Chapter 30:

In the Church

(English version of “Noli Me Tangere”)

From end to end the huge barn that men dedicate as a home to the Creator of all existing things was filled with people.  Pushing, crowding, and crushing one another, the few who were leaving and the many who were entering filled the air with exclamations of distress.  Even from afar an arm would be stretched out to dip the fingers in the holy water, but at the critical moment the surging crowd would force the hand away.  Then would be heard a complaint, a trampled woman would upbraid some one, but the pushing would continue.  Some old people might succeed in dipping their fingers in the water, now the color of slime, where the population of a whole town, with transients besides, had washed.  With it they would anoint themselves devoutly, although with difficulty, on the neck, on the crown of the head, on the forehead, on the chin, on the chest, and on the abdomen, in the assurance that thus they were sanctifying those parts and that they would suffer neither stiff neck, headache, consumption, nor indigestion.  The young people, whether they were not so ailing or did not believe in that holy prophylactic, hardly more than moistened the tip of a finger—and this only in order that the devout might have no cause to talk—and pretended to make the sign of the cross on their foreheads, of course without touching them.  It may be blessed and everything you may wish, some young woman doubtless thought, but it has such a color!

It was difficult to breathe in the heat amid the smells of the human animal, but the preacher was worth all these inconveniences, as the sermon was costing the town two hundred and fifty pesos.  Old Tasio had said: Two hundred and fifty pesos for a sermon! One man on one occasion! Only a third of what comedians cost, who will work for three nights! Surely you must be very rich!

What has that to do with the drama? testily inquired the nervous leader of the Tertiary Brethren.  With the drama souls go to hell but with the sermon to heaven! If he had asked a thousand, we would have paid him and should still owe him gratitude.

After all, you’re right, replied the Sage, for the sermon is more amusing to me at least than the drama.

But I am not amused even by the drama! yelled the other furiously.

I believe it, since you understand one about as well as you do the other! And the impious old man moved away without paying any attention to the insults and the direful prophecies that the irritated leader offered concerning his future existence.

While they were waiting for the alcalde, the people sweated and yawned, agitating the air with fans, hats, and handkerchiefs.  Children shouted and cried, which kept the sacristans busy putting them out of the sacred edifice. Such action brought to the dull and conscientious leader of the Brotherhood of the Holy Rosary this thought: ‘Suffer little children to come unto me,’ said Our Savior, it is true, but here must be understood, children who do not cry.

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