Wednesday, May 31, 2017
The Protestant who wrote the greatest book about American Catholicism | Catholic World Report - Global Church news and views
“No, I am not a Catholic, and I do not think I shall become one,” she responded to a faithful reader in October, 1931. Yet, she continued, she saw the Church as something much more than a mere tool for her stories. The Church, she believe, was good and wholesome in and of itself, regardless of what she did or did not write regarding it. “If the external form and ceremonial of that Church happens to be more beautiful than that of other churches, it certainly corresponds to some beautiful vision within. It is sacred, if for no other reason than that is the faith that has been most loved by human creatures, and loved over the greatest stretch of centuries.” A year later, she wrote another reader, noting: “I am a Protestant, but not a narrow minded one.” Could any institution but the Catholic Church “have brought the beliefs of the early church across to us through the anarchy and brutality that followed the fall of the Roman Empire” through the age of Martin Luther? Several years later, in a somewhat humorous vein, she expressed frustration to her sister that one could not enter a Protestant church late at night for prayer and peace. “The Catholics seem to be the only people who realize that in this world grief goes on all night.”
I'm re-reading Death Comes for the Archbishop for what seems like the fourth time, which probably means it's the seventh. Such a beautiful book and unlike some of Cather's books, not at all too depressing, as some of them are, but then I am easily discouraged. I thought Cather was perhaps, perhaps some sort of Catholic, but I see she was not. Very few Catholics have her insight into the faith.
One of the best things about her book is her enormous sensitivity to the landscape of the Southwest and its nuances. Even if you have little interest in religion, you might enjoy Archbishop just for its descriptions of the landscapes. She captures utterly what it is about the air of wild country and how Father Latour had grown to need it in his final days. Sometimes when the winds are blowing in from the desert, you can smell that air here in Jamul, on a warm day underneath the pines.