Zelie & Louis Martin

When I heard the relics of Louis and Zelie Martin were coming to the UK I immediately knew I had to go visit them. Their youngest daughter – St Therese of Lisieux was the one who guided me into Carmel. She has become one of my best friends (yes – some of my best friends are actually dead ;) ) and to be able to ‘meet’ her parents was a very special honour for me as a secular Carmelite. They had 9 children, 4 of whom tragically died in childhood. They were married for 19 years until Zelie died from breast cancer when little Therese was just 4 years old.

Their relics were on display at Portsmouth cathedral UK. Bishop Egan said Mass and gave a superb homily reminding us all that no man has the authority to change Christ’s teaching on marriage.

There was also time for quiet reflection. And I found myself praying the only prayer I could think of: “Please help me with my marriage…”

Next week Nick and I will have been married for 15 years. The last 18 months have been really, really hard. Nick was diagnosed with CFS when our 3rd child was just 4 months old, and has not been at work since then. We have no idea when or if he will recover. We do not have an income. I now take the kids on holiday on my own. I didn’t chose this and neither did he. I cannot stand to watch him suffer.

But it’s not all bad…

How many fathers do you know who get to spend everyday with their baby? How many fathers do you know who are their for their kids everyday when they get home from school, eat dinner together everyday, read bedtime stories everyday? (I must just add that as husband and wife, being together in close proximity 24/7 has its um… challenges – like refraining from killing each other ;) )

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“Please help me with my marriage…” I would like to think that after 15 years of wife-ing, I was getting pretty good at it. But I’m afraid I still struggle with my vocation every single day. And so does he. It’s not always a bed of roses.

How it is possible for us to have got married age 20 with 1 days preparation, and then keep that marriage together through thick and thin in every possible scenario for 15 years I just don’t know. I can only put it down to the fact that Jesus is present in our sacrament of marriage. We have tried to split up a few times but we just couldn’t do it :)

On one occasion I remember desperately wanting to leave but wrestling with the fact that if I left, I would have to deny Christ – and I just couldn’t do it :) In the end it wasn’t feelings towards my husband that kept me in my marriage, it wasn’t even the fact that I believe children need to grow up with their mother and father present, but it was the fact that Jesus had given His whole life for me on the cross, and now He was asking me to give my whole life for Him by staying obediently in my marriage vows. It was at that moment about 8 years ago that Christ became first place in my marriage.

Louis and Zelie were terrific examples of this. They had Christ in first place in their marriage from the very start. They obviously adored each other, but crucially they did not idolise each other. Christ came first.

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Gosh! What a lesson this is for us today! How many people idolise their spouse, putting them above God? Many, I would say. And it’s not fair, because when you put your spouse first (above God) you are burdening them with a role they can not possibly ever live up to. Your spouse will NEVER be able to fill that God shaped hole in your heart. And it is completely unrealistic and unfair to expect them to. And when you begin to realise that your spouse is not ‘fulfilling’ you like you would like then you actually begin to blame them for it! Crazy isn’t it?!

Personally I’m convinced that this is the reason that so many marriages are failing now. People are expecting their spouse to fulfil the parts of them that only God can fulfil.

By putting Christ first in their marriage, Louis and Zelie kept their marriage holy, and also set the example for their 5 surviving daughters who all went on to become Carmelite nuns. What an amazing couple. What an outstanding example.

Dear Louis and Zelie, please help me with my marriage.

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My Carmelite formation director has asked me to share a few ways in which prayer is part of my ordinary daily life:

“Our charism is very focused on prayer, with Mary as our model in prayer and meditation. Our Carmelite constitutions tell us that ‘Mary preserves in her heart the life and actions of her Son and meditates on them, this is contemplation’. I would be really interested to hear any thoughts you have on prayer and contemplation, because for someone with 3 kids who hasn’t a moment to herself, you would have to be even more creative than the rest of us to be able to do this! – and yet it is possible.”

So lets have a think…. Hmmmm…..

What is Prayer?

Well I guess the first thing is to make very clear what prayer is. St Therese tells us that “Prayer is the raising of ones mind and heart to God.” And it really is as simple as that. At any time, in any situation, I am able to raise my mind and heart to God – either in thanksgiving and praise, contrite and sorrowful, anger and frustration or just simply resting in His peace.

Do not prepare to pray – Just do it!

I think it’s important to say that I don’t prepare to pray. I just pray. I think a lot of people make the mistake of waiting until they are in the ‘right’ frame of mind before they pray. This is a complete waste of time. If I am angry and frustrated then THAT is the time I need to talk to God. He wants me at THAT very moment. I don’t try to hide my negative emotions from God! I Don’t try to present myself during prayer as being on my best behaviour! God sees me ALL the time. He knows my every thought – so why not go to Him just as I am? I cry, kick and scream, I tell Him it’s not fair. I beg Him for His unending mercy. I open my heart to Him, because it is only when I let Him in to my heart that He can actually work with me. Be honest – He knows you are not perfect and He doesn’t expect you to be.

I usually have one of these prayer tantrums at least once a day. I’m a drama queen – what can I say?!

Tell Him you love Him – and mean it.

During a trip to Medjugorje in 2005 I had a very powerful encounter with Jesus during Adoration. He came from the Eucharist and stood beside me and placed His hand inside my chest and onto my heart. He said to me “Clare, you need to come to me everyday and tell Me that you love Me.” He was referring to Himself in the Eucharist.

Now this may sound easy, but to be honest – it’s not. Because for me to say “I love you” I have to mean it. There has to be nothing separating me from Him. There have been some days where I have really struggled to say it. There have been days where i have been unable to say it – and this has illuminated the sin that is separating me from Him. Quite often I say it almost begrudgingly – all too aware of what He is asking me to give up, to leave behind, so that I am able to say it to Him. But there are also the days when it is easy to love Him. And i rest in His love like baby in her Fathers loving arms – and I could literally stay there all day!

Go to daily Mass.

I started going to daily Mass about 10 years ago. It changed my life. The end.

I am able to get to the 9am Mass on my way home from the morning school run. If I have the baby with me we sit with my parents, or sometimes out the back if she is noisy. I have the mass reading downloaded onto my Kindle from Universalis so even if she is screaming i can still follow what is being said. Also, having the responsorial psalm on your Kindle means that it is almost impossible to forget the response after the first time you have said it! (It’s early! My brain doesn’t wake up before 10am!)

Divine Office

As a secular Carmelite I am expected to say at least the morning and evening prayer of the Divine Office each day. But with 3 kids that is not always straight forward. There are days where I simply do not have 20 or even 10 mins to sit quietly to read it. So instead I use divineoffice.org and listen to the prayers instead of reading them. Morning prayer gets played in the car during the school run. A by-product of this is that my 8 year old has started joining in with it! He is listening to the psalms and he knows how to join in with the responses!

Evening prayer usually gets played on my laptop while i am making the dinner or feeding the baby. Prayer and house work go together perfectly in my opinion, proving that it is entirely possible to be Martha and Mary at the same time. Sometimes it is difficult to concentrate, but i always get one or two lines that touch my heart. And to be honest – that is enough for me.

During night prayer (my favourite) i sometimes just sit on the sofa and listen, and sometimes when i have some energy to do stuff in the evenings, i like sewing. And I can tell you this – there is no better past time for contemplation than sewing (other than perhaps jigsaw puzzles – but i only do that on the nights when i am feeling really rock and roll ;) !!!!)

Contemplation in Motherhood

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ – Matthew 25: 35-40

It is not always easy to see Christ in one’s kids! But the fact is He is there present in each of them. It is even harder to see Christ in one’s husband! But He is there too! This in itself is contemplation enough for one day (my goodness!). I’ll tell you something: You do not know what it means to keep watch with Christ until you have a little one who is teething and just wants to be held, every night, until 3am. Poor little sausage!

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I also try to say the Rosary every day as part of my promise to wear the brown scapular. Again – this is a good one for the car. I have the interactive rosary downloaded onto my phone, so i can play that wherever I am. I even have a speaker in my bathroom that sticks onto the wall so that i can listen to the office or the rosary while i am in the shower!

So there we go. A few ways i am managing to make prayer part of my normal daily life. I don’t manage it everyday – sometimes it is just impossible, but i do manage it most days. And to be honest – it’s just become second nature. It is possible.

If the desire to pray is there, then you will find a way.

Polish born Fr. Pileov Ash.

Polish born Fr. Pileov Ash.

Police are questioning a 38 year old Catholic priest on charges of arson after 17 out of 18 churches he was stationed at burned to the ground over a 13 year period. Polish born Fr. Pileov Ash denies the charges saying that the events are an “unexplainable co-incidence”.

As part of the interrogation process, Fr. Ash has been asked to take a lie detector test while being exposed to a series of slides – each containing photographs of some of the churches he was stationed at before the fires took place.

“Fr. Ash, please could you tell us a little about each of these churches?”

St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Austria.

St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Austria.

“Oh yes! I remember this one – there was so much glass used in the design of this building. It used to heat up like a greenhouse. Sometimes temperatures would reach over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. I felt so sorry for the congregation. They reminded me of trapped ants getting frazzled under a magnifying glass. One time a woman’s hair set on fire – just like that! Spontaneously combusted. I think it was a weave…”

Catholic Cathedral of Brasilia.

Catholic Cathedral of Brasilia.

“Ahhhh! Brazillia. I always said those candle stands looked dodgy. They wobbled if you looked at them. Really, really wobbley. In hindsight i should have done more to fix them than just jamming a folded up parish newsletter under one of the feet. Live and learn I guess?!”

L'église Sainte-Bernadette du Banlay, France. And 'Mater' from Disney's Cars.

L’église Sainte-Bernadette du Banlay, France. And ‘Mater’ from Disney’s Cars.

“To model a church on a Disney character is something I never really understood to be honest. Especially one that has a petrol engine. Petrol = fire. That’s all I have to say.”

Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Vienna.

Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Vienna.

“Jesus wept… *long deep sigh* The architecture of the 1970’s was as stupid and ugly as its theology… *another long deep sigh* Forgive them Father, They didn’t know what they were doing… *yet another long deep sigh*

Santa Monica Catholic Church, Spain. And a Spaceship.

Santa Monica Catholic Church, Spain. And a Spaceship.

“I have no idea how the fire started, but at its peak there were flames literally shooting out of the windows at the back. It reminded me of an episode of StarTrek from 1968 where the Klingon’s were attempting to jump to warp speed. I almost expected the entire building to lift off and boldly go where no man has gone before.”

San Paolo Catholic Church, Italy.

San Paolo Catholic Church, Italy.

“Forensics traced the source of this fire back to the sacristy. That didn’t surprise me at all. There was just so much polyester in there. At night you could hear crackling and literally see sparks as the low quality vestments brushed against each other. The levels of static electricity in that place were OFF THE CHART. Vanpoulles has got a lot to answer for.”

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, England.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, England.

“The Metropolitan famously has the nickname ‘The Chimney’. You can see why. The place was literally one big furnace. An accident waiting to happen if you ask me. White smoke was bellowing out of the top like a new Pope had just been chosen! I guess that’s why all the people were clapping and cheering?”

Iglesia de la Consolación, Spain.

Iglesia de la Consolación, Spain.

“This one deserved to die. I hated it. It was so ugly, so embarrassing, so rectangle, so depressing. It actually made me ashamed to be a Catholic. Not that I started the fire of course – you understand that right? Are you recording this?”

Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, California.

Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, California.

“Now this one was the fault of the architect. Who in their right mind would create a window that long at the front of the building? When opened, the whole place acted like a giant bellows. It created a back-draft that whipped up the votive candles in their pastel coloured glass holders into an inferno the likes of which I have never seen before – or since. The front doors burst open and several giant fireballs shot out. It was like watching a huge angry metal dragon with indigestion.”

Catedral Basílica Menor Nossa Senhora da Glória in Maringá, Brazil.

Catedral Basílica Menor Nossa Senhora da Glória in Maringá, Brazil.

“This one reminded me so much of a witches hat. You know what they used to do with witches in the middle ages? They used to burn them. Oh yes, they used to burn them. WHAAAAAaaaaaaa!!!!”

St. Anne's Church, England

St. Anne’s Church, England

“Now this was such a shame. I was trying to make a cup of tea and I accidentally left the large box of PG Tip’s on the gas stove. It wouldn’t have been a problem except that the gas stove was on at the time. I had also left a pan of hot oil on the boil and accidentally tossed my lit cigarette end into the bin – which was located just underneath the 1960’s purple paisley patterned nylon curtains. Silly me! Silly, silly me!”

Christus, Hoffnung der Welt in Donau City, Austria.

Christus, Hoffnung der Welt in Donau City, Austria.

“Oh c’mon! It’s a giant microwave! What did you expect?!”

Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut de Ronchamp in Ronchamp, France.

Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut de Ronchamp in Ronchamp, France.

“Seriously, I was only at this parish for 2 weeks when the accident happened. The best person to speak to about this is the 94 year old permanent Deacon based in that parish. Go and speak to him. His name is Offring – Deacon Burt Offring.”

Kappal Matha Church in Uvari, India. (This. Really. Is. A. Catholic. Church.)

Kappal Matha Church in Uvari, India.
(This. Really. Is. A. Catholic. Church.)

Fr. Ash remained silent when shown this slide, but detectives did notice that his heart rate went up to almost 190 bpm and he started sweating profusely and omitted a low growling noise.

The Vatican has responded through the Liturgical Art and Sacred Music Commission, saying that Fr. Ash and Deacon Offring are obviously innocent of any crime. “The real crime” they say “is that these monstrosities were allowed to be built in the first place.”

Sources in Rome also report that in a highly unusaul move, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has recommended Fr. Ash and Deacon Offring for immediate canonisation stating that “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” and that “The fire of the Holy Spirit moves where it will.” He went onto to say that it was “Miraculous” that not a single person was hurt in any of the fires and that God has obviously chosen these two men to “clear the way” for new architects that want to restore the “dignity, beauty and reverence” that has been disregarded in Catholic architecture over the last two generations.

The case continues…

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Fulton, before the accident.

When God’s Love Hurts – By Cassandra Poppe

“On the Way of the Cross, you see, my children, only the first step is painful. Our greatest cross is the fear of crosses. . . . We have not the courage to carry our cross, and we are very much mistaken; for,whatever we do, the cross holds us tight — we cannot escape from it. What, then, have we to lose? Why not love our crosses and make use of them to take us to Heaven? But, on the contrary, most men turn their backs upon crosses, and fly before them. The more they run, the more the cross pursues them, the more it strikes and crushes them with burdens. . . . If you were wise, you would go to meet it like Saint Andrew, who said, when he saw the cross prepared for him and raised up into the air, “Hail O good cross! O admirable cross! O desirable cross! receive me into thine arms, withdraw me from among men, and restore me to my Master, who redeemed me through thee. “ — St John Vianney

Crosses. Suffering. The human race has been plagued with hardship ever since that fateful day in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve desired more than the goodness God had already given them. And from that point on, most viewed suffering as a punishment from God – until that first Good Friday when Our Lord transformed punishment into a blessing. It seems natural for us to try to alleviate hardships when they come. A painkiller, a massage, an adjustment to the thermostat. How many little things do we do each day, each hour, to tweak the comfort level around ourselves? As these first 2 paragraphs were written, I have already adjusted my posture, scratched an itch and taken a sip of my drink. All actions taken almost without thinking and all done to increase my comfort.

But what happens when our discomfort becomes full blown suffering? Suddenly our pleasure and comfort seeking instincts are challenged and no matter what remedies we try, our suffering is not eased. Cancer. The loss of a loved one. Crippling persecution. An accident. These crosses do not refine and perfect our souls in little ways, as the everyday annoyances in life can. No. These crosses are life changing, redirecting our souls directly towards Calvary, to bring about in us a profoundly holy transformation. But only if we are able to see the love that is hidden within the cross.

While we may not cheerfully embrace our crosses, our Catholic faith teaches us of the immense value in suffering. We have Crucifixes to remind us of Our Lord’s suffering and sacrifice, inspiring us to mortify ourselves for love of Him. We understand that suffering is a part of life and a tool we must use well for the sanctification of our soul. Others avoid suffering, seeing it as either a punishment or from Satan.

And while this view may be correct in certain circumstances, we must always remember that all suffering is allowed by Our Lord. If He allows it to happen, we must treat it as an invaluable opportunity to grow in holiness, and give glory to God. No matter what. I do not say this lightly, as it is indeed both a joy and a burden to be trusted by Our Lord. He requires much of those He loves – sometimes more than we think we can handle. But we may rest in the fact that as long as we remain firmly at His side and under the loving watch of Our Lady, all things are possible.

When Our Lord redirected our lives that fateful January morning, I felt it more than I heard it. That deep percussion-like boom one hears when a firework is sent skyward, before it explodes. This was immediately followed by my husband’s unintelligible cry. Flying to the kitchen window, I saw what will haunt me forever. My four year old little boy was slowly moving away from the burn barrel, completely engulfed in flames from his waist to his head. His hands were clenched at his sides, moving them up towards his face in slow motion, pieces of his fleece jacket peeling away and falling behind him.

What followed could rival the goriest scenes in a horror movie. Grey, cadaverous forehead. Deformed ears. Skin still bubbling from the heat trapped within. Long strands of flesh hanging from little hands and arms like a partially unwrapped mummy rising from its tomb. Shrieks of pain. Tears of terror. As my son was laid at my feet on the kitchen floor, I collapsed before him, unable to do anything for him before the ambulance arrived. And so I prayed. The two prayers that came to me were, “Mother of God, be with us,” and “Thy will be done.” And looking back, I understand why.

From that moment on, Our Sorrowful Mother took me as her child, showing me that sometime God’s love looks very ugly on the surface. I had gotten a taste of this truth before, when my husband and I struggled to make our marriage work, and again when I cared for my father in his home as he died of cancer. But this by far was the most crippling form of suffering I could have endured. I wanted to take on Fulton’s burns as my own. “Lord, let me suffer these pains for You!” I prayed. “He is too little!” But I see now how that would have been the easy route for me. I already understood redemptive suffering, binding physical pains to the wounds of Our Lord on the Cross as an offering of love. But I could not do that for my son. This emotional anguish was new – and so instead of suffering with Our Lord, I suffered at the foot of Fulton’s cross with Our Lady. If she saw the love hidden within the Our Lord’s Cross, surely I could find the love in Fulton’s suffering. And that is what I needed to find. Otherwise, his suffering made no sense. I did not want to be a bystander on Calvary, disgusted by the scene before me, or to be one to rage against God amid the pain.

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I have known far too many bitter souls in my life who, do not take the time to examine their crosses and embrace them for the gift they are. Help me find the gifts, Sweet Mary. Help me find the love! And what love there was! Just as word spread of Christ’s suffering and brought about conversions, so too did Fulton’s suffering inspire others to the faith. I received letters from people who have returning to a life of prayer because of Fulton’s powerful story. Some grasped for the first time what it means to ‘offer it up’ and embraced their own crosses with a new found love for God. They saw through Fulton’s and my experience, that love cannot be complete without some form of willing suffering or sacrifice, choosing to participate in God’s plan through the cross laid upon their shoulders, even when they could not yet see the love.

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Truly, His call to take up our crosses and follow Him was a call to suffer for Him that others may be saved. And for the first time I understood the words of St. Paul when he said, “In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” (Col. 1:24) when hearts previously unmoved by Christ’s Passion were moved by the sufferings of a little boy. Praise God!

Two years after the accident, the love continues to reveal itself. Patients in the hospital are learning Fulton’s ‘brave breath’ techniques to help them get through the pain. His burn cards, a social reintegration solution we invented together, have given confidence to other burn patients who are struggling with re-entering society. And his mere presence in restaurants or the mall have brought people to tears, once they talk to him and see how strong he is. He has brought hope and healing to adults who suffered various crosses in silence, inspired for the first time to face their own past hurts. His scars show them their own woundedness, and come to realize their scars are proof of their strength, not their weakness.

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Fulton, through the cross he carries and the scars he bears, has touched far more souls than he ever could have before the accident. And only in Eternity will we know how many hearts he helped return to the Church and into the loving arms of Our Father. Please Lord, may I be numbered among them, for I have learned so much.

My trials have taught me that every crisis forces one to redirect his life. We are handed a cross, designed especially for us, and asked to choose. We cannot choose whether we will take the cross. No. The cross is ours to bear no matter what. But we can freely choose how we respond to it.

Do we accept that cross and prayerfully carry it to its completion? Do we give hope to others along the way? Or do we curse our cross as it grows in weight and model for others how to stumble and rage against the One who gifted us?

I have tried both responses to the carefully chosen crosses Our Lord has sent me in my life. I can assure you that while cursing those things in our lives that cause us to suffer may feel more natural, embracing our suffering is by far the easier response, for it is the only response that coincides with God’s will.

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My prayer for you this Holy Week is that you open your heart to the cross God has given you and cherish it as a priceless gift. Just as Christ’s Passion draws hearts to love Him more, may you draw others closer to Our Lord through your suffering. Praise His name through your pain. May God be glorified through you!

“Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. And Jesus hearing it, said to them: This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God: that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” John 11:3-4

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Fulton’s next big surgery is coming up on April 14th 2015. Please pray for Fulton! Come and see his progress on his Facebook page ‘Pray For Fulton’

Cassandra Poppe’s blog is Let us kneel

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In support of our priests, our families, and our Church

You may have seen the recent letter from more than 450 priests in support of the Church’s teaching on marriage.

We would like to invite you to sign the letter below, to be sent to the press in support of them, and to encourage others to sign it.

To sign, please leave your name and your diocese in the comments box below, or if you prefer email them to me or to one of the coordinators:

Mark Lambert (mark@landbtechnical.com) or Andrew Plasom-Scott (andrewplasom_scott@me.com)

The Letter:

Dear Sir,

We, the undersigned, wish to endorse and support the letter signed by over 450 priests in the recent edition of the Catholic Herald, http://bit.ly/19kuBkl

As laity, we all know from our own family experiences, or those of our friends and neighbours, the harrowing trauma of divorce and separation, and we sympathise with all those in such situations.

It is precisely for that reason that we believe that the Church must continue to proclaim the truth about marriage, given us by Christ in the Gospels, with clarity and charity in a world that struggles to understand it.

For the sake of those in irregular unions, for the sake of those abandoned and living in accordance with the teachings of the Church, and above all for the sake of the next generation, it is essential that the Church continues to make it quite clear that sacramental marriage is indissoluble until death.

We pray, and expect, that our hierarchy will represent us, and the Church’s unwavering teaching, at the Synod this autumn.

 Yours faithfully,

another Vatican Council

Imagine if Facebook and Twitter had been around at the time just after the Second Vatican Council. The 16 documents had been written and published and the church was looking at a bright new future, secure in the truth and tradition that the church has always had.

However, there were those in positions of power at the time who chose to misinterpret or ignore what was said in the documents and instead chose to forward their own agenda of what they would prefer the Catholic faith to look like, under the umbrella term “The Spirit of Vatican 2″.

I’m talking about things like communion in the hand and the removal of altar rails, altar girls, the priest facing the people all the time (which was never actually intended), lack of metanoia (the priest calling the people to repent & believe the Gospel), closely followed by the idea of “primacy of conscience” (all things are relative and sin is only what you consider sinful), which no doubt lead to the crisis in the sacrament of confession we have had for the past 2 generations.

Also, the way catechises completely changed from solid rudimentary teaching (which some considered indoctrination) to quite frankly – a complete ‘free for all’ in what ever you fancied at the time. Holding hands or copying the priest by having hands out stretched during the Our Father, Bringing things to the altar at the offertory that are not bread and wine. The ditching of sacred music and architecture for more ‘up to date’ er… things. The dreaded liturgical dance…

Churches designed like Theatres, and most importantly – a congregation that over time has learned to demand entertainment during Mass, and priests who have fallen into the role of entertainers ect ect ect…

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Imagine the difference if the layity had the power of social media back then. I don’t think I am exaggerating in saying that if we did, the church may look very different to how it does now.

The point I am trying to make is that these changes did not happened over night in an open and transparent way. Instead they have been quietly and slyly instituted by those in power, and have over time, gradually been accepted as being the norm – which of course they are not, and never have been. And of course, as an average lay person back then with little or no access to the 16 documents, and no real way of voicing your concerns (other than to go to your bishop – who most likely instituted these changes in the first place) then what could you do? Not much.

I suppose you could have gone to the catholic press, but before you do that i guess you really have to ask yourself: Who owns and directs the catholic press? :)

Now, fast forward to today. We are possibly on the brink of a massive crisis in the church in regards to communion for the divorced and re-married. We have those in positions of power ie. Kasper trying to normalise adultery under the guise of ‘mercy’. And in contrast we have the 500 faithful UK priests who have signed a letter urging those attending this year’s family synod to issue a “clear and firm proclamation” upholding Church teaching on marriage. Good move boys! Good move!

And while it is a sad day when priests have to band together to defend the faith against other clergy who want to change things, I can also see that the battle ground and weapons of war being displayed here are signifying a major change in the way the hierarchy has done things in the past, and will be able to do things (or not) in the future.

I’m talking about 2 things in particular: Transparency and Accountability.

Now, disturbingly, one signatory, who asked to remain anonymous, claimed there “has been a certain amount of pressure not to sign the letter and indeed a degree of intimidation from some senior Churchmen”.

Following this, a statement has been released by spokesman for Cardinal Nichols (who is not happy about the letter) saying that the press was not the medium for conducting dialogue of this sort: “The pastoral experience and concern of all priests in these matters are of great importance and are welcomed by the Bishops. Pope Francis has asked for a period of spiritual discernment. This dialogue, between a priest and his bishop, is not best conducted through the press.”  The Cardinal refers to ‘channels of communication’ that, in reality (if you ask any decent faithful priest) are either blocked or permit only one-way traffic.

I know several of the priests on that list and I can tell you now that they would rather not have to publicly defend the faith against those higher up the chain who seem intent on changing it – but what choice do they have? The fact that they have had to take this course of action tells us that they obviously feel they are not being listened to by those in charge. One can only imagine the level of frustration (and patience) that these good men have experienced over the years.

So what exactly have these 500 priests done? They have used the power of Transparency to call out those who are trying to quietly and slyly institute these changes. They are bringing it out into the open for all to see. It is in the press, it is all over social media. People all around the world are linking up, talking to each other about what is happening, what is trying to happen and what should not happen. The truth will out… Good move boys! Good move!

world-map-battles-between-social-networks

In a world of Facebook and Twitter there is really no where to hide any more. Things can no longer be quietly and slyly instituted without people noticing, until they are regarded as ‘normal’. We all have access to the Vatican documents, the CCC and the history books and we can educate ourselves as to what has been happening and where things have gone wrong. And then we can tell others about it.

The faithful have a voice now, a strong voice and these 500 priests have used this new weapon very effectively in defending the faith. With the power of social media, bloggers, groups and online communities, the role of the ordinary priest and the layity has changed forever. We are able to speak the truth, and to call out heresy, false teaching and those who teach it. When issues are brought out into the open for all the world to see, it forces those in power out into the daylight so they can stand up and be held accountable for what they say they believe.

What those 500 priests have really done is to say ‘Here we are, solid in the truth’. Now the very public question for those who did not sign the letter, and those attending the synod later this year is: Where do you stand?

There is now a petition to support those 500 priests. Please click HERE to sign it.

The truth cannot be suppressed. The Holy Spirit will never be suppressed. The days of being able to masquerade false ideas as the truth are over.

TRUTH-CAGED-LION

Sources:

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2015/03/24/nearly-500-priests-in-england-and-wales-urge-synod-to-stand-firm-on-communion-for-the-remarried/

http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2015/03/cardinal-nichols-attempts-to-silence-faithful-priests-this-will-backfire/

Meek (miːk/) – adjective: quiet, gentle, submissive.

This morning I was sitting staring out of the window with a worried look on my face, biting my nails. “What on earth is wrong?” my husband asked me.

“I have to write a post on meekness.” I said.

“Bwwaaaaaaahhhh!!!” He guffawed. “But honey – you’re all brash and rumbustious! How are you gonna do that?!”

Yes, well… He’s got a point. Meekness does not come naturally to me. I’m more of a bull-in-a-china-shop sort of girl (and obviously a nightmare to live with! My husband is a SAINT!)

I seriously had no idea where to start. I Googled “meek” and it took me straight to the Beatitudes:

“Blessed are the Meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” – Mathew 5:5

Part of my commitment to becoming a secular Carmelite is to live the Beatitudes. And to be honest – I’ve always generally just skipped over that one because I didn’t really know what it meant and I knew I probably wasn’t ‘it’. Meekness has always struck me as being a bit boring, a bit girly. And it seems I’m not the only one. For many, it is simply assumed that meekness is weakness, and surely not a virtue. The irony is that meekness, indeed a virtue, is the one virtue above all that allows us to remain ourselves in the midst of adversity. It allows us to maintain self-possession when adversity strikes, rather than becoming possessed by the adversity itself. A priest friend of mine described meekness to me as ‘quiet strength’.

Meekness seems to be more synonymous with empowerment than it is with weakness because, as St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, meekness makes a man self-possessed. According to St. Hilary, Christ dwells in us by our meekness of soul. When we are overcome by anger, we lose that sense of ourselves that allows God to dwell within us. Anger excludes God; meekness invites His presence.

Meekness is not cowardliness, timidity, or servility; it’s the power that restrains the onslaught of anger and subjects it to the order of reason. While it may be more natural to express anger when one is assaulted, meekness is the higher path. The world witnessed a perfect example of this in April 2014 by Belgian Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard.

leonard2

Archbishop Léonard was participating in a debate on blasphemy at the Free University of Brussels on April 23rd 2014 when he became the target of the anti-Catholic feminist group Femen. Four topless women emerged from the attendees and mobbed the prelate, dousing him with water from bottles shaped like the Virgin Mary and screaming accusations of homophobia against him. Their bodies were smeared with slogans such as “my body my rules” and “anus dei is coming.” Throughout this barrage Archbishop Léonard remained calm, his eyes closed, his hands folded. A silent pillar of strength. After the bare-breasted protesters were evicted by security, Archbishop Léonard picked up one of the Marian bottles they had used to insult him with and kissed it.

archbishop-10

And while Femen do not represent all feminists, I think it is safe to say that the women who attacked him were not displaying a whole lot of meekness as far as I can see. Instead they were displaying rage and vengeance. They presumably justified their rage on the basis of the acceptability of revenge for perceived injustices. But in this way Femen are casting themselves into the role of victim (which never ceases to fascinate me about angry feminists. I have noticed this trait of victimology A LOT within the feminist argument, which ironically is often in complete juxtaposition to their outward aggressive persona. And even though I am in no way-shape-or-form an angry feminist myself, I’m shamefully realising that my own brash and rumbustious behaviour is just another example of this.)

In their eyes they had won a victory that day. They had asserted themselves angrily, aggressively, forcefully and pride-fully. They had displayed their ‘strength’ as independent women and as a group. But was it real strength they were displaying?

Archbishop Léonard could have justifiably retaliated and had those women arrested and charged with assault if he had wanted to. But he chose not to humiliate them any further than they had already humiliated themselves. He rose above the situation and refused to cast himself into the role of a poor victim. He did not react with anger or seek vengeance. In an age when victimology is temptingly trendy, Archbishop Léonard stood quiet and still, quietly proving that meekness is a truly anti-modern virtue that can help us address many of the behavioural problems of our post-modern age.

It seems that meekness is actually the complete opposite of weakness. It seems to be great strength imbued with utter magnanimity. It is a paradox, but nonetheless true, that meekness demands largeness of heart and a generosity of spirit towards ones oppressors. The post-modern world thinks of strength in terms of individual power, of ability, self-assurance and aggressiveness. But as Archbishop Léonard demonstrated, real strength – quiet strength – comes from God, and is truly manifested when we submit our will entirely to His.

A dear friend of mine illustrated this description and explanation of meekness beautifully:

“Talking of ‘meek’. I came across an interesting thing recently. Apparently the ancient Greeks used the word ‘meek’ to describe a warhorse, bridled and compliant, ready for battle. If you look at some wonderful dressage clip, you’ll see the horse, bridled and compliant, fully accepting the bit, listening and in tune with his rider, and the result? Beauty, balance, freedom of movement, perfect synergy between horse and rider….. This is ‘meek’. Jesus, ‘meek and humble of heart’ is like this; compliant to the Father’s Will, he is strong, courageous and invincible in battle. We are called to be the same.”

Perhaps it’s time I let God tame me?

Sources:

http://www.crisismagazine.com/2013/feminists-attack-but-the-meek-will-conquer

http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/the-virtue-of-meekness.html

TinaBeattie

Tina Beattie has cancelled her upcoming talk on the Synod at Sacred Heart Parish Wimbledon next week. That is all. :)

God bless you Tina. Still praying for you, still fasting for you my friend xxx

Ave Maria!

Professor Tina Beattie

Professor Tina Beattie

“Those of us who tried to answer the questionnaire honestly and in a way that might be helpful to the synod on the family are misrepresented by Edmund Adamus’s ‘reflection’.

Like most other Catholics I know, I respect the Church’s teaching on marriage and parenthood. I also know from experience that marriage and family life can induce agonies of guilt over our inevitable failures and shortcomings. However, I do not experience guilt over deciding in good conscience to use contraception to limit the number of children we had. I do not feel ashamed of my adult children for cohabiting with partners who have enriched our lives by their friendship. I do not feel compelled to pass negative judgement on the loving relationships of my gay friends. I am glad that some of my divorced Catholic friends have found joy in second marriages, and I want to share the sacraments with them. In other words, I’m like the vast majority of Catholics whose answers to the questionnaire have been made public.

I seek from the Church the formation I know I need most – formation that has to do with love and generosity of spirit, with faithfulness and integrity, with wisdom and discretion, with prayer and discernment. The list is long, but it does not include learning to regard contraception, premarital sex and homosexuality as intrinsically evil, nor does it include regarding divorced and remarried Catholics as people uniquely barred from the forgiveness offered by Christ in the sacraments.” – Tina Beattie

Her lunatic theology also includes:

  • In an examination of the morality of abortion Prof. Beattie justifies  the argument that the embryo is not a person by using the doctrine of the Trinity.
  • Prof Beattie uses the doctrine of the marriage between Christ and His Church to support gay marriage.
  • Prof Beattie condemns as ‘perverted’ a CTS booklet defending the Church’s doctrine on divorce and contraception.
  • Prof. Beattie describes the Mass as an ‘an act of (homo) sexual intercourse…’. ‘God’s Mother, Eve’s Advocate’, p.80.
  • Prof. Beattie supports same-sex marriage.
  • Prof. Tina Beattie imagines the apostles and women disciples having sex in her meditation The Last Supper According to Martha and Mary(2001) which the publishers describe as ‘part fiction, part Biblical reflection’.

She has been banned previously banned by Archbishop Leo Cushley of St. Andrews and Edinburgh from addressing the Edinburgh Circle of the Newman Association. In a letter quoted by ‘The Tablet’ the Archbishop criticised both Beattie and Joe Fitzpatrick, a theologian the Newman Association previously hosted, saying:

“Professor Beattie is known to have frequently called into question the Church’s teaching. I would therefore ask you to cancel this event, as it may not proceed or be publicised on any Church property in this archdiocese.“

The Archbishop’s intervention has been attributed to the Vatican’s official position on banning Beattie from Church events, as ordered by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), the Vatican’s watchdog on orthodoxy. She has also been banned from speaking in Clifton diocese for the same reason by Bishop Declan Lang.

The CDF ordered her banned from Church properties after she signed a letter, in 2012, to the Times, in favour of same-sex marriage, along with a number of other Christian theologians who wrote “it is perfectly proper for Catholics, using fully informed consciences, to support the legal extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples.”

So you can imagine my surprise to hear that the Wimbledon branch of the Newman circle had invited her to come and give a talk at Sacred Heart Parish next week entitled ‘From Synod to Synod: Families in focus in the church of Pope Francis.’

egg

My initial reaction to hearing the news that Tina Beattie was coming to speak at my beloved childhood parish was to lie in wait, and then at the appointed time ambush her with a meteor shower of raw eggs. “Well! That sort of raucous behaviour is not very becoming of a good catholic!” I would ask you to remember that St Nicholas delt with Arius by punching him the right in the face at the Council of Nicea (Arius, of course was using his intellect and position of authority to destroy the true Faith from within the church and implement his own lunatic theology.) And of course there was last Sunday’s Gospel where we are reminded that as Catholics, flipping tables and whipping people is not entirely out of the question!

Anyway, knowing it was most probably sinful to blissfully enjoy the thought of egging a heretic, and to laugh hysterically at the fact that my spell-checker auto corrects the words ‘Tina Beattie’ to ‘Tuna buttie’ I decided to take it all to confession.

Tuna-Bread-Pack

A Tuna buttie.

Holy Mackerel! My poor priest. He took a quite a while to consider exactly what he should say to me.

“You should aim for meekness.” He said.

MEEKNESS!!! ME???!!!

It was lucky he couldn’t see my face at the time. I’m not exactly sure how to describe the expression on my face at that precise moment, but my mouth was wide open and there were no words coming out – which is, unusual.

He went on to draw possible parallels between Tina Beattie and St Paul:

“St. Paul was so sure of his own political convictions in regards to the Christians. He would kill them quickly from the outside, with the sword. Tina Beattie is similar in this regard, although she kills people slowly from the inside with her ideas and theories. But there is one important thing to remember – before his conversion, St Paul had Christians praying for him – praying for his heart to change.”

Then he said to me:

“Anything you say or do should lead to her conversion of heart.”

Wow. Now there’s a challenge. It is all too easy for me to look at Tina Beattie and hate her. But to hate her would be to de-humaniser her, to objectify her to something less than she is.

My Lord Jesus still looks on Tina Beattie as His beautiful little child, just as he looks at me, and Kim jong un and Lady Gaga and all the members of ISIS, the paedophile priest, the gay prostitute, the Queen of England and the Pope. We are all just human beings. Sinful, broken human beings who need to turn away from sin and back to God.

St. John Paul II teaches us about this topic of de-humanisation and objectification in his masterpiece ‘Theology of the Body’. Funnily enough, Tina Beattie despises Theology of the Body:

“Having spent years researching and writing about ‘theology of the body’, I think it functions more as a vehicle of resistance to feminism and homosexuality than as a genuinely viable account of human sexuality…” – Tina Beattie

How ironic that Theology of the Body is helping me to see her not as a de-humanised object of hate that I would like to throw eggs at, but as a child made in the image and likeness of God.

beattie_285

I am doing the 33 day consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at the moment and yesterday we learned through the writings of Mother Teresa that our Lord Jesus doesn’t just love souls, He thirsts for them:

“Just put yourself in front of the tabernacle. Don’t let anything disturb you. Hear your own name and “I Thirst.” I thirst for purity, I thirst for poverty, I thirst for obedience, I thirst for that wholehearted love, I thirst for that total surrender. Are we living a deeply contemplative life? He thirsts for that total surrender.”

So if my lord Jesus thirsts for Tina Beattie, then it is my job to quench His thirst by bringing her back to Him – to bring her to total surrender. How am I going to do this? I have no idea, but I’m guessing meekness is going to play a pretty pivotal role here. After all – isn’t meekness the thing that feminists misunderstand the most?

I guess it’s a bit like David and Goliath. She is a professor. I got chucked out of school age 17. I am no challenge to her intellectually, but that doesn’t really matter. I am not fighting an intellectual battle I am fighting a spiritual battle. And I am not even fighting her as such, but the powers and principalities that are whispering in her ears day and night, seducing her with her own pride and hardening her heart.

From her writings and theories it is plain to see that Mrs Beattie (bless her heart) is spiritually weak and sickly. She is utterly consumed with the idea of a comfortable ‘man centred’ faith (or should I say ‘person centred’?!). But as Pope Benedict XVI reminds us: “…you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness!” All her theories revolve around the idea that we can side-step the cross. And she has warped the faith and moulded it into a pale comparison of itself: she has divorced love from suffering.

Where does this idea come from? Does suffering frighten her? It frightens me. Perhaps there is something in her life, something in her past that is just too painful to face? I don’t know. It all sounds a bit fishy to me. All I do know is that Jesus tell us that “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me…” You can’t have Jesus without the cross. Love demands sacrifice. It’s not easy.

I will begin by offering my prayers and fasting for her. As part of my 33 day consecration I am letting go of everything I am to Mother Mary so I can become an instrument in her immaculate hands. I am allowing her to use me in any way she sees fit to ‘crush the serpents head’. And even though it would give me indescribable pleasure and satisfaction to throw eggs at Mrs Beattie (or custard pies, or fish sandwiches) I will not be doing so because after all – what I want is not really that important is it? It’s what God wants that is important. THY will be done, not My will be done. Says it all really.

Blessed Mother Teresa pray for us.

Blessed John Henry Newman pray for us.

Mother Mary, Queen of heaven, pray for us.

Sources:

http://tina-beattie.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/the-family-reflecting-on-view-from.html

http://www.cuf.org/2014/01/thirst-mother-teresas-devotion-thirst-jesus/

http://protectthepope.com/?p=10153

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2012/09/11/bishop-cancels-lecture-by-liberal-theologian-who-argued-for-same-sex-marriage/

Tinnitus

I was recently sent a rather snooty message by a diocesan priest who used to be a Trappist monk. He was telling me that it was basically impossible for me to live a contemplative life in the context of a family home. He told me my children would not find my ‘requirement’ for silence much fun. He also told me it was impossible to be a contemplative without silence. I decided not to reply. But I do hope he reads this blog post.

The Lord began preparing me for contemplative life at home 5 and a half years ago – two weeks before Annabel was born – by giving me Tinnitus.

It was nothing other than torture. It was 9 months before I began to have even brief periods of not noticing the noises. At its worst it was louder than the phone ringing. In my left ear I had (and sometimes still have) a Morse-code style beeping. In my right ear there was a high pitched whistle. In my head there was a low pitched rumbling, and every so often I would get a really loud pure-tone that would drown out ALL other outside noise. So I would go completely deaf for a few seconds which was absolutely terrifying.

The worst part was that my brain was registering the noise as an outside threat, which meant that I would experience high levels of anxiety during the day and insomnia at night. I would lie awake at night listening to the noise. I had a new baby which meant that when I did manage to fall asleep, I would soon get woken up again by the noise of a crying baby. Then I would feed her, in the silence of the night, all alone in my prison of noise. Then I would take sleeping pills to knock me out. In the morning I would wake up, and the noise was still there. It never went away.

My husband couldn’t hear the noises going on inside my ears. No-one could hear it except me. It was so loud. I was so alone. I am not over dramatising this – tragically, earlier this year a 47 year old woman chose Euthanasia because she was unable to cope with her Tinnitus.

It was too much. I knew I couldn’t die because I had kids to raise, so just accepted that the rest of my life would be filled with a cacophony of beeping and whistling and rumbling.

As I began to accept and improve, my tinnitus therapist kept asking me if my tinnitus was holding me back in any way in my life. After careful consideration I told her “No, I can still still do everything, but… I would like to be able to pray.” She suggested mindfullness. Initially I found this to be life-changingly helpful. It did help me accept the intense suffering I was experiencing in a calm way, but it soon became apparent that there was a fair bit of *wacky* stuff that accompanied it. So I dropped it. But it did lead me into how my own faith viewed suffering. I kept remembering a line I must have read years before, something about “Joy in suffering”. It took me back to the saint who had claimed me for her own 11 years previously – St Teresa of Avila. I didn’t know why she was making an appearance in my life once more, but all I can tell you is that I felt her with me very strongly throughout that time of noise.

As time passed and my life continued in a strange sort of way. I accepted the noise. I cried because of the noise. I masked the noise with the TV and radio and found relief from the noise in my crying baby and my raucous 3 year old son. I couldn’t pray – or so I thought. I cursed myself for wasting all those quiet moments I had previously. I cursed God for giving me tinnitus. I cried and screamed at Him because I was at my wits end and I couldn’t think because of the noise. I told Him I didn’t understand – that there was no point to this. It wasn’t achieving anything. I begged Him to take it away. But He didn’t.

Usually I feel God very close to me, but at that time it was like He was withdrawn to a distance. I felt as if God had abandoned me, like He was enjoying torturing me. I wanted to hate Him, but I loved Him too much to hate Him. I thought about all this a lot.

The removal of silence from my life changed me. I had to concentrate on not becoming overwhelmed by the noise. I got very good at this. It’s amazing what you can do when you are pushed to the brink. As my anxiety began to decrease I used to experiment by sitting down and facing my noise – instead of trying to run away from it. I would actually sit and listen to it – develop a relationship with it almost. But in hindsight what I was actually doing was finding the deeper silence within myself, the silence of my soul. Teresa was guiding me, I could feel that, but I didn’t quite know how.

No-one on the outside could hear my noise. In fact here were only 2 people who could hear my noise – me and God. And when I would sit and listen to my noise, God would be there too. I began to realise that there must be purpose in all of this, but I didn’t know what that was. I allowed Him to sit with me while I explored my noise, and the place inside it was directing me to. He was in that place. My noise had driven me into the desert. Only me and Him were in that place. I was at the core of who I was in Him, and I found peace there. Not audible peace, but spiritual peace.

I began experimenting with this ‘place’, this desert. I began going there more often. I was not afraid there because He was there. Pretty soon I was finding myself in this place all the time throughout the day. It became totally natural to be in this place of extreme calm and inner silence, while I carried on with looking after the children – with the noise was still ringing in my ears.

As I began to recover from the tinnitus I did begin to experience times of real silence once more – something I thought would never happen again. During these times of real silence I would sit and just listen to the silence. Beautiful silence. I would let the silence surround me and go in me and through me and touch my heart in a way I didn’t really understand. It was if the peaceful desert my tinnitus had lead me to was now on the outside too. I felt the silence, and God was there.

It was another 5 years before I had any indication whatsoever of why God put me through that period of suffering. But in hindsight it is now obvious to me that there was no better preparation for the life of a secular Carmelite than this. To be a ‘contemplative in the world’ meant I would most likely be surrounded by noise all the time – which I am. I have the noise of the hoover, the children, my husband, the car etc. Are these bad noises? No! They are beautiful noises – they are the sounds of my primary vocation. “Doesn’t it distract you?” No! How can they distract me – they are the point of my focus! “But when do you get time to pray?” I am praying all the time. I can be here in my kitchen making the dinner, and at the same time I am in my desert with my Lord and Creator. And when I do get quiet periods during the day I sit and enjoy the silence – perhaps in a way you cannot understand if you have not had tinnitus. You could be a Trappist monk for 50 years, but I don’t think you really understand or appreciate silence until it has been force-ably taken away from you. Teresa will tell you that.

Last month during our Carmelite studies, I laughed out loud when I discovered that during her life Teresa had tinnitus too!

St Teresa of Avila, pray for us.

St Paul, pray for us.

St Louis de Montfort, pray for us.

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