Death comes for the archbishop

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Death comes for the archbishop

Death Comes for the Archbishop
By
Willa Cather


Willa Cather is the author of the award winning novel Death Comes For The Archbishop
written in 1927. She was born in 1873 near Winchester, Virginia and soon moved to Nebraska
(Cather, 1927). During her childhood she was surrounded by foreign languages and customs.
Even at her young age she felt a connection to the immigrants in Nebraska and was
intrigued with their connection to the land. Willa also loved writing about the vanished
past of the American Southwest where nature and Christianity is opposed to the modern
urban life and society (http://fp.image.dk). She was raised Episcopalian and later in life
she joined the Protestant Church in search for spirituality while still being captivated
with the grandeur of ceremonies performed in the Catholic Church. These fascinations were
projected directly into to her writings, as seen in her book Death Comes For The
Archbishop. This book was awarded the Howells Medal of the American Academy of Arts and
Letters in 1930 (http://www.geocities.com).

This book is considered an American Classic due to its longevity in popular literature. It
also provides the important historical background on the Catholic Church and its impact on
the American Southwest. Willa emphasizes, through her writings, the hardships of the
people involved in making this part of America what it is today. It points out the
influence of the earliest Spanish missionaries of the 16th century through the latter part
of the 19th century involving French missionaries and exposes the corruptness as well as
the dedication of the missionaries of the church. The book's main setting is in the 19th
century, during the settlement of New Mexico and Colorado and recalls the journeys that a
priest undertook and the hardships overcame in order to meet his and the churches goal of
bringing the Catholic faith to Mexicans and native Indians. Through his travels and the
spiritual work in the beautiful, yet rough environment he was radically transformed. He
was especially influenced by the experiences of the westward movement of the agricultural
frontier because of the impact of the native people.

The main character of this book is Father Jean Marie Latour. He was consecrated the
Catholic Vicar Apostolic of New Mexico and Bishop of Agathonica in partibus at Cincinnati
and was destined to reach his Vicarate (Cather 1927) and help the people of the land. When
he was given his mission to retrieve the bishopric (Cather 1927) by the Vatican in Rome he
accepted it whole heartedly. Father Latour developed a great love for the people and the
land of New Mexico through his travels. He loved the Mexican and Indian customs and shared
his faith with them; he devoted his whole life to the people and church.

At this point in history New Mexico was only explored by merchants, priests and natives.
The land of the Southwest was filled with many different tribes, such as the Acoma, Zuni,
Navajos and Apaches. This land was very dangerous to travel because of the rugged terrain
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