Posts Tagged ‘Catholic’

By: Natalie Plumb

Books were open and in all different directions. Pens were scribbling down words of wisdom. Wisps of hair were falling out of place and a pin drop could be heard but for the sole voice speaking.

Our faces were attentive. Each woman was grasping for somethingone.body.united to take home with her. Some token of advice to build up her body armor against the one who tries to attack God’s will.

The table was too small and our chairs were squished one next to the other, but all the more fitting. It was an intimate moment, full of discussion of none other than Lucifer and the times he tries to enter each of our lives in incredibly subtle but poisonous ways.

Giving our “confessions” – this was at a Bible study, by the way – meant fessing up. Confessions require humility. Not only do they require complete honestly with yourself, but complete trust that everyone around you is good people. And listeners, too, have to have complete respect for any woman making (what was perhaps for the first time in her life) a public declaration of power over her habitual sin.

A few remarkable things happened.

Christ spoke through the women who confessed, yes. But Christ seemed to speak even more through the women who spoke in response. Every sin was stabbed where it hurt; every woman was encouraged and given concrete advice; the spirit in the room was one of complete joy, not despair.

Later, it was wholly asked of us: “What do you need in order to conquer [this] sin in your life?”

A few of us joked – and I admittedly started it, despite the people-person that I am – that what I needed was for so-and-so to be out of our lives, and on another continent. That neighbor was too nosy or this cousin was he-can’t-possibly-be-related-to-me off his rocker. Then our obstacles would literally be removed.

This is the worst thing a Christian could ever say (even if it was a joke). But we all often wish this exact thing, don’t we? Some wish it every day with their mothers or their fathers or their children.

tacoma_times_swat_the_fly_masthead_1915After I started that nonsense of a remark, I got this beautiful, holistic response from a holy woman of good humor and taste: “Swat away those thoughts. If you have a bad thought, just swat ‘em. I literally take my hand and swat. Do it. Do it now.”

We all began swatting the air above our heads.

It felt incredible.

Negative thoughts that enter our heads, even if only for a few minutes in a day, have almost immediate consequences. These thoughts affect your physical appearance, your mental health, your stress level… It’s just not worth it. It truly isn’t. Do yourself a favor and swat.

Do yourself a favor and swat.

Last week I talked about how much I love receiving Christ in the Eucharist. This week I will add: The reason the Eucharist is there at all, the reason Christ would rather die on a cross than spend eternity without you, the reason for this universe, the end goal… Unity. One Body.

We will all be united in Heaven again someday. Jesus offers us Himself so that we might receive each other more fully.

Each of us, uniquely and specifically, fulfills a divine role in this (potential) road to Heaven called life. Each of us plays that part as a part of the Body of Christ. His fingers, His hands, His heart, His eyelashes… You name it.

Don’t do what I did and think bad thoughts about so-and-so and about how your life would just be so much easier without him or her. They are a blessing. They are in your life for a reason and a purpose. The reason and the purpose is probably to whip you into a more patient self. I know I sure need to work on that. Honestly, the reason that person you can’t stand is in your life at all is to make you a saint.

The reason that person you can’t stand is in your life at all is to make you a saint.

Some parts – some people in your life – feel unnecessary. But they are. In fact, each and every second, your interaction with them, and their interaction with you, is moving each of you either closer to, or farther from, the gates of Heaven.

All this talk about the Eucharist… Next week I’ll discuss the three things you must at least do as a Catholic in order to prepare to receive the Eucharist.

Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.

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By: Erin Kisley

According to the Oxford Dictionary, “advice” is defined as guidance or recommendations concerning prudent future action, typically given by someone regarded as knowledgeable or authoritative.

erin and joe 4

It’s actually kind of amusing, but when you become engaged (or have a child, I imagine), knowledgeable and authoritative individuals pop out of the woodwork. Suddenly, everyone who’s attended a wedding is doling out advice like participation awards in tee ball.

For those bride-to-be’s among us with a touch of pride, the temptation is to be secretly (or visibly) irritated and offended. And, I get it. This is your wedding. But, here’s my advice: Take a deep breath, smile and thank whoever is thoughtful and concerned enough to give you their time and attention. When you feel the urge to start tearing through downtown Arlington like King Kong, make an effort to remember that it’s all coming from a place of love. I know, easier said than done.

Truthfully, I have received (and continue to receive) a lot of quality advice…some of which I wish that I had listened to! Although, I have noticed that the bulk of it has more to do with our wedding and less to do with our impending marriage. In this time of transition and busyness, it’s easy to forget that there is much more to the ‘I do’ than the hydrangeas and the buttercream frosting.

So, for those who have years (or months) of wisdom to share, I would like advice that won’t expire on June 27, 2014: Guide me about how to pray with my spouse and with my (future) children. Recommend a Catholic book on womanhood. Tell me about your experience with Natural Family Planning. Help me to understand what being a loving, respectful and submissive wife actually looks like in the day-to-day. You can’t find that on theknot.com; I know, I tried.

I’m not trying to downplay the practical wedding planning tips; they are so useful! But, on behalf of all brides-to-be, offer us the advice you wish someone had offered to you.

This is the tenth installment of Erin’s weekly Wednesday series on marriage preparation and its inherent struggles. An engaged woman at the humble age of 26, Erin hopes her experience will encourage and teach. Her final posts will culminate in the event that marks the purpose of it all—taking her wedding vows and tying the knot on June 27, 2014.

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By: Erin Kisley

Have you ever heard the words, “You May Now Kiss the Cross,” at a wedding? If you’re not living in Siroki-Brijeg, Herzegovina, there’s a decent chance that your answer is no. These words are part of a beautiful Croatian marriage tradition from this village that is slowly making its way throughout Europe and to the United States.[1]

CalcuttaHerald…A tradition that, while neither of us claims a Croatian heritage, Joe and I have decided to incorporate into our nuptials.

On our wedding day (shameless countdown update: we are 10 weeks away!), Joe and I will bring a crucifix with us to the altar. Our priest will bless it as I place my right hand on the crucifix and Joe places his hand over mine. He will cover our hands with his stole as we declare our vows to be faithful to one another. Then, together, we kiss the greatest image of love, the Cross.

While this probably makes us sound much holier than we are, the truth is, you don’t have to be up for canonization to acknowledge a reality that drives many modern couples apart: suffering. It’s no secret that we live in a culture that finds every excuse to avoid it. The wounds of financial strain, infertility, infidelity and bad days are made “better” by credit cards, in vitro fertilization, divorce and the like.

Yet, if we desire to experience the fullness of love and the true meaning of marriage, we will see our crosses as the means of getting ourselves and our families to Heaven. For it is the cross that helps us to grow in maturity, self-discipline and true charity. This powerful Croatian tradition reminds us that if the bride and groom abandon their cross, they are essentially abandoning Jesus and His plan for their lives.

After the ceremony (and the photos, reception and goodbyes), we will bring the crucifix back and give it a place of honor in our home. It will become the focal point of our family. When misfortune or conflict arise, with faith, we will seek help there, before the Cross. We’ll get on our knees and in front of Jesus will weep our tears, pour out our hearts, and seek the help of Him who died for us.

Isn’t this beautiful? Did I mention that Siroki-Brijeg has no recorded divorces? Not one.  Coincidence? I think not.

In his recently issued pastoral letter on artificial contraception, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Neb., writes: “We live in a world short on love. Today love is too often understood as romantic sentimentality rather than unbreakable commitment. But sentimentality is unsatisfying. Material things and comfort and pleasure bring only fleeting happiness. The truth is that we are all searching for real love, because we are all searching for meaning.”

I ask: In whom can we find a greater example of love and meaning than Our Jesus, crucified?

[1] Loveoffering.com, 2002.


This is the ninth installment of Erin’s weekly Wednesday series on marriage preparation and its inherent struggles. An engaged woman at the humble age of 26, Erin hopes her experience will encourage and teach. Her final posts will culminate in the event that marks the purpose of it all—taking her wedding vows and tying the knot on June 27, 2014.

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By: Deacon Marques Silva

Family gatherings are a particularly joy-filled event for me. I get to catch-up on how everyone is doing (sometimes what they are doing) as well as spending some quality time with family. Inevitably, an aunt or uncle will say, “Remember when……” and all the nieces, nephews, cousins, in-laws (and out-laws) will gather around to hear the tale. We laugh, smile, sometimes even cry remembering our loved ones whom we have lost but always, in the end, embrace and give thanks for each other and for…remembering. Holy Week is like that for Christians. In fact, we have a special word for it: anamnesis.

The Greek word literally means to “call to mind’ or “recollect.” Among Catholic and Orthodox Christians, the word anamnesis is connected to the consecration of the bread and wine which then are transubstantiated into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. It is literally the prayer of remembrance in which the family of God calls to mind the Lord’s passion, death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. It is the high point of the Divine Liturgy that re-collects our thoughts and focuses us on recalling that what Christ did visibly on earth, He continues to do invisibly through the Eucharist. Holy Week is an extended anamnesis.


Now, I realize that sometimes it is difficult to see the golden thread that links all the days of the Triduum together – except as a piece of ancient history. The question from my kids and the teens I work with is how do we enter into this “recollection” and apply it is us. After much thought, prayer, and exegesis (yuck!), I thought I would offer a few thoughts and meditations to assist you along the way. My hope is that they will draw you deep into the saga and the greatest love story ever known that we call Holy Week.

My Preparation for the Triduum:

Spy Wednesday

Christ Prepares for a Battle to the Death

Holy Thursday Morning: Anointed For Battle

Holy Thursday Evening: Mass of the Lord’s Supper – Sustenance for the Battle

Engaged in Mortal Combat

Good Friday

Apparent Victory actually Spells Defeat

Holy Saturday: Apparent Victory has the Smell of Defeat

Easter Vigil: The Song of victory in the Stillness of the Night

Lord is a Warrior and Warrior is His Name

The Easter Garden: Death = Victory

This post originally appeared on Deacon Silva’s personal blog, The Q Continuum

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By: Erin Kisley

While the cost of a wedding in the United States has reached an all-time high, the price of sex is at a record-breaking low.

Who’s to blame? Is there such a thing as the “Economics of Sex?”

Comment below and let me know what you think.

This is the eighth installment of Erin’s weekly Wednesday series on marriage preparation and its inherent struggles. An engaged woman at the humble age of 26, Erin hopes her experience will encourage and teach. Her final posts will culminate in the event that marks the purpose of it all—taking her wedding vows and tying the knot on June 27, 2014.

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By: Erin Kisley

The lights were dim; I could feel the all too familiar melody beating through the floor as the crowd grew around me. I tried to find a friendly face, but all eyes were fixed forward. I paused, preparing for what would surely be a battle, noticing the stature of those around me. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, bent my knees and leapt forward, hand outstretched.


The next thing I remember was being quickly shuttled off of the floor (almost like I was FLOTUS being protected by the Secret Service), flashing a nervous smile and posing for a quick picture. Then it was over.

I, Erin, was the vanquisher of All the Single Ladies. I caught the bouquet.

You laugh, but I’ve seen a woman who desired so badly to be engaged to her boyfriend shed tears (not the happy ones) over this. Why? It was once believed that the bride was especially lucky on her wedding day, thus, her flowers were believed to be a souvenir of that luck and were highly sought after. Despite the lore of this tradition, this former staple is rapidly dying out (surprise, surprise).

Here is why I will NOT toss the bouquet on my wedding day:

As a woman who attended countless post-undergrad weddings, I always thought the tossing of the bouquet while Beyoncé’s All the Single Ladies played in the background was so…undignified. What I’m saying is: Is this the best way we can think of to celebrate the beauty and self-worth of our (single) female friends? Parading them in front of our guests and making them fight like wild beasts…for flowers? Is that behavior really consistent with our call as Catholic women? You’re probably thinking: “It’s just a tradition. Lighten up!” But hey, arranged marriages were once tradition, too. Raise your hand if you want to bring that back.

Believe it or not, I once heard of a bride sitting on the back of the Best Man (who was perched on all fours) while her groom removed the lace garter with his teeth. Am I the only one who thinks that is practically pornographic? Your nearest and dearest are watching what should be an intimate moment between you and your groom. What in world is Catholic about that? You might be thinking: “Well, what if we just toss the garter without removing it in front of everyone?” Again I ask, is this upholding the dignity of the (single) men? Requesting they vie for the bride’s undergarment like a piece of meat?

Friends, let’s esteem our friends and our nuptial vows. Let’s buck the tasteless traditions and start some new ones!

This is the seventh installment of Erin’s weekly Wednesday series on marriage preparation and its inherent struggles. An engaged woman at the humble age of 26, Erin hopes her experience will encourage and teach. Her final posts will culminate in the event that marks the purpose of it all—taking her wedding vows and tying the knot on June 27, 2014.

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By: Erin Kisley

I’m better than I used to be, but I’m still really bad about making appointments to get my hair cut. Don’t get me wrong, like many women, I will admit to being overly concerned with my personal appearance. But with work, relationships and traffic, it tends to fall to the bottom of my list. That said, my visit to the salon is infrequent, at best.

erin and joe

So, imagine my surprise when my hair dresser, whose hair is green and is way trendier than I could ever dream to be, actually remembers who I am. Not just my name, but me. Now, you’re probably thinking it has something to do with my split ends, and how they are the kind of thing people in beauty school tell horror stories about. While that may or may not be true, I would’ve fallen out of my chair (if it weren’t for her firm hold on my head) when she began our conversation last week:

Me: “So, I got engaged!”

Her: “I remember you saying you thought it might happen soon – Congratulations! When is it?”

Me: “June 27th in Alexandria”

Her: “Oh that’s great!”

[a lengthy silence]

Her: “You’re not living together, before you get married though, right?”

Me: “That’s right!”

Now, I’ll admit that I totally missed the Evangelization moment here. But, frankly, I was in shock. Was our decision to remain chaste and living separate before marriage that memorable?

Rewind back to my previous appointment in November. (Yes, I waited way too long in between hair appointments, I know.) We were talking about Thanksgiving plans and I mentioned that we would be visiting Joe’s parents in Ohio for Thanksgiving. This wouldn’t have been my next question, but she asked whether they were cool with us staying in the same room or whether they forced us to sleep separately.

I let her know (with a smile) that we would be sleeping separately, but that that was nothing new because we’ve never shared a bed and didn’t plan to until our wedding night.

She responded like I had just told her that I had terminal cancer. “Oh wow,” she said in slow motion. (Good thing she didn’t have the scissors in her hand because I could already see the bad ending to that movie.) I went on to explain a little more about being Catholic, and what the Church teaches, but diverted the conversation as to not overwhelm her…

Here’s how I wish I would’ve responded last week: We’ve chosen to live separately before marriage for our marriage. Are there nights where I send him home reluctantly? Of course.  But we want marriage to be a radical transformation of our lives. Not a gradual slide. We want our wedding night to be sacred, not cheapened by our selfish desires. At the end of the day, this is how we can lay the foundation for sacrifice in our marriage.

Ladies, if you’re living with a man who’s not your husband, I want to invite you into consider making alternate arrangements. I’m not just saying this because the Church condemns it. Truly, your marriage will be healthier and happier for it.

This is the sixth installment of Erin’s weekly Wednesday series on marriage preparation and its inherent struggles. An engaged woman at the humble age of 26, Erin hopes her experience will encourage and teach. Her final posts will culminate in the event that marks the purpose of it all—taking her wedding vows and tying the knot on June 27, 2014.

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By: Erin Kisley

“For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh” (Mt. 19:5).

erin and joe 5Whenever I heard this verse at weddings, I assumed Jesus was speaking solely to the groom. I figured this was Jesus’s way of instructing all of the “momma’s boys” out there to, ever politely, ‘cut the cord.’ Ladies, so I thought, were naturally inclined to leave all behind to follow their man – no reminder needed.

Personally speaking, I didn’t expect to struggle with this aspect of preparing for marriage. My family lives 1,300 miles away, and while we speak once per week, I see them only a few times per year, usually for holidays and weddings. For that reason, I was completely speechless one time when driving home after a party. Joe, commenting on my behavior, blurted out: “I know you love your friends, but you’re not a single girl anymore!”

Were some of my habits unbecoming of an engaged woman? I know it sounds odd, but in all of the planning for the transition to married life, I never stopped to consider how my female friendships would change as a result of my vocation to marriage. I made a habit (before dating Joe) of filling my social calendar with coffee dates with the girls, movie nights and the occasional road trip to Disney World or New York City. And, while my road trips became less frequent after Joe entered the picture, my habit of making plans with the girls (and filling Joe in after-the-fact) was common. It wasn’t until that moment when Joe called me out that I realized: Perhaps it was time to make some changes.

As I begin to transition into my new vocation, I know that Joe will make a lousy shopping buddy, will never agree to watch A Walk to Remember and just doesn’t understand the spiritual and emotional struggles of womanhood. (This is why maintaining good female friendships is essential!)

That said, I feel blessed by God to have found a man who beholds more virtues than I ever thought possible in one human being. …A man, who (in just three months, one week and two days!) will be joined to me as one flesh, my best friend.

This is the fifth installment of Erin’s weekly Wednesday series on marriage preparation and its inherent struggles. An engaged woman at the humble age of 26, Erin hopes her experience will encourage and teach. Her final posts will culminate in the event that marks the purpose of it all—taking her wedding vows and tying the knot on June 27, 2014.

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By: Bishop Paul S. Loverde

Each year on March 19, Catholics throughout the world interrupt the austerities of Lent to celebrate the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, patron of fathers and of the universal Church. Coming as I do from a Sicilian family, this feast has always carried a special significance. My father was not unlike St. Joseph insofar as he sacrificed mightily for his family. A man of deep and quiet faith, he showed me what it means to be a man.

My father could not have imagined the challenges involved in protecting a family from today’s relentless assault of pornographic material. It has truly become mainstream, nearly impossible to avoid even by the most cautious. This pornographic culture stems from, and feeds back into, an extremely distorted view of human sexuality. We are deeply confused about things my father’s generation would have taken entirely for granted, and the results of that confusion are everywhere evident.

When I was ordained a priest in 1965, two in ten marriages ended in divorce; that rate has more than doubled. Abortion then was illegal; today over a million babies are aborted annually in this country alone. Back then fewer than 300,000 Americans were incarcerated; now one in thirty-one adult Americans is in prison or on probation.

As a young priest in the 1970s, I served for a decade in campus ministry settings. In those years, the first fruits of the sexual revolution were already apparent. Pope Francis’s image of the Church as a “field hospital” in the midst of such wreckage would describe it well.

Today’s “field hospital” must aggressively treat the vicious cancer of pornography, which lies at the heart of our societal ills. “Unchastity,” wrote Joseph Pieper in The Four Cardinal Virtues, “begets a blindness of spirit which practically excludes all understanding of the goods of the spirit; unchastity splits the power of decision.” Over the years I have witnessed the nature and effects of pornography’s splitting powers in our families and communities.

Nearly eight years ago I wrote a pastoral letter on the subject, Bought with a Price, a new edition of which is being released today. The pornography epidemic is something to which all people of good will must devote more attention and talk about more openly, but first we need to understand something of the scope and character of the problem.

Those who deny that the act of viewing pornography has any negative consequences must understand just how toxic the situation has become. It may be that a man now in his forties, say, remembers being a curious adolescent, stealing glances at a magazine in a neighbor’s home or in the aisle of a convenience store. As morally problematic and harmful as that act surely is, such behavior was arguably slow to become habitual and the physiological and psychological consequences were infrequently severe. That experience is far removed from what young people face today.

The most graphic forms of pornography are now easily and anonymously accessible on the internet and on any smartphone. Many among us are now caught in patterns of addiction that rival those of drugs and alcohol in their grip on the individual, if not in the disruption that results in their lives. Depression, anxiety, isolation, marital strife, and job loss can all be intensified for those caught in the web of this addiction.

More subtly, though, current research underscores what we are hearing in the classrooms, counseling sessions, and in the confessional: This addiction is not merely behavioral, a bad habit that can be broken like any other. Chronic viewing of pornographic material impacts one’s brain chemistry in a manner that can “hook” a person and lead to a quest for increasingly lurid forms of pornography. Over time, more and more is needed to produce the same effect. The brains of habitual users of pornography are strikingly similar to those of alcoholics, and the part of the brain involved in moral and ethical decision-making is weakened by viewing pornography. Once brain chemistry is remapped, it becomes very difficult for one to “reset” to a sense of normality in the future. Any man can tell you that these images are often very hard to forget.

While the suffering experienced by the addict cannot be overstated, we must recognize that there is also social harm. As a pastor, I have seen how damaging this shift continues to be in family life, courtship, and marriage preparation. One of my great concerns is the impact this plague is having on children. What is their future if their parents’ marriage is destroyed by this type of infidelity, or if they themselves are exposed to such toxic material long before they are able to experience the joy of true love and romance? Even the smallest child today often has easy access to a parent’s or sibling’s smartphone and is surrounded by screens.

When my pastoral letter on pornography was first issued, a high school student in my diocese wrote that “if a person knew that after viewing pornography he would be a bad example for his kids, would objectify his spouse and friends, and lastly destroy his relationship and vision of God, he would not do it.”

Just as some drugs are described as “gateways” to more serious substance abuse, a young person who experiences lust disconnected from an actual human person is at tremendous risk for failing ever to understand the beauty of God’s gift of human sexuality. Is not the so-called “hook-up” culture evidence of this? In addition, while it is certainly not the outcome for all who become involved with pornography, might it not be reasonable to posit that the dramatic rise in human sex trafficking is partly fueled by a pornographic culture?

And yet, despite all this, there is hope. Both scientists and believers are sounding the alarm. We know much more about the physiological aspects of this addiction and how best to reverse them. Behavioral change is possible, though this is not simply a question of behavior.

This is not a problem a person can solve on their own. Alongside the central commitment to prayer, the communal element of the recovery process needs to be given special emphasis. Very often, a key factor in one’s descent into pornography addiction is a lack of affirmation, acceptance, and trust in one’s relationships. An important part of the ascent, then, can also be the sharing of this struggle with others, allowing their love and concern to aid in the healing. As Pope Francis has said, “No one is saved alone, as an isolated individual, but God attracts us looking at the complex web of relationships that take place in the human community.”

Pornography thrives in the shadowy silence of isolation, but the warm light of love and friendship can do much to help cast it out. Women certainly have a critical role in this fight and should take a stance of absolute intolerance toward pornography, but in a particular way men need to be recalled to their God-given role as protectors of their families and of society if we are to overcome it.

A man in one of my parishes told me that Bought with a Price woke him up to the many ways in which his pornography use affected him as a father and husband. “I now understand,” he wrote, “that the true character of a man is shown in how he acts when nobody is watching.”

That is a lesson that St. Joseph, whom we honor today, knew well. Let the battle for purity begin.

Paul S. Loverde is bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. A new edition of his pastoral letter on pornography, Bought with a Price, is available at Amazon for Kindle and at www.arlingtondiocese.org/purity.

This article first appeared in First Things. View it here.

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By: Deacon Marques Silva

“Some have suggested that the word tempura comes from the Latin Quatuor Tempora (“four times”), a name for the Ember Days, penitential days marking the changing of the seasons. The tradition of abstaining from meat on those days each quarter was brought to Japan by Spanish and Portuguese missionaries. When this European Christian tradition met a Japanese culinary tradition, a deep-fried seafood and vegetable dish was born: tempura!”[1]



So, this Lent, eat some Tempura…a food born out of our Catholic Christian tradition!

[1] Klein, Rev. Peter, The Catholic Source Book (Harcourt Religion Publishers, 2000) p. 92

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