At the end of the novel bearing his name, Nazarín has a fever-induced vision in which he is celebrating Mass. As Nazarín takes the Host in his hands Our Lord speaks to him; and the novel closes with the remarks: «Algo has hecho por mí. No estés descontento. Yo sé que has de hacer mucho más.» If the algo that Nazarín has done is to bring home to his contemporaries the urgency of reconsidering Christ as exemplar, we could reasonably expect the mucho más to be concerned in some way with the revindication of the pristine ideals of the Christian Church. The natural corollary to the examination of Christ through parallels with the Gospels in Nazarín would seem to be the examination of His Church through parallels with the Acts of the Apostles in Halma. Disconcertingly, as A. A. Parker has pointed out, the incidents of the latter novel owe little to this particular source.90 A largely unnoticed alternative source for many of the incidents and concepts of Halma and much of its subject-matter is however to be found in the writings of St. Augustine.91
It is to the Confession of St. Augustine that Galdós is most obviously indebted for many elements included in Halma. The debt is an extensive one; and some attempt should perhaps be made to indicate the range of Galdós' usage of material from, and references to, the autobiography of the Church Father.92
Many of the major incidents in Halma have a counterpart in the Confessions. It is the story of José Antonio de Urrea which perhaps most patently recalls the main narrative burden of the Confessions -St. Augustine's chronicle of wasted times, a combination of the rake's progress and the prodigal's return to a state of Grace. Indeed, as if to emphasise the point, Galdós, when the regenerated Urrea is in the safe haven of Pedralba, comments on the pointlessness of his character's earlier years in terms close to those of St. Augustine retrospectively lamenting his own misspent early maturity:
|(I Confessions: VI, II, 336-7)|
In the Confessions St. Augustine describes an early existence which has much in common with that of Urrea, despite certain differences in matters of individual detail and temperamental qualities revealed. Marked similarities exist up to the stage at which in Galdós' novel Catalina de Halma intercedes with a corrective fiscal scheme aimed at redirecting Urrea's life and channelling his energies into more worthwhile pursuits. Thereafter the parallels between Halma and the Confessions are subtly reinforced by Galdós. He deliberately changes the emphasis from the actual kinship of Halma and her cousin Urrea to a symbolic one of a mother and son relationship which evokes that of Mónica and Augustine. The subsequent progress of Urrea's regeneration continues to exhibit features suggestive of episodes in the life of Augustine.
Urrea is initially characterised as shamelessly opportunistic, cynical in word and deed, a profligate whose actions are governed by hedonistic self-interest. But the reader is given additional insights into his character. The narrator quickly comments that he is «más desgraciado que perverso», while Halma describes her cousin in childhood as a «santito en agraz». We also learn that Urrea has, for some six months past, been trying to lead a more honourable and settled life. All these remarks lend weight to the notion that Urrea may be a gentleman masquerading as a cad through force of circumstances. Orphaned at an early age, he has been incapable of adjusting to an intractable problem: there is a discrepancy between the life-style appropriate to one of his station, born into a classes of which certain standards are expected, and the life-style he has to endure because of his limited resources. In this straitened circumstances, unable to keep up with the Feramores and their like, he feels humiliated. He is forced as it were, into keeping bad company. And he has sunk into disillusioned, aimless dissipation.94
Augustine's self-indictment to God for his early waywardness is a prominent feature of the Confession. Moreover he accuses himself of many vices for which Urrea is notorious. If José Antonio likes to cut a dash, appearing from time to time «bien vestido, gastando en coches y teatros», and he is a womaniser to boot, Augustine parades similar vices:
|(I Confessions: III, I, 133-4)|
Me arrebataban también hacia sí los espectáculos del teatro, llenos de imágenes de mis miserias, e incentivos del fuego que en mí ardía.
|(I Confessions: III, 2, 135)|
If Urrea speaks mockingly at first of Halma and religion, Augustine the novice Manichee shows comparable disrespect for things sacred that he does not comprehend:
Siendo así que ignoraba yo estas cosas, me burlaba de aquellos santos antiguos, que fueron vuestros siervos y vuestros profetas.
|(I Confessions: III, 10, 173)|
But there is another perspective to Augustine's character. Despite his unrelenting self-denigration, Augustine does dissociate himself from some of the worst excesses of his wilder contemporaries. It could fairly be claimed, as with Urrea, that «hay en él, aunque por muy escondido no se vea, materia abundante para obtener la verdadera virtud». In the apparent life of abandon in bad company —75→ for which Augustine retrospectively castigates himself, all could not have been profligacy, for he did complete his studies and earn a living as a teacher of grammar and rhetoric. But like Urrea, Augustine could not adjust and rest content even within relatively stable circumstances while he felt there was a gulf between his living reality and his aspirations. The realisation of he demoralising effect on him of such a gap was borne in on him acutely just before he had to deliver a hypocritical public panegyric for the Emperor. And the texts of the Confessions and Halma momentarily converge when comments made by Augustine on poverty as a relative state are closely mirrored in comments of Urrea reported by Halma to Manuel Flórez:
|(I Confession: VI, 6, 314-317)|
After Halma has agreed to help Urrea financially, and he is overwhelmed at his good fortune, a curious relationship is established between them in which Halma adopts the role of mother-figure and Urrea becomes, as it were, her child. Galdós stresses the mother and son motif, and there are upwards of a score of allusions to it.
Halma first reveals her «maternal» attitude towards Urrea in conversation with the priest Manuel Flórez:
No puedo menos de considerarle, señor don Manuel, como un niño mañoso a quien hay que educar.
-while Urrea, at a later stage, makes this explicit statement to Halma: «Eres como una madre para mí, y debo venerarte, porque me das el ser.» And in the ensuing snatch of dialogue and comment their symbolic (as opposed to their actual) kinship is reaffirmed:
One of the acknowledgements St. Augustine is at pains to make at frequent intervals in the Confessions is the crucial part his mother had to play in influencing his eventual decision to embrace the Catholic faith. Not only did she raise him in a Christian atmosphere but wherever possible she interceded on his behalf, with man in deed and God in prayer, when he was manifestly going astray. In the events which befall Urrea after his first interview with Catalina de Halma two features are conspicuous: loose parallels between the methods employed by the respective «mothers» to regenerate their «sons» in Halma and the Confessions; and moments where the texts of the two works again converge to convey pointedly similar sentiments. These loose parallels are discussed elsewhere (v. infra: p. 78), but it might be appropriate to drive home the affinities of Augustine and Urrea with an example of textual congruence. When Augustine is parted -through death- from a dear friend, he expresses his desolation in the following terms:
|(I Confessions: IV, 7, 204-5)|
When Urrea is parted from Halma by her departure for Pedralba:
If the general lineaments of the story of José Antonio de Urrea coincide with those parts of the Confessions which deal with Augustine's fall from grace and spiritual regeneration, the story of Catalina de Halma herself is -if less obtrusively- coloured by the Confessions. In many respects events in her life bear comparison with those in the life of Mónica, Augustine's mother. In particular her role and function in her dealings with Urrea has much in common with the mother and son relationship in the Confessions. Elsewhere in some of her actions and attitudes Halma recalls Augustine himself, especially in her schemes for the vida retirada at Pedralba, her realisation of them, and her resolution of the crisis about control over her institution.
Catalina de Artal is introduced to the reader at the beginning of Halma, and her first marriage to Carlos Federico de Halma-Lautenberg is described. Some of the circumstances of that marriage and many of the subsequent details of what occurred within and after it would seem to have affinities with events surrounding the life and marriage of Mónica described in Book IX of the Confessions. Halma —77→ weds a young German agnostic, who holds a minor diplomatic post, and who is «pobre, con el título pelado, y sin más renta que su sueldo». Carlos Federico is a man of volatile temperament who alternates between black moods and violent enthusiasms in the arts and in matters of the heart.95 Shortly before matrimony he is converted «por influencia de la angelical Catalina a un ferviente ardor cristiano, más imaginativo que piadoso». And within marriage, despite many vicissitudes, the couple enjoy a happy coexistence:
Tiernamente amada y amante, la íntima felicidad de su matrimonio la compensaba de tanta desdicha del orden externo.
Mónica -the sierva de los siervos de Dios- is given in wedlock to the pagan «nobleman» Patricius, who is a man of modest means employed as a public functionary.96 St. Augustine, addressing the Almighty, makes the following observations on his parents' match:
|(2 Confessions: IX, 9, 50-55)|
The comparison with Mónica which is suggested at the outset of Halma in this way by links between their marriage circumstances is perpetuated in later sections of the narrative. Like Mónica, once widowed, Halma decides in principle not to remarry but to lead a devout life of good works. On her return to Madrid after a difficult and ill-starred sea voyage from Corfu,97 she resolves to continue the devotional life, intending to offer succour and guidance to those in need. She steadfastly refuses to succumb to subtle pressures from her family to speak ill of her husband for the bad times she had to endure with him; and it is a feature of her disposition throughout the novel that she will neither indulge in backbiting nor take heed of it. St. Augustine comments on Mónica's similar attitude among gossiping friends, and confesses to God:
|(2. Confessions: IX, 9, 53-4)|
While Halma's plan to found a charitable religious institution has far more to do with Augustine's quasi-monastic communities at Cassiacum and Thagaste (v. infra: pp. 78-79), her links with Mónica are revived when her cousin Urrea comes to petition her for financial aid.—78→
Urrea has already been shown to be akin to Augustine the reprobate who is converted to become a faithful and distinguished servant of God; and Halma has become, symbolically, Urrea's mother. There is no question but that Halma as mother-figure is as much of an influence for the good on Urrea as Mónica on Augustine, for she similarly helps to win him back, with God's assistance, to the Catholic fold. There are even loose parallels between the methods adopted by the respective «mothers» to regenerate their «sons».
Mónica clings tenaciously to her belief in the essential goodness latent in her son. She tries to wean the young adult Augustine away from Manicheism and consults a wise old priest as to how best to go about it. She counsels continence when Augustine is dominated by lubricity; and when he is unable to control his sexual appetites encourages him to regularise them within marriage. After Augustine has deceived her and sailed impetuously away to Italy she joins him there to reassert her moral influence. Finally she supports him in his abandonment of the world to become a servus dei -even to the extent of accompanying him into the life of contemplative retirement at Cassiacum.
Halma also avers the basic goodness of Urrea. She tries to free him from a disreputable life, conniving with the priest Manuel Flórez at bringing it about. She deplores Urrea's úlceras morales and tries to provide the financial means for him to disentangle himself from his involvements with mujeres deshonestas. When Urrea breaks his undertaking to stay in Madrid and arrives in Pedralba, Halma, after a little resistance, agrees to let him stay there under her moral guidance. Urrea subsequently expresses his desire to join her permanently in her communal life of devotional retirement. After indicating the problems that might arise for him, Halma cedes to his request and fosters his spiritual development.
As was suggested earlier, Halma is identifiable in some respects with Augustine himself as well as in the foregoing ways with Mónica. It is Catalina who conceives the plan for a life of retirement in a quasi-monastic foundation which, as Gustavo Correa has pointed out, evokes the communities set up in Cassiacum, Thagaste (and also at Hippo), by St. Augustine.98 Moreover the stages through which Halma passes before reaching Pedralba bear the same kind of loose relationship previously noted for her «mother» parallels with Mónica, to the stages through which Augustine passes before retiring to Cassiacum.
St. Augustine first mentions in Book VI of the Confessions that he and a group of friends had conceived the idea of living a life of ocio, far from the madding crowd. The community envisaged was more for intellectual pursuits than specifically religious ones however; and it was over the question of whether wives and prospective wives should form part of it that the project foundered. In the interim between this original scheme and the later actual life of retirement at Cassiacum, made possible by Verecundus's generous offer to Augustine and his friends of the use of his country house there, much had happened to influence Augustine's thinking. In particular he had come into contact with the presbyter Simplicianus and the Christian layman Ponticianus, who had commended the ascetic Christian contemplative life to him. Ponticianus, with his stories of Antony El monje de la Tebaida and other monastic ascetes, had fired him with a desire to adopt this kind of vida retirada. Thus when in Book IX of the Confessions after his conversion Augustine retires to Cassiacum, his brief description of his activities reveals a qualitatively different religious devotional ideal for the retired life.—79→
There is evidence to suggest that Halma's vision of her charitable institution at Pedralba undergoes similar modification for similar reasons between its conception and realisation. In the early part of the novel references tend to indicate that Halma was countenancing a foundation with an emphasis primarily on charitable works. She discusses the matter with the presbítero Manuel Flórez, enlisting his aid to further her plans; and imperceptibly the emphasis shifts to an ever more devotional and ascetic concept, involving the religious 'cure' of Nazarín. Life at Pedralba as it is eventually described is centred firmly around ascetic and devotional activities. Retrospectively, in his advice to Halma, Nazarín affirms the shift towards a more monastic life, laying the blame for it squarely on Manuel Flórez:
¿Quién le aconsejó a usted que renunciase a todo afecto mundano y que se consagrara al efecto ideal, al afecto puro de las cosas divinas? Sin duda fue el benditísimo don Manuel Flórez...
Although there is no detailed account in the Confessions of the way in which life at Cassiacum was organised from the practical point of view, St. Augustine in outlining the earlier unrealised project gave some guidance as to how the community would function. Readers of Halma might well see some of the features of Pedralba in this description from the Confessions:
|(I Confessions: VI, 14, 347-9)|
In at least one other important respect Halma is identifiable with St. Augustine himself. A key incident in her story, when she is faced with the agonising dilemma of relinquishing control of Pedralba or banishing Urrea from her community and she consults Nazarín as to the way out of her impasse, is a carefully transmuted version of the conversion of Augustine in the garden recounted in Book VIII of the Confessions.
The sequences in both Halma and the Confessions start with the main protagonists deeply troubled and moved to tears. Halma is vexed by the dilemma mentioned above, Augustine by his own inability, despite strong inner promptings, to renounce the world and become a servus dei. Each has a companion -Beatriz and Alypius respectively- with whom they have discussed their problem, to whom their anxiety is apparent, and who stays in discreet attendance during their —80→ crises. Augustine goes into the garden adjoining his house to wrestle intellectually with his problem. As he tries to commune with his Maker for guidance his agitation increases and is physically expressed:
|(I Confessions: VIII, 8, 474)|
Halma summons Nazarín to her room to confer with him. As the meeting proceeds the tension in her also rises. She becomes tongue-tied, flushed, and eventually with «los ojos espantados, el rostro encendido»:
In fact Nazarín had not previously advised Halma to marry in so many words. What he had said was more generally phrased:
[...] que su vida necesita del apoyo de otra vida para no tambalearse, para andar siempre bien derecha.
Halma chose to interpret Nazarín's words in the light of her possibly subconscious wishes; and she goes on, in conversation with Beatriz after reviving from her swoon, to divine a further piece of advice not voiced by Nazarín: that it is Urrea whom she should marry. This is a process similar to that undergone by Augustine when, at the height of his emotional trauma, he hears an unknown child's voice singing insistently: «Toma y lee, toma y lee.» He places his own interpretation on the phenomenon; opens at random his copy of the Epistles of St. Paul which are nearby; and intuits the first verse he lights upon:
No en banquetes ni embriagueces, no en vicios y deshonestidades, no en contiendas y emulaciones; sino revestíos de nuestro Señor Jesucristo, y no empleéis vuestro cuidado en satisfacer los apetitos del cuerpo.
|(St. Paul: Romans, 13, 13, quoted in I Confessions: VIII, 12, 494)|
-as being a divine injunction to renounce the world and become a servus dei. Interestingly, both Augustine and Halma, who have hitherto shown marked scepticism about claims for divine inspiration, here accept without demur that their own decisions, reached on the basis of outside advice, are divinely revealed to them.99 In the wake of the momentous decisions taken by Catalina and Augustine respectively in their crises, the parallels between Halma and the Confessions are sustained in the subsequent reactions of interested parties.100
If the story of Urrea owes much to that of Augustine the regenerate reprobate, and incidents involving Catalina de Halma combine elements involving Augustine and Monica's lives, Galdós links yet another character, Feramor, back to the Confessions as well. It was noted, in remarks made about Urrea's similarities to Augustine, that the saint's early life differed from the fictional character's in matters —81→ of individual detail; and revealed different qualities of temperament. Augustine as a young adult for instance held down a post as grammarian and rhetorician, whereas Urrea flitted from job to job. Not merely was there an unprofligate side to Augustine, but his essential security and industry are somewhat masked by his insistence, backed with frequent allusions to the story of the Prodigal Son, on his misspent early maturity. A closer reading of the Confessions reveals that profligacy and material worldliness go together jointly as important strands in Augustine's character. Feramor is clearly derived from this other materially-minded Augustine before his conversion to Christianity. The outline Galdós provides of Feramor's background, education, upbringing, and outlook, is an updated version of St. Augustine's denigratory portrait of his materialism in his self-seeking days of vaulting worldly ambition.
Both Feramor and Augustine are first-born sons of intellectual promise. If Feramor received outstanding marks in his examinations «porque el chico sabía, y allá donde no llegaba su inteligencia, que no era escasa, llegaba su amor propio que era excesivo» (Halma, 584), Augustine confesses of his learning abilities that «(estas cosas)... las aprendí gustoso, y pobre de mí, me deleitaba en ellas: y por eso se decía de mí, que era un muchacho de grandes esperanzas» (I Confessions: I, 16, 87). Both young men are sent away from home by enthusiastic fathers to continue their studies despite pressing family financial problems. St. Augustine, looking back on his father's decision to promote his education comments:
|(I Confessions: II, 3, 107)|
The priest Manuel Flórez, in rebuking Feramor, invokes his father, Pepe Artal, praising the paternal act of faith in sending his son to England:
Augustine and Feramor even coincide in their aesthetic tastes, each man preferring literatura de cepa latina and giving primacy to non-fiction over fiction. By the time he has reached his twenties, Augustine has renounced his love of the theatre, and shares with Feramor a lack of enthusiasm for such frivolous pastimes as sports or public entertainments. Augustine opts for a secular career as a rhetorician, in which he earns distinction with his driving ambition, seriousness of purpose, professionalism, and judicious use of patronage. Feramor is attracted into the modern counterpart of a political career, in which he achieves worldly success with a similar combination of qualities. If Feramor has material goods as his priority, Augustine makes no bones about having -albeit temporarily- similar criteria: «Ardía mi alma en deseos de honores, de riquezas y de matrimonio» (I Confessions: VI, 6, 313).—82→
Feramor in fact does make a financially advantageous marriage. Augustine goes so far as to consider a judicious marriage for social advancement; and a betrothal is arranged with his mother's support. The marriage does not take place however, and the corollaries between Feramor and Augustine end at this point. The subsequent portrayal of Feramor shows his behaviour as an established public figure; his ideals for family life within marriage; and his uncharitable personal dealings with his sister, Halma. Since only the last of these aspects is relevant to plot development in the novel, this portrayal could well be Galdós' imaginative projection of what Augustine would have become had he settled for materialism as his god.
Over and above these relatively full and elaborate parallels involving certain of the main characters and key incidents of Halma there are many faint echoes from the Confessions which are heard insistently in many places in Galdós' novel.
Nazarín, at Pedralba, asks Ladislao, the piano-tuner, if he proposes to continue with his music. Ladislao answers in the negative to the effect that if music be the food of love, he has lost his appetite for it. But:
Salió Nazarín a la defensa de arte tan bello, y le propuso que siguiera cultivándolo allí..., para que don Ladislao compusiera tocatas campesinas y religiosas, y los deleitara a todos con aquel arte tan puro y que hondamente conmueve el alma.
In Book X of the Confessions St. Augustine warns of the dangers of responding to the melodies of hymns rather than to their words, but admits:
|(2 Confessions: X, 33, 181)|
Elsewhere in the Confessions St. Augustine laments to God that he cannot slough off his old ways with ease, as he would like:
|(1 Confessions: VIII, 5, 453)|
Urrea, in conversation with Nazarín, admits sadly:
Con lo que usted me ha dicho... siento que mi ser antiguo rebulle y patalea, como si quisiera... ¡Ay! No se vuelve a nacer ¿verdad? No muere uno para seguir viviendo en otra forma y ser. Un hombre no puede ser... otro hombre.
Use of sentiments and phrases evoking the Confessions gives way at times to glancing and even sly allusions for the carefully attuned reader. Although Galdós does not include in Halma any incidents parallelling Augustine's childhood theft of some underripe pears and the saint's lengthy psycho-moral analysis of his pointless action, he slips in a passing reference when Catalina, reminiscing about her childhood with Urrea at Zaportela, observes:
Pepe Antonio y yo pasábamos largas temporadas hechos unos salvajes, corriendo por praderas y sembrados, declarando la guerra a los pobres grillos y comiéndonos, no sólo la fruta madura, sino la verde.
More obliquely still, Galdós sets Halma's community at Pedralba where she has her symbolic conversion in the garden, in the parish of San Agustín; and the local cura is Don Remigio Díaz. As El P. Eugenio de Zeballos points out in an interesting footnote to his translation of the Confessions:
|(1 Confessions: VIII, 12, 493, note a)|
With a delicious sense of irony, Galdós begins his novel with repeated advertencias to his readers that he is deliberately glossing over detailed information about Halma's early life and antecedents so as to arrive quickly at the nub of the matter he wished to relate. This technique recalls that of St. Augustine when he makes an apology to God, to Whom he is addressing the Confessions, for suppressing secondary information. Galdós reiterates his advertencia three times in the opening chapter and again at the beginning of chapter two. St. Augustine adopts the procedure twice, in Confessions III, 12 and IX, 8. The textual comparison is interesting:
[...] no hago más que apuntar los hechos capitales, como antecedentes o fundamento de lo que me propongo referir.
[...] no obstante, que omito otras muchas cosas, ya porque no puedo acordarme de todas ellas, ya por llegar más presto a confesaros las que son más urgentes y precisas.
|(I Confessions: III, 12, 180)|
There is a wry postscript to be added about allusions to the Confessions in Halma. Galdós apparently makes a direct and specific reference to other writings of St. Augustine during the deathbed scene of the priest Manuel Flórez. Flórez asks Modesto Díaz to read aloud to him the Confesión de la verdadera fe from St. Augustine's Soliloquios. Díaz starts to quote from memory only to be interrupted by Flórez «que como extasiado escuchaba»; and Flórez goes on himself to speak from memory... passages in fact culled from a supposititious popular adaptation of the famous «Tarde os amé» chapter and others in Book X of the Confessions.101
In Halma Galdós is exploring the problems and difficulties that beset the most determined contemporary traveller on the road to sanctity. This exploration is enhanced by the background of loose parallels between Halma and the Confessions.
Catalina de Halma, who is reading libros místicos,102 should realise that her own experiences and motives can be related to those of St. Augustine and St. Mónica. She is subjected to many of the same temptations and pressures; and shares similar aspirations to the good life. Yet despite her somewhat analogous situation and the precedent of the Confessions to guide her, Halma stumbles into many of the traps and pitfalls which Augustine wrote the Confessions to help us avoid.
In rebutting Feramor's materialism she rejects his advice, arbitrarily refusing to distinguish, as Augustine admonishes us to do, between the singer and the song. Nazarín's advice to Halma at the end of the novel is almost a facsimile of Feramor's at the beginning. Admittedly the two men offer the same counsel from very different standpoints; but Halma, in following the recommendations of the one unquestioningly while rejecting the other out of hand, is patently more influenced by personalities than reasoning.103—84→
When Halma tries to reform Urrea, she attempts to do so by personal initiatives. She buys his release from the toils of his creditors; imposes strict control over his activities as regards his photographic business and his domestic arrangements; and strikes a sort of good conduct bargain with him. She totally misses the point which Augustine is at pains to emphasise in the Confessions when describing how Mónica exerted a comparable influence for the good on him when he strayed into reprehensible ways. Mónica, while doing all that she could to dissuade her headstrong son from a life of moral turpitude, heresy, and dissipation, never presumed to dictate terms. She realised that reform must come from the heart and not from external manipulations, and that such a change could only be brought about through the agency of God. Augustine himself ultimately endorses this view that God is the only true arbiter of standards of human conduct. Halma, oblivious to such considerations in her dealings with Urrea, presumes to usurp God's function in spiritual matters beyond her competence.
Over the important question of her own aspirations to canonisation Halma ignores the obvious guidelines laid down in the Confessions. St. Augustine's quest to find the Christian light and adopt the proper Christian attitude was a long one lasting some fourteen years. In examining retrospectively why it took him so long to come definitively within the Catholic Church, he insists that pride and self-love were the main obstacles for him. This theme of pride is a prominent one in the Confessions where he quotes several times form the First Epistle of Peter: «For God resisteth the proud and giveth grace to the humble» (5: 5). When his impatience, his feeling that by his own intellectual striving he can attain Paradise is rebuked, he accepts that Heaven cannot be taken by storm. Having learned humility, having decided to throw himself upon God Who grants us His aid in a task that is beyond mortal capacity, Augustine sets aside any question of spiritual distinction for himself as a servus dei. Since God alone can pass judgement and we must not presume to know what would gain His favour, expectation of reward for good works done in a pious spirit was, for Augustine, another and more insidious form of pride. Halma, in the knowledge of this through her reading of libros místicos, must be aware of the dangers inherent in any kind of aspiration to spiritual distinction; and how God has a habit of foiling plans dictated by human presumption. Nonetheless she resolves, apparently in all humility, to set up a charitable religious foundation where she is the accredited leader. Feramor anticipates that this might be misplaced pride on her part:
In spite of this verbal warning Halma persists in her belief that she must conduct the spiritually uninformed to the light. She also disregards the written caveat of St. Augustine that the saint should be interested only in the service of God and his actions prompted by the transcendental notion of self-sacrifice.
Additionally, in the Confessions, Halma has the case-history of Mónica as well as that of Augustine to remind her firmly of the correct Christian stance. Mónica is a devout Christian who uses her marriage to bring her husband to God and her widowhood to bring her firstborn son to God. After a lifetime in His service, —85→ on her deathbed she asks for no other monument or remembrance than to be prayed for at the Lord's altar. It never occurs to her that she is anything exceptional in spiritual terms, nor that she could look forward to human recognition of her service to God. Yet she is canonised. Ironically she probably would not have been interested in canonisation: her first commitment is to God, and it is His judgement rather than posterity's that would have concerned her. Halma stands in sharp contrast to Mónica. Although she wins Carlos Federico over to a form of Christianity, although her relationship with Urrea bears striking resemblances to Mónica's with Augustine, although she is involved by Galdós in situations strongly reminiscent of those in the Confessions, Halma cannot emulate Mónica's other-worldly commitment. Unlike Mónica she clearly feels herself to be a good Christian and specially deserving of recognition for her ostentatious faith and charitable works. She admits as much to Nazarín at the end of the novel.
Measured by the standards of Mónica and Augustine Halma has palpable shortcomings. She possesses neither the latter's powers of self-analysis to identify a form of pride; nor the former's sublime concern for others to the exclusion of self. She deliberately sets out -despite the compelling evidence of the Confessions and The City of God which she has as spiritual guides- on a vainglorious path of her own choosing, a path to achieve sanctity. She aspires to saintliness but does not see that the crux of the matter is humility. The saint never aspires to canonisation nor to a position of spiritual primacy over his or her fellows because of an acknowledged superiority. As is the case with Benina in Misericordia, the key to sanctity lies in utter humility and selfless devotion to others.104 Complete lack of self-consciousness is a pre-requisite of genuine sanctity, and Halma's actions are performed -including the «reform» of Urrea and Nazarín, and the iniciativas imposed on Flórez- very self-consciously. She assumes a spiritual authority and powers of spiritual correctness which are unwarranted, presumptuous, and in the final analysis proved by God to be unfounded.
Galdós in creating the character of Halma has skilfully produced a blend of two personalities in the Confessions, those of Mónica and Augustine; and he has purposely echoed events in which those personalities are involved. By making Halma fall into the selfsame traps as Augustine, and by rendering her incapable of grasping the important aspect of altruism, of selfless service of God in Mónica, he gives the character and her novel an extra ironic dimension of a failed quest for sanctity along a certain road. It is as a source work which should equip Halma to understand the spiritual realities of her own similar situation that the Confessions are significant.
The exclusion of the element of direct invocation to God, the part of the Confessions conspicuous by its absence in Halma, is consequent upon Catalina's misinterpretation of Augustinian example. This aspects of the Confessions has to be suppressed because Halma has failed to comprehend (and the implication is that the message is there for us all to comprehend), that the whole burden of Augustine's work is to emphasise that he is nothing and God is everything. The Confessions are unimportant to Augustine as a personal record; and their real function is to point to his limitations and ad majorem Dei gloriam. Halma ignores this central part of Augustine's message despite the analogous events which befall her. Galdós, in making her do this, omits Augustine's higher purpose not because he himself has misunderstood it, but to reinforce the idea that Halma, like many —86→ another contemporary religious, is demonstrably wrong in her approach to the question of spirituality. The only way to lead the spiritual life is, as Augustine states quite specifically, by throwing oneself upon God and His mercy through Cristo mediador. Any reader who has followed Augustine's painful progress towards acceptance of Christ the mediator should be extremely wary of presuming to judge spiritual qualities:
|(I Confessions: VII, 18 & 19, 413-5)|
It is only latterly in their relationship that Halma recognises Nazarín as a mediator. Indeed to begin with she is guilty of setting herself up in judgement over him. Halma cannot appreciate, from Augustine's descriptions at every turn of his own unwitting pride and temerity, and most particularly the discovery of Cristo mediador, the folly of judging Nazarín. She fails to profit directly from the apology to God in the Confessions and repeats Augustine's mistakes in a modern context. As a result she has to forgo what she has conceived of as sanctity.105
Galdós in Halma is not merely writing an ironic refundición of the Confessions as an ersatz hagiography for his own unhallowed times however. The novel can be construed as a commentary on religious matters arising from the nineteenth century cuestión romana.
The debate of long standing over the separation of the temporal and spiritual powers of the Papacy had flared up into a burning issue with the rise of Italian nationalism. By 1866 the Papal States alone stood outside the newly-founded Kingdom of Italy; and the were incorporated into it in 1870, when temporal power was wrested from the Papacy. Principles at stake in the Italian question were much discussed over many years in a Spain of divided, partisan opinions. In 1868 newspapers could report that a popular juego on sale in which two metal rings have to be separated without force is called the cuestión romana:106 while twenty years later Galdós could still assume sufficient interest among a Spanish readership to write about unidad italiana in an account of a trip he made to Italy. In this account Galdós neatly captures the essence of the Spanish dilemma by posing the main arguments of both sides as expressed in Italy:
Los italianos, que, blasonando de muy patriotas, respetan la personalidad venerable del Papa, formulan un argumento que no tiene réplica: «Desde que el jefe de la Iglesia, dicen, ha perdido la soberanía temporal, su poder espiritual, lejos de disminuir, ha aumentado considerablemente. En el gobierno de la Iglesia nada revela que el Sumo Pontífice esté privado de libertad, y está plenamente demostrado en la práctica que para ejercer la soberanía sobre las conciencias de los católicos no hacen falta a Su Santidad estados ni cosa que lo valga. Al contrario, la administración civil, el régimen político con las profanidades que trae consigo, son un estorbo para el poder moral ejercido por el sucesor de San Pedro. Por lo demás, nunca ha sido más venerada la persona del Papa, ni su autoridad espiritual más ampliamente reconocida y acatada.»
Pero a estas razones contestan los partidarios del poder temporal con otras de carácter histórico y político que revelan la naturaleza puramente humana de esta contienda. Nadie que ha ejercido un poder cualquiera se resigna a perderlo, y no reconociendo la Iglesia el principio de la soberanía nacional, como lo reconoce y acata la escuela moderna, difícilmente habrá más solución que la que traigan el tiempo y la consumición de los hechos.107
Galdós in 1888 concludes that the cuestión romana is virtually insoluble. This does not deter him from postulating his ideal solution in the form of a parable based on Augustinian precepts when he writes Halma in 1895.
The symbolism of the parable is readily apparent: Pedralba stands as a microcosmic metaphor for the Church and Halma the Papacy. Halma seeks to establish Pedralba as an institution collateral with society but characterised by a more spiritual ethos. Her wish to remain immune from involvement with the temporal authorities is confounded because she is accountable to them under the terms agreed for the setting-up of Pedralba. She finds, as did the Papacy, that she is progressively drawn into the secular affairs of her time. Pedralba is inexorably becoming an offshoot of the Establishment just as the early Church became a temporal power. Once this process is under way Halma's secular and spiritual loyalties are strained to the point at which her effectiveness as undisputed leader is impaired. The analogy with the topical Roman question is completed when the scope and validity of her leadership come to be challenged by other selfinterested agencies, and the future of her religious foundation imperilled.
Halma and Pedralba are involuntarily put in the position that the Papacy and Church have been obliged to adopt. Halma does not want temporal involvements -her ideal is to cut herself off entirely from Society- but has them thrust upon her. The Papacy is still saddled with temporal commitments in the nineteenth century, it resents having to relinquish them and does so only under duress. After this has occurred, however, the Papacy also favours a policy of cutting itself off from Society by withdrawing into the Vatican Palace and its surroundings. There is a common factor in both situations: the problems with Society stem from the development of the respective religious institutions to accommodate secular interests. In each case the pattern of that development is markedly influenced by the vesting of excessive powers in one susceptible individual at the head of an institution. A new form of executive coupled with an alternative organisational structure may be needed to avoid the compromise with secular interests which can lead to eventual contamination of the spiritual ideal. Halma remarries to relinquish sole control of Pedralba: the relationship of her religious community to Society is thereby materially altered; and its continued existence safeguarded. In this dénouement Galdós is completing his parable appropriate to the future role of the Papacy in a Church freed now, and hopefully for ever, from temporal embroilment. It is partly on the basis of Augustinian thoughts on the subject that Galdós proposes the devolution of Papal powers and the restoration of an earlier Church edifice which was more proof against the incursions of Society.108
The arguments advanced by nineteenth century polemicists about the function of the Papacy were already foreshadowed in the profuse writings of St. Augustine. There is great emphasis both in the Confessions and in The City of God109 -a book Halma has open on her lap early on in Galdós' novel- on the need for careful demarcation between things for which we are answerable in human terms in this life, and things for which we are answerable in divine terms to God at the end of it. Augustine, who is firmly in favour of an evangelising Church, nonetheless does not want to see expansionist policies pursued along the lines of imperial aggrandisement. A militant Church with the Pope as its chief apologist is not to be confused with a militarist Church unquestioningly carrying out orders issued by an infallible Papal High Command. St. Augustine fought the idea of —88→ hierarchical elitism, stressing that the Church should neither divide itself off from the community at large nor dispute the jurisdiction of the recognised temporal authorities. This is a philosophy Halma finds unpalatable until the very end of Galdós' novel. Her aim has been to establish and then nurture a self-sufficient community which can grow and flourish under her care in isolation from the world. When the continuation of her scheme is put at risk if Urrea remains at Pedralba, she resents acquiescing to the demands of a meddlesome Society which she finds intolerable:
Though Halma invokes the Augustinian city of God, the tenor of her remarks shows that she envisages something far removed from the concept of the Church Father. Augustine reminds us that God has decreed certain forms of temporal rule. The Church must not vie with the monarchy or the military in its pursuit of spiritual dominion, but continue to expand in a very different way. It should accept the criteria of the earthly city in all matters in which they are compatible with its obligations to God. Only when there is an irreconcilable conflict between worldly and other-worldly values should the Church make a stand to safeguard its transcendental values. For Augustine such a conflict could never arise over the exercise of worldly power nor have at its roots a squabble about the material things of this life. He upholds the dictum that he who has nothing has everything.
When at last Halma turns to Nazarín, throwing herself upon God and His mercy through Christ the mediator, Nazarín echoes Augustine. Halma must not cut herself off from the world; she should accept and respect the authority of the various powers within Society:
On the other hand her community at Pedralba could have been constituted so as to avoid an unnecessary degree of accountability to any earthly organisation. If she had opted for an informal family unit where religious integrity can be preserved and co-exist peacefully with the values of Society, the intervention of temporal authorities would have been bypassed:
Galdós, in his parable, would now seem to be suggesting changed roles for Church and Papacy. The Church should be reconstituted on the basis of autonomous individual Catholic communities, «islands» of families bound by their common Christian allegiance. These families would live under the temporal jurisdiction of the particular societies of which they are part; but be free to exercise the right to self-determination in the private spiritual domain where Society cannot legitimately intrude. Their pontiffs should be like heads of family, with all that is entailed in that relationship to family members, and to Society.110
The notion propounded by Nazarín of an ideal, non-established Church based on the casa particular and the pious family group, is one which owes a great deal to St. Augustine. It acts as a corrective for Halma's earlier mistaken idea of the city of God; and Nazarín restores much of the force of Augustine's original conception in his advice to her. The Augustinian city of God is a community made up of all the righteous on earth and in Heaven, so that his ideal Church would be indistinguishable from the city of God on earth.111 But the righteous on earth belong to human society and have a concomitant existence with it in this life. The problem for the ideal Church is therefore to achieve its desideratum of harmony with the secular community without failing in its higher duty to God. The pious family group within Society is instanced by St. Augustine as a model for the kind of symbiotic relationship that should exist between Church and State.
Augustine commends the family broadly as the best medium for enabling conflicting private and public allegiances to co-exist peacefully in worldly society, emphasising that the paterfamilias is a key figure who reconciles internal domestic demands with external social obligations. He then contrasts two kinds of family group, the pious and the impious, whom God has set down side by side in this mortal life. Ensuing discussion of the right relations between the two is generalised into an assessment of the proper relationship between the city of God and the earthly city. It is argued by analogy that the ideal Church should occupy the same position with respect to the State in the temporal world as the pious family to the impious within Society. St. Augustine's watchword for the city of God on earth is peaceful coexistence based on temporal interdependence without loss of spiritual independence. Since the pious family group in its stance towards other families and Society at large embodies these principles, it is an appropriate and practical organisational unit on which to base the larger religious fraternity. The ideal Church should be an aggregation of religious communities or families each under the aegis of its own pontiff or paterfamilias within Society. Galdós seems to have acknowledged the merit of this Augustinian view by adapting it as his basis for the metaphorical Church and Papacy of the future in Halma.112
Nazarín accordingly advises that a possible way out of her impasse over Pedralba would be for Halma to remove her community from the public institutional arena —90→ and set it within another context. Halma's problems at Pedralba have arisen because the foundation is an offshoot of the Establishment. Yet even if she could isolate it as an enclave of spiritual asceticism her problems would persist: for various reasons she is not fitted to carry on running Pedralba unaided. She should marry, thereby sharing control of her foundation, which would be redesignated as a non-established family community. Galdós then, sees the Church as having to forge a new role and identity for itself within a new perspective. No longer should the power of the Pope be absolute, for continuing connivance at the recent fiction of Papal infallibility could only undermine the moral credibility of the Church as a whole and expose it afresh to unwanted temporal pressures. Spiritual integrity is not to be regained simply by doing as Pius IX had done and summarily cutting the Church hierarchy off from the temporal world. It is necessary to reject the concept of a central Roman hierarchy, to reaffirm the kind of worldwide affiliated religious family structure which obtained in Augustine's time, which he advocated, and which had been previously practised by the Apostles. This return to the pristine ideals and structure of the Church would bring the peaceful coexistence of a community within a community -the autonomous city of God on earth ultimately answering to a higher authority. Galdós offers a view -heterodox by contemporary standards because it is anti-Papist, yet consistent with early Christian orthodoxy- that executive power should be devolved upon the representative heads of the individual religious communities which together comprise a universal but heterogeneous Church.
In this devolutionary scheme Galdós brings about the particular family structure at Pedralba by having Halma, his symbolic pontiff, marry Urrea. If Halma represents the Papacy this marriage requires some figurative justification unless it is largely to invalidate Galdós' parable as a meaningful commentary on religious matters.113 It should be borne in mind that in the course of Galdós' novel Halma marries not once but twice; and that in the interim she founds Pedralba. Catalina de Artal makes her first marriage against a background of family opposition. Her reasons are twofold: it removes the threat of a life of vil materialismo for which she has no liking; and it provides her with her único bien terrestre in the bodily form of Carlos Federico. While she has religious and other-worldly inclinations she shows a temperamental preference for wedlock over the solitary devotional life in retreat. She finds, in marriage, her soul-mate (El conde de Halma); and seals herself off with him in an intimate world of domesticity. Catalina de Artal's first marriage serves to point up an essential dichotomy in her character. She gravitates by nature towards a spiritual existence unaffected by the temporal exigencies of Society; but she recoils from a devotional life of total seclusion. When she becomes (H)alma she is consequently dependent on a human relationship to buttress a spirituality which is not self-sufficient.
After the death of Carlos Federico, Halma has to endure to the full the hardship, suffering, and grinding poverty experienced by people without adequate means. When she is back in comfortable circumstances she decides to use her wealth to better the lot of the materially deprived. However the new imperative is not entirely altruistic. Halma does not want to isolate and subordinate herself in humility, but to be the driving force behind her own community for the underprivileged. She is thereby enabled to enjoy the companionship of others, but on her own terms, away from Society at large. The founding of Pedralba serves —91→ to accentuate the ambivalence in Halma's character. Once more she seeks to divest herself of worldly commitments without renouncing the world. Pedralba was born out of Halma's temperamental need both for a spiritual purpose and supportive human relationships; but because she is in sole charge there she comes to believe she can manage without the latter. She is sharply reminded that she is vulnerable on her own when her competence to govern Pedralba unaided is put into question. Remigio Díaz (Church), Laínez (Science), and Amador (Administration) all lay claim to the stewardship of the community after the propriety of Halma's conduct in harbouring Urrea, a known if reformed reprobate, has provoked a crisis with the temporal powers to whom she is answerable.114 Remigio Díaz, in talking to his colleagues, states why:
Halma, for all her estimable qualities, has assumed a pontifical role for which she is imperfectly equipped. She is too ethereal to survive unsupported in an office where worldly qualities are required to withstand temporal assaults on spirituality. Halma is, as it were, pure disembodied «soul» in need of a suitable «body» with which to unite in this life. Nazarín tacitly acknowledges this when he insinuates to her that she needs the support of another human being if she is not to founder and Pedralba with her.
It is Halma herself who realises intuitively that it is José Antonio de Urrea who should become her new partner. Urrea is very different from Carlos Federico, Halma's first husband. Whereas Carlos Federico was unworldly, an «habitante aburrido de las regiones imaginativas», Urrea is a more pragmatic man of the world. Her relationship with Carlos Federico took Halma away from social intercourse and into marital introversion: their union became an end in itself, for her thoughts and actions showed no preoccupation with other members of humanity. Urrea is influential in restoring Halma to worldly interests: regenerated, he becomes part of her community; applauds her concern for the desvalidos of Pedralba; and does not compete for her exclusive spiritual affections. As a «body» to combine with Halma's «soul» and realise her full potential Urrea is clearly Carlos Federico's superior. It is only when Urrea unites with her to form their family that Halma comes to terms with the world and has her spirituality complemented by his humanity so that she is thenceforth empowered to act constructively without temporal hindrance.
This sequence of events can fairly be interpreted as part of the parable relevant to the cuestión romana. The contemporary Papacy finds its capacity to lead the Catholic community impaired by a conflicting pull between its spirituality and its worldly duties. If, like Halma in her first marriage, it rejects the authority of the State and opts for withdrawal into other-worldly elitism by immuring itself in the Vatican City, its spirituality is gained at the expense of its proper pastoral function. If, like Halma at Pedralba, it resumes total legislative and executive control of Church ministration, attendant temporal involvements bring it, into opposition with other institutions of State which it increasingly resembles, and jeopardise its spiritual immunity. Like Halma, the Papacy must somehow meet —92→ the threat posed to its spiritual integrity by temporal involvements without sacrificing its secular pastoral commitments which are a legitimate part of its religious concerns.
Remarriage is suggested as the answer both to Halma's prayers and to her problems. She subsequently acts on the suggestion with beneficial results for herself and all those whose destinies are bound up with her. In Galdós' fiction remarriage confirms the spiritual advantage for Halma of sharing her responsibilities with someone whose strengths coincide with her weaknesses; and as a direct consequence it established the practical advantage for Pedralba of being reconstituted on a new footing under joint leadership. In Galdós' parable equivalent advantages for Papacy and Church respectively should be perceptible.115
Re-union in a working partnership with a co-equal leadership representing individual Churches would provide the Papacy with increased opportunities for power-sharing, consultation, and salutary interaction. The concept of a Church built around a central hierarchy would be removed; executive power would be conferred on a far broader basis by devolution; and a more democratic Church administration would emerge. The Church could reassert the propriety of its collective right to worship God through Christ as its conscience dictates rather than at the behest of His self-avowed representative on earth, the Pope, whose titular claims to primacy are at best conjectural. In short the Church could revert to being Catholic rather than Roman Catholic.
The Papacy is to be better equipped to fulfil its proper spiritual role as primus inter pares in the religious leadership by this re-union which deprives it of any kind of undue dominance. If the Papacy is not to be ensnared again by worldly involvements it has not merely to be stripped of temporal power, but shorn of its absolute religious powers which give it the freedom to meddle in secular affairs without having to answer to the Church as a whole for its actions. Partnership with resultant accountability to the entire Church community would serve to remind the Papacy of what is practicable and desirable and what is not where the true interests of the faithful are concerned. Delivered from the temptation to pontificate upon temporal matters, the Papacy could then become more visionary, be an unequivocal exemplar of other-worldliness. Any loss of touch with grassroots feeling in the Church community which might follow when the Papacy becomes less worldly in its preoccupations is compensated for in the process of shared decision-making. There is a natural system of checks and balances whereby an unsullied Papacy can temper any incipient worldliness with its prestigious moral authority while a more pragmatic co-equal leadership can counteract, because of its increased executive capacity, impending Papal drift into separatist spiritual elitism.
The conclusion of Galdós' novel is a symbolic embodiment of these advantages. Once Halma has agreed to marry Urrea, responsibility for running Pedralba is shifted on to a joint united leadership. The prospect of direct confrontation between Halma and the secular powers is averted since she will no longer be the sole head of a public organization in opposition to State authorities but a leading member of a family transacting its lawful private business beyond the jurisdiction of the State. Urrea, conversant with secular affairs to a greater degree than Halma, uses his worldly knowledge to secure promotion for Don Remigio. This satisfies the priest's honest ambition, and ensures his willingness to perform the nuptial —93→ ceremonies which will change the status of the community at Pedralba and grant it autonomy. Urrea has reconciled the other-worldly interests of Pedralba with external worldly interests by means which Halma would not have been able to adopt without compromising her spiritual integrity. Halma, having shared her responsibility, is paradoxically enabled to exercise power to better effect than when it was concentrated solely in her hands. Moreover, once free from the temporal considerations which endangered her community, she can turn her attention to the spiritual rehabilitation of Nazarín. When she does so she finds that Don Remigio now lends wholehearted support where earlier he had prevaricated; and with his pledge to press for the reinstatement of Nazarín to his funciones sacerdotales, the last formal tie binding Halma to the State authorities is severed. Thereafter Pedralba ceases to be a hierarchical religious institution connected with the State and becomes a Christian family group. Don Remigio concedes the value of this independence which keeps the temporal authorities at bay and makes the Señores de Pedralba accountable solely to God:
Galdós makes it resoundingly clear in the closing paragraph of his novel that he regards Pedralba's independence as definitive and satisfactory. On the very day of Halma's wedding, Nazarín, the Christ figure, considers his work done and leaves Pedralba.
The marriage of Halma to Urrea is not simply a literal union which happens to provide a facile happy ending to Galdós' novel. It is a symbolic match of soul and body which is necessary if Pedralba is to have effective leadership and assert its continuing religious independence. Halma is the soul, the visionary with other-worldly qualities: Urrea is the worldly man of action. If she is instrumental in stopping him from being permanently earthbound, he is salutary in bringing her down to earth. Each is incomplete without the other. Their marriage is the conjunction of the qualities essential to Galdós' ideal leadership.
There is another aspect of this marriage which relates to Halma's aspirations to sanctity described previously (q. v. pp. 83-86). If the union is taken at its literal level Galdós is in effect saying that sexual love not only does not preclude sanctity but may even be a necessary pre-condition for it. (And once again there is the precedent, in the Confessions, of St. Augustine -and also St. Monica- to lend weight to such a view.) In this association of Halma with Soul and Urrea with Body, and in their union, Galdós is pleading for the body and its claims not to be excluded from the higher reaches of the spiritual life as post-Counter-Reformation Catholicism had excluded it. Such a plea would complement Galdós' parabolical contention that the Church must re-learn to reconcile its worldly and other-worldly functions more adequately.
Galdós shows figuratively how re-union of the Pontifex maximus with other Catholic pontiffs as co-equals might resolve the vexed cuestión romana. Under shared rule the notion of one Roman Catholic Church in confrontation with the Italian State could be changed. Once the new general leadership had been endowed with the necessary powers it could negotiate a settlement on behalf of a Universal —94→ Catholic Church collateral with the State. Within these terms of reference there would no longer be any direct conflict of interest between the parties; and so a settlement could be made to which all might agree without compromise or loss of face. The Papacy, free from its temporal obligations, could resume its traditional roles of exegesis and pastoral care in collaboration with the general leadership. The Church would become the Christian democracy it had been in former times; and the Papacy the epitome of its other-worldliness. The equation of Halma with the Papacy in Galdós' parable, so far from being invalidated by her second marriage, is completed by it; and a clear picture of the kind of heads proper to the new Church family groupings is drawn.
That picture, in common with much else in Halma, derives in part from the writings of St. Augustine. The characters of both Catalina de Halma and José Antonio de Urrea are based on aspects of the life and personality of St. Augustine as described in the Confessions (v. supra, pp. 73-80). Since the joint qualities of these two characters are to be found in the single historical figure of St. Augustine, it would seem that it is the Bishop of Hippo, both as an individual and as a conceptual theorist, who is taken by Galdós as the prototype for the pontiffs necessary to the Church of the future. He is the bishop par excellence, the Church Father who acquired the ability to steer a careful course between action and contemplation, the former associated more with the body, the latter with mind or soul. It is in the Confessions that Augustine recounts the unremitting struggle between his soul and his body before their conflicting demands were brought into harmonious balance.
Halma operates thematically at several levels. The novel is the Odyssey of a soul trying to return to God through His mediator Jesus Christ in the Augustinian way described in the Confessions.116 As such it is a speculative study on the place and relevance of sanctity in the present era. The individual soul should be as perfectible now as at any time in the past but enigmatically the routes which led Monica and Augustine to sainthood do not conduct Halma there. Perhaps she has simply chosen the wrong route; perhaps saintliness in the modern world may not lead to canonisation; or it may be that sainthood is, has always been, a misnomer. In a more general sense the novel is also a commentary on what ideally the Church should become in the opinion of Galdós. The contemporary cuestión romana encapsulates the problem to which Galdós addresses himself in the parable which is Halma, and for which he provides an Augustinian solution. The Church must not interfere in temporal matters; but equally it should not retreat from its human commitments which are as integral a part of its responsibilities as its transcendental commitments to God. To obviate the threat to religious integrity posed by its absorption into the temporal Establishment the Church should stand in the same kind of binary relationship to Society as the family. It would not then be a hierarchical institution but an alternative society of the righteous living amicably alongside the State in this world. As such its constituent family communities could pursue their other-worldly ends under a representative collective leadership. The risk of distortion of their true religious purpose by dissentient factions should be minimised under a system of self-government by consensus. The Pope could then revert to the role his title implies: he could attend to the spiritual and human needs of those under his paternal care without fear of sanction from secular vested interests.—95→
In Halma Galdós warns us of the individual and collective erosion of human and spiritual standards which can result from the institutionalisation of the Church. He revindicates certain pristine ideals of the early Church and Churchmen as defined by St. Augustine, and reasserts the value of a religious community which is an extension not of secular society, but of the city of God on earth.
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