Death Comes to the Archbishop: Top Ten Quotes

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  1. The Faith planted by the Spanish friars and watered with their blood was not dead; it awaited only the toil of the husbandman (p. 32).
    This quote summarizes the challenge awaiting Latour and Vaillant in their missionary labors: to renew the dormant and sometimes distorted faith of Catholics in the New World. What the priests may not recognize as they begin their work is that, by virtue of their “incarnational” approach to ministry, the native faith of the New World will shape them as much as their imported Catholicism will shape the natives.
  2. “Where there is great love there are always miracles… One might almost say that an apparition is human vision corrected by divine love… [Miracles] seem to me to rest… upon our perceptions being made finer, so that for a moment our eyes can see and our ears can hear what is there about us always” (p. 50).
    >Latour’s explanation of true miracles to Vaillant emphasizes that the most significant miracles are moments of heightened perception and strong, active love—two traits that will come to define his and Vaillant’s ministry.
  3. The Bishop seldom questioned Jacinto about his thoughts or beliefs. He didn’t think it polite, and he believed it to be useless. There was no way in which he could transfer his own memories of European civilization into the Indian mind, and he was quite willing to believe that behind Jacinto there was a long tradition, a story of experience, which no language could translate to him (p. 92).
    >Latour’s reflections on the differences between his and Jacinto’s life experiences exemplifies his healthy respect for the native world and its people, a key ingredient of his successful approach to serving those with whom he ministers.
  4. He was on a naked rock in the desert, in the stone age, a prey to homesickness for his own kind, his own epoch, for European man and his glorious history of desire and dreams. Through all the centuries that his own part of the world had been changing like the sky at daybreak, this people had been fixed, increasing neither in numbers nor desires, rock-turtles on their rock (p. 103).
    >Latour’s experience of the Acoma people emphasizes his respect for (and humility in the face of) their continuity with the past.
  5. Bishop Latour had one very keen worldly ambition: to build in Santa Fe a cathedral which would be worthy of a setting naturally beautiful (p. 175).
    >Although it is characterized as a “worldly ambition,” Latour’s desire to build a cathedral actually reveals his spiritual devotion to his God and the people he serves, for he wants to build it in such a way that it complements, rather than conquers, its natural surroundings and the people who live there.
  6. Observing them thus in repose, in the act of reflection, Father Latour was thinking how each of these men not only had a story, but seemed to have become his story (p. 182).
    >In the decade or so that Latour has been in New Mexico, he has become connected not only to the land but to its people, as diverse as they are. The people he serves, the community he gathers, will be his true monument—his true “cathedral.”
  7. “The Faith, in that wild frontier, is like a buried treasure; they guard it, but they do not know how to use it to their soul’s salvation. A word, a prayer, a service, is all that is needed to set free these souls in bondage. I confess I am covetous of that mission. I desire to be the man who restores these lost children to God.” (p. 207).
    >Father Vaillant is describing his realization of his true vocation to Bishop Latour: the task of renewing the faith of Catholics in the New World.
  8. “I have almost become a Mexican!... Their foolish ways no longer offend me, their very faults are dear to me. I am their man!” (p. 208)
    >Father Vaillant tells Bishop Latour how closely he identifies with the people he feels called to serve. He exemplifies the incarnational approach to ministry, to service, valued throughout the book.
  9. He received the miracle in her heart into his own, saw through her eyes, knew that his poverty was as bleak as hers… This church was Sada’s house, and he was a servant in it (p. 217).
    >Latour experiences faith and hope in the midst of hardship through his empathy with Sada, the Mexican slave woman. An openness to suffering connects him to her and to his God, and renews his sense of purpose and vocation as a servant of his servant Lord.
  10. “God has been very good to let me live to see a happy issue to those old wrongs. I do not believe, as I once did, that the Indian will perish. I believe that God will preserve him” (p. 296).
    >At the close of his life, Latour reflects on the way in which he has lived to see the American government begin to make amends for its unjust treatment of the Navajo people. He sees it as a sign of God’s continued providence and care, a sign of hope for the future of the New World, a world the past history of which he is now becoming a part.>

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