I have just finished reading the autobiographical work by Jennifer wroth. A truly beautiful book detailing the life of a London midwife in the 1950s, I have previously watched and loved the BBC series but only managed to track the book down last week.
I found the thoughts on faith and life, which Wroth shares in the book profoundly moving.
Jenny describes herself initially as an ‘irreligious girl’ and is perplexed and sometimes disturbed by the life of the nuns that she sees firsthand in the tight knit community she becomes (initially rather unwillingly) a part of.
However during her time at Nonnatus house she gradually finds herself respecting the tireless work of the nuns in loving and caring for their patients. The way that they patiently accept and love one another regardless of circumstance gradually awakens Jenny to the possibility of a real God.
At the end of the book jenny recollects her conversation with an elderly nun.
She asks her why she swapped a life of privilege for one of servitude, wondering out loud whether it was the sisters love of people, which prompted her to embrace this life.
The response came like this;
‘Of course not! She answered sharply, ‘how can you love ignorant brutish people who you don’t even know?’ ‘Can anyone love filth and squalor? Or lice and rats? Who can love aching weariness and carry on in spite of it?’
One cannot love these things. One can only love God and through his grace come to love his people.’ P318-319
The simple truth of this made an impression on me and fills me with real hope.
Wroth is fantastic at chronicling the humanity of the nuns she lived with.
Yes she writes of their tireless work for others and their conviction of faith but she also writes of their arguments, their petty meanness and their frustrations.
She paints a wonderful picture of sometimes-good-sometimes-bad always-complex people who have made a decision to love and serve God despite all of the rest.
What a relief that even nuns who make an active decision to lay their lives down for God are still so wonderfully human, that they need Gods love and Grace as much as the rest of us
The calling on their lives is the same as the calling on mine, to love God and love others, in that order.