Death Comes to the Archbishop: Book 9 Chapter 1

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Book IX: Death Comes for the Archbishop
 
Note: The chapters within Book IX do not bear individual titles as do the chapters in Books I-VIII.
 
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Summary: Now retired, Latour is living a contemplative life on a small estate four miles north of Santa Fe, where he focuses on nourishing his orchard. He also trains new missionary priests and seminarians. One such seminarian, Bernard Ducrot, arrives in 1885 and becomes particularly close to Latour.
 
Analysis: This chapter further develops an agricultural metaphor for the church work that Latour has been doing his own life. It is a metaphor directly from Scripture, in fact. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus told his disciples, “I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last” (15:16). Latour’s orchard, then, represents the “fruit” of his labor, both as a missionary and a bishop: “though evidently very old, it was full of fruit” (p. 263). Latour, because of his faithful life and work, has been successful in growing “such fruit as was hardly to be found even in the old orchards of California” (p. 265)—his work has introduced something new even into the New World. Further, we are told Latour has “domesticated and developed the native wild flowers” (p. 265)—that is, he has been able to work with the native population of his great diocese, encouraging them to greater growth. It is altogether fitting, then, that this metaphor of fruits, which comes to symbolize Latour’s life work, reminds him of the saying of French mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), “that Man was lost and saved in a garden” (meaning the Garden of Eden, in which Adam and Eve succumbed to temptation; and the Garden of Gethsemane, in which Jesus submitted to God’s will to save humanity; p. 265). Latour’s whole career has, in essence, been about “growing a garden” in which the people with whom he ministers can find salvation.
 
 

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