Themes and Meanings
The major idea behind this work is immediately revealed by its title. The keys of the Kingdom of Heaven must be obtained not only through the inner-directed love of God but also in total dedication to helping one’s fellow human beings. Prayer alone cannot give salvation to man, for prayer alone is a meaningless activity without the reality of good works.
In addition, Cronin has presented in Francis the kind of priest who seems to be more in the ascendancy among men of the cloth in all faiths. Not content with dispensing pious platitudes, Francis seeks to involve himself in the total life of his flock, desiring to improve their lives both physically and spiritually. He is drawn to the poor as an act of faith in doing the work of God.
Francis also sees toleration as the highest virtue, and in this he foreshadows a certain degree of reconciliation between Catholicism and other religious faiths. In Francis, one finds an image of the human face doing the work of God.