Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather: A Book Review

To get into the spirit of the Holy Week, I decided to pick this book I bought from a retired librarian last year. It is almost old, brittle, smeared with dust, but too legible to catch my interest and imagination.

I enjoyed reading this book despite the fact that I could be subject to heresy, agnosticism, nihilism, cynicism, or bigotry. It could be highly recommended for pious people. (I am not sure of atheists, for they might cast aspersions on it as “rotund’.)I liked the way Willa Cather depicted the real epitome of a missionary, passionate about his duty by helping uncivilized people back to their faith, restoring the Catholicism in a backward place, full of distorted beliefs and corruption. It was like as though I read a biographical novel narrates the life of a man who worked hard to accomplish his mission, faced with a lot of hindrances, humiliation, and endurance; as though a priest concentrated on his goals until he had made them through. So I finished it as gloriously as he died “of having lived’- not disgruntled but left hanging with some niggling doubt all along: Is Father Latour, the main character, credible? Does he appear to be hypocritical? On the other hand, Willa Cather portrayed the antithesis of such prelates who are given to greed, gluttony, avarice, and corruption- the fact that they exist in the Catholic Church. In the Philippines, they are the avatar of “Padre Damaso”.

After reading this, I was chastened more by the fact that leading religious life turns out to be a matter of “intestinal and cerebral fortitude”. Life could be tough when one is given big responsibilities. He needs to live simply and abstemiously. He needs to deprive himself of the luxurious trappings, particularly denying his human nature- the “concupiscence”. This kind of life reminded me of the nun, seminarian, and priest students I have taught. I am paying more homage to them. ^^

However, beyond a shadow of doubt, I could not blot out the idea of how the TIME ended it up as one of the best of all time since 1923. Probably this book is “rare and special’. Eureka! ^^

Rating: 3/ 5 stars



    • I’ve just read your review. I agree to the fact that its flow is peacefully soothing. That’s why after reading this, I’ve always wanted to read other Cather’s works.

      Thanks for the comment!^^


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