“In the Church those who free themselves from human passion are most rare. And who knows if, even among those few privileged ones, some are not driven by the demon of vanity to increase the asceticism of their lives, thinking of the glory of being on an altar! The priest who succeeds in subduing his flesh falls into avarice, which is the ecclesiastical vice par excellence. I have never hoarded from vice; I have saved for my own, but never for myself.”
The prelate was silent for a long while; but in his irresistible desire to confide in the simple old woman he went on.
“I am sure that God will not despise me when my hour comes. His infinite mercy is above all the littleness of life. What has been my fault? To have loved a woman, as my father loved my mother; to have had children as the apostles and saints had. And why not? Ecclesiastical celibacy is an invention of men, a detail of discipline agreed upon at the councils; but the flesh and its exigencies are anterior by many centuries; they date from Paradise. Whoever crosses this barrier, not from vice, but from irresistible passion, because he cannot conquer the impulse to create a family and to have a companion, fails indubitably towards the laws of the Church, but he does not disobey God. I fear the approach of death; many nights I doubt and tremble like a child. But I have served God in my own way. In former times I would have served Him with my sword, fighting against the heretics. Now I am His priest and do battle for Him whenever I see the impiety of the age curtailing anything of His glory. The Lord will forgive me, receiving me into His bosom. You, who are so good, Tomasa, and have the soul of an angel beneath your rough exterior, do you not think so?”
The gardener’s widow smiled, and her words fell slowly on the silence of the dying evening.
“Tranquillise yourself, Don Sebastian. I have seen many saints in this house, and they have been worth much less than you. To ensure their salvation they would have abandoned their children. To maintain what they call purity of soul they would have renounced their family. Believe me, no saints enter here; they are men, nothing but men. You have nothing to repent of in following the impulse of your heart. God created us in His image and likeness, and also planted in us family love. All the rest, chastity, celibacy and other trifles, you invented for yourselves, to distinguish yourselves from the common herd of people. Be a man, Don Sebastian, and the more you show yourself such the better it will be for you, and the better the Lord will receive you in His glory.”
A few days after Corpus Don Antolin went one morning in search of Gabriel. Silver Stick smiled at Luna, speaking to him in a patronising way.
He had thought of him all night; it pained him to see him idle, walking about the cloister; it was the want of occupation that inspired him with such perverse ideas.