Bishop Jean Latour and Father Joseph Vaillant are French priests who are sent to the American Southwest region to restructure New Mexico's Catholic diocese. They have been friends since their childhood in France and their mission includes the correction of backsliding priests and the restoration of the Catholic culture. Themes of Indian relations, slavery, heresy, insubordinate clerical conduct, and reclusiveness are presented for Latour's and Vaillant's examination. Latour is dignified and reflective while Vaillant is forthright and optimistic; together they're able to appreciate a simple life in the southwestern desert which has become an oasis of civilization. Latour's commitment to erect a cathedral in the wilderness is realized after nearly forty years of good works in these reverential surroundings. His devotion to his assignment and the wisdom he secures from his inner conflicts are the qualities that sustain him even while his youth drains away. Cather beautifully and powerfully portrays the harmony that results from steadfast purpose.
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