My sister Donna texted me a while ago and said, “U gotta c ths show--Call the Midwife. PBS. Nuns.” I hesitated, because I’m not a big fan of tv shows based on medical stuff. But I figured if Donna, who is a nurse, likes it, I probably would too, especially since it has nuns.
I love it—as do millions of other people, it turns out. “Call the Midwife” is a hugely popular drama series that’s set in a tough part of London in the 1950s. At Nonnatus House, a nursing convent, sisters and other midwives help women with childbirth and with their newborns. Although their focus is on childbirth, they also help others in the community who are in need of health care. The tv series is based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth.
One of the many things I appreciate about the show is that it depicts the sisters as real people involved in real-life situations. They are not just bystanders to the life that swirls around them. For centuries, it was believed that too much contact with the secular world, with its problems and temptations, posed a threat to holiness for religious. But therein was the challenge – how to be of service to others, as so many sisters were in health care, education, and social services, and remain apart from the world at the same time. But in the 1950s, the idea of leaving the world to find holiness was already changing.
Though the sisters at Nonnatus House are from the Anglican (or Church of England) tradition, there are many parallels to Catholic women's communities. They, like their Catholic counterparts, show with their lives one of the central ideas that Vatican II (for us Catholics) would articulate nearly a decade later – that holiness was to be achieved within the world and its problems, not apart from them. As the sisters and midwives go about helping mothers deliver their babies and care for their newborns, the sense of grace and holiness is unmistakable.
So, if you’re looking for a terrific show to watch, especially as we continue to celebrate National Nurses Week, check out “Call the Midwife.” If you've already seen the show, I'd love to hear your thoughts about it!