Don Manuel (mahn-HWEHL), a Catholic priest in Valverde de Lucerna, a small village in Spain. A tall, slender, erect man in his middle years, he is wholly devoted to the service of his parishioners despite the fact that he has lost his ability to believe in life after death. His service takes many forms, all practical: helping children with schoolwork, promoting joyous social interaction, mediating quarrels, and caring for the poor, the sick, and the dying. His reputation as a healer and spiritual teacher spreads beyond the village, and people come to regard him as a living saint. Don Manuel carefully guards the secret of his loss of faith, not wanting to jeopardize the faith of his people. Only Angela and Lázaro Carballino are aware of the priest’s private agony.
Angela Carballino (AHN-heh-lah kahr-bah-YEE-noh), an educated village woman who becomes a confidante of Don Manuel and narrates his story. Orphaned as a child, she has known Don Manuel since girlhood and has been aware that others regard him as a saint since her years at convent school. At Don Manuel’s urging, she decides to make the village her convent rather than become a nun, sequestered from everyday life. Angela has collected numerous instances of Don Manuel’s effective ministry to the villagers, his words of wisdom, and his acts...
(The entire section is 413 words.)