Summary and Analysis
Latour returns after nearly a year with four young French priests and a Spanish priest, Father Taladrid, whom he sends to Taos. At the Bishop's request, Martinez resigns but continues to run the parish. Taladrid and Martinez are soon in conflict. Latour supports Taladrid, prompting Martinez and Lucero to organize their own church. Most of the parishioners follow Martinez and Lucero. Some are confused, so they attend both the schismatic church and the Masses held by Taladrid.
Lucero is a miser, a personality type so rare that the Mexicans find it amusing. Although he and Martinez are friends, they quarrel and talk about each other. Lucero says old age will deny Martinez his pleasure with women, but money is always good and avarice grows sweeter with age. Trinidad, who has learned to eat well with Martinez, starves with Lucero.
The quarreling grows so bad that Latour sends Vaillant to read them a letter that strips them of their priesthood. Soon thereafter, Martinez dies. His funeral service is performed by Lucero, who takes ill soon after. Despite his declining health, Lucero is able to kill a robber who has heard of Lucero's wealth.
After killing the intruder, Lucero does not regain strength. Vaillant arrives to perform the Last Rites. On his deathbed, Lucero has called for more lights, out of fear that someone will come in the dark to rob him. Lucero confesses that Martinez has given him money for Masses for Martinez's soul, but Lucero has buried the money. He tells where it is and how it is to be used. Of Lucero's money, one third goes to Trinidad and the rest is for Masses. He requests for the money to be taken from under the floorboards while his body is still warm. Kit Carson is charged with counting the money. Lucero berates Trinidad for not bringing Carson.
Vaillant tells Lucero he must compose himself or he cannot administer the Sacrament. After receiving the last rites, Lucero is calm. In his last moments, Lucero thinks another thief has come. His last words are to Martinez; the people think he sees Martinez in torment. When the floorboards are lifted, they reveal nearly $20,000.
Father Lucero, whose name means "light," lives in darkness and self-induced poverty. He tries to defeat death by lighting candles. Although candles traditionally hold religious significance, for Lucero they only mean protection from robbers.
Both avarice and hedonism come to the same end: death. Both Martinez and Lucero have powerful personalities. Under guidance and discipline, they could have become great priests. Instead, they died in ignominy.
antiphon a hymn, psalm, and so on, chanted or sung in responsive, alternating parts.
pyx the container in which the consecrated wafer of the Eucharist (communion) is kept.
schismatic a person who splits or divides an organized group or society, especially a church, as the result of difference of opinion, of doctrine, and so on.