For Another Lenten Hymn and Thanks to Our Readers Too

One of the neat side-effects of this blog is that many of our readers share the same joy that Webster and I have for the Catholic Church. And then, they share what they have joyfully found with us and with you. This post is a text-book example of this.

About a week ago, I posted a poem by St. Gregory the Great called The Glory of These 40 Days to get Lent started off.  Today, I happened over to our Facebook page and noted  two things.

First, we have crossed the 200 Facebook fans mark (203 as of this writing) so Webster and I have popped some champagne! Thanks to all of you who have signed up to follow our posts either here (on Blogger) or there (on Facebook)! We sincerely appreciate your support.

The second thing I noticed was that one of our readers posted the video below of another hymn by Gregory the Great on the Fans Only part of our Facebook page. Neither the Caped Crusader (Webster) nor the Boy Wonder (Frank) found this one, folks. All thanks go to YIM Catholic Facebook fan and reader Emile James G.

And what a great find it us!  Just another day rummaging through the treasure chest of the Catholic Church searching for the roots of our faith and the essence of Christianity. Which, quite simply, is another reason YIM Catholic.

And as Webster’s post on Ecclesial Movements shows us an example of sharing our faith with others outside of our parish communities, so too does sharing with our band of brethren here at YIM Catholic reinforce the same love for the Church.

The following hymn entitled Audi, benigne Conditor (Merciful Creator, Hear!)  is attributed to Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-604). In the Roman Breviary this hymn is used at Vespers during Lent for both Sundays and the ferial Office from the first Sunday in Lent until the Friday before Passion Sunday. In the Liturgia Horarum it is used at Vespers for the Sunday Office from the first Sunday until the Saturday before Holy Week. That’s a whole lot of Latin, folks. Lucky for us, the video below has subtitles. Enjoy!

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Because of Joan of Arc, Again

I don’t know what it is with female saints, but they get to me, Joan of Arc in particular, although I’m reading a biography of Teresa of Avila now, and I’m already hooked. She was one of the first saints to have a devotion to St. Joseph. Priest me no female priests. What other church, what other world religion treats holy women with such high regard?

Fact is, though, this post is mostly a pretext to show off this beautiful retablo of St. Joan by Ann Burt, who has made retablos a personal mission.

Last week I bought Ann’s retablo of St. Joseph, which now hangs inside the door to my office, so that I can greet my patron saint coming and going. I’ll use it to illustrate a future post on San José (St. Joseph to you). I also bought Ann’s version of the Carmelite saint Thérèse of Lisieux so that I can give it to a Carmelite priest who is guest-teaching my fourth-graders in religious education this afternoon.

You’ll find some of Ann’s work featured here on Etsy.

Because the Holy Water is Back

Guest post by Ellen Hutchinson 
I bounded up the steps into the church last Friday. (Okay, so I didn’t “bound up the steps.” I’m hitting the big 5-0 later this year and I don’t bound up anything anymore. But it sounds so youthful to say that. Frankly, it was 6:50 in the morning and without morning caffeine, I was grateful to God that I was just functional.)  Reaching the top step, I  took my usual two steps to the left and dipped my fingers into the holy water stoup.

It’s been empty for several months now, an archdiocesan-ordered response last fall to the H1N1 scare. The dipping of my fingers into the empty stoup and blessing myself as I enter the church is an “auto-pilot” gesture. Or so I thought. For this time, my fingers hit water—holy water—and as I felt the coolness of the water on my forehead, I found myself thrilled by the fact that the holy water was back. Ditto as I left the church after Mass.

I spent much time later that day and on into the weekend thinking about my almost giddy reaction to being able to bless myself with holy water.  In CL (Communion and Liberation, the movement which I belong to along with uber-blogger and dear friend Webster, and our beloved Ferde) we are taught to judge our experiences. That, and the fact that my middle name is “dissect and analyze.”

I came to the conclusion that despite initially thinking that my dipping and blessing is an auto-pilot gesture, that I don’t really think of it that way. There’s a whole lot of meaning behind that most simple of gestures. That the crossing of myself as I enter church is my final act of preparation for the Mass; a last ditch prayer that I may be considered worthy of being in the presence of God; worthy to participate in the Mass; worthy to receive Him. That the coolness of the water on my forehead is a final attempt to cleanse myself before participating in the most beautiful of meals. That it is indeed a renewal of my baptism which took place in that same church almost 50 years ago. That as I leave the church, the act of crossing myself and the water on my forehead and chest help to form a shield, to protect me against the evil which awaits me out in the world.

The holy water is back, and I couldn’t be happier.  And tomorrow morning, as I walk up the steps, take my usual two steps to the left, dip my fingers into the water and make the sign of the cross, feeling that cool water on my forehead, I’ll pray that I never take that gesture for granted again.   

Through the Grace of Ecclesial Movements

I heard a remarkable statistic last night. I can’t back it up; I heard it secondhand; but my source is Cardinal Seàn O’Malley of Boston (left), who celebrated Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in honor of the fifth anniversary of the death of Fr. Luigi Giussani. “Don Giuss” was the founder of Communion and Liberation (CL), a movement of which I am a member. Here’s the statistic:

In his homily, Cardinal O’Malley said that, today in Spain, traditionally a Catholic country, only 15 percent of those born to Catholic families actively practice their faith. That’s not the statistic.

This is the statistic: Of these practicing Spanish Catholics, 80 percent belong to ecclesial movements like CL, Opus Dei, Focolare, Cursillo, and the Neocatechuminal Way. Another name on that list is the Catholic Worker Movement, founded by Dorothy Day, for whom I have a certain unreasonable affection.

I would like to write more about CL in the days and weeks ahead, but for this short post I will leave you with a quote from Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, the CL “Responsible” (big cheese) for the USA. Asked to define Communion and Liberation, he called it “Opus Dei for bad people.” I know nothing about OD, but I like the definition anyway.

Oh heck, another CL story, again from Msgr. Albacete. Father Barnes relayed it to me this morning after Mass.

Often when a new bishop is appointed in the USA, Albacete (left) will pay him a visit in his capacity as Responsible. He says that new bishops dread such visits, because the visitor almost invariably wants something. Albacete defies expectation by telling the new bishop that CL stands ready to help him in any way. The bishop loves that, of course. “But then,” Albacete says, “comes the inevitable question, which I dread. The bishop asks, ‘So how many CL members are there in my diocese?’

“The answer,” Albacete says, half jokingly but only half, is “Two. And all they do is sing. And they don’t sing that well.”

I would be interested to know if any of our readers belong to an ecclesial movement and, if so, which and why.

For All The Saints: Polycarp of Smyrna

On this day we celebrate the feast of St. Polycarp, an Apostolic Father of the Church. He was eighty-six years old when he was captured, arrested, and publicly executed by the Roman authorities on this day in AD 156. He was the Bishop of Smyrna and had been a disciple of St. John, the Apostle.

He died a martyr when he was stabbed after an attempt to burn him at the stake failed. This is true Christian martyrdom in the example of  Our Lord, St. Stephen, and all the Apostles (except St. John)—death freely accepted rather than deny the Faith. Not martyrdom by way of killing a bunch of innocent bystanders with a suicide bomb wrapped around your waist. Not lashing out with a sword to see how many of the enemy you can take with you to the grave. Instead, a simple refusal to deny Our Lord when tempted to do so and an acceptance of the sentence as meted out by the authorities.

What follows is Polycarp’s famous refusal to revile Our Lord and the account of the prayer he prayed when the authorities attempted to burn him at the stake.

But when the magistrate pressed him hard and said, “Swear the oath, and I will release thee; revile the Christ,” Polycarp said, “Fourscore and six years have I been His servant, and He hath done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?”

And when the funeral pile was ready, Polycarp, laying aside all his garments, and loosing his girdle, sought also to take off his sandals, a thing he was not accustomed to do, inasmuch as every one of the faithful was always eager who should first touch his skin. For, on account of his holy life, he was, even before his martyrdom, adorned with every kind of good. Immediately then they surrounded him with those substances which had been prepared for the funeral pile. But when they were about also to fix him with nails, he said, “Leave me as I am; for He that giveth me strength to endure the fire, will also enable me, without your securing me by nails, to remain without moving in the pile.”

They did not nail him then, but simply bound him. And he, placing his hands behind him, and being bound like a distinguished ram taken out of a great flock for sacrifice, and prepared to be an acceptable burnt-offering unto God, looked up to heaven, and said, “O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of Thee, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and of the whole race of the righteous who live before thee, I give Thee thanks that Thou hast counted me worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Thy martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, through the incorruption imparted by the Holy Ghost. Among whom may I be accepted this day before Thee as a fat and acceptable sacrifice, according as Thou, the ever-truthful God, hast foreordained, hast revealed beforehand to me, and now hast fulfilled. Wherefore also I praise Thee for all things, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee, and the Holy Ghost, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen.”

“Martyrdom of Polycarp” from Ceiling of the Church of St. Polycarp, Smyrna (now Izmir, Turkey)

Take a look at the video by Drive Thru History:

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Thanks to Richard Proulx

Guest post by Allison  
I only learned about Richard Proulx within the past few months, as I delved more into church music through my participation in my parish choir. I wrote last Monday a guest post on how grateful I am that he wrote an arrangement for the Russian Orthodox Beatitudes. At the time, I contemplated devoting an entire blog entry to Mr. Proulx himself. But I’m not a  musicologist, and even my amateur status as a chorister is a new one. Then I read that Mr. Proulx died on Thursday, at the age of 72.

Accounts of his life tell that Richard Proulx was the leading champion of traditional Catholic church music post–Vatican II. Folks who worked with him describe him as a kind and generous man, with exacting standards and a great sense of humor.

He was director of music and organist at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, Illinois, for more than a decade and later worked independently as composer, clinician, and conductor of the Cathedral Singers. His bio states he “served as a consultant for  hymnals of many Protestant denominations, including United Methodist, Mennonite, Presbyterian, and Episcopal. He  was a founding member of The Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians.”

Mr. Proulx’s Saint Paul, Minn. childhood  was blessed with fine musical training. He described that training several years ago in an interview with Selah Publishing Co.’s Music in Worship magazine. He sounds like such a humble man:

“I was fortunate to be part of a very progressive elementary school music system where we had music twice a day: Gregorian solfège in the morning and modern solfège in the afternoon. By the sixth or seventh grade I was playing for some school services. I was simply appointed because I was available and seemed to be able to play many of the right notes. The school was very kind, and already by the seventh grade or so had sent me to a composition teacher in addition to piano lessons. So the composition began early, although those were certainly primitive efforts. No child prodigy claims here!”

Perhaps “Mass for the City,” which Mr. Proulx wrote for his adopted hometown of Chicago, is his best known and most sung arrangement. Here is the choir of Saint Peter’s Catholic Church in Columbia, SC, singing the Eucharistic Acclamations from that Mass. Sound familiar?

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“May angels lead you into paradise;
may the martyrs receive you at your coming
and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem.
May a choir of angels receive you,
and with Lazarus, who once was poor, may you have eternal rest.”

Thanks to Thomas à Kempis for These Thoughts on Confession

Seemingly, there aren’t enough words to describe the graces we obtain from the Sacrament of Confession. And the number of opinions on this Sacrament are legion, if our poll results and the comments they have prompted are any indication. Webster and I haven’t fully plumbed the depths of this Sacrament yet. For example, we haven’t mentioned Divine Mercy Sunday or the fact that the Sacrament of Confession plays a large role in the diary of Sister Faustina.

And the fact of the matter is no saint on record has ever said,

Look at me! I soar above the heights of the world with the Lord. I have no need of the Sacrament of Confession. Yippee! 

If anything, the importance and necessity of this Sacrament are solidified and bolstered by the saints. St. Teresa of Avila, practitioner of contemplative prayer, writes at length on the importance of this Sacrament and the duty we have of finding a good confessor.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not anywhere near the level of perfection that she obtained while she was here on earth.  If Big Terry says Confession is  important, I listen up.

Although not an official saint, Thomas à Kempis discusses the importance of this Sacrament in The Imitation of Christ. Take a look at these thoughts Thomas wrote down regarding the Eucharistic celebration coupled with the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  He is writing here in the character of Our Lord. Notice how similar these phrases are to the ones Sister Faustina reports in her diary (bold highlights are mine),

Do Not Lightly Forego Holy Communion

The Voice of Christ,

You must often return to the source of grace and divine mercy, to the fountain of goodness and perfect purity, if you wish to be free from passion and vice, if you desire to be made stronger and more watchful against all the temptations and deceits of the devil.

The enemy, knowing the great good and the healing power of Holy Communion, tries as much as he can by every manner and means to hinder and keep away the faithful and the devout. Indeed, there are some who suffer the worst assaults of Satan when disposing themselves to prepare for Holy Communion. As it is written in Job, this wicked spirit comes among the sons of God to trouble them by his wonted malice, to make them unduly fearful and perplexed, that thus he may lessen their devotion or attack their faith to such an extent that they perhaps either forego Communion altogether or receive with little fervor.

No attention, however, must be paid to his cunning wiles, no matter how base and horrible—all his suggestions must be cast back upon his head. The wretch is to be despised and scorned. Holy Communion must not be passed by because of any assaults from him or because of the commotion he may arouse.

Oftentimes, also, too great solicitude for devotion and anxiety about confession hinder a person. Do as wise men do. Cast off anxiety and scruple, for it impedes the grace of God and destroys devotion of the mind.

Do not remain away from Holy Communion because of a small trouble or vexation but go at once to confession and willingly forgive all others their offenses. If you have offended anyone, humbly seek pardon and God will readily forgive you.

What good is it to delay confession for a long time or to put off Holy Communion? Cleanse yourself at once, spit out the poison quickly. Make haste to apply the remedy and you will find it better than if you had waited a long time. If you put it off today because of one thing, perhaps tomorrow a greater will occur to you, and thus you will stay away from Communion for a long time and become even more unfit.

Shake off this heaviness and sloth as quickly as you can, for there is no gain in much anxiety, in enduring long hours of trouble, and in depriving yourself of the divine Mysteries because of these daily disturbances. Yes, it is very hurtful to defer Holy Communion long, for it usually brings on a lazy spiritual sleep.

How sad that some dissolute and lax persons are willing to postpone confession and likewise wish to defer Holy Communion, lest they be forced to keep a stricter watch over themselves! Alas, how little love and devotion have they who so easily put off Holy Communion! How happy and acceptable to God is he who so lives, and keeps his conscience so pure, as to be ready and well disposed to communicate, even every day if he were permitted, and if he could do so unnoticed.

If, now and then, a man abstains by the grace of humility or for a legitimate reason, his reverence is commendable, but if laziness takes hold of him, he must arouse himself and do everything in his power, for the Lord will quicken his desire because of the good intention to which He particularly looks. When he is indeed unable to come, he will always have the good will and pious intention to communicate and thus he will not lose the fruit of the Sacrament.

Any devout person may at any hour on any day receive Christ in spiritual communion profitably and without hindrance. Yet on certain days and times appointed he ought to receive with affectionate reverence the Body of his Redeemer in this Sacrament, seeking the praise and honor of God rather than his own consolation.

For as often as he devoutly calls to mind the mystery and passion of the Incarnate Christ, and is inflamed with love for Him, he communicates mystically and is invisibly refreshed.
He who prepares himself only when festivals approach or custom demands, will often find himself unprepared. Blessed is he who offers himself a sacrifice to the Lord as often as he celebrates or communicates.

Be neither too slow nor too fast in celebrating but follow the good custom common to those among whom you are. You ought not to cause others inconvenience or trouble, but observe the accepted rule as laid down by superiors, and look to the benefit of others rather than to your own devotion or inclination.

Several of you have commented about the short lines at the confessional and long lines for Communion. Many complained about priests not motivated to hear their confessions. I’m not saying I don’t believe what I’m reading. Not every parish has uniform hours for this sacrament or uniformly motivated priests to hear them. But this hasn’t been my experience. Keep in mind, I’m a recent RCIA convert. Confession opportunities are plentiful, but especially during Lent. I intend to make full use of them and I hope you will as well.

Semper Fidelis

Because of What Sin Does

Guest post by Allison 
We sang a plea for God’s mercy as an Offertory Hymn at Sunday’s 11 a.m. Mass: Parce, Domine, parce populo tuo; ne in aeternum irascaris nobis. (Spare your people, Lord. 
Be not angry, Lord, with your people forever.)
 Later, at Vespers, three members of the Gregorian Chant Club—my son, my friend Andy, and I—chanted in Latin Audi, Benigne Conditor, which begins with the fourth verse of Parce Domine: Audi, benigne Conditor,
 Nostras preces cum fletibus. In hoc sacro jejunio, 
Fusas quadragenario. (O Merciful Creator, hear! 
To us in pity bow thine ear. Accept the tearful prayer we raise
 in this our fast of forty days.)

I found comfort in raising my voice with fellow parishioners to ask God for mercy, even though I understand that when I sin, the fault is mine alone.

In the CCD classes of my youth, I was taught that sin makes us separate from God. This is true, but something else happens, too. My parish priest reminded me of this Sunday morning during his homily when he described “the malice of evil and the loneliness of sin.”

This is a good way to think about sin. My sins, my everyday failings, make me lonely, both because they cut me off from my Creator and because they make me a stranger to the Communion of Saints.

Last week, Webster kindly mailed me a book called Frequent Confession: Its Place in the Spiritual Life (with the promise that I would guest-blog about it). First published in 1922, the book reinforces how our sins hurt the entire Body of Christ. Alternatively, the book tells us, the Sacrament of Confession strengthens that Body.

I am reading my way through this book by the late German Abbott, Benedict Baur, OSB, ever so slowly. It is full of insights about the interior life as well as spiritual gems that I do not want to miss. One of these gems lies in the book’s introduction, written in 1984 by the late Rev. Salvador Ferigle. He cites a 1970 decree from the Sacred Congregation for the Religious. It states that frequent confession, as often as weekly confession, in addition to strengthening virtue and giving grace, is “highly beneficial also to the common good of the community.”

Of the seven sacraments, the two most personal are marriage and confession, Baur writes. I enter the confessional separated from God and from the Body of Christ. As Psalm 51 (and the final verse of Parce, Domine) puts it:

Sacrificium Deo spiritus contribulatus cor contritum et humiliatum Deus non spernet. (My sacrifice, God, is a broken spirit. God, do not spurn a broken, humbled heart.)

When I emerge from the Sacrament of Confession, I have not only allowed God to grant me grace, but I have also strengthened the Church.

Because We Are A Bible-Believing Church III: The Chair of St. Peter

I have been on this planet for roughly 49 and a half years. I have been a Christian for roughly 39 and a half of those years and a Catholic Christian for 5 years come the Easter Vigil. So what? So I never knew until a few years ago that February 22 is the Feast Day of the Chair of St. Peter.

I also was ignorant of the fact that Catholic tradition states that it was on this day that Our Lord made His declaration about St. Peter as being the keeper of the keys.

Consider this one of those “pleasures of finding things out” moments I wrote about on around New Years a few years back. In italics below is a note I found on Catholic Exchange about this day in Church history.  My edits and expansions of additional Bible references are included, but full credit for this post should go to CE.

Rookie that I am, I really, really have a lot to learn about the history of the Church. But I have found that an understanding of history is very helpful as I make my way through this world in other areas.  Why wouldn’t the same be true of Church history?

Here begins the article from Catholic Exchange:

Upon This Rock

Today the Church celebrates the feast day of the Chair of Peter. This celebration dates back to at least the fourth century. The Calendar of Philocalus, made in the year 354 and having dates going back to the year 311, marks February 22 for this feast. According to very ancient Western liturgies, February 22 was the date that Christ appointed Peter to sit in His place as the authority over His Church.

When Jesus asks the apostles “Who do you say that I am?” Peter alone replied as follows,

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter,and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

The “chair” of course, is the position, the authority that was given to Peter. This can also be called the Petrine authority or the authority of the pope. Peter, alone among the Apostles, was given the keys to the kingdom. Jesus said to him, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt. 16:19) The Apostles would immediately understand, as would any first-century Jew, what Jesus was referring to when He said “keys to the kingdom.” This was a reference to Isaiah 22 where it refers to a king delegating his special authority over his kingdom to his prime minister. In essence, Jesus was setting up His kingdom on earth (the Catholic Church) and he was delegating His authority to Peter to rule over it until He comes again. In giving Peter the authority to bind and loose, Jesus was essentially stating that He would back up the decisions that Peter would make. Of course, the Church teaches us that this does not refer to all Peter’s actions, but in matters of faith and morals, Peter does have the authority to speak for Christ.

And all this despite Simon Peter’s weaknesses and flaws as a regular guy. Our Lord foretells that Peter will deny him. But first, He tells the Apostles this at the Last Supper,

“You are those who have stood by Me in My trials; and just as My Father has granted Me a kingdom, I grant you  that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

And He singles out Peter with the following information that He prayed for Peter before fortelling his denial of Him,

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:28-32)

Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide His Church. This promise is made to guide Peter and the popes throughout the ages, in union with the bishops, in shepherding His Church. Peter, or the pope, however, is the shepherd who watches over the flock until Christ returns. We see this in Scripture also when Christ, after His resurrection and just prior to His Ascension, says to Peter, calling him by his former name (before Christ changed it):

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (Referring to the other apostles)
Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
He said to him, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”

Peter was distressed that He had said to him a third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said to Him, “Lord, You know everything, You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep” (Jn 21:15-17).

Jesus is our true Shepherd, but He has asked Peter to watch over His flock until He returns to earth. Christ is the King of Kings and He has delegated His authority to Peter and all those after Peter who would sit in the “Chair of Peter” throughout the ages until He comes again in His glory. So Scripture makes it very clear why the Church celebrates this special occasion.

Thanks be to God.

In Praise of Polyphony (Music for Mondays)

You can blame this article and my good friend (and frequent YIMC commenter) James for this post. Seal and the immortal Stevie Ray Vaughn will have to step aside for a week, to make way for Palestrina, Clemens non Papa, Byrd, and 20th-century composer Eric Whitacre. This is music as it was meant to be, four hundred years ago. I could imagine Warren Jewell tapping his feet to this stuff, if it had a beat. 

We begin with the Nunc Dimittis, set to music by Giovanni Pierluigi di Palestrina (1525–1594).

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Next up, “Ego Flos Campi” by Jacob Clemens non Papa (1510?–1555?).

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Here’s “Vigillate” by William Byrd (1540?–1623).

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Finally, here is a 20th-century example of polyphony, Eric Whitacre’s “Lux Aurumque.”

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