Book Meme Challenge:
A Book You Have Read More Than Three Times
Seriously? Almost all the books I own have been read more than three times. At least! Some more like eight or nine times.
This challenge needs a tighter paradigm. Maybe . . . a book I’ve studied in a class three times? a book I have written about three times? a book where I noticed a different theme each of the first three times I have read it? a book that I cried over on three separate readings?
Well, how about I go with those last two criteria. After much interior debate and long-staring at my bookshelves, the winner is . . . .
Death Comes for the Archbishop,
by Willa Cather.
Like most of Cather’s work, this book is exquisitely written. She can create both sentences and characters with a fine detail and beauty. I first read this book freshman year of High School, and the opening image of the story has stayed in my heart ever since; that of a French priest traveling through an American desert in on his way to create a new parish, and stopping to say his breviary and gather his courage under an old tree that has been petrified in the shape of a cross.
And so the true tale of the first Archdiocese of Santa Fe begins, with a pilgrimage, a faint heart moving forward, and a beautiful and supportive friendship. Willa Cather was not Catholic, but her treatment of these historical figures is very Christian Humanist, with a broad view of all that was going on New Mexico at this time. There are many encounters with the natives, traders, explorers, and pioneers. It is a book about history in the specific, mankind in the universal, and spiritual life in the practical. (Notice that I am staying within the ‘three’ theme!)
Father Latour, the main character and later the Archbishop of the title, is a refined, quite, strong, intellectual, gentleman who struggles to adjust to his strange new situation. And ultimately – even if it takes him until his death – he does find the salvific sacrificial life for which he was searching.
I love everything of Willa Cather’s writing that I have read, but this was the first of her books where I identified strongly with the people and their personal growth. (I enjoy My Antonia, but I don’t really feel the motivations of any of the characters.) Each time I read Death Comes for the Archbishop I find a new insight into how I can live my own life better; be it spiritually, intellectually, or emotionally.