Summary and Analysis
Vaillant departs in midsummer. By December, Latour has succumbed to a crisis of faith and doubt. On one sleepless night, he goes to the church to pray. At first, he shrinks from the cold, but then he covers himself in an old cloak lined with squirrel. In the sacristy of the church is Sada, a slave of the Protestant-American Smith family, who is prejudiced against Catholics and will not allow her to attend Mass or see a priest.
On this evening, the Smiths have put Sada in the woodshed, and she has found the courage to escape and come to the church. Latour leads her into the church, and Sada falls to her knees to kiss the floor. She tells Latour it has been nineteen years since she seen the altar. Latour prays with Sada, who tells him that she prays the rosary every night. As they pray together, the bishop receives new hope. When Sada refuses to keep his cloak, Latour gives her a small silver medal. After she departs, Latour realizes that his need has been as great as hers, and that his moment of crisis has ceased.
In this chapter, Cather continues her attempt to humanize Latour and, thus, makes him a multidimensional character who feels loneliness and doubt as he experiences what St. John of the Cross called "the dark night of the soul." Realizing that Latour is only a man is important, because it makes his human accomplishments as bishop all the more admirable@ — as opposed to thinking of his accomplishments as the miraculous efforts of a superhuman.
In terms of the examination of faith and doubt even in the most devout of people, this chapter is perhaps the most revealing in the entire novel.
sacristy a room in a church, usually adjoining the sanctuary, where the sacred vessels, vestments, and so on are kept; vestry.