In 1927 Willa Cather wrote Death Comes for the Archbishop. I read it in an American Literature class in college. It is one of those books that has stuck with me like The Count of Monte Christo or To Kill a Mockingbird. I don’t remember all the details but I remember the stories and particular poignant moments.
Cather’s book is based on the life of Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, a French priest who came to America in 1839 and eventually became Archbishop of the Diocese of Santa Fe. There is this particular story:
Father Latour had known Eusabio a long while as he had met him soon after he came to his new diocese. The Navajo was in Santa Fe at that time, assisting the military to quiet an outbreak of the never-ending quarrel between his people and the Hopi’s. From then on the Bishop and the Indian Chief held each other in high regard and a friendship began to develop over time.
Eusabio lived with his family and tribe in a group of hogans on the Colorado Chiquito; to the west, south and north his kinsmen herded great flocks.
Father Latour went to visit and arrived at the cluster of booth-like cabins during a high sandstorm which circled about them and their mules like snow in a blizzard and subsequently obliterated the landscape. The Navajo came out of his house and took possession of Angelica, Father Latour’s horse, by her bridle. At first Eusabio did not say anything, merely stood holding Father Latour’s very fine white hand in his very fine dark one and looked deeply into his friend’s face. A wave of feeling passed over his bronze features as he said: “My friend has come.” That was all, but it was everything: welcome, confidence, appreciation, affection.
In that moment, I the reader knew that Eusabio knew he was not alone in his struggles; Father Latour was his heart friend as well as representing far more than just friend. Over and over in the book, the Archbishop is aware of God’s loving presence in not only his life, but in the lives of those with whom he comes into contact.
As we enter into the Great Fifty days of Easter, let us remember that the resurrected Jesus weaves in and out of our lives particularly during the sandstorms. He takes our hands into his very strong one and stands with us in the swirling sands of our lives and we, too, experience welcome, confidence, appreciation, affection. How could we ever ask for more?