Daniel Nuzum's audioboos

Friday, December 24, 2010

Labour has started

The time has nearly come. In a few minutes Christians in this part of the world will start their celebrations of the Birth of Christ. Yesterday I sat with expectant parents at my place of work in a Maternity Hospital. They were eagerly and nervously preparing for the arrival of their baby. There was a palpable sense of expectation and trepidation knowing that there would be both pain and joy to bring this new life to the outside world from the safety and security of the womb. Tonight Christians the world over join with Mary and Joseph as they eagerly and nervously await the birth of their baby. A baby about whom so much has been written and painted. Yet, I have yet to receive a Christmas card showing anything remotely like the large 'bellys' and the distinctive walk or even waddle (if that isn't too rude a description) I see every day amongst women about to give birth and pacing the corridor to pass the time. I have yet to receive a Christmas Card of the nativity showing an exhausted Mary and Joseph! I have yet to receive a Christmas card showing anything of the tenderness and intimacy that a couple can share at this life-changing time.

We have sanitised the reality of the birth of the one who is the supreme incarnation of what it is to be human. To do this is to rob something from the incarnation of Jesus. To deny something of the sheer wonder that God would choose to come amongst us in the messiness, the pain, the nervousness, the danger of childbirth. While his conception was extraordinary his birth was as ordinary as any other. The Pain, the contractions, the screams, the labour, the birth, the blood, the squeezing Joseph's hand, the cord, that first cry. It is probably considered heresy to contemplate that Mary might have even used an expletive to get her out of this situation...!

So tonight, lets put aside the pasty, plaster and saccharine picture of Mary and Joseph as if they were hosting a tea party. Rather let us be real, and in doing so perhaps glimpse again something of the sheer breathtaking wonder of what it is that God has done. To honour Mary and Joseph for what they went through to bring God's plan to birth. Happy Christmas! Gloria in excelsis Deo...

The last day of Advent and pregnancy: nervousness, joy and sometimes searing pain

In this last week of Advent I find it a deeply moving time to be working in a Maternity Hospital. I can sense in a way I never really did in parish ministry a deeper connection wit the reality of what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph. I see them in the faces of excited parents as they come for antenatal clinic appointments, ultrasound scans, routine check-ups etc. There is a sense of nervousness and excitement as the impending birth draws near. Hands are clasped, kisses are exchanged, impromptu cuddles and affectionate gestures are openly displayed. There are knowing and penetrating glances between lovers. Mums and dada hold stretched bellys and feel reassuring kicks and movements. Walking through the antenatal ward we can eavesdrop on the little lives of those we have not yet met face to face but whose heartbeats echo via the monitors... A sound never forgotten by parents.

As well as meeting with couples preparing for the birth of their babies, I also met with couples whose pregnancy had ended or whose baby had died before birth. There are no words to describe the heart rending pain this brings. I think of them, all of them, each of them, this evening as I get my children's Christmas presents ready. I have a profound awareness of just how privileged I am to be able to do this.

I was deeply touched during one of the funeral services for a baby that I conducted in recent days by a particular piece of music which was chosen by the little baby's parents. It was Never Say Goodbye sung by Hayley Westenra and is adapted from "Pavane". These words capture something of this loss and the searing pain of saying hello and goodbye to a baby in one breath. So as you celebrate Christmas today think too of those who would give anything to have Santa in their home this night.

If I could take this moment forever
Turn the pages of my mind
To another place and time
We would never say goodbye

If I could find the words I
 would speak them
Then I wouldn't be tongue-tied
When I looked into your eyes
We would never say goodbye
If I could stop the moon ever rising
Day would not become the night
Wouldn't feel this cold inside
And we'd never say goodbye

I wish that our dreams were frozen
Then our hearts would not be broken
When we let each other go...
If I could steal this moment forever
Paint a picture-perfect smile
So our story stayed alive
We would never say goodbye 
Hayley Westenra

Monday, December 20, 2010

The womb of expectation and hope

We are in the final days of Advent. The rush is on to get the final jobs done, the presents bought and the fridge stocked for Christmas. Although there is an economic recession the tills seem to be ringing.
In these last few days what are we expecting from Christmas? What are we hoping for? What is nestled in our particular personal womb that is kicking and longing to come to birth?
What is stirring deep within which we might dare to bring to birth?
We all long for things in life and dream of how things might be different. Yet there is also the painful lesson that pregnancy can teach us; that is, that all new births occur following a journey of pain.
Before the cry of new life is heard there is more-often-than-not discomfort, nervousness, excitement, hard work and pain. A certain sort of 'blood, sweat and tears'.
For me as I approach these last days of Advent I am nesting within the womb of my soul the expectation of experiencing afresh the wonder of love. Experiencing afresh the wonder of the daily miracles that surround me in the people I love and who love me. There is an economic recession at the moment. However, there is no recession in the overflowing love which flows from God and is lavished on each of us and which we are invited to lavish on others. I can feel the kicks, the preparations are almost complete: Maranatha!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent Online Calendar

Thanks to the mission and ministry of Trinity Church, Wall Street, New York I have embedded an online advent calendar to stimulate thought each day in Advent...

Advent: We hate waiting

Advent is about waiting.
Waiting is not something which we are particularly good at; or at least I am not good at at any rate! When I decide on something i want it now and waiting can be very tedious.
We live in an instant culture where we like to have everything now. We want strawberries on Christmas Day, we want potatoes flown in from the Middle East to Ireland, we buy in sugar from Germany when we have sugar beet rotting in the ground? Needless to say there is nothing wrong with the products from an of these places. However, we loose something when we break the connection between the product and its source. We grew our own potatoes and peas this year and it was a sheer delight to watch them grow and to harvest them each day for dinner. Our children excitedly dug the potatoes and presented them with great pride. We had to wait, and watch and expect.
Maybe in the midst of our economic crisis there is something to be rediscovered about the value and virtue of waiting. Of having to invest in the lead-up to something rather than being able to pick it from the shelf literally or metaphorically? Can we live in the now with a sense of hope and excitement for the future rather than simply surviving on the shallow -albeit pleasurable- feeling of the quick fix of instant gratification? Advent is about waiting. It is about expectation. It is about that sense of nervous excitement about the future which we hope will be better than the present.

What are we waiting for today? And more importantly, what is there in life that is worth waiting for?

Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints: Remembering the ordinary foot-slogging Christians

Icon for All Saints'.
Christ is enthroned in the centre surrounded by the angels and saints,
Paradise is at the bottom, with the 
Bosom of Abraham (left) and the Good Thief (right) holding his cross.
Today, 1 November is All Saints' Day and tomorrow is All Souls' Day. I have always had a special place in my heart for these two days. There is something about them which touches me in a personal way. For me, All Saints and All Souls is about the countless ordinary folk who have 'done their bit' so to speak in their day. People, like you and me, about whom a book will never be written or who will not be remembered for anything in particular. It is easy to remember those who have become famous or indeed infamous. However, that is not the whole story. Today and tomorrow we remember those who are well known to the world and those who were known and continue to be loved by us.

St Etchen's Church, Killucan
I was thinking of this yesterday as I sat with my family in St Etchen's Church, Killucan, Co. Westmeath. This is a very special church for us. It was where we were married and it holds the memories of many special times and some sad ones too. Four years ago the funeral of a close friend of mine took place there. I say close friend because Rob Whiteside, who was also my Father-in-law was to me someone who was first and foremost a friend. I thought of him a lot yesterday when I was back in St Etchen's and consider him amongst the great cloud of witnesses. Rob was very human and had his faults -we all do- but he was someone who incarnated for me extraordinary goodness. He had the great gift of being able to see the best in people without being naieve about reality. He was an eternal optimist, a fantastic father to my wife Heather and her siblings and an inspirational grandfather -albeit for too short a time- to his grandchildren. I think I missed him most of all for them yesterday. The stories he loved to tell them, the games he loved to play with them and so on.  Rob was someone who inspired hope and he lived it. Although he was very honest about his dying when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour aged 60, he radiated hope. During a trip to the TaizĂ© Community in France a few months before he died, he crawled on his arms and knees to the front of the chapel during one of the prayer services to have a prayer said -not for himself- but for someone special to him. I will never forget this image: true pilgrimage. 

As we celebrate All Saints and All Souls we can feel particularly close to those whom we love but see no longer. We can more easily at this time of year dare to step outside the confining bounds of time and space to taste and experience something much bigger than ourselves.

Who are the important ones who have inspired you, encouraged you, nurtured you, loved you? Remember them today. I am remembering Rob today and indeed all those I have been privileged to care for in ministry.
They may never be remembered in history: that doesn't matter.
They are precious to God, to me and to you. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Back to the farm: remembering the stories

Today I journeyed to my parents' farm where I grew up in Co Wicklow. It has been seven months since I was home and driving down the lane today brought so many memories flooding back. That lane holds the memories of so many journeys beginning and ending for me. As a schoolboy I regularly walked the lane with my siblings to catch the bus to school and then the journey downhill from the road at the end if the school day when a lovely warm dinner awaited. Today we were due at dinnertime - which is religiously 1pm- but thanks to roadworks, traffic and loo stops with children we eventually arrived at 3pm. The children were so excited as we turned into the lane and they caught sight of some cows in a field. And a digger in the distance. When we got inside it was just like a school day from 30 years ago when the 'dinner' was produced for us. 'I love granny dinners' our second eldest proclaimed!
So here we are and I hope to have the opportunity to walk the farm with the children to share with them my stories and memories of growing up here. They regularly ask 'tell me a story from when you were a little boy...'
Over the next few days I hope to share some more with them and 'walk them'.

All of this invites us to ponder and reflect on how we communicate and keep memory alive? How do we tell our important and personal stories to our children so that they have a sense of who they are and where they come from? Remembering is at the heart if the Jewish & Christian traditions. We tell the story of salvation and who we are as God's people. This is a powerful source of formation, tradition and personal and communal identity.

Which stories will I tell to my children over the next few days and what are the stories they will be weave for themselves so that they can pass them on in due course? Stories are important parts of who we are.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

From small acorns grow mighty oaks...Three years ago today

This inscription written by a midwife
gave us much hope during an
uncertain few days for Rory
Three years ago today our youngest two children, identical twin boys, were born at Cork University Maternity Hospital at 32 weeks gestation. The weeks leading up to their birth were a time of anxiety as week by week it became clearer that they would need to be delivered for their own safety. And so at 14:53 & 14:54 on Tuesday 23 October they were delivered by C- Section.

I was thinking of them a lot last night as I was back amongst former parishioners at Holy Trinity Church, Crosshaven for the dedication of their new Pipe Organ. Heather and I will never forget the extraordinary love and kindness shown to us at that time of great uncertainty for us as we spent time with our two little men in the Neonatal Intensive Care unit. (Little did I know that I would be working in this area in pastoral care a few years later!) The picture opposite shows a very thoughtful drawing on the cover of a bag of TPN (liquid intravenous food) which we were greeted with one day in the neonatal unit. It was a difficult few days where one of the boys had been very ill with septicaemia. This thoughtful gesture by Ann, one of the midwives meant so much to us and gave us an inkling that things might just be OK.

EVERY day for 6 and a half months the parishioners of Templebreedy fed us and our family. This came without asking. Every day a main meal arrived at the rectory for us.
No words can begin to describe what this meant during what was an incredibly stressful time for us as a family. We had three other children, the youngest at the time was only 13 months and they too had needs. Our families were four hours away. When the boys eventually came home I was trying to continue my work which mercifully was from home and Heather literally spent the whole time breastfeeding the boys. It was a full time occupation! Breastfeeding sick, premature twins is a vocation. Our family, friends and in this case our parish family gave us so much love and support and literally held us through the first six months as we got these little men on the path to growth and development. We also always felt that they shared in our joy. We had many dinner parties for up to 50 people (madness when we think back!) where the twins simply slept in the corner of the room or were cuddled by various people. At the end of one such gathering one of the boys had an apnoeic attack and needed to be resuscitated and brought back to hospital and ended back in the neonatal unit for another sojourn. Scary stuff!

The boys will of course never remember this part of their life and will probably never remember this role I had in the community and in the parish. I miss being around them as I work and being able to see the children at various stages during the day whether it was fleetingly as I was in school, or assembly, teaching in school or simply working from the parish office which was attached to our home. Now I go to work in the morning and return in the evening.
So last night being back in Holy Trinity Church, Crosshaven on the eve of their birthdays this all came back to me and what a testament to a hardworking, caring, faithful and inspiring parish community who gave us so much and who this weekend celebrate the completion of the restoration and conservation of their parish church and the dedication of their new pipe organ.

So to our youngest, today is a milestone we are so proud to have reached with you. You are a handful and a heartful and you have brought out the best in so many people: keep it up! To all who have given us so much: Thank you!

Making music: making history

It was a strangely emotional experience to be back in the parish this evening where I was priest from 2002-2009. During my time as rector of Holy Trinity, Crosshaven, Co. Cork the parish embarked on a very ambitious restoration and conservation programme of their beautiful church which was designed and built between 1866-1868 by the word renowned architect William Burges. This church is a gem. As part of the overall restoration of the church the parish replaced a former Pipe Organ which had reached the end of its days by commissioning a brand new mechanical action pipe organ which was built by the Dutch organ builder Henk van Eeken and installed a few weeks ago. Mark Duley, Organ Consultant for the project gave inspirational leadership to the parish throughout this project. The Bishop blessed the new organ tonight, something which I guess is a rare thing these days.
It took a long time to get to tonight and it was a sense of real sadness for me that this project was not finished by the time I felt called to pastures new in healthcare ministry in 2009. It was something that I felt I left unfinished and if i'm honest left me with a level of guilt -until tonight.

I was graciously invited to preach at the service of dedication this evening by my successor to whom great credit is due for bringing the project to its completion. I loved my time in that parish and it will forever hold special memories for me as a priest. I had profound moments in my ministry there with the most wonderful people. In the words of the Bishop "...[they] have done a beautiful thing for God..." in seeing this project through to completion. I don't think however that the locals realise yet the immense significance of this project in terms of its contribution to the musical world not just in Cork but in Ireland.  It looks stunning and is faithful to the sheer brilliance and genius of William Burges. I was immensely proud of the parishioners for having the courage to see this project through to completion and it was a real joy to be there this evening.

In my sermon I reflected on primary role of the Pipe Organ in shaping and allowing God's Spirit to infuse the beauty of worship and how it has the capacity to bring us to that deep place and experience of God. I had many such experiences in this parish and indeed in Nohoval Parish Church which is the second of the two churches which makes up the parish grouping of Templebreedy. I described the Pipe Organ as holding the breadth of the human condition within it. It brings out the very best in terms of what is possible when we work together  creating the most beautiful and rich harmony but strangely -as in life- the same processes can bring about dischord and the pain of shrill when we do not work together. Both are held together and are in many ways inseparable parts of the reality of being human.

I wish the parish of Templebreedy every blessing as they continue to make music and offer the very best of it in their worship to God week by week. They are fortunate to have such dedication in their Director of Music and their beautiful Templebreedy Children's Choir and of course their Priest Isobel Jackson. Ad multos annos.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


I shared in two public ceremonies of remembrance in the last week where bereaved families came to remember their loved one. In both cases the churches were full to capacity. The first was for those who are bereaved following the death of a baby or the loss of a pregnancy and the second was for those whose loved one died in the care of our local hospice services. In a very poignant way I had a deep sense at both events that I was treading -hopefully very softly- on sacred ground. The sacred ground of hopes, dreams and memories. I was for a short time treading very gently in the land of grief where our sensitivities are heightened and our rawness very bare. Grief is a strange land.

Remembering is at the very heart of the Christian tradition. We remember every time we gather for worship. We recall the saving, generous and loving acts of God in Jesus Christ. However, it is more than simply recalling in a nostalgic sense. Rather, it is about keeping alive the bond of love and connection across time and space. It is hard to adequately express in words -which are so conditioned and limited by time and space- just what this means. How do we convey what it is to be still connected, to still have communion with those 'we love but see no longer'?

At each service of remembrance there was a sense of collective and shared experience of loss, yet, we all grieve differently. There is something very powerful when we can gather together in this way acknowledging the experience that we share yet being able to have a time where each person can be with their own grief. At each service I think this happened.

At the end of the Service for those who were grieving the death of a baby or a pregnancy there was a profound experience where the staff of the hospital each lit candles and formed a ring of candlelight around the church with parents and families each holding their own candle. The lights went down and the music faded. In that silence we were treading in a land without the limits of time and space. It was a time of deep presence and supportive love.

In the second service for our local hospice I was struck by the number of young people there. A full church of families marking the death of a loved one. A service where once again we were in a space of memory and love. Each person there with their rich memories of love and pain. Stories which were shared afterwards with me through the tears and the knowing looks as I reconnected with families I had journey with earlier this year. Young people, parents, children, grandparents, spouses, partners. As a Christian the abiding sense I had during this service was of God coming alongside each person and holding them, embracing them and loving them as if they were the only person in the world. Personal and individual love in a collective setting. To remember in this way is profound and transcends religious and faith systems.

There was no easy way to escape the painful fact that we miss the one who has died. we miss their voice, their physical presence, their smells, their habits -even the ones that annoyed us, their company, their laughter, their playfulness, their support and so the losses can go on...

Death is painful and grief is hard. None of us will escape it so why do we find it so hard to talk about it? Why do we find it so hard to reach out to someone who is bereaved? Instead we don't know what to say, so we duck into a shop to buy something we don't need rather than stop to ask a grieving friend how they are. We are afraid they might cry, that they might get upset. Yet those tears are healing. Let's be real and have the courage to come alongside those who mourn. Words are not necessary, presence is everything.

Monday, October 18, 2010

St Luke's Day 2010

I joined colleagues today who are involved in healthcare ministry for a celebration of the eucharist at St Fin Barre's Cathedral followed by lunch kindly hosted by the Dean, Nigel Dunne. It was an opportunity to take some time out to reflect on our calling as we minister amongst those who are ill. I say amongst as it is so much closer to the heart of what healthcare ministry is about for me. I cringe when I hear people refer to or pray for 'the sick'. Such a description reveals a lot about the person using it!
 'The sick' are always remote, distant and a barrier is erected between us and 'them'. Real pastoral presence for me is about coming alongside a fellow human being and being a companion on their journey for a while. It is road to Emmaus stuff. It is the art of being able to meet someone where they are in a natural, accepting and loving way. This presence allows a person to be honest about what's going on for them and to journey forward in a trusting way. If we think about it there are very few people with whom we can be fully honest without fear of judgement. In this sacred space healing is more important than 'cure'. What do you think?
For good measure here is St Luke as depicted on the pulpit in St Fin Barre's Cathedral.

3 Minute Retreat Desktop Images - Loyola Press

3 Minute Retreat Desktop Images - Loyola Press

Sunday, October 17, 2010

St Luke's Day

Tomorrow, 18 October is St Luke's Day and is a special day for those of us engaged in pastoral and healthcare ministry in the Christian tradition.
 I look forward to joining fellow chaplains at a celebration of the Eucharist at St Fin Barre's Cathedral followed by lunch.
St Luke Roundel from Sanctuary window, Holy Trinity Church, Crosshaven, Co. Cork

meaning close to home: the children...

the twins instinctively holding hands when they were back together for the first time since they were born prematurely.
I rejoice in each of my children. They are 5 in number and are aged almost 12, almost 10, 4 and identical twins about to be 3 this coming week. They are a lively bunch and keep us busy every day.  If I'm honest it is a daily struggle to keep calm as you can literally be pulled in five directions at once. Each of the children has their own unique personality and gifts and each of them brings us so much joy and delight. Equally each of them has their challenges which we navigate on a daily basis. It is easy to get frustrated with the sheer commitment and at times we loose patience. Yet, in a hospital environment things take on a new perspective. This came home to me a few days ago when I was spending time with a lady whose pregnancy did not survive and she asked me about my children. Normally I would steer the conversation away from me but in this case the person in question seemed to know that I was a parent. "What ages are they?" she asked.  At one level I almost felt guilty speaking about my 5 children when she desperately wanted to have even 1. It seems so unfair. Yet, being honest I sometimes take for granted the miracle that each of them is to us. And that's what they are: a miracle, an extraordinary gift to us. May I never forget it.

Finding meaning

Welcome to my blog. I hope to blog from time to time my musings on spirituality and health and how we find meaning in the midst of health and illness. The absence of full health brings us to various places and introduces us to various experiences in what can be a foreign land of uncertainty and fragility.