Cynthia's call

Spoiler alert: if you enjoy watching Call the Midwife and haven't yet seen the Christmas 2014 episode, look away now!

In the Christmas episode of Call the Midwife one of the storylines centres on Cynthia exploring her call to religious life. Many viewers might not have been surprised. There is a kind of innocence and wholesomeness about Cynthia; a sincere, simple desire to do what is right and best, whether it be for a patient, her guide pack or herself, which lives up to popular stereotypes of potential sisters. Her lack of height and makeup, along with her simple bobbed hairstyle, make her seem younger than the others; in reality, though, by now she would have been an experienced district nurse and midwife, at least in her mid-twenties. In real life, however, it is not necessarily the quiet and earnest who enter religious life, but the seeming flibbertigibbets like Trixie, who, beneath her peroxide and worldliness, is as dedicated and caring as all the others, with depths waiting to be explored.

But it is Cynthia who meets with Sr Julienne; not to discuss an obvious, unsurprising call, but to express her doubts and anxieties. But I don't know why I feel this call, this longing... she agonises, and is assured (though maybe not reassured!) that she is by no means the first to feel this way. Indeed, her questioning and self-doubt have echoed throughout the centuries. But how can it be...? asked Mary, wonderingly, faced with the greatest of all calls, and how can it be...? and can God really mean me? has been asked by countless women and men ever since. I've nothing to give, says Cynthia, and this, too, is how so many of us feel before the immensity of God's love.

Given the option of waiting another twelve months or longer, Cynthia eventually chooses to enter with the next group of postulants in January. Maybe she realises how fruitless another year would be: not a time of growth-filled, prayerful waiting, but twelve more months of yet more fretful agonising and unfulfilled hoping for a great sign to appear, assuring her that this is indeed God's will for her and all will be well. Maybe she also realises what it is she truly, deeply wants, and just how much she wants it.

When Patsy, realising what is happening within Cynthia, utters good grief, Cynthia assures her that grief has nothing to do with it. I feel as though I'm on the edge of a truly great happiness... a conviction and a desire which has also echoed through the centuries, and is understood by every woman or man who has ever entered religious life.

May all those discerners currently teetering on the edge also come to understand that it is not a dark, empty abyss into which they gaze, but one containing a truly great and immeasurable happiness...

PS: And all praise to the script-writers, producers and actors for portraying Cynthia's call in such a reverent, un-sensational yet very realistic way.