Fray Lázaro (LAH-sah-roh), a novice in a Franciscan order in rural Chile. His name in the outside world was Mario. He chose to enter a Franciscan monastery after he was rejected by his girlfriend, Gracia. Although he has spent seven years at the monastery, he hesitates to take life vows as a friar because he worries that his vocation may not be authentic. He believes that he is wasting his youth and his potential (he enjoys writing), and the religious life is not giving him strong personal satisfaction. His daily routine of teaching and work in the monastery’s fields is boring and unrewarding. When he meets María Mercedes, Gracia’s younger sister, he finds relief from the tedium of his life. Every day, he feels more eager to see her. Fray Lázaro begins to suffer a severe religious crisis when he realizes that he is in love with the innocent woman. Although he struggles against physical attraction to María Mercedes, he recognizes sexual desire in his love for her. His internal debate is interrupted by Fray Rufino’s attempt to rape María Mercedes. Fray Lázaro assumes all guilt for the violent act, and the order transfers him to another monastery.
Fray Rufino (rew-FEE-noh), a Franciscan friar, old and feeble. Fray Rufino’s reputation as a saint has spread throughout the town, causing people to seek his company and counsel. His miracles include his ability to communicate with animals, his power to cure dying animals, and his restoration of the sight of a blind woman. In...
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