One Hundred Years of Solitude - Chapter 5


   Father Nicanor Reyna—whom Don Apolinar Moscote had brought from the swamp to officiate at the wedding—was an old man hardened by the ingratitude of his ministry. His skin was sad, with the bones almost exposed, and he had a pronounced round stomach and the expression of an old angel, which came more from, simplicity than from goodness. He had planned to return to his pariah after the wedding, but he was appalled at the hardness of the inhabitants of Macondo, who were prospering in the midst of scandal, subject to the natural law, without baptizing their children or sanctifying their festivals. Thinking that no land needed the seed of God so much, he decided to stay on for another week to Christianize both circumcised and gentile, legalize concubinage, and give the sacraments to the dying. But no one paid any attention to him. They would answer him that they had been many years without a priest, arranging the business of their souls directly with God, and that they had lost the evil of original sin. Tired of preaching in the open, Father Nicanor decided to undertake the building of a church, the largest in the world, with life-size saints and stained-glass windows on the sides, so that people would come from Rome to honor God in the center of impiety. He went everywhere begging alms with a copper dish. They gave him a large amount, but he wanted more, because the church had to have a bell that would raise the drowned up to the surface of the water. He pleaded so much that he lost his voice. His bones began to fill with sounds. One Saturday, not even having collected the price of the doors, he fell into a desperate confusion. He improvised an altar in the square and on Sunday he went through the town with a small bell, as in the days of insomnia, calling people to an open-air mass. Many went out of curiosity. Others from nostalgia. Others so that God would not take the disdain for His intermediary as a personal insult. So that at eight in the morning half the town was in the square, where Father Nicanor chanted the gospels in a voice that had been lacerated by his pleading. At the end, when the congregation began to break up, he raised his arms signaling for attention.