Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Faith of Florence Nightingale


This is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, the nurse of the 19th century whose innovative reforms in medicine, including hand-washing, saved thousands of lives during the Crimean War in battlefield hospitals and possibly millions world-wide. At the time hospitalization was nearly as dangerous as combat because of infection. 

This anniversary should be observed yearly by the clue-writers for the Jeopardy quizz show because Nightingale and her American counterpart, Clara Barton, are regularly the inspiration for  "questions." 

The Faith Behind the Famous: Florence Nightingale

A Twitter acknowledgment of Nightingale's birthday describes her as the founder of the first secular school for nursing. It made me curious about her Christians faith because I recall from the mists of time reading that she was strongly motivated by a sense of call despite nursing being considered below her social station in that era. I found an article in Christian History magazine which includes this: 

Then a strange thing happened. Though she did not think herself deeply religious and never thought she became so, on February 7, 1837, when she was scarcely 17 years old, she felt that God spoke to her, calling her to future “service.” From that time on her life was changed.

At first the call disturbed her. Not knowing the nature of the “service,” she feared making herself unworthy of whatever it was by leading the frivolous life that her mother and her social set demanded of her. Now she was given to periods of preoccupation, or to what she called “dreams” of how to fulfill her mission. Meanwhile she spent all her spare time visiting the cottages on her family estate and bringing neighboring poor people food and medicine.

She was able to pursue this vocation despite her parents' strong reservations and today she is revered for she selflessness. strength of character and practical insight. In the midst of the pandemic in Britain there are seven temporary hospitals with her name, a fitting tribute.

We can be grateful that God spoke to Florence Nightingale and that she responded. Her Christian faith has made the world a better, healthier place. 



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