protested the German. “We are simply asking for there to be an integral ecology which respects the biodiversity of an area rich in natural and spiritual resources. We wish to listen to the experience of the indigenous peoples and respect their spirituality as they live in communion with the spirit of the rainforest. We are seeking to learn from them how we can best live in harmony with the cosmos!”
Cardinal Kasper rose and gave his famous broad smile, but then the smile faded into anger, “You! Boniface! You hacked down the sacred oak–a tree that had been venerated as the core of a rich and intricate biosphere! You destroyed eons of indigenous traditions! You inspired the other so called missionaries to cut down Irminsul–the ancient oak and the ancient incarnation of Yggdrasil in Uppsala!”
A German nun leapt to her feet, “Your action initiated the present capitalist system which disregards the intricate biosphere in favor of hacking down the forests for mineral exploitation! You began the rape of Mother Earth with your patriarchal, destructive killing of life! You snuffed out the living, breathing spirit of creation…Gaia our Mother!”
Boniface shook his head, “The sacred trees were pagan idols–transmitters of demons! Cutting them down liberated you Germans from bondage to Satan!”
One of the Jesuit theologians took the floor. Smiling benignly he said, “Come now, dear Boniface! We are not so superstitious as all that now! We have learned since your time that demons are merely the projection of the collective unconscious. It is our own evil thoughts that we project onto these mythical beings we call demons!”
Boniface laughed. “If you had ever witnessed an exorcism you would not say such a stupid thing.
Another Jesuit stood up and cleared his throat, “If I may, perhaps suggest a way forward? Surely bishop you have read de Chardin?”
A plump French cardinal leaned over to his neighbor, “Chardonnay? Did he say Chardonnay? I was wondering when there might be a break for some refreshment…”
The saint’s face grew purple with rage. “What is a de Chardin? Is that the modern word for ‘garden’?”
The Jesuit replied calmly, “Tielhard deChardin. He was one of us…a Jesuit. He showed us that the whole of creation is moving towards the Omega Point at which humans and all creation will live in simple harmony. This is the integral ecology we call for. By adopting the spirituality of the Amazon peoples we will all move together one step further towards the Omega Point!”
Boniface said, “The Lord God said to Adam, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground. Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.”
The German sister wagged her finger at Boniface, “That’s just another example of patriarchy! You invaded our land and imposed a new religion on our people! You destroyed a beautiful culture in which the indigenous people lived in peaceful harmony with creation. This was an act of racist violence!”
The saint shook his head sadly, “Do you think the worship of the sacred groves and the ancient tree of Thor was a beautiful thing? Do you think the people simply lived in harmony with nature? Do you think what I have seen was simply a peaceful people living in primitive innocence? Allow me to correct you. The sacred groves were centers of human sacrifice. Innocent victims were thrown into wells to drown. Young warriors would be decapitated and buried with older men to give the old man new life after death. The human sacrifices were slaughtered and their bodies hung from the branches of the trees so their blood would drain into the sacred groves. You dare to call me superstitious! It was this pagan, cruel and bloodthirsty religion which was superstitious! And here you are turning back to the worship of demons in the form of trees and sacred forests!”
The security guard approached St Boniface and the saint shook his crozier at him. He backed off.
Then the saint pointed to the crucifix on the wall. “Do you see that! That is the tree we worship! That is the tree on which the sacred victim was hung for our salvation! Develop your integral ecology if you must. preserve God’s creation, but be warned, the worship of creation leads to the worship of strange gods. The forest is beautiful, but it is also dangerous. Are there spirits in the forest? Of course, but they are not the Holy Spirit. Be warned. As for the indigenous people? Be kind and compassionate. They are God’s children. Cherish, respect and protect them, but also share with them the loving mercy of our God!”
He jumped down from the desk, patted the security guard on the shoulder and marched out of the room.