# Sunday, August 11, 2019

DeathComesForTheArchbishopDeath Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather follows the life of Bishop Jean Marie Latour, appointed to lead the new diocese of New Mexico, when the region is annexed by the United States, following the Mexican-American War.

Latour travels to New Mexico from his home in Ohio with his friend and colleague Joseph Vaillant. They encounter many challenges: the rough environment; the lack of roads; a clash of cultures; widespread poverty; murderers who prey on travelers; rogue priests; and those who refuse to recognize the transition of authority to the new archbishop.

In addition to the story of Latour, we hear other tales of the place and time where this novel takes place. One memorable story was of a drunken, ill-tempered priest, who killed a young Indian servant when the boy spilled some food on him. The priest was captured and killed by the locals a few days later.

The story is loosely best on the lives of Jean-Baptiste Lamy and Joseph Projectus Machebeuf, who served as Catholic Bishops in the southwest US during the mid-19th century.

Cather is at her best when describing the New Mexico sky and landscape. She tells a straightforward story without much fanfare and she does a good job of contrasting the personalities of the two missionaries: the stoic Latour and the outgoing Vaillant. Each man loves God and believes in their mission but tackles it in his own way.

Like most biographies, Death Comes for the Archbishop covers the main character’s life to the end. So, while the title comes from the last chapter, it is a bit misleading. The book is far more about the Archbishop's life than about his death. As Latour himself put it: "I shall not die of a cold, my son. I shall die of having lived."

Sunday, August 11, 2019 8:18:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
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