Red Kane is the protagonist of The Patience of a Saint, and the other characters serve the function of illuminating the story of his midlife resurrection and his second chance at both life and love.
The character who best serves this purpose is Red's wife, Eileen. Greeley has frequently been criticized for his depiction of female characters. Reviewers often see them as unbelievable, idealized stereotypes of perfection. Initially, Eileen Ryan Kane appears to fit this category. Although she is middle-aged, she is still beautiful, trim, and sexually appealing to both her husband and other men. She is a well-educated professional, capable of flawlessly running a household as well as managing a demanding career. Taken on a literal level, Eileen strains credibility. On the metaphoric level, however, Eileen (whose name means "light") is a metaphor for the love of God. Greeley has written that lovers should treat each other like shy children — slowly advancing toward each other and only gradually revealing to each other the fullness of their beings. In this respect, maintains Greeley, the relationship between lovers is like the relationship between God and the human beings He has created. The more slow the revelation of God, the more passionate and erotic the relationship between God and humans becomes. Red's relationship with Eileen (at a stasis after twenty years of marriage) slowly reawakens and reveals an attraction with a passionate intensity. Just as Eileen has never deserted Red despite his errancies, God does not desert Red, despite Red's many efforts to desert God. The all-consuming and forgiving nature of God's love is reflected in the passion and forgiveness of Eileen Kane. It is therefore perhaps more appropriate to see Eileen in the context of a mythic Celtic princess playing foil to Red's knight-errancy than as a dogmatic portrait of a modern woman.
The character of Red, however, is drawn quite credibly in three-dimensions because of the narrative techniques Greeley has devised for the story.