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A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

by Gabriel García Márquez

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What is the Church's response to the old man in "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings"?

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The Church's response—in the shape of Father Gonzaga—to the old man is generally hostile. Father Gonzaga is somewhat skeptical of the old man's claims to be an angel. The old man can't speak Latin or Aramaic, and the supposed miracles he performs are unrelated to the sickness of those he heals. At the same time, like the good churchman he is, he wants to make sure of the Vatican's position before pronouncing judgment on the matter.

Though Father Gonzaga remains deeply skeptical right until the end, there's always a sense that he's amenable to changing his mind. After all, if there really were a genuine angel in his midst, that would greatly redound to his credit. It would also put this small, remote town on the map, turning in into a center of international pilgrimage. And what self-respecting priest wouldn't want that?

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The Church in this story is summed up in the character of Father Gonzaga, who comes to see the old man very alarmed at what he has heared about the strange visitor who has graced the household of Pelayo and his family. However, Father Gonzaga believes that this man could not be an angel, because of his appearance first of all. We are told that the old man was "a pitiful man who looked more like a huge decrepit hen among the fascinated chickens." Secondly, Father Gonzaga greets the man in Latin. The man's failure to respond shows that he "does not understand the language of God or know how to greet His ministers." Lastly, he has nothing of the divine about him, and is far too human:

...nothing about him measured up to the proud dignity of angels.

Thus it is that the Church, in the form of Father Gonzaga, counsels prudence and is sceptical about the angelic identity of the man. Marquez may well be satirising the church in this episode and the power and supposed knowledge that they have.

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