Sister Monica Joan.

I’ve enjoyed watching the first few seasons of “Call the Midwife” on PBS, once it reaches here from across the sea in England. I recently picked up the memoir that this midwives-in-1950s-East-End TV show is based on. It’s decidedly more gritty and dark and matter-of-fact than the TV adaptation is, but most of the same intriguing and beautiful characters are still there. I loved this closing scene, between midwife Jenny Lee and the elderly nun Sister Monica Joan:

What had impelled Sister Monica Joan to abandon a privileged life for one of hardship, working in the slums of London’s Docklands? “Was it love of people” I asked her.

“Of course not,” she snapped sharply. “How can you love ignorant, brutish people whom you don’t even know? Can anyone love filth and squalor? Or lice and rats? Who can love aching weariness, and carry on working, in spite of it? One cannot love these things. One can only love God, and through His grace come to love His people.”

****

Jennifer Worth. Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times. Merton Books, 2002.

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