Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Father Urban Roche

Father Urban Roche, a middle-aged, handsome, and ambitious Catholic priest in the Order of St. Clement. Urban is the most worldly, cultured, and sophisticated member of a small, undistinguished religious community. His motto, “Be a Winner,” describes his ambition to make the order noteworthy, wealthy, and influential by courting wealthy patrons. Fond of the world’s good things and accustomed to moving freely, Urban grows restless when he is reassigned from a Chicago lakefront parish to a rural Minnesota retreat house. His restlessness brings him into quiet, but serious, conflict with his religious superiors. These conflicts are resolved only after a series of trials that, though painful, are not without a strong element of comedy and that prove to him how fleeting and unreliable are the world’s glories.

Father Boniface

Father Boniface, the provincial of the Order of St. Clement, Urban’s superior. He is an older priest, pious, conservative, and traditional. Although Urban regards him as pleasant but ineffectual, Boniface is a keen judge of priests’ souls. Boniface’s decision to transfer Urban is literally providential because it sets in motion a chain of events that culminates in Urban’s spiritual death and resurrection. Urban is reborn in the image and likeness of Boniface.

Father Wilfrid

Father Wilfrid, the rector of the retreat house to which Urban is transferred. Blunt, stubborn, and unimaginative, he stresses that members of his small religious community must work together in tasks that reinforce the small pieties of daily life. In his unthinking devotion to sentimental religious rituals, he contrasts with Urban’s delight in worldlier pleasures. Taking seriously his duty to form the spiritual character of his...

(The entire section is 749 words.)