Saturday, February 4, 2012

Meditation on the Carrying of the Cross

Today is the First Saturday of the Month.  Our Lady of Fatima requested that we observe First Saturdays as follows:
It consists in going to Confession, receiving Communion, reciting five decades of the Rosary and meditating for a quarter of an hour on the mysteries of the Rosary on the first Saturday of five consecutive months. The Confession may be made during the eight days preceding or following the first Saturday of each month, provided that Holy Communion be received in the state of grace. Should one forget to form the intention of making reparation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, it may be formed at the next Confession, occasion to go to confession being taken at the first opportunity.
I have decided this month to meditate on the fourth Sorrowful Mystery:  Jesus Carries His Cross.  I love the meditation from St. Francis from the Stations of the Cross:
When our divine Savior beheld the cross, He most willingly stretched out His bleeding arms, lovingly embraced it, and tenderly kissed it, and placing it on His bruised shoulders, He, although almost exhausted, joyfully carried it.
And the prayer is:

O my Jesus, I cannot be Thy friend and follower, if I refuse to carry the cross. O dearly beloved cross! I embrace thee, I kiss thee, I joyfully accept thee from the hands of my God. Far be it from me to glory in anything, save in the cross of my Lord and Redeemer. By it the world shall be crucified to me and I to the world, that I may be Thine forever.

The Cross is an ugly object of execution consisting of two rough wooden logs nailed to each other, one horizontal and the other vertical.  It caused the extreme torture and long, excruciatingly painful death of those crucified on it.  Yet, our Lord reached out and embraced and even kissed this instrument of torture because it was the instrument through which salvation came to the world.  Christ commands us to follow his lead:  "Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."  (Matthew 16:24). 

The cross that Jesus carried was the salvation of the world, and we as Catholics display it in our homes, our Churches, wear it around our neck, and trace it across our bodies when we pray.  The priest makes the sign of the cross when he blesses us.  To carry our cross is to take whatever suffering is offered us and joyfully accept it because it is the road to our own personal salvation. 

Jesus was actually too physically weak to carry his cross, and because the Romans did not want him to die until they could nail him to that cross, they forced Simon the Cyrenian to help our Lord carry his cross.  I find it ironic that those who hated our Lord are the ones who helped to make it possible for Jesus to die on that Cross which would save the world.  So often those who are our enemies are actually helping us on the road to salvation because without realizing it, by persecuting us they are giving us more strength to carry our cross.  And of course, Our Lord, along with his Blessed Mother, is always walking with us lifting our burden and filling us with strength.  We are never alone. 

Life consists in carrying a cross of one kind or another.  It is our choice to either take the cross of this world which will lead to death, or the blessed cross of our Lord, which he so joyfully and willingly accepted, and which will lead to our salvation and life eternal.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Feast of The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today is the Feast of The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Candlemas.  To those who say the Rosary on a regular basis, they know this as the Fourth Joyful Mystery, the Presentation of Our Lord at the Temple.  In fact, the Novus Ordo calendar now calls this day Presentation of the Lord.  It is also called Candlemas because of Christ our Lord, who is the " light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" (Luke 2:32).  Christ is the light of the nations, hence the blessing and procession of candles on this day. The reason it is called The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary is because this was traditionally the time when Israelite women went through a purification process after giving birth.  Leviticus 12:1-8:
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.  And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised [this is what the Church traditionally celebrated on January 1, but is now only celebrated in the Traditional Calendar]And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.  But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.
And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest: who shall offer it before the Lord, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that hath born a male or a female.  And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean.
Joseph and Mary were very poor, so they offered two young turtle doves to redeem the child, the Creator of the universe.  In actual fact, Christ, the Lamb of God, was the perfect offering.

The account of the purification of Mary can be found in Luke 2:22-32:
[22] And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord: [23] As it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord: [24] And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons: [25] And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was in him.
[26] And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. [27] And he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, [28] He also took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said: [29] Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; [30] Because my eyes have seen thy salvation, [31] Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: [32] A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
The Lesson is taken from a Sermon by St. Augustine the Bishop:
Concerning that time it was written : And of Sion it shall be reported that he was born in her, and the Most High shall stablish her.  O how blessed is the omnipotence of him that was born!  Yea, how blessed is the glory of him that came down from heaven to earth!  Whilst he was yet in his Mother's womb, he was saluted by St. John the Baptist.  And when he was presented in the temple, he was recognized by the old man Simeon, a worthy who was full of years, proved and crowned.  This ancient one, as soon as he knew him, worshipped and said : Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. 
He had lingered in the world to see the birth of him who made the world.  The old man knew the Child, and in that Child became a child himself, for in the love wherewith he regarded the Father of all, he felt his own years to be but as yesterday.  The ancient Simeon bare in his arms the new-born Christ, and all the while, Christ ruled and upheld the old man.  Simeon had been told by the Lord that he should not taste of death before he had seen the birth of the Lord's Christ.  Now that Christ was born , all the old man's wishes on earth were fulfilled. He that was come into a decrepit world now also came to an old man.
Simeon wished not to remain long in the world, but with great desire he had desired to see Christ in the world, for he had sung with the Prophet : Shew us thy mercy, O Lord, and grant us thy salvation.  And now at last, that ye might know how that, to his joy, his prayer was granted, he said : Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.  The Prophets have sung that the Maker of heaven and earth would converse on earth with men.  An Angel hath declared that the Creator of flesh and spirit would come in the flesh.  The unborn John, yet in the womb, hath saluted the unborn Saviour yet in the womb.  The old man Simeon hath seen God as little Child.
This account leaves out the following verses from Luke 2:34-35, which are prophecies made by Simeon:

And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed. 
The Douay Rheims verison defines "for the fall":  "Christ came for the salvation of all men; but here Simeon prophesies what would come to pass, that many through their own wilful blindness and obstinacy would not believe in Christ, nor receive his doctrine, which therefore would be ruin to them: but to others a resurrection, by their believing in him, and obeying his commandments." With Christ's appearance in the world as a man, we no longer have an excuse.  If we refuse to believe in Him, we condemn ourselves.  Belief in Christ will lead to the resurrection and life.  It is now our choice.

Simeon also prophesied to Mary that "thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed." Go here for an excellent explanation of what this means.  Here are a few excerpts:

Commenting on this, St Bernard says: The time will come when Jesus will not be offered in the temple nor in the arms of Simeon, but outside the city walls on the arms of a cross. The time will come when he will not be ransomed with money but will himself redeem others with his own blood, for God the Father has sent him as a ransom for his people. The suffering of his Mother, the sword that will pierce her soul, will have as their only cause the agony of her Son, his persecution and death, the uncertainty about when these things will happen, and the resistance to the grace of the Redemption, which will be the ruin of many. Mary’s destiny is bound up with that of Jesus, in its operation, and without any other possible reason.

The joy of the Redemption and the pain of the Cross are inseparable in the lives of Jesus and Mary, as if God, through his most beloved creatures in the world, wished to show us that happiness is to be found close to the Cross.

Right from the start then, the lives of Our Lord and of his Mother are stamped with the sign of the Cross. To the joy of the first Christmas is soon added privation and anxiety. From these first moments Mary already knows the pain that awaits her. And when her hour comes she will contemplate the Passion and Death of her Son with neither reproach nor complaint. Suffering as no mother could ever suffer, Mary will accept her pain in peace of mind, for she knows its redemptive significance.

Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the Cross, where she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, endured with her only-begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, associated herself with his sacrifice in her mother’s heart, and lovingly consented to the immolation of this victim which was born of her.

Mary’s suffering has an especially suitable meaning and is related to the sins of mankind. It is a co­redemptive suffering and that is why the Church gives to the Blessed Virgin the title of Co-redemptrix.

We ourselves learn the value and meaning of the sufferings and troubles which are part of every human life, when we meditate on Mary. With her we learn to sanctify pain, uniting it to that of her Son and offering it to the Father. The Holy Mass is the most suitable moment for offering all that is most painful in our lives. And there we will encounter Our Lady.

Luke 2:19: But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

St. Ignatius of Antioch

The saint for today is St. Ignatius of Antioch, our second Pope who was martyred between 98 and 117 A.D.  He was thrown to the lions in the Roman Colosseum.  The most unusal aspect of this martyrdom is that St. Ignatius begged the people to allow it to happen and prayed that the lions would not be stopped from attacking him as happened to other great saints when the lions refused to attack.  The Traditional Breviary has a great reading from St. Jerome the Priest:
Ignatius was the third Bishop of Antioch after the Apostle Peter. When Trajan stirred up his persecution, he was condemned to be devoured by wild beasts, and sent to Rome in chains. When on his journey thither he arrived at Smyrna, where Polycarp, the disciple of John, was Bishop, he wrote an Epistle to the Ephesians, another to the Magnesians, a third to the Trallians, and a fourth to the Roman : and after leaving Smyrna, he addressed a further Epistle to the Philadelphians, and another to the Smyrnians, along with a private Epistle to Polycarp, to whose care he commended the Church of Antioch. In this last he quoteth a passage regarding the Person of Christ from the Gospel, which I have recently translated.
It is fitting that, as we have made mention of a man of so much importance, we should also note briefly the Epistle which he addressed to the Romans. I am on my way, saith he, from Syria to Rome, and am already fighting with beasts on sea and on land all the way. I may say I am chained day and night to ten leopards, for indeed the soldiers, who have charge of me, are no better. The more courteous I am to them, the worse they use me. But still their wickedness is good schooling for me, though I know that my mere sufferings cannot in themselves gain me justification. I earnestly wish for the beasts which are to devour me ; at any rate, I pray they may put me out of pain quickly, and fly on me willingly, that I be not like some other Martyrs, whose bodies the animals have refused to touch. If I find that they will not come on, I will run at them as quick as I can, to make them devour me. Let me be, my little children : I know what is good for me.

I feel now that I am beginning to be Christ's disciple ; I desire none of those things which are seen, if so be I may find Christ Jesus. I care not that there come upon me fire, or cross, or wild beasts, or breaking of my bones, or sundering of my members, or destruction of my whole body, yea, or all the torments of the devil, if only so be I may win Christ. When he was brought condemned to the theatre, and heard the roaring of the beasts which were to devour him, he felt so strong an eagerness to suffer, that he cried out : I am Christ's wheat, and so let the beasts' teeth be my mill, that I may be ground, and be found to make good bread. He suffered in the eleventh year of Trajan. What was left of his body lieth at Antioch, in the graveyard outside the gate which leadeth toward Daphne.

Again, I can only marvel that the saints have such a great love for Christ that they actually welcome suffering for him.   I pray that I will one day get to that point.  I have a hard time just accepting a headache.  I don't know how I could actually bring myself to welcome being thrown to the lions.  Truly that is the grace of God.
The Breviary also included a reading from St. Augustine:
The Lord Jesus was himself a corn of wheat that was to die and bring forth much fruit ; to die by the unbelief of the Jews, and to bring forth much fruit in the faith of the Gentiles. He, exhorting men to follow his steps, saith : He that loveth his life shall lose it. Now, these words may be understood in two ways. First : he that loveth his life shall lose it, that is, If thou love life, thou wilt lose it ; if thou wilt live for ever in Christ, refuse not to die for Christ. Or secondly : he that loveth his life shall lose it ; love not then that which thou shalt lose ; love not this present life, so that thou be thereby in jeopardy of losing life eternal. 
That this second interpretation is the meaning of the Gospel, appeareth most probably from the words which follow : And he that hateth his life in this world, shall keep it unto life eternal. From which we may suppose the sense of the first words to be : He that loveth his life in this world shall lose it unto life eternal. This is a great and marvellous saying, shewing how a man may so love life as to lose life, and so hate life as to keep life. If thou love it too well, then dost thou hate it : if thou hate it with an holy hatred, then dost thou love it. Blessed are they that, lest they should so love it as to lose it, so hate it as to keep it.
Beware lest thou take these words, He that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal, as some do, for an approval of suicide. Some evil and perverse men, bloody and guilty murderers of themselves, do indeed throw themselves into the fire, drown themselves in water, and cast themselves down precipices, and so perish. This is not the teaching of Christ, who, when the devil would have him cast himself down from an high place, answered : Get thee behind me, Satan. It is written, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. Who also said to Peter, signifying by what death he should glorify God : When thou wast young thou girdedst thyself and walkedst whither thou wouldest ; but when thou shalt be old, another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. From which it is evident that he that would follow Christ's footsteps, must be slain, not by himself, but by another.
This is one of the greatest lessons that the saints teach us.  We must learn to actually hate our life in this world, to be able to walk away from everything and everyone we love.  Christ told us that if our eye causes us to offend, we should pluck it out.  He did not mince words when he said:  "If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."  Luke 14:26.

Monday, January 30, 2012

St. Martina

Today in the Traditional Roman Calendar is the Feast Day of St. Martina, Virgin and Martyr, who died around 226 A.D.  Martyrdom is a strange phenomena, something very alien to our culture, which prizes comfort and pleasant physical sensations and avoids any kind of pain at all costs.  St. Martina came from a rich family and had all the comforts life could offer in the 3rd Century.  But she gave it all up for her love of her Creator, and underwent extreme torture.  Because she was so willing to do this, she helped bring many people to repentance and saved many souls. 

According to the Breviary, here is her biography:

Martina was a maiden of a most illustrious Roman family, daughter of a Consul. She lost her parents while still very young, and, being inflamed with Christian zeal, she distributed her wealth, whereof she had abundance, with great profusion among the poor. Under the Emperor Alexander, she was commanded to sacrifice to the imaginary gods, and refused with much boldness to commit this great wickedness. Upon this she was again and again scourged, and mangled with iron prongs and hooks, and pieces of broken pottery. Her limbs were cut piece by piece with sharp swords, and boiling tallow poured upon the living trunk. Lastly she was sent to be eaten publicly by the wild beasts in the amphitheatre, but by the will of God they would not touch her, and she was then thrown upon a burning pile, but still remained alive.

Some of her tormentors were so moved by the spectacle, that they repented, and, by the grace of God confessing the faith of Christ, through which she remained constant, were themselves tortured and beheaded. Martina herself lay praying, with a brightness on her face, while a matter like milk oozed from her body along with the blood, emitting a soft, sweet smell. She was as it were unconscious of an earthquake and most violent thunderstorm which arose and was raging, and while the lightning struck temples, and melted statues, she seemed in spirit rather to be seated above on a queenly throne, praising God in heaven among the Blessed.

The judge being infuriated at what had taken place, and chiefly at her unbending firmness, ordered the head of the martyr to be cut off. At the moment this was done, a peal which shook the city was heard, like a voice calling her home, and so great was the consternation, that it was made the means of conversion to many idolaters. The holy body of Martina wherein she had suffered in the Pontificate of Urban I, was discovered in the time of Urban VIII, in the very old Church called after her, situated at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, near the Mamertine Prison, along with the bodies of the holy martyrs Concordius, Epiphanius, and others. The Church was then altered and restored and handsomely decorated, and then the body was replaced in it, amid public rejoicings, with a solemn ceremony and procession.

I feel completely inadequate when I read biographies such as these.  It is hard to imagine accepting all of this suffering and then, on top of it all, being joyful and thankful.  The reason these great saints were able to do this is first, of course, the Grace of God.  But also, the great saints realized the futility of this life.  They knew that the only thing of any importance is to obey God, because that is all that will last.

I know it in my head.  I'm still struggling to convince my heart.  The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. 

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Silence in the Mass

Prayers said at foot of the altar
at beginning of Traditional Latin Mass
I recently did a post on a talk by Pope Benedict XVI on the importance of silence in communication.  I feel that silence during Mass is also very important, and I don't mean just from the people in the pews, but silence in the Mass itself.  Mass is the highest form of prayer for a Catholic because it is when we go to Calvary for the re-presentation of Christ's sacrifice to the Father.  Recognition of this fact demands reverential silence, and so it was until 1969 when the Novus Ordo Mass was first introduced.    Until the creation of the Novus Ordo Mass, the celebration of Mass included large amounts of silence.  Apart from the homily, amplification is never used during the Traditional Latin Mass.  Everything in the Traditional Mass lends itself to silent, prayerful contemplation.  It is never an intrusion into the prayers of the faithful, but an assistance in their prayers.  The priest prays with and in the same direction as the congregation.

In the TLM, the priest starts the Mass at the foot of the altar, asking forgiveness for his and the congregation's sins while the congregation kneels and prays silently with him.  In the Novus Ordo Mass, the priest comes out, stands at the side of the altar or behind it facing the congregation, and he prays at the people, almost always amplified, even if there is just a handful of people at the Mass.  The people stand, not kneel, facing the priest and instead of praying to God, they are basically answering the priest. 

Communal prayer and holding hands
during Novus Ordo Mass
It continues this way throughout the entire Novus Ordo Mass.  The priest is never quiet, not even during the Consecration. There is never a moment when the people can pray silently in personal communication with God.  Even when receiving Communion, instead of being able to kneel quietly in prayer and preparation at the altar rail while waiting for the priest to come to you, we now have to pick a line to stand in and then slowly walk up to the priest or Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist (who are no longer extraordinary but an expected part of the Mass) surrounded by the distraction of people walking all around us. Instead of being in silent, contemplative prayer, we have to wait to hear "Body of Christ" and then answer "Amen" to whomever (priest or EMHC) is giving us communion, again interrupting our internal communion with our Lord.  Most people receive in the hand, so after taking the Body and Blood of Jesus into their unpurified, unconsecrated hands, they walk away many times still holding the Host and consume it while walking, dropping the fragments of the consecrated host and, not even realizing it, desecrate our Lord, all hardly in an attitude of prayer.  The result of all of this is to lessen even more the reverence and awe due the Blessed Sacrament. 

Receiving Communion in the hand at
Novus Ordo Mass contrasted with
prayerful reception at TLM
using a paten to catch any fragments
For too many Catholics, receiving communion has become nothing more than a shared meal, not the reception of the Body and Blood of our Savior.  People don't even stop to consider whether they are in a state of grace and worthy to receive Communion.  They have basically the same attitude as Protestants do.  However, Protestants don't believe they are actually receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.  And they're right - they are only receiving a symbol.  But with Catholics, we believe that we are literally receiving the same Jesus Christ who gave Himself for us on Calvary.  You sure wouldn't know this at the typical Novus Ordo Masses.  Everyone just marches up in line and, most giving no sign of reverence whatsoever such as a bow of the head or (Heaven forbid!) genuflecting or (gasp!) kneeling, they hold out their hands, barely aware of what is happening.  And it's hard to blame people since almost everything in the Novus Ordo Mass promotes that view.  In contrast, at the TLM, the people receive in a kneeling position on the tongue, all the while (hopefully) deep in prayer and communion with our Lord, and, if they wish, the people can stay kneeling at the altar rail for a moment or two in thanksgiving.   There is a reason why those at the TLM almost always walk to and from the communion rail with their hands folded in prayer, while you rarely see that at a Novus Ordo Mass.  The physical posture and gestures of the people reveal what is going on in their minds. 

The music in the Traditional Latin Mass is also never intrusive but instead, is always conducive to contemplation.  The singers and organist are up in the loft behind the congregation and basically out of view.  Music in the Novus Ordo Mass has come to include guitars, drums and other instrusive instruments. The choir is no longer unobtrusively in the choir loft but front and center, taking the focus off the Sacrifice of the Mass.  Again, this leaves no silence in which the congregation can worship. 

The lack of silence and opportunity for contemplation, meditation and personal prayer on the part of the people has directly led to lack of belief and proper respect for the Real Presence. Mass has become a matter of the priest entertaining the people, trying to find new and innovative ways to keep the attention of the congregation.  It has led to a tremendous falloff in weekly Mass attendance (down from 75% in the 1950's to about 20% in the US and single digits in Europe), and people complaining more and more that they are bored with the Mass.  Is it just coincidence, just an accident?  Is there really any wonder why people do not show reverence at Mass and feel free to talk before, after and even during Mass?  As the Holy Father told us, silence is an important part of communication with each other, and it is just as vital in our relationship with our Creator.  The corrections recently made to the Novus Ordo Mass are very welcome, but I think it still has a long way to go.

A Catholic View of Rick Santorum and Ron Paul

I saw this posted over at  It is a talk by Tom Woods, a Traditional Catholic speaker, on the difference between Rick Santorum and Ron Paul, and I was amazed as I listened to this to realize that I am not alone in the Catholic world in my assessment of the Republican presidential candidates.  When I read popular Catholic blogs like Father Z's, who goes along with the conventional political wisdom of the mainstream media, I tend to feel very alone.  Are there any sound, traditional Catholics who reject mainstream political thought and see basically no difference between the two political parties?  I have discovered to my great delight that yes, there are others who have come to the same conclusions I have, as the video below shows.

It has been a difficult road in realizing the truth about our government.  I have certainly been aware for many years that our country is in decline.  That is obvious to anyone who pays the least attention to what is happening in our country.  But it is only recently that I have come to accept the very difficult truth that it is the United States government, be it Republican or Democrat, that is a force for evil, promoting abortion, war, class warfare, secularization, and which has now openly declared war on the Catholic church by saying that in one year, all employers including the Catholic Church must provide free artificial birth control, including sterilization, to their employees in their health plans.  As I heard one man say in a speech, in trying to decide whether to vote Republican or Democrat, we are basically deciding whether to vote for Satan or Lucifer.

Fortunately, there are people who are very much aware of the evil in our land and are speaking out against it. Tom Woods seems to be one of them.  The truth can be found, but we have to look behind the curtain. 

Please watch the video below and then question everything you see.  Pray to our Blessed Mother who will guide you on the right path.  Realize that you are completely surrounded by evil, and far too much of the world is allowing itself to be led by the devil to their own destruction.  QUESTION EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE.  Test the spirits.

I have now added Tom Woods' website to my blog.

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