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  • Tom Boyd

Old Books, Old Friends

The Citadel is a novel by A. J. Cronin, first published in 1937, which was groundbreaking with its treatment of the contentious theme of medical ethics. The novel was made into a 1938 film with Robert Donat, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Richardson and Rex Harrison.

The young doctor is often poor and almost always struggling to improve his knowledge, his community and his family. He never acts arrogant nor considers himself brilliant. His basic idea in exercising the practice of his profession is “never to take anything for granted.” I read this book often in the past when I was troubled by ethical issues or my lack of financial success.

The Keys of the Kingdom is a 1941 novel by A. J. Cronin. Spanning six decades, it tells the story of Father Francis Chisholm, an unconventional Scottish Catholic priest who struggles to establish a mission in China. Beset by tragedy in his youth, as a missionary Chisholm endures many years of hardship, punctuated by famine, plague and war in the Chinese province to which he is assigned. Through a life guided by compassion and tolerance, Chisholm earns the respect of the Chinese–and of fellow clergy who would mistrust him–with his kindly, high-minded and courageous ways. The book was made into a 1944 film starring Gregory Peck as Father Francis Chisholm, a role which earned him his first Oscar nomination.

The priest lives and preaches a life of universal love, and acceptance of others. A “Mother Teresa” and with an understanding of other faiths. “Our word ‘God’ is a human word…expressing reverence for our Creator. If we have that reverence, we shall see God…never fear.” I often read this book when my spiritual soul needs a boost.

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