Living Your Life For Christ

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We have all heard at one time or another, that not only are we to call ourselves Christians, but that we should be living our lives so that others, will see Christ when they encounter us. In Church we are told that we are the living face of Christ, but how many of us believe it. How many of us actually behave as if we believe this is true? Think of the last time you were stuck in traffic, behind the guy going twenty miles under the speed limit….Was it Christ he saw in his rear view mirror glaring at him and mumbling under his breath?? Or how about the rude cashier who acted like she was doing you a favor when she took your money from you? Did she recognize the Christ in you? Did she hear Christ’s words as you spoke to her? Nah, probably not...

Most of the time, we allow ourselves to become rude in the face of rudeness …we justify our behavior…’After all’…we tell ourselves… ‘we deserve more’….’we deserve better’… It’s the same lie that the devil whispered into Jesus’ ear in the desert. Trust me. It’s the same lie he’s whispering now.

strengthWe won’t be able to do it on our own. We’ve got to learn to lean on God, and trust Him for our inspiration in all things, after all we aren’t very inspiring on our on… we tend to be whiny…and selfish…Most of us don’t even think we have a problem. But we do. We wear our “I’m a perfect Christian” badges on Sunday…just long enough for everyone to see…but once we exit the Church…it’s all gloves are off... we’ve done our Christ…”We’re good enough” we tell ourselves. We allow our pride…our free will to become our gods…We figure, we don’t have to sacrifice if we don’t want to. After all, with our free will, we are free to choose…free to live exactly as we see fit.  The trouble with that is, as  a society we have become quite comfortable with ourselves..and our distorted view of what is right … .and what is wrong.

Jesus on water.jpgSo many of us are in a hurry. And angry. All the time.  And despite years of living in the Faith, we don’t see how this anger and this rushing around, damages our souls. How it damages our families… Damages the love between husbands and wives. It creates a barrier between us and the God who made us. The God who loves us, more than the world.Don’t you understand? God wants more from us, than our righteous prayers. He wants everything. All the time. He wants us to be His Light in the world. He wants us to be His face. His words…His arms and hands and feet. He wants us to be His sweat. He wants us to be His blood, coursing through the world and feeding the Church. Filling up oceans with Faith. So that others may walk upon those very waters and meet us…join us in the boat….becoming fishers of men, for Christ…He wants us to pray with our backs, when we labor, every ounce…every bit of strength. Our jobs should be our testament that there is a God….that there is a Christ…living among us…living in us. We should be giving glory to God  with our lives…our actions… not only our prayerful breaths. He wants us to pray ourselves out of our comfortable spot, until we are on the ground, on our knees, our bodies weak from work…. giving everything we have back to Him.  Emptying our very souls, so that He can fill uswith Himself….If you don’t believe me…read about the lives of saints….most of them emptied themselves and were filled with Christ….

We are created in the image and likeness of God. Thus, we are created in the image and likeness of greatness. Everyone of us. Each one of us has the potential to change the world. To be the spark that sets the world on fire. Christ’s fire. Everyone of us is called to do the Father’s Will. And that is a hard calling…we have to be humble…We have to get thrown off our high horse and remember that our rightful spot is at the feet of others…serving them, regardless of whether we feel like it or not…Only then will we shine…His Light will shine through us if we let it..if we move out of It’s way and submit ourselves to His Will, then others will be able to see Christ in us…And despite our failings, despite our lack of intellect…we will shine….and the Light of Christ will shine and our very lives will give glory to the One Who made us.  When you think abut it, that is all we should be striving for in this life really…Greatness for God’s sake….Greatness for God’s glory…in everything we do.

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Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord – August 6th

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Gospel –  Matthew 17 :1 – 9

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John,
and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them;
his face shone like the sun
and his clothes became white as light.
And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them,
conversing with him.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply,
“Lord, it is good that we are here.
If you wish, I will make three tents here,
one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold,
a bright cloud cast a shadow over them,
then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased;
listen to him.”
When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate
and were very much afraid.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying,
“Rise, and do not be afraid.”
And when the disciples raised their eyes,
they saw no one else but Jesus alone.

As they were coming down from the mountain,
Jesus charged them,
“Do not tell the vision to anyone
until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Today in the Holy Mother Church, we celebrate the Feast of Christ’s Transfiguration. We read in the Gospel that Jesus has taken Peter, James and John with Him up to Mount Tabor. It is getting late in the day and suddenly they are surrounded with Light, it is shining from Jesus…His whole Being is radiating in His Godly glory. It is then that the Apostles notice that Jesus is standing in between Moses and Elijah. They are overcome with joy to be in His presence….a feeling that they wish would go on longer, as noted in Peter’s comment about being glad to be there and wishing to set up tents for them so they could stay there longer.

Initially, God’s intention is lost on them, but then God speaks directly to the Apostles, telling them to look at His Son with Whom He is well pleased. He also tells them to listen to Jesus. The realization that Jesus is indeed God….causes the apostles to become afraid…but just as quickly as He was transfigured into God…He becomes Jesus, ‘the man’, and assures the apostles with His touch, speaking to them, He takes them back down the mountain.

God reveals Himself to each of us in different ways. But most of the time, we are like Peter, and we don’t understand what He is saying…Unfortunately most of us don’t even hear Him when He calls…we are so caught up in the world that we don’t even recognize His voice when He calls us…revealing Himself to us in the circumstances of our lives. And sadly, even though we are faithful Catholics….most of us ignore the Body of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. We look at the Eucharist with eyes that lack the Faith that is needed to truly understand that we are in fact in the presence of our Blessed Lord. We go to Mass,  but fail to recognize that in fact we are having our own Tabor moment every time we receive Communion….Christ is not only present near us…He allows His Body to be consumed into our bodies…our hearts and souls as well.

Sadly, most of the time we are more or less just going through the routine…not even realizing that Christ is actually present within us…it is quite humbling when you think about it. Christ took His three favorite apostles with Him into the mountain, and yet He comes to us…you and me…every time we attend Mass…more importantly…every time we receive the Blessed Sacrament…it is an awesome Truth that most of us fail to understand…

So as we listen to the Gospel readings today, and spend some time thinking about Jesus and how He revealed Himself as the God He truly is to the Apostles…pray that the next time you receive Communion…that God will grant you the grace to have a Mount Tabor moment…and that spiritually you will be able to recognize Jesus in the Eucharist you have just consumed.

 

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Immaculate Heart of Mary – First Saturday

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After all the turmoil and trouble we witness on a daily basis it would be wise to not forget that today is the First Saturday of August…rather it would be wise for us to remember our 1st Saturday devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.… August is also the month devoted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Prayer of St. Bernard to the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen

O Blessed Mother, protect us under Thy mantle and show us Thy Immaculate Heart and the Heart of Thy Divine Son.

O Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us.

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Saint John Mary Vianney – August 4 – First Friday

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As we begin to prepare ourselves for the coming school year, busying ourselves with all the tasks that come with it, let us pause as we remember that today is First Friday and that we should be spending some quiet prayerful time at Mass and in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. And since it is the 4th of August let us also remember a humble man who devoted his life to serving and loving God in such a way that he is recognized by the Holy Mother Church as a saint now in heaven. That man is  Saint John (Jean) Vianney.

Jean Baptiste Vianney was born on May 8, 1786, into a peasant family in the village of Dardilly near Lyons in southeastern France. He was the fourth of their six children. Though his family was poor, they were very devout and raised their children with the same devoutness.

When Jean was three years old, the French Revolution began, and by the time he was four years old, many of the Churches in France were being served by apostate priests who had sworn an allegiance to the state church. Many holy priests of this time who refused to sign the Civil Constitution of the Clergy were either deported or imprisoned. Devout families like the Vianneys, traveled to distant farms where Masses were being celebrated clandestinely by loyal priests who risked their lives to serve the faithful. During this time, John Vianney was studying his catechism in secret, and at one of these hidden Masses,  Jean Marie celebrated his First Communion when he was 13 years old.

In 1802, the Catholic Church was re-established in France, and in 1806, John Marie was allowed to leave his family home and study at a nearby school in the village of Ecully. John struggled with his studies, particularly with Latin, but he continued on, never giving up. Then in 1809 he was drafted into Napoleon’s army. Normally, he would have been exempt, since he was an ecclesiastical student, but Napoleon had removed the exemption because he needed soldiers. Then just two days before he was to report for duty, he became so ill that he required hospitalization. After he recovered, he was then sent to join another group of soldiers, but when he stopped at a Church to pray, the group went on without him. Because of his nature, John and a companion ran to a nearby village, living in the mountains for fourteen months, not wanting to serve in the army that was working to destroy the Church.

In March of 1810, an imperial decree was proclaimed, which granted amnesty to all deserters and enabled Vianney to return to Ecully where he resumed his studies. In 1811 he entered the seminary. But John continued to struggle with his studies, and it appeared that he was unable to grasp many of the theological subtleties he was required to learn. Thankfully, John’s teacher and mentor was able to successfully persuade the Vicars General that John Marie’s piety and firm character were great enough to compensate for his ignorance.  In August 1815, John Marie Vianney was ordained a priest.

In 1818, John was appointed to Ars, a small town that was known for its taverns, dances and drunkenness. Soon after arriving there, John realized that the Revolution’s aftermath had resulted in religious ignorance and a religious indifference had settled over the people. And even though the Church was reestablishing Itself in France, the small outer town was still suffering…it appeared that the saint had his work cut out for him….and immediately he began to pray…relying on spiritual guidance from God.

Saint John dealt with the towns people with a mixture of kindness and understanding. Guiding the people of Ars with his sermons, and personal strength, he began to preach to people against drinking, swearing and dancing. He showed  his parishioners the value of resting from work on Sunday and the value of going to Church on Sunday. He prayed and fasted rigorously, often long into the night. Proving to the people that he was more strict with himself than with them. With his patience and guidance, the spirit of Ars changed. No more a town of drunken rowdiness, it became a model of Christian behavior. Word spread about the humble priest, and more and more people from nearby villages traveled to ask the Cure’ d’ Ars to hear their confessions. His spiritual vision had grown to the point where his insights into their problems were very helpful. By 1845 Vianney was spending more than 12 hours a day in the little confessional box of the parish church, while people who had come to Ars from all over France waited in long lines seeking his advice. It was here that he became widely known as the Cure ‘d’ Ars, or Pastor of Ars.

As St. John Vianney’s success as a confessor grew, so did his personal difficulties. Since most of his day was spent  administering to the faithful, there were only a few hours in which he allowed himself for sleep each night. But these hours were often interrupted by strange noises and disturbances. Sometimes he felt like he was being physically beaten…one time his bed even caught on fire….St. John Vianney knew this was the work of the devil and just intensified his prayers and penances. The long hours and fasting took a toll on the priest, and on August 4, 1859, he passed into his eternal reward. He was 73 years old. The curé of Ars was canonized a saint in the Roman Catholic Church in 1925 and declared heavenly patron for all parish priests in 1929.

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The incorrupt body of St. John Vianney entombed above the main altar in the Basilica at Ars, France.

If you have the time, click on the following link to read what St. John Vianney wrote in his Catechism on Sin, here.

 

Prayer for Priest

O Jesus, I pray for Your faithful and fervent priests; for Your unfaithful and tepid priests; for Your priests laboring at home or abroad in distant mission fields; for Your tempted priests; for Your lonely and desolate priests; for Your young priests; for Your dying priests; for the souls of Your priests in purgatory.

But above all, I recommend to You the priests dearest to me; the priest who baptized me; the priests who absolved me from my sins; the priests at whose Masses I assisted and who gave me Your Body and Blood in Holy Communion; the priests who taught and instructed me; all the priests to whom I am indebted in any other way [especially …]. O Jesus, keep them all close to Your heart, and bless them abundantly in time and in eternity. Amen.

St. John Vianney, pray for us; obtain for us many and holy priests.

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Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori – August 1st

 

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As we enter this final month of summer, we encounter one of the most gifted saints in the history of the Catholic Church, Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori. St. Alphonsus is one of the greatest moral theologians and spiritual writers the Church has ever had. Not only did he excel in spiritual matters, but he was a civil lawyer as well, having received his doctorate in law by the time he was 16. He was also gifted in the arts. He was a painter, a musician, a poet, an architect and a prolific author, penning over 100 books. Since his death in 1787, there have been over 20,000 editions of his works published, proving the timeless message of his writings. Not only are his works a treasure trove of sacred wisdom and learning, wrought with moral teaching, they are beautiful pieces as well.

St. Alphonsus is the patron saint of confessors, and moral theologians. Since he was an excellent spiritual advisor, he is also the perfect intercessor for help when seeking out one’s vocation in life…which is one of the reasons his books remain so sought after… Not only is he relied upon for help in theological matters, he is often called upon for matters of the body as well.  For even though he was blessed with many spiritual gifts and graces, he suffered from many physical health problems, including blindness which increased as he aged. But the most pronounced health issues he dealt with, was his arthritis, which not only twisted his body, but caused him physical pain and daily suffering. Due to the grace and good nature in which he handled his sufferings, his intercession is often sought for those who are afflicted with arthritis and rheumatism, and over the years he has become the patron saint for those suffering from those diseases.

Saint Alphonsus had a huge devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and often preached about the Eucharist and the vital role It plays in one’s daily spiritual life. St. Alphonsus was unique among the saints in that he had a life-long devotion to the Blessed Mother, and was visited several times by the Blessed Mother. One of his most popular books is a book about Mary called, “The Glories of Mary.”

Popes throughout the years have often spoke about St. Alphonsus with high regard.  In 2011, while speaking to the general audience who had gathered in St. Peter’s square, Pope Benedict XVI stated that “St. Alphonsus Liguori never tired of repeating that priests were a visible sign of the infinite mercy of God, Who pardons and illuminates the minds and hearts of sinners that they might convert and change their lives.”  Pope Benedict continued, “In our age, in which there are clear signs of a loss of moral conscience and – it is necessary to note with some concern – a certain lack of respect for the Sacrament of Confession, the teaching of St. Alphonsus remains valid.”

Saint Alphonsus is the only professional moral theologian ever to be officially declared a saint in the Holy Mother Church, and was canonized in1839. In 1871, he was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius IX.

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“May the two names so sweet and powerful, of Jesus and Mary, be always in our hearts and on our lips.” – St. Alphonsus Liguori

 Prayer composed by St. Alphonsus Liguori, to be said before the Blessed Sacrament

My LORD Jesus Christ, Who because of Your love for men remain night and day in the Blessed Sacrament, full of pity and of love, awaiting, calling and welcoming all who come to visit You, I believe that You are present here on the altar. I adore You, and I thank You for all the graces You have bestowed on me, especially for having given me Yourself in this Sacrament, for having given me Your most holy Mother Mary to plead for me, and for having called me to visit You in this church.

I now salute Your most loving Heart, and that for three ends: first, in thanksgiving for this great gift; secondly, to make amends to You for all the outrages committed against You in this Sacrament by Your enemies; thirdly, I intend by this visit to adore You in all the places on earth in which You are present in the Blessed Sacrament and in which You are least honored and most abandoned.

My Jesus, I love You with my whole heart. I am very sorry for having so many times offended Your infinite goodness. With the help of Your grace, I purpose never to offend You again. And now, unworthy though I am, I consecrate myself to You without reserve. I renounce and give entirely to You my will, my affection, my desires and all that I possess. For the future, dispose of me and all I have as You please.

All I ask of You is Your holy love, final perseverance and that I may carry out Your will perfectly. I recommend to You the souls in Purgatory, especially those who had the greatest devotion to
the Blessed Sacrament and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I also recommend to You all poor sinners.

Finally, my dear Saviour, I unite all my desires with the desires of Your most loving Heart; and I offer them, thus united, to the Eternal Father, and beseech Him, in Your name and for love of You, to accept and grant them.

 

 

 

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Saint Ignatius of Loyola – July 31st

 

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As we wind down these last days of July, we celebrate the Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Saint Ignatius of Loyola was born into a noble Spanish family. As a young boy he was greatly interested in doing mighty things. He dreamed of being a knight and of serving his country. He longed to prove his skills in battle and after receiving his education he participated in several fighting campaigns before receiving an injury that was so severe that it nearly crippled him. It was during these days of recuperation, that he had his first significant encounter with Christ and the saints. As he was restricted to bed, he had much time on his hands, and the only books available to him were  books about the lives of saints and a book called “The Life of Christ,” by Ludolph the Carthusian. These books changed him forever and after much contemplation he abandoned his former life. He took the vow of chastity and hung his sword before the alter of the Blessed Mother. He left his wealthy estate and lived in a cave as he contemplated what it meant to live a Christian life.

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In 1523 he traveled to Rome, working to convert Muslims to Christianity. He spent many years traveling and studying theology, receiving his degree in 1534. Over the years, Ignatius became an expert in the art of spiritual direction. He wrote his insights and prayers into books offering guidance, called The Spiritual Exercises. His book is one of the most influential books ever written. He was also graced with visions and insights which led him to the creation of the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus on  August 15, 1534. It received papal approval in 1541.

As faithful Catholics, we should look deeper into the life of this great saint, who was able to break free from the distractions of the world…however good he originally thought them to be…And after being struck with a severe injury …. He was finally able to humble himself and resigned himself to doing the Will of God. Then with grace from God, Saint Ignatius was able to use his intellect and develop a spiritual exercise that would help others understand that God’s love for them is deep and unconditional, but that it requires of man a total response. He also was able to show others that there is a battle being waged for their souls, and that by allowing themselves to become united with Christ they could  avoid the temptations of the devil and find complete joy with the Lord.

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Act as if everything depended on you; trust as if everything depended on God.
― St. Ignatius of Loyola

God freely created us so that we might know, love, and serve him in this life and be happy with him forever. God’s purpose in creating us is to draw forth from us a response of love and service here on earth, so that we may attain our goal of everlasting happiness with him in heaven.
All the things in this world are gifts of God, created for us, to be the means by which we can come to know him better, love him more surely, and serve him more faithfully.
As a result, we ought to appreciate and use these gifts of God insofar as they help us toward our goal of loving service and union with God. But insofar as any created things hinder our progress toward our goal, we ought to let them go.”
―St. Ignatius of Loyola

 

images.duckduckgo.com iggy.jpg“If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint. And if you wish to become a great saint, entreat Him yourself to give you much opportunity for suffering; for there is no wood better to kindle the fire of holy love than the wood of the cross, which Christ used for His own great sacrifice of boundless charity.”
St. Ignatius of Loyola

Prayer of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Receive, O Lord, all my liberty. Take my memory. Receive my memory, understanding, and entire will. Whatsoever I have or hold, Thou hast given it: I give all back to Thee, and commit it wholly to be governed by Thy will. Thy love and Thy grace give unto me, and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more. Amen.

 

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Feast of Saint James the Apostle July 25th

 

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In the tradition of the Holy Mother Church, today we celebrate the feast of St. James the Greater, who was one of the twelve Apostles of Jesus. He was the son of Zebedee and Salome, and older brother of John the Evangelist.  Both he and his brother, were out fishing with their father, Zebedee, when Jesus called to them. Upon hearing His voice, the two brothers immediately left their father, abandoning their fishing nets, to follow Christ and become fishers of men.

In the gospel of Mark, we read about the close relationship the two brothers had with Jesus, particularly James. Their faith and their zeal made them great disciples…they were fearless and because of their fearlessness they were even referred to as ‘The Sons of Thunder.’..But even they needed cleansing…and several times in the Bible we read where Jesus had to correct them….correct the assumptions that were made about them.…But they persevered and remained steadfast with Jesus, and this steadfastness earned them a place with Christ. Of the twelve apostles, James, and his brother John, were right alongside Jesus during several important events during His ministry. They belonged to the select group that were present during the raising of Jairus’s daughter. transfigureAlong with Peter, they were even allowed a glimpse of Jesus and His Glory when they witnessed the Transfiguration of Christ. In the Garden of Gethsemane, St. James was one of the three apostles to witness the Christ’s agony.

When St. James and St. John heard the call of Christ, they left their worldly belongings behind and followed him. We often see images of Saint James with a walking stick, to symbolize for us, that he was a pilgrim, a man who traveled to distant lands to spread the Words of Christ. After the death of Jesus he traveled to Spain, preaching what Christ had taught him. He remained in Spain for nine years and devotion grew for the saint and a basilica was constructed in his honor. To this day he is the patron saint of Spain.

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It was the year 44, and Saint James was in Jerusalem, preaching and curing the sick in Jesus’ name,  when orders were given by King Herod Agrippa that Saint James was to be brought before him. It seems that the Pharisees had already tried several times to silence Saint James, but whenever someone was sent to capture the great saint, they were instead, converted. This time though, Josias, who was a scribe among the Pharisees was sent. He captured Saint James and put a cord around his neck, taking him before this ‘third’ King Herod, who was the grandson of the first. The King, wishing to please the Jews, decided to persecute the Christians…. starting with the fearless Saint James, whom he condemned to die by the sword.

As Saint James was taken to his place of execution, his fearless confession of Jesus Crucified was so powerful, that the scribe Josias was moved to conversion. He begged pardon of the great saint and was taken with the apostle and condemned to death as well.

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About that time King Herod laid hands upon some members of the church to harm them. He had James, the brother of John, killed by the sword, and when he saw that this was pleasing to the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also” (Acts 12:1-3a).

Saint James not only serves as a reminder to the faithful of how to love the Lord and leave everything of the world behind, but also serves as an example for us, that with Christ we will be able to stand up for the Truth and that with the help of the Holy Spirit, we too can be fearless in proclaiming the Truth that Christ came to share with all the peoples of the world. May we seek his intersession, so that we too, may have the strength and courage needed to fulfill our daily obligations to the Lord in serving Him as He served others. Saint James the greater, pray for us.

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