Saint Manuel, the Good, Martyr

by Miguel de Unamuno

Translated from the Spanish by Nancy Mayberry
for the use of students in Spanish 2665

        Now that the bishop of the diocese of Renata, to which my village of Valverde de Lucerna belongs, is going about, so they say, beginning the process for the beatification of our Don Manuel, or rather, Saint Manuel the Good, who used to be our parish priest, I want to leave written here, by way of confession, (and only God knows and not I what fate it may have), everything that I know and remember about that motherly male who filled the most intimate part of my life and soul, who was my true spiritual father, the father of my soul, of myself, Angela Carballino.

        The other one, my flesh and temporal father, I scarcely knew, since he died when I was very young. I know that he had arrived in our Valverde de Lucerna as a stranger, that he settled here upon marrying my mother. He brought with him some few books, the Quixote, works of classical theater, some historical novels, histories, the Bertoldo, all mixed up, and as a daydreaming child I devoured those books, almost the only ones in the whole village. My good mother scarcely told me any facts or sayings of my father. Those of Don Manuel, whom like the whole village she adored, with whom she was in love- of course most chastely- had wiped out the very memory of those of her husband.  Each day, on praying the rosary, she fervently commended him to God.

        I remember our Don Manuel as if it were yesterday, when I was a child of ten, before they took me off to the religious school in the cathedral city of Renada . Our priest was probably about thirty seven years old then. He was tall, thin, erect, and carried his head like our Buitre Peak carries its crest, and there was in his eyes the blueish depth of our lake. He attracted the glance of everybody, and after that, their hearts, and he, upon looking at us, seemed to look straight through our flesh like glass, to look at our hearts.  We all loved him, but especially the children. What things he told us! They were things, not words. The town began to reek of holiness; one felt full and drunk with its aroma.

         It was then that my brother Lazaro, who was in America from where he regularly sent us money so that we might live in seemly comfort, made my mother send me to the religious school, so that I might complete my education outside of the village. And this, even though he didn’t think much of nuns. “But since there”, he wrote us, “there are no progressive lay schools as far as I know, and even fewer for girls, one must make do with what there is. The important thing is that Angelita be polished and not continue among the crude village girls.” And I entered the school intending at first to become a teacher in it, but then I got tired of pedagogy.

        At school I met girls from the city, and became friends with some of them. But I kept in touch with the things and the people in our village, from which I received frequent news, and now and again a visit. And the fame of our parish priest reached even as far as the school, and he began to be talked about in the cathedral city. The nuns questioned me unceasingly about him.


        From the time I was very young on, I don’t know exactly how, I fed on curiosities, worries, and anxieties, caused at least in part because of that jumble of books belonging to my father, and

all of it increased in school, in my dealings especially with a friend who became extremely fond of me, and who sometimes proposed that we should enter the same convent together, swearing eternal sisterhood and even signing the vow in our blood. Other times she spoke to me with her eyes half closed of boyfriends, of matrimonial adventures. Actually, I have not heard from her again nor do I know her fate. And when we talked of Don Manuel, or when my mother told me something about him in her letters, (and he was in nearly all of them) that I used to read to my friend, she used to exclaim as if in ecstasy, “How lucky you are my friend, being able to live near a saint like that, a real live saint, of flesh and bone, and be able to kiss his hand! When you return to your town, write lots to me, lots and lots, tell me all about him!”

             I spent some five years in the school, that now seems lost as if in a morning dream in the far off mist of memory, and at fifteen I returned to my Valverde de Lucerna. Now it was all Don Manuel, Don Manuel with the lake and the mountain. I arrived anxious to meet him, to put myself under his protection, so that he might set out for me my life’s direction.

             It was said that he had entered Seminary to become a priest with the goal of taking care of the children of one of his sisters, recently widowed, to serve as their father; that in seminary he had distinguished himself by his mental acuity, and his talent, and that he had rejected offers of a brilliant ecclesiastical career because he only wanted to stay in Valverde de Lucerna, a village stuck like a broach between the lake and the mountain that was reflected in it.

             And how he loved his people! His life was fixing broken marriages, reconciling wild sons to their fathers, or reconciling fathers to their sons, and especially consoling the bitter and bored, and to help all die a good Christian death.

             I remember among other things, that when the disgraced daughter of tía Rabona returned from the city, (the daughter who had ruined herself and returned single, hopeless, bringing a little son with her), Don Manuel never stopped until he had her old boyfriend Perote marry her, and recognize as his own the little child, telling him:

             “Look, give this poor little one a father, for he only has the one in heaven...”

             “But Don Manuel, I’m not the guilty one!”

             “Who knows, my son, who knows....! and especially because its not a question of guilt.”

             And now poor Perote, an invalid and paralyzed, has as his staff and comfort in life that son, the one who, having caught the holiness of Don Manuel, he recognized as his son, even though he was not.



             On St. John’s night, the shortest night of the year, there is accustomed to come to our lake all the poor old ladies and not a few  little old men who are considered possessed of the devil, and who seem really only to be hysterics, and sometimes epileptics, and Don Manuel undertook the task of trying to alleviate them and if possible cure them. And his presence was such that his looks, and especially the extremely sweet authority of his words, and above all his voice- how miraculous was his voice- that he succeeded in getting surprising cures. So his fame increased, which attracted to our lake and to him all the sick people in the district. And once a mother arrived asking him to do a miracle for her son, and he answered her smiling sadly;

             “I do not have permission from our lord bishop to perform miracles.”

             He was especially careful that every one should be clean. If someone wore a torn outfit, he would say to them, “Go see the sacristan, so he can mend that.” The sacristan was a tailor. And when they would go to congratulate him on New Years day, since it was his saint’s day, (his patron saint was Jesus Our Lord), Don Manuel wanted everyone to come dressed in a new shirt, and if someone did not have one, he himself gave them a present of one.

             He showed the same affection for everyone, and if he paid more attention to some, it was to the most unfortunate, and to those that seemed most rebellious. And as there was in the town a poor boy retarded since birth, Blasillo the fool, he was most affectionate to him and even succeeded in teaching him things that seemed a miracle that he had been able to learn them. And the little ember of intelligence that still remained in the retarded boy was lit when he imitated like a poor monkey Don Manuel.

             His marvelous feature was his voice, a divine voice that made one weep. When on officiating at a high or solemn mass, he intoned the preface, the church trembled and all who heard him were moved to their very core. His chant, going out from the church went to sleep on the lake and at the foot of the mountain. And when in the sermon on Good Friday, he cried out that “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” a deep tremble went through the town as over the waters of the lake on the days of the north wind. And it was as if they heard Our Lord Jesus Christ himself, as if the voice broke from that old crucifix at whose feet so many generations of mothers had left their anxieties. So that once, when his mother heard him, Don Manuel’s, she could not hold back and from the part of the church in which she was seated, she cried “My Son!” And there was a shower of tears from everyone. It was as if they believed that the maternal cry had broken forth out of the half open mouth of that statue of the Sorrowing Virgin - her heart traversed by seven swords- that was in one of the chapels of the church. Then Blasillo, the fool, went around repeating in a pathetic tone, through the byways and like an echo, the “My God , my God,  why hast thou forsaken me?” and in such a way that on hearing him everyone broke out in tears of pleasure at the imitative triumph of the poor foolish boy.

             His dealing with the people was such that no one dared to lie in front of him, and everyone, without having to go to the confessional, confessed to him. It reached such a point that when once a repugnant crime was committed in a nearby town, the judge, an insensitive man who did not know Don Manuel well, called him and said to him:

             “Lets see if you, Don Manuel, can make this bandit tell the truth.”

             “So that you can punish him?” replied the holy man. “No, sir judge, no, I don’t get the truth from anyone that might perhaps lead to his death. There between God and him...Human justice does not concern me. Judge not lest you be judged., Our Lord said.”

             “But its just that I, sir priest...”

             “Understood; render, sir judge, unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and I will give unto God that which is God’s.”

             And upon leaving he looked piercingly at the presumed criminal and said to him;

             “Be careful that God has pardoned you, for that is the only thing that matters.”



             In the town everyone went to mass, even if they only went to hear and see him at the altar where he seemed to be transfigured, his face lighting up. There was a holy practice that he introduced into the popular rite, and that was, gathering in the church the whole town, men and women, old and young, some thousand people, we used to recite in unison, with one single voice, the Creed: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and Earth,  and what follows. And it was not a chorus but a single voice, a voice simple and united, all founded on one and acting like a mountain whose crest, lost sometimes in the clouds, was Don Manuel. And upon arriving at the part -I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting-, the voice of Don Manuel  plunged as into a lake, into that of the whole town, and it was there that he grew quiet. And I heard the bells of the village that they say is submerged in the lake bed here, bells that they say are also heard on the eve of St. John’s day and they were those of the submerged village in the spiritual lake of our town. I heard the voice of our dead who were resurrected in us in the communion of saints. Afterwards, upon learning the secret of our saint, I understood that it was as if a caravan  going through the dessert after the leader had died, upon approaching the end of their course, took him on their shoulders in order to put his lifeless body in the promised land.

             Most did not want to die unless holding onto his hand as if to an anchor.

             Never in his sermons did he set himself to preach against the unrighteous,- masons, liberals or heretics. Why, if there were none in the village? Nor even against the wicked press. Instead, one of his most frequent themes in his sermons was against gossip or slander. Because he forgave everyone and everything. He did not want to believe in the bad intentions of anyone.

             “Envy,” he liked to repeat, “is maintained by those who believe themselves envied, and  most persecutions are in fact the result of a persecuting mania rather than  a persecutor.”

             “But look, Don Manuel, what I meant to say...”

             And he “We ought not to worry so much about what one means to say as to what one may say without meaning to....”


             His life was active and not contemplative, fleeing as much as he could from not having anything to do. When he heard that Idleness is the mother of all vices, he answered “and the worst of all is to think idly.” And as I asked him once what  he meant by that, he answered me  “To think idly is to think in order not to do anything or to think too much about what one has done instead of what one has yet to do. What’s done is done. And another thing, there is nothing worse than remorse over what cannot be remedied. To act, to act.” I understood well from then on, that Don Manuel fled from idle thinking and when alone, from some thought that persecuted him.

             So it was that he was always busy, and not a few times in inventing occupations. He wrote very little for himself so that he did not leave us writings or notes, rather, on the other hand, he made himself a memoir writer for others, and for mothers especially he wrote letters to their absent children.

             He worked manually also, helping with his arms in certain labors of the town. At threshing time he went to thresh and winnow and while he taught them he entertained them. He sometimes substituted at their job for someone sick. One day, the cruelest in winter, he met a child, half dead with cold, whose father had sent him to pick up a cow a long way off on the mountain.

             “Look”, he told the child, “go back home and warm yourself and tell your father that I am going to take charge of it.”

             And upon returning with the animal he met the father, all confused who went out to meet him. In winter he chopped wood for the poor. When that magnificent walnut tree dried up, a matriarchal walnut tree he called it,  in whose shade he had played as a child, he took it to his house and afterwards he made it into six boards that he kept at the foot of his bed.. He made wood to warm the poor from the rest. He also used to make balls for the boys to play with and not a few toys for the children.



             He used to accompany the doctor on his rounds, and reinforced the prescriptions of the latter. He was especially interested in pregnancies, in the raising of children and he thought it one of the greatest blasphemies that of “From the cradle straight to heaven” and the other one “little angels in heaven.” He was profoundly moved by the death of children.

             “A child who is born dead or that dies just after being born, and a suicide,” he said once, “are for me the most terrible of mysteries, a crucified child!”

             And once, because of having taken his own life, the father of a suicide, a stranger,
asked if he would bury him in sacred ground, he answered him;

             “Certainly, for in the last moment, in the second of death, he doubtless repented.”

             He often went to school to help the teacher, to teach with him and not only the catechism. He fled from idleness and solitude. So that because of being with the people, and above all the young people and the children, he used to go to dances. And more than once he set himself to play the drum so that the boys and girls could dance, and this, which in another would have seemed a grotesque profanation of priesthood, in him took on the sacred character as of a religious practice. When the Angelus sounded, he dropped the drum and stick, took off his hat and everyone with him prayed;  “The Angel of the Lord announced to Mary, Hail Mary....”And then

             “And now, let’s rest for tomorrow.”

             “The main thing,” he said, “is for the people to be happy, that everyone be happy with their life. The happiness of life is the main thing of all. No one should want to die until God wills it.”

             “But I do” once a recent widow told him, “I want to follow my husband.”

             “And for what purpose?” he replied. “Stay here in order to commend his soul to God.”

             At a wedding once he said, “And if I could only change all the water of our lake into wine, into a wine that no matter how much you drank, you would grow happy without ever getting drunk, or at least achieving a happy drunkenness.”


             Once there passed through the town a band of poor puppeteers.  The leader of it, who arrived with a gravely ill and pregnant wife, and with three children who helped him, played the clown. While he was making the children and even the adults laugh in the town square, she, feeling suddenly gravely indisposed, had to retire and she withdrew escorted by a look of worry from the clown, and a burst of laughter from the children. And escorted by Don Manuel who then, in a corner of the inn in the square, helped her to die a Christian death. And when the party was over, and the townspeople and the clown learned the whole tragedy, they all went to the inn and the poor man, saying with tears in his voice; “They tell the truth dear priest that you are a saint,” and approaching him tried to take his hand to kiss it, but don Manuel anticipated him and taking the clown’s hand pronounced before everyone;

             “You are the saint, honorable clown; I saw you work and I understood that not only do you do it to give your children bread, but also to make others happy. And I tell you that your wife, the mother of your children whom I have dispatched to God while you worked and made people happy, rests in the Lord and you will join her and the angels will pay you laughing, and those whom you make laugh in the heaven of contentment.”

             And every one, children and adults, wept, and wept as much from grief as from a mysterious happiness in which grief was drowned. And later, remembering that solemn time, I understood that the imperturbable happiness of don Manuel was the temporal and earthly form of an infinite sadness that with heroic holiness he hid from the eyes and ears of others.

              With that constant activity of his, and with that joining in the work and play of everyone, he seemed to want to flee from himself, to want to flee from his solitude.  “I fear solitude” he repeated. But even so, from time to time he went alone to the banks of the lake to the ruins of that old abbey, where still seem to repose the souls of the pious Cistercians whom history had buried in oblivion. The cell of the one called Father Captain is there, and on its walls it is said there are still marks from the drops of blood with which he sprinkled them when whipping himself. Whatever did our Don Manuel think about there?  What I do remember is that once, when talking about the abbey, I asked him why it had not occurred to him to go into a cloister, he answered me;

             “It is not especially because I have, as I do have, my widowed sister and my nieces and nephews to look after, for God helps his poor, but because I was not born to be a hermit, to be an anchorite. The solitude would kill my soul, and as for a monastery, my monastery is Valverde de Lucerna. I ought not to live alone, I must not die alone. I must live for my people, die for my people. How am I going to save my soul if I do not save that of my people?”

             “But there have been holy hermits, solitary people,” I told him.


             “Yes, the Lord gave them the grace of solitude that has been denied to me, and I have to be resigned to it. I cannot lose my people in order to win my soul. So God has made me. I would not be able to stand the temptations of the dessert. I would not be able to bear alone the cross of birth.”

             I have wanted with these memoirs, those on which my faith lives, to portray our Don Manuel such as he was when I, a girl of about 17 years old, returned from the religious school of Renada to our monastery of Valverde de Lucerna. I returned to put myself at the feet of this abbot.

             “Hi, daughter of La Simona,”- he said to me when he saw me, “and now turned into a young lady, and knowing French, and how to embroider and play the piano and I don’t know what all. Now ready to give us another family. And your brother, Lazaro, when is he returning? He stays on in the New World does he?”

             “Yes, sir, he stays in America .”

             “The New World , and we in the Old. But fine, when you write him tell him for me, for the priest, that I am wanting him to return from the New World to this Old one, to bring news from over there. And tell him he will find the lake and the mountain like he left them.”

             When I went to confess with him, my unease was so great that I couldn’t say a word. I prayed the “I a sinner”, stammering, almost sobbing. And he, who noticed  it, said to me;

             “But what is wrong little lamb? What or whom are you afraid of? Because you do not tremble now under the weight of your sins nor out of fear of God. No you tremble because of me, is that not so?”

             I began to cry.

             “But what have they told you about me? What stories are these? Maybe your mother? Come on now, come on, calm down, and know that you are talking with your brother.”

             I took heart, and began to confide in him my anxieties, my doubts, my sadness.

             “Bah bah bah. And where have you read that little miss-know-it-all. All that is just literature. Don’t spend too much time on it, not even on Saint Teresa. And if you want to entertain yourself, read the Bertoldo that your father read.”

             I left that, my first confession with the holy man, profoundly consoled. And that my first fear, that more than respect, fright, with which I approached him, changed into a profound pity. I was then a young woman, almost a girl, but I began to be a woman. I felt in my very core the juice of maternity and on finding myself in the confessional next to the holy man I felt  like I heard his quiet confession in the submissive murmur of his voice, and I remembered how when  he cried out in the church the words of Jesus Christ. “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” his mother, Don Manuel’s, replied from her place; “My son!” and I heard that cry that broke the stillness of the church. And I confessed again with him in order to console him.


             Once, when in the confessional, I explained one of my doubts to him, he answered me, “As for that, you know your catechism. Do not ask me for I am ignorant...the Holy Mother church has learned men who would know how to reply.”

             “But if the learned man here is you,  Don Manuel?”

             “Me? Me a learned man? Don’t even think it. I, my learned little one, am nothing but a poor village priest. And those questions. Do you know who sends them to you, who directs them to you? Well, it is the devil.”

             And then, growing brave, I spit it out to him:

             “And if he directs them to you Don Manuel?”

            “To whom? To me? The Devil? We do not know each other, daughter, we do not know each other.”

             “And if he did direct them to you?”

             “I wouldn’t pay attention to him. And that’s enough eh? Lets hurry for some truly sick people are waiting for me.”

             I withdrew, thinking, I don’t know why, that our Don Manuel, such a famous curer of devil-possessed people, did not believe in the Devil. And on going home I ran across Blasillo the fool, who by chance was going by the church, and on seeing me, in order to entertain me with his abilities, he repeated, and how he did it...that “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” I reached the house very grief stricken and shut myself up in my room to cry until my mother came.

             “It seems to me, Angelita, that with so many confessions, you are going to become a nun on me.”

             “Don't fear that, mother,” I answered her, “for I have plenty to do here in the town which is my convent.”


             “Until you marry.”

             “I don’t intend to.” I answered her.

             And another time that I met Don Manuel,  I asked him looking straight into his eyes:
 “And is there a Hell,  Don Manuel?”

             And he, without flinching;

             “For you, my daughter, no.”

             “And for others, is there?”

             “And what does it matter to you if you are not going to it?”

             “It matters to me for the others. Is there?”

              “Believe in heaven, in the heaven that we see. Look at it, and he showed it to me on top of the mountain and below, reflected in the lake.”

             “But you must believe in Hell as in Heaven,”  I answered him.

             “You have to believe everything that the Holy Mother Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church believes and teaches to believe. And that’s enough.”

             I read I don’t know what deep sadness in his eyes, blue as the waters of the lake.

             The years passed as in a dream. The image of Don Manuel kept on growing in me without my realizing it, for he was such a daily man, as daily as the daily bread we asked for in the Our Father. I used to help him as much as I could in his duties; I visited the sick, our sick, the girls at school, I fixed the robes in the church, I became, as he called me, his deaconess. I went for a few days as a guest to a school friend in the city, and had to return, because I was drowning in the city, I needed something, I felt thirsty for the sight of the waters of the lake, hungry for the sight of the peaks of the mountain, I felt above all the lack of my Don Manuel, and as if his absence called me, as if he was in danger far from me, as if he needed me; I wanted to alleviate for him the weight of his cross of birth.

             So I was approaching my 24th year when my brother Lazaro returned from the New World , bringing a small fortune he had saved. He arrived here, in Valverde de Lucerna with the idea of taking my mother and me to live in the city, perhaps Madrid .


             “In the village,” he said, “one grows silly, one grows crude and one grows poor.” And he added;

             “Civilization is the contrary of ruralization, village foolishness no!  I didn’t have you go to school so you could rot here afterwards, among these crude country bumpkins.”

             I kept quiet, although ready to resist emigration, but our mother who was more than sixty, opposed it from the first. “At my age to change waters?” she said first. But then she gave him to understand quite clearly that she could not live away from the sight of her lake, of her mountain, and above all, of her Don Manuel.

             “You are like cats that stick to their hearth!”  my brother repeated.

             When he realized the complete control our holy man exercised over the whole town, and especially over us, my mother and me, he grew irritated at him. He seemed to represent to him the dark theocracy in which he believed Spain was sunk. And he began to spout off without ceasing all the old anti-clerical and even anti-religious commonplaces that he had brought renewed from the New World .

             In this Spain of weaklings, he used to say, the priests handle the women and the women handle the men, and then the countryside. The countryside. This feudal country...

             For him feudal was a terrible word; feudal and medieval were the two names he preached when he wanted to condemn something.

             The lack of effect that his diatribes had on us disconcerted him, as well as the lack of effect they had on the town where they listened to him with polite indifference. “There is no one who can reach these rustics.” But because he was good, as well as intelligent, he soon realized the sort of power that don Manuel commanded over the town and he soon found out about the work of the priest in the town.

             “No he’s not like the others,” he said, “he is a saint!”

             “But do you know what other priests are like?” I asked him.

             “I can imagine.”

             But he still never entered the church, nor did he stop making evident everywhere his lack of belief, although always excepting Don Manuel. And then there began to form in the town, I don’t know how, a sort of expectation, like a duel between my brother and Don Manuel, or rather the conversion of the former by the latter. No one doubted that in the end, the parish priest would bring him into his parish. Lazaro on the other hand, was burning with desire (he told me later) to hear Don Manuel, to see him and to hear him in the church, to approach him and talk with him, to know the secret of his spiritual dominion over souls. And he was asked about it so much that finally, out of curiosity- he said- he went to hear him.


             “Yes, this is something else,” he told me as soon as he heard him. “He is not like the others, but he doesn’t fool me; he is too intelligent to believe everything he has to teach.”

             “But do you think he is a hypocrite?” I asked him.

             “Hypocrite? No! But he has to live out the office he has.”

             As for me, my brother was anxious for me to read the books that he brought and others he encouraged me to buy.

             “So your brother Lazaro,” said Don Manuel, “is anxious for you to read. Well, read, my daughter, read and enjoy. I know you will not read anything but good things, read even novels. Histories that are called true are not any better. Its better for you to read than to feed on the gossip and old wives’ tales in the town. But read especially pious works that make you happy to live, a pleasant and silent happiness.”

             Did he have it?

             Then our mother grew fatally ill and died, and in her last days, her only desire was that Don Manuel should convert Lazaro whom she expected to see again one day in heaven, in a corner of the stars whence she might see the lake and mountain of Valverde de Lucerna . She was leaving now to see God.

             “You are not leaving,” Don Manuel said to her, “you are staying. Your body here at this hearth and your soul also here, in this house, seeing and hearing your children, even if they cannot see nor hear you.”

             “But I, father, I am going to see God.”

             “God, my child, is here as everywhere, and you will see him from here. And all of us in Him and He in us.”

             “May it so please God,” I said to him.

             “The contentment in which your mother dies,” he told me,  “will be her eternal life.”
 And turning to my brother Lazaro;


             “Her heaven is to continue seeing you, and now is when you must save her. Tell her that you will pray for her.”


             “But? Tell her that you will pray for her, the one to whom you owe your life, and I know that once you promise you will pray, and I know that as soon as you pray...”

             My brother, his eyes full of tears, approaching our dying mother, promised her solemnly to pray for her.

             “And I in heaven for you, for you both,” replied my mother, and kissing the crucifix and with her eyes turned to those of Don Manuel she handed her soul over to God.

             “Into thy hands I commend my spirit,” prayed the holy man.

            My brother and I were left alone in the house. What happened at the death of our mother put Lazaro in contact with Don Manuel who seemed to somewhat neglect his other patients, his other needy people, in order to attend to my brother. They went for walks in the afternoons along the banks of the lake or towards the ivy-clothed ruins  of the old Cistercian abbey.

             “He is a marvelous man,” Lazaro told me. “You know how they say that in the bottom of the lake there is a submerged village, and that on St. John’s Eve at midnight , you can hear the bells of its church?”

             “Yes,” I answered him, “a feudal and medieval village.”

             “And I think,” he added, “that in the depths of the soul of our Don Manuel there is also submerged, drowned, a village, and that some times you hear its bells.”

             “Yes,” I told him, “that submerged village in Don Manuel’s soul...and why not in yours too? It is the cemetery of the souls of our grandparents, those from our Valverde de Lucerna, feudal and medieval!”

             My brother ended up always going to mass to hear Don Manuel, and when he said he would commune with the parish, that he would commune when the others communed, there ran an intimate rejoicing through the whole town that believed they had brought him back. But it was such a clean rejoicing that Lazaro did not feel either conquered or diminished.

             And the day of his communion arrived, before the whole town and with the whole town. When my brother’s turn came, I could see that Don Manuel, as white as the snow on the mountain in January, and trembling like the lake when the wind blew over it, approached with the sacred host in his hand, and he was trembling so much that when he brought it to Lazaro’s mouth, he dropped the host as he was overtaken with dizziness. And it was my brother himself  who picked up the host and brought it to his mouth. And the people, on seeing Don Manuel weep, wept too saying, “How he loves him.” And then, because it was dawn, a cock crowed.


             On returning home and shutting myself in with my brother, I threw my arms around his neck and kissing him said:

             “Ay Lazaro, Lazaro, how happy you have made us all, all of us, the whole town, everyone, the living and the dead, and especially Mama, our mother. Did you see? Poor Don  Manuel wept with joy. What joy you have given us all!”

             “That’s why I did it,”he answered me.

             “That’s why?  To make us happy? You must have done it for yourself, through conversion.”

             And then Lazaro, my brother, as pale and trembling as Don Manuel when he gave him communion, made me sit down in the very chair where our mother used to sit, took a deep breath, and then, in an intimate, domestic and family confession told me:
 “Look Angelita, the time has come to tell you the truth, the whole truth, and I’m going to tell you, because I must tell you, because I cannot and must not keep it quiet  and because besides, you would have guessed half of it, which is worse, sooner or later.”

             And then serenely and quietly, in a half whisper, he told me a story that submerged me into a lake of sadness. How Don Manuel had worked on him especially during those walks to the ruins of the old Cistercian abbey, for him not to cause problems, for him to give a good example, for him to conform himself to the religious life of the people, for him  to pretend to believe if he didn’t believe, for him to hide his ideas in that respect, but without even trying to teach him the catechism, to convert him in a different way.

             “But is that possible?” I exclaimed, confounded.

             “And so possible my sister, and so possible.” And when I said to him “But how can you a priest advise me to pretend?” he, stammering “To pretend? To pretend, no. That is not pretending. Take holy water someone said and you will end up believing. And as I, looking into his eyes said to him, ‘And you celebrating mass, have you ended up believing?’ he lowered his gaze to the lake and his eyes filled with tears. And that is how I got his secret from him.”


             “Lazaro!” I groaned.

             And at that moment, Blasillo the fool went by in the street calling his “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And Lázaro shuddered, thinking he heard the voice of San Manuel, or perhaps that of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

             “Then,” continued my brother, “I understood his motives and that is when I understood his sainthood; because he is a saint, my sister, a complete saint. He didn’t try to win me for his holy cause, because it is a cause, because it is a holy cause, extremely holy, but he did it for peace, for happiness and for the illusions if you want, of those who are entrusted to him; I understood that if he deceived them thus, if this is deceit, it is not to win anything for himself. I gave in to his speeches, and here is my conversion. And I will never forget the day on which I said to him,  ‘But Don Manuel, the truth, the truth above all!’ he, trembling, whispered in my ear even though we were in the middle of the countryside. “The truth? The truth Lazaro is perhaps something terrible, something intolerable, something mortal; the simple people could not live with it.” “And why did you let me get a glimpse of it here and now, as if in a confession?” And he “Because if not, it torments me so that I would end up shouting it in the middle of the square, and never that, never, never, never. I have to make the souls of my parishioners live, to make them happy and to make them dream themselves immortal, and not to kill them. What is needed here is that they live in a healthy way in unanimity of feeling, and with the truth, with my truth, they wouldn’t live. Let them live. And this is what the church does. It lets them live. True religion? All religions are true insofar as they make their people that profess them live spiritually, insofar as they console them for having been born to die, and for each people the truest religion is theirs, the one that has made them. And mine? Mine is to console myself by consoling others, although the consolation I give them is not mine.” I will never forget these words of his.

             “But that communion of yours was a sacrilege!” I dared to suggest, repenting immediately upon suggesting it.

             “Sacrilege? and the one who gave it to me? And his masses?”

             “What martyrdom!” I exclaimed.

             “And now,” added my brother, “there is another one to console the people.”

             “To deceive them?” I said.

             “To deceive them, no,”  he answered, “but to corroborate them in their faith.”

             “And it, the town,” I said, “does it truly believe?”


             “How do I know?  It believes unwittingly, out of habit, out of tradition. And what is necessary is not to wake them up. And let them live in their poverty of sense so that they not acquire the torture of luxury. Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

             “That, my brother, you have learned from Don Manuel. And now, tell me, have you fulfilled that promise that you made to our mother when she was going to die on us, that one that you would pray for her?”

             “Who would not fulfill it! Who have you taken me for? my sister. Do you think me capable of failing to keep my word, a solemn promise, and a promise made at the bedside of a dying mother?”

             “What do I know! You could have deceived her so that she could die content.”

             “The fact is, if I didn’t fulfill the promise, I would live without consolation.”


             “I fulfilled the promise and I have not failed to pray for her one single day.”

             “Only for her?”

             “Well, who else?”

             “For yourself! And from now on for Don Manuel!”

             We separated, each to his own room, I to weep all night long and to ask for the conversion of my brother and of Don Manuel. And he, Lázaro I don’t know very well, for what.

             After that day, I trembled to find myself alone with Don Manuel, whom I continued accompanying on his pious duties. And he seemed to realize my inner state, and to guess its cause. And when I finally approached him in the confessional, who was the judge and who the criminal? The two of us, he and I bowed our head in silence and began to weep. And it was he, don Manuel who broke the tremendous silence to tell me with a voice that seemed to come out of his bones,

             “But you, Angelina, you believe as when you were ten, isn’t it so? You believe.”

             “Yes, I believe, Father.”

             “Then keep on believing. And if doubts occur to you, keep them quiet even from yourself. One must live.”


             I dared, all trembling, to say;

             “But you, father, do you believe?”

             He hesitated a moment, and answering me said;

             “I believe.”

         “But in what, father, in what? Do you believe in the after life? Do you believe that when we die we do not die to everything. Do you believe that we will see each other again, to love each other in the life to come? Do you believe in the after life?”

         The poor saint was sobbing.

             “Look, daughter, lets leave this alone.”

             And now, on writing this memoir, I wonder. Why did he not deceive me? Why did he not deceive me then as he deceived the others? Why was he so afflicted? Because he couldn’t deceive himself or because he couldn’t deceive me? And I want to believe that he was afflicted because he could not deceive himself in order to deceive me.

             “And now,” he added, “pray for me, for your brother, for yourself, for everyone. One must live, And one must give life.”

             And after a pause

             “And why do you not marry Angela?”

             “You already know, my father, why.”

             “But no, no. You have to marry. Between Lazaro and me, we will find you a boyfriend. Because you need to get married to cure yourself of these worries.”

             “Worries Don Manuel?”

             “I know what I’m saying. And don’t worry too much about the rest, that each one has enough to have to answer for himself.”

             “And you are the one, Don Manuel, to tell me that? That you are the one who advises me to marry to answer for myself and not worry about the others? You are the one?”

             “You are right, Angelina, I no longer know what I am saying now that I am confessing to you. But yes, yes, it is necessary to live, one must live.”


    And when I began to get up to leave the church he said to me, “And now, Angelina, in the name of the people, do you absolve me?”

    I felt myself penetrated with a mysterious priesthood, and I said to him, “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I absolve you father.”

    And we left the church, and on leaving I felt my maternal core tremble.

     My brother, now completely dedicated to the service of Don Manuel, was his most assiduous collaborator and friend. Moreover, their common secret united them. He accompanied him on his visits to the sick, to the schools, and he put his money at the disposition of the holy man. And he did all but learn to help him in the mass. And he continued to enter more and more into the impenetrable soul of Don Manuel.

      “What a man,” he told me. “Yesterday, strolling on the banks of the lake, he told me, ‘Here is my greatest temptation.’ And as I asked him with a look, he added, ‘My poor father who died at nearly ninety, spent his life, as he confessed to me himself, tortured by the temptation of suicide, that came to him he knew not whence, from his race he used to say, defending himself from it. And that defense was his life. Not to succumb to the temptation he took great care to conserve his life. He told me of terrible scenes. It seemed craziness to me. And I have inherited it. And how that water calls me with its apparent quietude, the current runs inside, a mirror to the sky. My life Lazaro is like a continuous suicide, a combat against suicide that is the same, but let them live, let our people live. And then he added, ‘Here the river eddies into the lake for a while, going down to the tableland, then hastening into falls, rapids and torrents through the ravines and gorges next to the city, and so does life eddy, here, in the village. But the temptation of suicide is greatest here, next to the eddy that mirrors the stars at night, not next to the falls, that make one frightened. See, Lazaro, I have helped poor villagers in the last rites who were ignorant, illiterate, who had scarcely left the village, and I have been able to know from their lips, and when I didn’t guess it, the true cause of their mortal illness, and I have seen there at the head of their death bed, all the blackness of the abyss of the tedium of life. A thousand times worse than hunger. Let us continue then, Lazaro, committing suicide in our work and in our people, that they may dream this life, like the lake dreams the sky.’”

      “Another time,” my brother also told me, “when we were returning here we saw a girl, a goatherd, erect on the tall peak on the slope of the mountain, within sight of the lake, who was singing in a voice fresher than the waters of the latter. Don Manuel stopped me, and pointing her out to me, said: “Look, it seems as if time had stopped, as if that girl had been there always, as she is, and singing as she is, and as if she would


continue being thus, always, as she was when my conscience did not begin, as she will be when I am no longer. That girl forms a part, with the rocks, the clouds, the trees, the waters, of nature and not of history.”  How he feels, how Don Manuel gives life to nature. I will never forget the day of the snow storm when he said to me ‘Have you ever seen Lazaro, a greater mystery that that of snow falling on the lake and dying in it, while it covers the mountain with its mantle?’

      Don Manuel had to restrain my brother in his zeal and in his inexperience as a neophyte. And when he found out that the latter was going around preaching against certain popular superstitions, he had to tell him;

       “Leave them alone. It is so difficult to make them understand where orthodox belief ends and superstition begins. And even more so for us. Leave them alone, as long as it consoles them.  It is better for them to believe it all, even contradictory things, than not to believe in anything. That business of believing too much ends up in not believing anything is a Protestant thing. Lets not protest. Protest kills happiness.”

        One night when there was a full moon, my brother also told me, they were returning to the village along the bank of the lake over whose surface a mountain breeze was making ripples, and the rays of light from the full moon were shining on the ripples, and Don Manuel said to Lazaro;

        Look, the water is praying the litany and is saying now ianua caeli, ora pro nobis,
“gate of heaven, pray for us.”

        And there fell trembling from his eyelashes to the grass of the ground, two fleeting tears, in which also, as in the dew, the light of the full moon bathed.

        And time passed and my brother and I observed that the strength of Don Manuel was beginning to fail, and that he no longer completely contained the bottomless sadness that consumed him, that perhaps a treacherous illness was consuming his body and soul. And Lazaro, perhaps to distract him more, proposed that it might be well for them to found something in the church like a catholic agrarian union.

        “ Union ?” replied Don Manuel sadly, “ Union ? And what is that? I do not know any union except the church and you already know that business of ‘my kingdom is not of this world’;. Our kingdom Lazaro, is not of this world.....”

        “And of the other?”

        Don Manuel lowered his head.



         “The other one Lazaro is here also, because there are two kingdoms in this world. Or rather the other world...come now, I don’t know what I’m saying. As far as that business of a union, it is a vestige in you of your progressive phase. No Lazaro, no, religion is not to resolve economic or political conflicts in this work that God handed over to man’s quarrels. Let men think and work as they think and work, to console themselves for having been born, to live as happily as they can in the illusion that all this has an end. I have not come to subject the poor to the rich, nor to preach to the latter that they should submit to the former. Resignation and charity in everyone, for everyone. Because the rich have to be resigned to their wealth, and to life, and also the poor have to be charitable with the rich. Social questions? Leave them alone, that does not concern us. Should they bring a new society in which there are no longer rich nor poor, in which wealth is justly distributed, on which everything belongs to everybody, and then what? Don’t you think that from the general well-being there will rise up even more strongly the tedium of life?  Yes, I know that one of those leaders of the so-called social revolution said that religion is the opiate of the people. Opiate,...opiate...opiate, yes. Let us give them opium, that they may sleep and dream. I myself with this crazy activity am administering opium to myself. And I don’t succeed in sleeping well and even less in dreaming well. ...This terrible nightmare! And I also can say with the Divine Master “My soul is sad unto death”. No Lazaro, no nothing of unions on our part. If they form them it will seem fine to me, because they will be distracted. Let them play at unions if that makes them happy.”

        The people all observed that don Manuel’s strength was fading that he was growing tired. His very voice, that voice that was a miracle, acquired a certain intimate tremble. Tears overwhelmed him at any cause. And especially when he spoke of the other world to the people, of the other life, so that he had to stop for a while, closing his eyes. It’s just that he is seeing it, they said. And in those moments it was Blasillo the fool who wept with the most bitterness. Because now Blasillo wept more than he laughed and even his laughter sounded like weeping.

        When there arrived the last Holy week that Don Manuel celebrated with us, in our world, in our village, the people all foresaw the end of the tragedy. And how then rang out that “My God, my God, why hast thou foresaken me?”, the last one that Don Manuel sobbed in public. And when he said the words of the Divine Master to the good thief- “All thieves are good,” our Don Manuel used to say, - that “Tomorrow you will be with me in paradise.” And the last general communion that our saint distributed! When he came to give to my brother, this time with a sure hand, after the liturgical in vitam aeternam, he bent over to his ear and said to him “there is no eternal life but this one, then let them dream it eternal...eternal for a few years”... And when he gave it to me he said, “Pray my daughter, pray for us.” And then something so extraordinary that I carry it in my heart as the greatest mystery, and it was that he told me with a voice that seemed from the other world, “and pray also for Our Lord Jesus Christ.”


        I got up without strength and as if sleepwalking. And everything around me seemed a dream. And I thought, “I will have to pray also for the lake and the mountain.” and then “Can I be possessed of a devil?” And once at home I took the crucifix which my mother held in her hands when she had entrusted her soul to God, and looking through my tears and remembering the “My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?” of our two Christs, the one on this earth and the one from this village, I prayed: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, first, and then  “and lead us not into temptation, amen.” Then I turned to that image of the Sorrowing Virgin with her heart traversed by seven swords, that had been the most painful consolation of my poor mother, and I prayed, “Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, amen.”  And scarcely had I prayed when I asked myself: “Sinners? Us sinners? And what is our sin, what?” And I went around bothered all day by this question.

        The next day I went to don Manuel who was acquiring a final religious solemnity, and I said to him:

        “Remember my father, when years ago, upon asking you a question you answered me with ‘Do not ask me, for I am ignorant. The Holy Mother Church has doctors who will know how to answer you’?”

        “Yes, I remember, and I remember that I told you that it was the Devil who dictated those questions to you.”

        “Well, fine, father, today I’m returning, the bedeviled one, to direct another question to you that my guardian devil dictates to me.”


        “Yesterday, when you gave me communion, you asked me to pray for us all, even for...”

        “Fine, keep it quiet and continue.”

        “I arrived home and began to pray and on reaching that ‘pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death,’ an intimate voice said to me ‘Us sinners? And what is our sin?’ “What is our sin father?”

        “What?” he answered. “A great doctor of the Catholic Apostolic Spanish church has already said it, the one who already said it, the great doctor of  Life is a Dream, already said that the greatest sin of man is having been born. That, my daughter, is our sin, that of having been born.”

        "And does it get cured?"


        “Go and pray again. Pray again for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Yes, at the end, the dream is cured. the end life is the end, the cross of our birth ends....and as Calderon said, doing well, and deceiving well, is not wasted even in dreams.”

       And the hour of his death finally arrived. The whole town saw it coming. And it was his greatest lesson. He didn’t want to die alone nor in idleness. He died preaching to the town, in the church. First, before ordering them to bring him since he could no longer move on account of paralysis, he called Lazaro and me to his house. And there, the three of us alone, he said to us:

        "Listen: take care of these poor sheep, that they are consoled with life, that they believe what I have not been able to believe. And you Lazaro, when you are about to die, die like me, as our Angela will die, in the bosom of the Holy Mother Catholic Apostolic Roman church, of the Holy Mother Church of Valverde de Lucerna of course. And until never seeing more, since this dream of life ends..."

         “Father, father,” I groaned.

         “Don’t grieve, Angela, and continue praying for all us sinners, for all those born, And let them dream, let them dream. How anxious I am to sleep, to sleep and sleep and sleep, to sleep without end, to sleep for a whole eternity, and without dreaming! Forgetting the dream! When they bury me, have it be in a box made from those six planks that I carved from the old walnut tree, poor thing! in whose shade I played as a child when I began to dream....And when yes I believed in eternal life. That is to say, I imagine now that I believed then. For a child to believe is nothing more than to dream. And for a town. Those six planks that I carved with my own hands, you will find at the foot of my bed.”

         Dizziness overwhelmed him and then recovering from it, he continued:

         “Remember that when you all pray as one, in unanimity of sense, the whole town, the Creed, upon arriving at the end I grew quiet. When the Israelites were reaching the end of their pilgrimage through the dessert, the Lord said to Aaron and to Moses, that for not having believed, they would not lead their people into the promised land, and he had them go up to the Mount of Hor where Moses had Aaron undress and there he died, and then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of the Fasga, in front of Jerico, and the Lord showed him all the land promised to his people, but telling him, ‘You will not go there’, and there Moses died and no one knew his sepulcher. And he left as his leader Joshua. Lazaro, you be my Joshua and if you can stop the sun, stop it and don’t worry about progress. As Moses, I have known the Lord, our supreme dream, face to face and now you know that the Scripture says that the one who sees the face of God, that the one who sees in the dream, the eyes of the face which looks at us, that one dies without remedy and for ever. So may the town never see it, then, the face of God, while it lives, for after death there is no care since it will see nothing.


         “Father, father, father,” I groaned again.

         And he: “You Angela, pray always, keep praying that the sinners continue to dream until they die the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”

         I expected a “And who knows?” when another faint overtook Don Manuel.

         “And now,” he added, “now at the hour of my death is the hour that you must have them take me to the church, in this very chair, to say good-bye there to my people who are waiting for me.”

         He was taken to the church and placed in the chair in the presbytery, at the foot of the altar. He had a crucifix in his hands. My brother and I stood next to him, but it was Blasillo the fool who stayed closest to him. He wanted to grasp Don Manuel’s hand, to kiss it. And as some tried to prevent it, Don Manuel stopped them saying;

         “Let him approach me. Come Blasillo, give me your hand.”

           The foolish boy wept with joy. And then Don Manuel said;

         “Very few words my children, for I scarcely have strength for anything but to die. And I have nothing new to tell you. I’ve told you all of it. Live in peace and happiness and hoping we will all see each other one day in the Valverde de Lucerna that is there among the stars of the night that are reflected in the lake, on the mountain. And pray, pray to Most holy Mary, pray to Our Lord. Be good, for this is enough. Forgive the harm that I might have done you unwittingly and without knowing it. And now, after I give you my blessing, all of you pray the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Hail Queen and finally the Creed.''

         Then with the crucifix that he held in his hand he blessed the people, the women weeping, and the children, and not a few men, and immediately they began the prayers that Don Manuel heard in silence, and holding Blasillos’s hand, who at the sound of the prayer went to sleep. First the Our Father with its “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and then the Holy Mary with its “Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death,” followed by the Hail Queen with its “groaning and weeping in this vale of tears” and finally the Creed. And upon arriving at the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, the whole town felt that their saint had handed his soul over to God. And it wasn’t necessary to close his eyes, because he died with them closed. And upon going to wake Blasillo up we discovered that he had gone to sleep in the Lord forever. So it was we had to bury two bodies.



         The whole town went immediately to the saint’s house to get relics, to divide up pieces of his clothing and to take away what they could as relics and souvenirs of the blessed martyr. My brother kept his breviary, between whose leaves he found dried out and like in a herbaria, a carnation stuck to a paper and on this a cross with a date.

         No one in the town wanted to believe in the death of Don Manuel, all expected to see him daily and perhaps they saw him passing along the edge of the lake and mirrored in it,  or having in its depths the mountain, all continued to hear his voice, and all went to his sepulcher around which a whole cult grew up. The bedeviled came now to touch the walnut cross, made also by his own hands, and taken from the same tree from which he carved the six planks in which he was buried. And those who least of all wanted to believe that he had died were my brother and me.

         He, Lazaro, continued the tradition of the saint and began to dictate what he had heard, notes which I have used for this memoir of mine.

         “He made me a new man, a true Lazaro, one resurrected,” he told me. “He gave me faith.”

         “Faith?” I interrupted him.

          “Yes, faith, faith in the consolation of life, faith in the happiness of life. He cured me of my progressivism. Because, Angela, there are two kinds of  dangerous and evil men: those who, convinced of the life beyond the grave, of the resurrection of the body, torment others like the inquisitors they are, so that scorning this life as transitory they might win the other; and those who not believing in any more than this one...”

         “Like maybe you?”  I said.

         “Yes, and like Don Manuel. But believing only in this world, they hope for I don’t know what future society, and try to deny to the people the consolation of believing in the other.”

         “So that...”

         “So that one must act so that they live with the illusion.”

         The poor priest who came to substitute for Don Manuel in the parish entered Valverde de Lucerna overwhelmed by the memory of the saint, and he gave himself over to my brother and me so that we could guide him.  He only wanted to follow the footsteps of the saint. And my brother said to him, “Little theology, religion, religion!” And I, on hearing him, smiled to myself wondering if ours was not also theology.



         I began then to fear for my poor brother. Ever since our Don Manuel died on us, it  wasn’t right to say that he lived. He visited his tomb daily and spent hours contemplating the lake. He felt nostalgic for true peace.

         “Don’t look at the lake so much,” I said to him.

         “No, dear sister, don’t be afraid. It is another lake that calls me , another mountain. I cannot live without him.”

         “And the happiness of living, Lazaro, the contentment with life?”

         “That is for other sinners, not for us who have seen the face of God , whom he has looked the dream of life with his eyes.”

         “What?, are you preparing to go to see Don Manuel?”

         “No sister, no, now and here at home between us alone, the whole truth no matter how bitter it may be, as bitter as the sea in which the waters of this sweet lake go to stay, the whole truth for you who are sheltered against it...”

         “No, no Lazaro!, that is not the truth !”

         “It is mine, yes.”

         “Yours, but that of...”

         “Also his.”

         “Not now, Lazaro, not now. Now believe something else, now believe...”

         “Look Angela, one of the times when Don Manuel told me that there are things that although one says them to oneself, one must keep them quiet from others, I answered him that he told me that on account of saying those same things to himself, he ended up confessing to me that he believed that more than one of the greatest saints, perhaps the greatest, had died without believing in the afterlife.”

         “Is it possible?”



         “And so possible. And now sister, take care that they do not even suspect,  here in the town, our secret.”

         “Suspect it?” I said . If I tried out of craziness, to explain it to them, they would not understand it. The people do not understand words, the people have only understood your works. To want to reveal that to them would be like reading to 8-year-old children some pages of St. Thomas Latin.”

         “Fine, but when I am gone, pray for me and for him and for everyone.”

         And finally his hour also arrived. A sickness that was diminishing his robust nature seemed to be exacerbated with the death of Don Manuel.

         “I am not so much sorry at having to die,” he told me in his last days, “as that a piece of the soul of Don Manuel dies with me. But the rest of him will live with you. Until one day even the dead will die completely.”

         When he was dying, the people of the town as is the custom in our villages entered to see him die, and they commended his soul to Don Manuel to Saint Manuel the Good, the Martyr. My brother said nothing to them, he had nothing more to tell them, he had left everything said, everything that here I’ve said. It was one clamp more between the Valverde de Lucerna, the one at the bottom of the lake and the one that was seen in its surface; he was now one our dead to life, one also, in his own way, of our saints.

         I remained more than desolate, but in my town and with my people. And now, on having lost my Saint Manuel, the father of my soul and my Lazaro, my even more than flesh and blood brother, my spiritual one, now is when I realize that I have grown old and how I have grown old. But, have I lost them? Have I grown old? Am I approaching my death?

         One must live. And he taught me to live, he taught us to live, to feel life, to feel the sense of life, to submerge us in the soul of the mountain, in the soul of the lake, in the soul of the village people, to lose ourselves in them in order to remain in them. He taught me with his life, to lose myself in the life of the village people, and I didn’t feel the hours passing and the days and the years, no more than I felt the passing of the water of the lake. It seemed to me as if my life had always been the same. I didn’t feel myself grow old. I no longer lived in myself, but I lived in my people and my people lived in me. I wanted  to say what they, my people, told me unwittingly. I went out in the street that was the highway and as I knew everyone, I lived in them and I forgot myself while in Madrid , where I was one time with my brother, as I knew no one, I felt terribly alone, and tortured by so many strangers.



         And now, on writing this memoir, this intimate confession of my experience of the sanctity of another, I believe that Don Manuel the Good, that my Saint Manuel, and that my brother Lazaro died thinking they did now believe in what most interests us, but without thinking they believed it, believed it in an active and resigned desolation.

         But why, I have wondered many times, did Don Manuel not try to convert my brother also with a trick, with a lie, pretending himself a believer without being it? And I have understood that it was because he understood that he would not deceive him, that for him the deceit would not work, that only with the truth, with his truth, would he convert him; that he would have got nothing if he had tried with him to perform the comedy..tragedy rather, which he performed to save the people. And so he won him, in fact for his pious fraud, so he won him with the truth of death to the reason of life. And so he won me, who never allowed the others to guess his divine, his most holy game. And I believed and do believe that God Our Lord, for I do not know what sacred and inscrutable purposes, made them believe themselves non-believers. And that perhaps at the end of their journey, the blindfold fell from their eyes. And I, do I believe?

         And on writing this now, here, in my old maternal home, at more than fifty years of age, when my memories are beginning to grow white as well as my head, it is snowing, snowing on the lake, snowing on the mountain, snowing on the memories of my father, the stranger, of my mother, of my brother Lazaro, of my town, of my San Manuel and also on the memory of poor Blasillo of my Saint Blasillo, and may he protect me from heaven. And this snow wipes out corners and wipes out shadows, for even at night the snow lights up. And I don't know what is true and what is a lie, nor what I saw, nor what I dreamed - or rather what I dreamed and what I only saw- nor what I found out nor what I  believed. Nor do I know if I am transferring to this paper as white as snow, my conscience that is to remain on it, leaving me without it. For what purpose do I still have it?

         Do I know anything? Do I believe anything? Is it that this that I am telling here has happened and has happened just as I tell it? Can these things happen? Is all this nothing more than a dream dreamed within another dream? Is it possible that I, Angela Carballino, now fifty years old, am the only person in this village that is invaded by these thoughts so strange for the others? And these, the others, those that surround me, do they believe? What is this business of believing? At least they are living. And now they believe in San Manuel the martyr, who, without expecting immorality maintained in them the hope of it.

         It appears that the most illustrious Sir Bishop, the one who has begun the process of beatification of our saint of Valverde de Lucerna, is planning to write down his life, a sort of manual of the perfect parish priest, and is collecting for it all kinds of data. He has asked me for them insistently, has had interviews with me, I have given him all kinds of information, but I have always kept quiet the tragic secret of Don Manuel and my brother. And it is curious that he has not suspected it. And I trust that everything I leave consigned in this memoir never comes to his knowledge. I fear the authorities of the earth, earthly authorities, even those of the church.

         But let this rest here, and may its fate be whatever it may be.  


         How did this document come into my hands, this memoir of Angela Carballino?
Behold something, reader, something that I must keep secret. I give it to you just as it came to me, with only a few corrections, a very few items for editing. And does it seem similar to many other things that I have written? That does not prove anything against its objectivity, its originality. And do I not know, besides, that I have created real and effective beings outside of myself, with an immortal soul? Do I not know that Augusto Perez, from my novel Niebla, wasn’t right, on claiming to be a more real, more objective being than I myself, who thought I had invented him? It does not even occur to me to doubt the reality of this San Manuel the Good, Martyr, just as his disciple and spiritual daughter Angela Carballino has revealed him to me. I believe in her more than I believed in the saint himself. I believe in her more that I believe in my own reality.

         And now, before closing this epilogue, I want to remind, you patient reader, of the ninth verse of the Epistle of the forgotten apostle, Saint Judas - what a difference a name makes!- where he tells us how my heavenly patron, Saint Michael the Archangel.- Michael means “Who but God? and the arch-messenger archangel- fought with the devil,- devil means accuser, prosecuting attorney- for the body of Moses and did not permit them to take him in the judgment of the damned but told the devil, “The Lord scolds you.” And the one who wants to understand, let him understand.

         Since Angela Carballino mixed into her tale her own feelings, so that I don’t know what other thing could fit, I want to comment myself here on what she left recorded of if Don Manuel and his disciple Lazaro had confessed to the town their state of belief, the town would not have understood them. Nor would it have believed them, I may add. They would have believed their works and not their words, because words do not serve to support works, but works are sufficient. And for a town like Valverde de Lucerna, there is no more confession than conduct. Nor does the town know what sort of thing faith is, nor perhaps does it much matter.

Well do I know that nothing happens in what is related in this tale, if you will, this novel, for novel is the most intimate history, the truest, so that I do not understand why there are some who are indignant that the Evangelist Scriptures are called a novel, for that is to elevate it, really, over any chronicle - so well do I know that nothing happens in what is related in this tale; but I hope that it is because everything remains in it, as the lakes and the mountains remain, and the simple holy souls fixed beyond faith and despair, who in them, in the lakes and the mountains, outside of history, took refuge in a divine novel.