The Bishop rode home to his solitude. He was forty-seven years
old, and he had been a missionary in the New World for twenty
years–ten of them in New Mexico. If he were a parish priest at
home, there would be nephews coming to him for help in their Latin
or a bit of pocket-money; nieces to run into his garden and bring
their sewing and keep an eye on his housekeeping. All the way home
he indulged in such reflections as any bachelor nearing fifty might

But when he entered his study, he seemed to come back to reality,
to the sense of a Presence awaiting him. The curtain of the arched
doorway had scarcely fallen behind him when that feeling of
personal loneliness was gone, and a sense of loss was replaced by a
sense of restoration. He sat down before his desk, deep in
reflection. It was just this solitariness of love in which a
priest’s life could be like his Master’s. It was not a solitude of
atrophy, of negation, but of perpetual flowering. A life need not
be cold, or devoid of grace in the worldly sense, if it were filled
by Her who was all the graces; Virgin-daughter, Virgin-mother, girl
of the people and Queen of Heaven: le rêve suprême de la chair.
The nursery tale could not vie with Her in simplicity, the wisest
theologians could not match Her in profundity.

Here in his own church in Santa Fé there was one of these nursery
Virgins, a little wooden figure, very old and very dear to the
people. De Vargas, when he recaptured the city for Spain two
hundred years ago, had vowed a yearly procession in her honour, and
it was still one of the most solemn events of the Christian year in
Santa Fé. She was a little wooden figure, about three feet high,
very stately in bearing, with a beautiful though rather severe
Spanish face. She had a rich wardrobe; a chest full of robes and
laces, and gold and silver diadems. The women loved to sew for her
and the silversmiths to make her chains and brooches. Father
Latour had delighted her wardrobe keepers when he told them he did
not believe the Queen of England or the Empress of France had so
many costumes. She was their doll and their queen, something to
fondle and something to adore, as Mary’s Son must have been to Her.

These poor Mexicans, he reflected, were not the first to pour out
their love in this simple fashion. Raphael and Titian had made
costumes for Her in their time, and the great masters had made
music for Her, and the great architects had built cathedrals for
Her. Long before Her years on earth, in the long twilight between
the Fall and the Redemption, the pagan sculptors were always trying
to achieve the image of a goddess who should yet be a woman.

— Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop