Bless Me, Ultima defies easy categorization. It's clear that it is a coming-of-age story, and in the end Antonio has found at least some of what he set out to discover. But Antonio isn't your typical hero, and this isn't your typical quest novel.
Even though this novel doesn't fit the mold, it's worth taking a look at Bless Me, Ultima in terms of Antonio embarking on a quest of self-discovery and spiritual enlightenment:
Sometimes, the quest leads a hero through the mountains and over rivers and into battles and to the Black Gates of Mordor. Antonio's quest never takes him more than ten or so miles from home. Still, he hears the call to adventure just like any other hero. And his call comes in the form of Ultima. Soon after she arrives and Antonio starts learning her ways, he begins to see that the God he was raised to believe in is not the only power in the world.
Antonio's first real adventure at Ultima's side comes when he goes with her to help cure Uncle Lucas from the witch's curse. This trip introduces Antonio to his and Ultima's nemesis, Tenorio, and it introduces Antonio to the true power that lies in Ultima's magic. Once he's faced this ordeal, his quest for knowledge pushes him forward. He now seeks to learn more about the golden carp, Ultima's magic, and the idea of a new god. Antonio strives for answers to the spiritual questions he constantly asks.
As Antonio continues to be pulled in multiple directions, he believes the answers will come to him when he completes catechism class and finally takes his First Communion. Even as doubts continue to dog him, he holds out hope that once he takes Communion all things will be clear to him and he will have the understanding he's longed for. Finally, he completes his class, gives his first confession, and takes the First Communion he's waited for. No answers come.
After Florence dies, Antonio leaves his home to spend time with his uncles and to forget some of the things that have happened. As he is preparing to leave and head back home after a summer of working, the threat of Tenorio returns. This time, Antonio must avoid Tenorio's wrath (in the form of a pouncing horse), and run back home to warn Ultima that Tenorio is coming for revenge. The run home is grueling, but Antonio thinks he's made it home in time.
He's wrong. Tenorio kills Ultima's owl and points the gun at Antonio. Uncle Pedro saves Antonio, but Antonio has now reached a new level of understanding. He knows the owl is Ultima's soul, and he knows now that he is a man who must accept the dualities that persist in almost every aspect of his life. His final task is to bury Ultima's owl while the rest of the town seeks to mourn her in a Christian way.
In that burial, Antonio realizes that he is too burying Ultima. He comes to accept that there is truth and power in Ultima's ways. However, he also seeks a blessing from her before she dies, so there are aspects of Catholicism that he still holds dear. In taking parts from both sides, Antonio has become his own man with his own beliefs, and even possibly his own religion.