Posted by: Thomas Richard | September 15, 2020

Reflections on a Lost Treasure

Colossians 1:24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church,
1:25 of which I am a minister in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me to bring to completion for you the word of God,
1:26 the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past. But now it has been manifested to his holy ones,
1:27 to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.
1:28 It is he whom we proclaim, admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.

Suffering is a universal condition, among the rich and the poor, spanning cultures and nations, languages and ethnic groups, men and women young and old: suffering can everywhere be found and nowhere can be buried or denied, drugged or drunk away, pandered or appeased or bribed away.  Its remedy is one and singular: its icon is the Cross.  It is the message of the Cross that explains suffering, and all who learn to hear and receive its message, and understand and follow it, find as Paul did, “the riches of the glory of this mystery.”  It is a lost treasure; but it is meant to be found.

It is also a treasure avoided!  Suffering is a treasure many, many people seek to avoid at any cost of “time and talent and money.”  I intentionally avoid alliteration and the word commonly placed next, “treasure.” Money, the currency of this world, is hardly the treasure that lasts, and that we ought to be seeking.  There is a treasure fit in the new life in Christ, and in the new creation to come, as Paul wrote, “the riches of the glory of this mystery.”  We must see, each one of us, the abject poverty of the so-called riches worshipped in this world!  We must see the hollow, barren death of so-called vitality and supposed strength sought in this world, so that we can set our faces toward Truth, and walk in wisdom the days we have remaining here.

Paul was given a ministry, and stewardship of wisdom eternal in God, and kept in mystery – in darkness – for the people of this world.  We stumble in darkness, so wounded by sin in the very core of our hearts, of my heart, of your heart, until we begin to see by the light that only God can bring into a soul.  But in that divine light, when it comes, we can see that which holds together all creation – all the universe – all of you and me and every person.  It is the divine Love, holding all in being, all in relationship, all in purpose, all in destiny.  The answer to suffering is spoken by the Cross, and in one word, Love.  He emptied Himself, yet never was He empty; He out-poured Himself, yet never was He depleted.  Like the Burning Bush shown to Moses, He is ignited ablaze burning, yet never consumed.  The Holy Trinity revealed, Love revealed, the essence of eternal God revealed: our vocation, our invitation, the mystery of suffering and death answered – by resurrection, ascension, and Eternal Spirit given.

What can be “lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His body, the Church”?  The answer: our afflictions, offered on behalf of His Body the Church!  Paul was given a heart-mission: not merely to “make disciples” to begin in Christ, but to make disciples into the full intention of the Father, persons “perfect in Christ,” Christians pouring out their lives in love as did their Lord, whatever the cost.  

How to begin such lives of zeal?  We hear from the wisdom of the Church, “Don’t waste suffering!”  “Offer it all up, for the intentions of the Lord!”  When we ever entrust ourselves completely into His care, with one concern, to do His will in all things, then will our light shine before the nations!  Then will be the beginning of the end achieved; then will suffering recede into the past, and true sacrifice be offered to the Lord, “worshippers who worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.”

Brothers and sisters, we need prayerful souls making reparation, today, for the many many hardened hearts and cold souls who walk about as if there is no God, as if life is merely “eat, drink and be merry,” as if “tomorrow we die anyway” so nothing matters.  Many believe that they do not matter!  But they do!  Every soul that is or ever will be, is because God cared – God loved him into being – God made him and died for him, that he might have life.  Time is marching on toward that last day, and many opportunities are being wasted, when we might be “adding to the solution” and not “adding to the problem” of precious but wasted time, and sufferings that could be transformed into prayer and worship in spirit and in truth.  

1 Thessalonians 5:5  For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness.
1Th 5:6  So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.
1Th 5:7  For those who sleep sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night.
1Th 5:8  But, since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.
1Th 5:9  For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,
1Th 5:10  who died for us so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him.
1Th 5:11  Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | July 29, 2020

Less than 100 days… a life or death scenario?

If seawater is gushing into the boat and there is no land in sight, what would your first priority be?  Well, prayer to God would be gushing out of my heart as I run to the broken hole in the boat, to do whatever I could do to stop this catastrophe mortally threatening all in the boat.  Such a life or death scenario is coming upon us in America soon, now – less than 100 days away – an election unlike any we have faced in this brief experiment of the Republic, the United States of America. 

The 2016 election was a miracle, I am sure.  God gave us – the Church – a second chance.  God “guided the bullet,” to adapt the phrase St. John Paul II used to describe his miraculous survival of the 1981 assassination attempt on his life.  “One hand pulled the trigger, another guided the bullet,” and it was Our Lady herself who saved him, he was sure.  The bullet was fired on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, May 13.  

There is a different gun aimed at the heart of America, this coming national election, and the enemy not one lone assassin with a gun – the enemy is more and much worse than any of flesh and blood.  The enemy is moving in many ways to destroy the Christian Faith, Christian morality, marriage and the family, the human person, human rights and freedoms – indeed, history has exposed this enemy many times in the cruel culture of death in his wake, and the horrific brutal dictatorships he espouses and uses.  

Fr. Frank Pavone, a strong and faithful pro-life priest, has come out on this issue – on the crucial importance of this election – recently, with a force and a commitment that is music to my ears.  How I have longed to hear such conviction from priests and bishops throughout the country!  America needs to wake up!  America does not, yet, see the danger at our door – the enemy at the gate.  Our Church needs to wake up!  Fr. Pavone is preaching what the Church needs desperately to hear, and to understand the truth of it, and the growing urgency of it!  

The following is from Fr. Pavone, from a LifeSite article of a few days ago:

With 100 days left until Election Day, November 3, 2020, I call upon all of my fellow patriots who embrace pro-life and conservative principles to put aside, as much as possible, all other activities and to make it their first priority, as it will be mine, to re-elect President Trump, to give him a Republican House and Senate, and to elect Republicans on the state and local level as well.

Along with all my brothers and sisters in Christ, I affirm that my platform is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I also affirm that the Democrat Party, in the principles and policies it embraces, has radically abandoned that Gospel, as well as the principles on which America was founded and Western Civilization rests.

It is no exaggeration to say that everything we’ve worked for, as a Church, a nation, and a pro-life, pro-family movement, is on the line in these next 100 days. This is a spiritual battle and no less than a civil war. We have to be all in, publicly, unapologetically, and with crystal clarity.

[A Democrat victory would] bring the holocaust of abortion, paid for by taxpayers, to unprecedented levels, taking away every restriction, even on infanticide; it would destroy our nation, bringing us socialism and open borders; it would replace law and order with mob rule and depleted law enforcement; it would deprive the Church of the freedom to conduct her mission and instead subject ministries to oppressive mandates, as Biden has already promised; it would destroy the family and any public protection for it; it would ruin our economy, ensnare us in destructive international agreements, and allow China to pursue its destructive agenda; it would fill the courts with judges who tear up the Constitution rather than apply it; it would roll back the protections President Trump has put in place for the consciences of healthcare workers, students on campus, and children who want to pray in school.

…..

We have to be able to read the signs of the times, and understand the stark differences between the Democrat and Republican parties. These are not merely difference of policy, but of principle. These are not two parties choosing different means to get to the same goal. They have radically different and irreconcilable goals. Only by choosing the Republican candidates can we preserve the values we hold as Americans and believers. That is not the canonization of a party; it is simply the recognition of who our friends and enemies in the political realm are at this point in time.

Our President and the Republican candidates are standing for America as an exceptional nation, for our Constitution and the rule of law, for the protection of the unborn, for pro-life judges, for parental rights and school choice, for a strong military, strong but welcoming borders, and a strong economy, for fair trade deals, for the rights of pastors to preach the Word of God freely and of all believers – domestically and around the world — to conduct their affairs without discrimination against their faith; for strong and ethical healthcare, and for many more policies that protect rather than abandon our principles.

Along with countless others, I am ashamed and disgusted at the silence and lack of leadership by so many of the Churches. They have made themselves irrelevant, failing to preach on the issues of the day and using the lame excuse of political neutrality, and a desire to promote “unity,” to hide in the sanctuary instead of engage the public square while the Democrats destroy the unity on which this nation and the Church are founded. Moreover, many Church leaders try to intimidate and silence those of us who are not afraid to pass moral judgment in matters of politics, and to name the enemy. It is a disgrace, and it is time for believers to take matters into their own hands, link arms and hearts with fellow believers, and engage in new and creative ways to proclaim and apply the Gospel teachings to this moment in history.

LifeSite article link.

Yes, the above is a strong proclamation!  It needs to be shouted: the situation in America has become dire, and the professed ambitions of the Democrats (especially many of the “Catholic” ones!) are truly frightening.  Their professed policies and plans oppose the faithful Church and the American Constitution, and even common sense.  Every bishop and priest in the country ought to see clearly the existential danger that the Democrats in our time pose to the Faith.  I pray that Fr. Pavone’s words will help them all toward the courage their positions demand, that they will guide, with zeal, the faithful to Truth.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | June 1, 2020

Organized Rioting Across America: A Call to Repentance!

I ended my last Blog post, in response to Covid-19 sweeping the world, with this warning that I believe we were – and I hope still are – hearing from God:

Can we learn from this world-wide chastisement that God is ignored, marginalized, neglected, disobeyed at our peril!  Will we believe the Message of Fatima, and in earnest, repent?  Or will He have to repeat Himself more loudly.

Covid-19 is still a threat.  Yet even as we have already begun to put the pandemic in the past, as we have already begun to think in terms of reopening, moving forward, getting “normal” again, a spark got lit in the tinderbox of secular American culture.  I tremble to think, and to say, we have not heard anything – not for decades of this crisis building, have we heard or seen the eruption coming.  The first plague: a fiercely contagious and deadly virus sweeping across the world into a pandemic.  The second plague: a wildfire across the nation of riotous destruction that was not wild at all, but was anticipated and awaited by poor lost souls led by the enemy of mankind, indeed of all creation, indeed the enemy of God from the beginning. There is  “the lawless one,” who has been restrained by the merciful God, until the last days when the actual last day is very near.  The lawless one seeks only to destroy, to confuse, to overturn, to rebel.

The Lawless One

2 Thessalonians 2:1  Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren,
2  not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come.
3  Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition,
4  who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
5  Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this?
6  And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time.
7  For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.
8  And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming.
9  The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders,
10  and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
11  Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false,
12  so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

The Lord warned us, 2000 years ago!  In the last days, men will “refuse to love the truth”!  And in this rejection of truth, they will open their souls to deception, to delusion, to falsity, to the lie. They sought and found “pleasure in unrighteousness.”   Rejecting truth, they reject God; loving unrighteousness, they reject the good and the holy, and instead seek and love sin.  This is the path of death, this is the way of darkness, of condemnation, of hell – the destined eternal abode of satan.  This is the possible fate of many, dear brothers and sisters, in this nation that declared at one time, “In God We Trust.”

Yes this nation once was thought of as “a Christian nation,” so many in it professing faith in Jesus Christ.  This was once a culture of popular decency, treasuring honesty, fairness, justice and truth.  Yes there have always been crooks and liars, adulterers and thieves – but even they knew they were in the wrong!  Even the criminals knew they were committing crimes, that they were in fact guilty and did deserve punishment, in justice.

But that was then, when men and women by the millions lined up to sign up and serve in the Great War to defend this nation, and the way of life we had formed in America.  That was “the greatest generation” – and it was not so many years ago.  But how America has changed. Now, by the millions, innocent unborn babies are intentionally killed, with the sanction of our judicial system.  Now, marriages are broken and dissolved in serial divorces, children are abandoned and deeply wounded, left to raise themselves with every employable adult remaining  in the household out working, to bring in more money so that everyone can have all that they want, that is, all that is for sale.  That which can only be given and received in love – that which is really needed – that is much harder to find for both the children and the adults involved.

And now lie after lie is presented and believed; that which is good, natural and true is rejected, and the evil, the abnormal, the false is celebrated and praised.  Pornography is main-stream, homosexuality is the new normal, “gender” is not God-given, no, it is optional and the choice of the almighty “me”.  Our pleasure is unrighteousness, God is unwelcome, His very Being is denied and worthy only of jokes and ridicule.

Friends, can we learn from this second piercing chastisement that God is ignored, marginalized, neglected, disobeyed at our peril!  Can we listen to the Call of Fatima, and in earnest, repent?  Or will He have to strike again, harder.  God is calling us!  God is calling to His People, His Church, be holy!  Be light in this ugly darkness!  Offer to the Lord loving acts of reparation for the sins of His people, and for the whole world.  Show the world lives of righteousness, of prayerful faith, of sober judgment concerning the things of God, of joyful living – simply and truly – in the holy will of His Word.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | May 14, 2020

Covid-19: Call to Repentance!

Is anyone listening, yet?

Covid-19 has dominated the news for weeks now, and has held the concern of almost every – if not every – identifiable group in America and in the world.  The vast majority everywhere, I would guess, is wishing, hoping and/or praying that soon it will be over.  Soon, the promises of those in charge assure us, soon we will defeat this enemy and our return to normal will be fast.  All will be well.  “Back to usual” sounds wonderful to all – businessmen, college professors, school children, teachers, parents, politicians – everyone.  Almost.

I know I’m not alone in my concerns; I hear a few online share this with me.  I want to say it, I need to say it, and I am convinced that many need to hear it: only God knows when this plague ought to be over. I strongly suspect that the time is not now – not yet is the time.  I strongly believe that “Back to the usual” would not be a good thing for the country nor for the world, not now, not yet.  It is still too soon for us to go “Back to normal” – not because we are not yet in control of the virus, but we are not yet in control of ourselves – we are not yet in control of what is normal for us. Western culture has fallen so deeply and widely into the abnormal, the immoral, the amoral, the godless perverse self-granted license to do and believe anything we choose, that what is truly “normal” for human beings has drifted beyond our reach.  A return to sanity will not be easy, nor quick, nor even possible without God.

We in the West – and the U.S. in particular – are not 100% sold on modern culture’s normalization of the abnormal.  Many – not an overwhelming majority, but many – still believe that marriage is one man and one woman, until death do they part.  Many – not a majority anymore, but many – believe that same-sex attraction is abnormal, is not healthy for adults, is not a sound basis for a marriage or for adopted children. Many quietly believe, still, that it is inappropriate to try to normalize homosexuality in popular entertainment or educational curricula or in any way.  Many still believe it is profoundly wrong to kill unborn babies, and that it is insane to call such barbaric double-speak “health care.”  Many still are stunned as story after story is published about some adult, teen or child “deciding that he/she actually is herself/himself, trapped in a body of the wrong ‘gender’.”  And the solution these trapped souls see is the surgical mutilation of their bodies!  All these examples, and the many other unstated ones, ought to make us wonder if this horrible plague that has “gone viral” around the world, is a horror that could be much worse – and might still become much worse – if we do not address the moral insanity that has become our shameful “normal,” and, to use an apt but now ancient term, REPENT.  We need a culture-wide repentance, interior change in individual souls, a transforming renewal into lives worthy of human persons made in the image and likeness of God.

The message that our Blessed Mother Mary sent to the Church, to the world, to us all 100 years ago was, repent.  Penance!  Penance! Penance!  Say many Rosaries for the conversion of sinners, that they turn to live lives worthy of God’s creation!  Offer sacrifices to God in reparation for the insults borne to Him, to Jesus the Son, to Mary our Mother, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that burns with such holy, Self-sacrificial love for us – and to her pierced Immaculate Heart, in such union of love with the Heart of her Son, in love for us!  

Yet how basely in fact have we treated them.  How crudely we have desecrated the human body given to us for the intention of lives of holiness and self-giving love.  How we have stained and soiled the sacrament entrusted to us, the sacrament of His Church, the Church He empowered and sent to save the lost sinners of this world.  We have carried the dirt of this world into His Holy Place, His House of Prayer, and we have made it a place of compromise.  We have brought together the clean and the unclean, the holy and the unholy, God and Mammon, the Gospel of eternal life and the ways and means of this passing, dying world.  We have mixed together the natural and the supernatural, we have crafted a religion of compromise, that God might not be too displeased with us and we might not be too inconvenienced for Him.  It is a poor and senseless gamble we have entered, playing against truth.  In Fatima we were warned, but our hearts to this day have not yet been broken under the weight of our “normal” sins, not yet broken unto a cleansing repentance and renewal in Christ.

What is needed?

The Church needs to come alive – to awaken – to take seriously, as if it were a matter of life or death – which it is – our call to holiness and to the perfection of charity.  Mediocre, tepid, minimalistic, lukewarm, half-hearted, bored, preoccupied – such descriptors ought to bring shame, tears and remorse when they fit so well.  They ought never fit, in the Household of God!  He has entrusted His Church with so much!  Yet so many of us don’t want the rich treasures of the Kingdom within that He has placed in our hands. We concern ourselves more quickly with the externals of religion.  We want our liturgies well-performed, but the graces they were created to convey to us within, to transform our hearts, we hardly are able to recognize.  Holy graces run over us like water off a duck’s back, and they are lost: they slip away dripping from our ever-too-busy fingers.  We need to be prepared to receive His graces, to hold on to them, to guard them and live in them.  We need to be dry and ready, prepared to be set aflame with the fire of the Spirit and Truth!  

But instead of awareness and regard for the things within, we tend to the outsides of things, and neglect the things less obvious. Appearance is everything we think, while within, our souls are impoverished, barren, malnourished, disfigured.  In the midst of the precisely timed ceremonies, the prominent golden vessels, the ornate vestments that rule our worship, we sit waiting as outcast beggars, hoping that God can break through all this, and come to us.  Yet for our part, we are almost paralyzed: we are too busy to be catechized, too comfortable with what we know to venture into the deeper waters of Truth and of holy prayer.  A clergy hardened in clericalism, a laity hardened in paralysis of soul: a petrification has set in, in His Church – a becoming “rock” in exactly the wrong way.

The new wine is as new as it was two millennia ago; the old wineskins are as brittle and hardened as they ever were, as well. We need the softness and flexibility of fresh wineskins, able to hold together life!  We need Life, to become witnesses of Life, so that a world racing toward death might stop and see such a beautiful thing on the side of the wide road: stop and see in amazement, to realize an anomaly so glorious, it cannot be passed by.

The Holy Catholic Church is a sacrament of life-communicating grace sent to a lost and failing world – we are sent to save, with the living food and living water of eternal life.  Do we need a miracle?  His Life IS a miracle!  It is a great blessing to be an outcast from a madhouse.  Regaining one’s sanity, and discovering the wealth of peace in truth, one can turn and return as a healer.   And this world needs righteous healers.  Parishes of them, churches full of them.  Can we learn from this world-wide chastisement that God is ignored, marginalized, neglected, disobeyed at our peril!  Will we believe the Message of Fatima, and in earnest, repent?  Or will He have to repeat Himself more loudly.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | April 28, 2020

Three Essentials in the One Thing Necessary

In my last blog article, I listed three crucial deficiencies that I see in the Church today.  The Church is weakened in these very needful times, when we are called upon to be present to this falling world.   It is a time of growing need; the world may not realize it, but it is starving.  The world continues to deny and refuses to acknowledge the Truth about God and human nature, and our God-intended purpose for living, for our being human.  The world needs the authentic witness of God!  God IS!  God made us all, and for a purpose!  And the world, His creation, is chasing its own lifeless fantasies and doing so as if there were no accountability, and as if God were not even aware of our abandonment of faith, of hope, of holy love, of moral constraint, of moral responsibility, of moral virtue.  Much of the world today has severed ties indeed of morality itself, of rationality and reason itself, in these dark and ever-darkening days.

The world is in every way but literally, burning, and the Church is, in almost every way but literally, playing the fiddle to the tune of “status quo.”  But friends, this is no time for “business as usual”; this is the time to hear God’s call to us.  This is the time for His Church to awaken.

I wrote briefly in my previous blog article, of three qualities of devotion that must be within faithful souls, in a dynamic church or parish.  And these three are sadly missing among many – many – in our churches and parishes today.  In this article, I hope to gather these three spiritual qualities into the one spiritual life that, I insist, is lacking in our time.  The three that I wrote of are these:

  • Authentic, sincere, heart-felt devotion to our Blessed Mother Mary.
  • Humble reverence for, knowledge of, and devotion to the Word of God, Holy Scripture.
  • The embraced Personal Presence of the Holy Spirit in prayer, in works, in faith, in life.

The one necessary reality that includes these three necessary qualities is the interior life of grace.  We need a vibrant interior functioning spiritual life within us – and this is more than just a heart and soul hungering for something not to be found in this world, it is more than merely a spiritual inclination within that seeks to avoid displeasing God in any significant way.  We need the spiritual center in us to be alive with the life and the love of God Himself.  We need the Holy Spirit moving in us – and only that Spirit in us, moving us in the will and desires of God.  This is no time for mediocrity.  This is no time for tepid souls and lukewarm hearts: we are called to holiness, and the perfection of holy charity.

I strongly recommend Card. Robert Sarah’s book The Day Is Now Far Spent, as a well-articulated clarion call to action for us all, laity and clergy: Catholics, awaken!  The good Cardinal sees very clearly the great danger in the world today, and the need for the Church to arise – to be Church.  He writes, in this book,

Without union with God, every attempt to strengthen the Church and the faith will be in vain. Without prayer, we will be clanging cymbals. We will … make a lot of noise and produce nothing but wind. Prayer must become our innermost respiration. It brings us face to face with God. Do we have some other purpose? Do we Christians, priests, bishops have some reason for existing other than to stand before God and to lead others to him?

It is time to teach this! It is time to put it into practice! The one who prays is saved, the one who does not pray is damned, Saint Alphonsus said. I want to insist on this point, because a church that does not have prayer as its most precious treasure is headed for ruin. … Priests in particular absolutely must have a soul of prayer. Without it, the most effective of social actions would become useless and even harmful. It would give us the illusion of serving God while we were only doing the work of the Evil One. This is not a matter of multiplying our devotions. It is a matter of being silent and adoring. It is a matter of getting on our knees. It is a matter of entering into the liturgy with fear and respect. It is God’s work. It is not a theater.

Yes, we need the interior life of grace – and its first and essential act within is prayer.  Prayer-communion with God is the first fruit of grace, and this fruit of true, living prayer-communion with God spiritually nurtures the soul within and brings forth the active devotions that manifest His life: authentic loving devotion to Mary our mother, the habit of resting – abiding – in His words of Holy Scripture, and an on-going, ever-growing bond of union with God in the Holy Spirit.  He is become, as promised, our Counselor and Advocate, our Teacher and Friend who stands alongside and establishes us in an infinite Mystery: God the Holy Trinity, in the Fellowship of Christ, in the communion of saints.  The interior life of grace – the life of prayer – is eternal life unfolding like a flower fragrant in the warm sun of divine Truth.

The Church deserves this life I point to, and even more, God deserves it to be in us. Christ died to pour it out to us, for us, from His Cross.  Yet so many – so many laity, so many clergy, have stopped too soon and settled for much less!  Martha (Lk 10:38-42) was boldly impatient with her prayerful sister Mary, who was happy to sit at His feet and drink the living water of His holy words of truth.  The Lord advised her, no, dear Martha, busyness has clouded your sight – your sister here, listening, absorbing, embracing – she has chosen the better portion!  We need prayer.  We need to protect, and to grow, the precious life of grace given to us in Baptism.

This grace – a true participation in the divine life! – must be guarded, nurtured, nourished, cherished, tended as if it were the invaluable gift which it is.  It is a priceless treasure, indeed a supernatural endowment entrusted to us, for us, from the Cross.  Christ gave over everything for it, for us! Do we, like lazy and spoiled children unwilling to lift a finger if it is inconvenient, continue to take our rest while Jesus continues to call to us, “Awaken!”  The new Day is near; see – it approaches – the first glow of sunrise can be seen on the horizon.

Three qualities of the interior life of grace – let these be measuring rods for us.

  • Loving devotion to our mother Mary,
  • Attentive humble devotion to Truth of the Word: Holy Scripture,
  • Unshakable embrace of the promised Gift, the Holy Spirit.

The Lord has given us a Garden within – are we tending it?  Are we careful stewards of the true treasures, or intemperate children of the over-privileged, ever seeking more of the worthless, squandering time as the day draws near?  Let us pray for the Church: Awake!  The time for the sleepy and the unconcerned is over, the enemy is at the gates, he has already infiltrated the city, the faithful have long forgotten the danger he brings.

OK.  My talking is over (for now) – can we all hear from you?  On this subject of growing in the life of grace – the interior life – will you share with other readers, and with me, your thoughts and beliefs on this matter?  How are you growing, in the spiritual life, these days?  In particular, in your relationship with mother Mary, with Holy Scripture, with the life and gifts of the Holy Spirit – or with other important matters of life in Christ – how are you doing these days?  Are you striving for our common call to holiness?  And how is that going?

Posted by: Thomas Richard | April 16, 2020

precious words, in silence heard…

I’m very happy to say that these past several weeks of “social distancing,” sheltering in place,” radical isolation in the attempt to confine to as few people as possible, this new coronavirus, has borne good fruit in me.  Much human-to human interaction has been shut off; much communal prayer and worship and adoration has been shut off; the Holy Sacraments of the Church have been highly restricted – but much precious “desert time” has been offered (and some has been received, profitably).  

The Eucharist has been shut off, but that Bread from Heaven the Word of God, has not: He remains faithful; He remains true; He remains closer than breath and heart-beat; He remains stronger than doubts and fears; He remains.  And His Holy Spirit, sent as promised, needs silence and solitude, quiet and attention for His still small voice to be heard.

One thing I am hearing more clearly now than ever: The Church, our Holy Church, is as a whole deeply, deeply in need of renewal – revival.  As the world becomes more divided, darker, more dangerous to all of us, the Church is needed more and more to be Christ in this world!  Our Lord sent His Church to be His witness to His Life!  Yet how mixed our witness has become.  Our witness to others, to the world, has become mixed because our hearts are mixed – our loves are mixed.  

Our minds are confused by mixtures of the ways and values of this passing world, mixed in with the teachings – the Truth – of Christ and His Church.  We in His Church have embraced two loves that do not mix together; we have sought to hold hands with the world with one hand while holding the hand of Christ in the other,  That does not work.  As the Lord taught,

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
(Mt 6:24)

Without explaining or describing how, exactly, carnal loves have led to this crisis in the Church, let me simply name the symptoms of our spiritual infirmity.  The sickness is a disease of the heart: a heart in contradiction, a divided heart, a half-hearted love for God and His Church, fellowship with God at his Table one moment, and eating, drinking, cheering with a godless world the next moment.  And it seems we have become so accustomed to this insanity that it seems “normal.”  We insist, “I’m not a bad person!  I’m not a murderer, after all!  I’m a Catholic!”

So the sickness is heart disease; it presents itself these days in our religious life having three main deficiencies :

  1. Lack of true, sincere, heart-felt devotion to the Blessed Mother Mary, knowing her intrinsic place and part in true Christian Faith.
  2. Lack of fervent reverence for, knowledge of, and devotion to the Word of God, Holy Scripture.  “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” (St. Jerome)
  3. Lack of the living, active, acknowledged Presence of the Holy Spirit in prayer, in works, in faith, in life.

These are not the only problems in the Church – but these three essentials to Catholic Faith are noticeably weakened in our Church, and we are suffering because of it. In our time, in the Church of today, all three are neglected or minimized, by some they are abandoned, by some rejected or replaced – or observed only with superficial, shallow and merely formal regard. This ought not to be.  Truth – God! – deserves more from us all.

Now frankly, there are people who see “no problem” in anything I have spoken of so far.  Loving God and the things of this world? No problem.  Serving God and Mammon?  No problem.  Offering God half, when He commands All Your Heart?  No problem – I’m a good person; have a nice day!  It is the mixture of mediocrity with sanctity, among the members of His One Church, that produces mixed messages to the world: the message, foremost, that lukewarmness toward God is acceptable to Him, and they are O.K. – No Problem.

God says otherwise:

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.
“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot!
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.
Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent.
(Rev. 3:14 – 19)

The three deficiencies I listed – interior, spiritual poverties or vacancies – are all interconnected.  To become strengthened in one will effect, improve, grow the others.  All three are essential, intrinsic to a vibrant Catholic Faith.  I plan to write more on this “triad” of right devotion to the Holy Spirit, to Mary and to Holy Scripture, but for now I’ll close with an encouragement to look to our Mother in Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mother Mary.  How we need her, in the Church today!  How neglected and dishonored – mistreated – she has been!  In the noises, rush and busyness of mere externals, we have focused on evangelizing others while neglecting the cries of our own hearts within, for what is due and needful first.

I’ll close for now with a portion of a beautiful poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins SJ (1844 -1889): The Blessed Virgin Compared to the Air We Breathe

Wild air, world-mothering air,
Nestling me everywhere,…
Minds me in many ways
Of her who not only
Gave God’s infinity
Dwindled to infancy
Welcome in womb and breast,
Birth, milk, and all the rest
But mothers each new grace
That does now reach our race…
And makes, O marvellous!
New Nazareth in us,
Where she shall yet conceive
Him, morning, noon, and eve;
New Bethlems, and he born
There, evening, noon, and morn…

Be thou then, O thou dear
Mother, my atmosphere;
My happier world, wherein
To wend and meet no sin…
Stir in my ears, speak there
Of God’s love, O live air,
Of patience, penance, prayer:
World-mothering air, air wild,
Wound with thee, in thee isled,
Fold home, fast fold thy child.

[This shortened part of the poem is found on the blog “Teilhard de Chardin” (https://teilhard.com/2013/05/07/mothers-day-prayers/); the full poem is found on https://www.bartleby.com/122/37.html]

Posted by: Thomas Richard | April 2, 2020

The 2nd Step Toward Defeating Sin and its Bitter Fruit

When will it be over?

Is covid-19 the first of more plagues to come?  The day may come when this plague is gone, is over.  Then will the Church awaken to her call, her sacred vocation to the holiness worthy of her Master and Lord?  He entrusted her with potent graces and divine Truth – and a mission: take the holy saving Truth of God in Christ to the utmost ends and corners and peaks of the empty arrogance of fallen and dying mankind!  

Will the Church stand up and be the Body of Christ for this world?  Or will she return and relax to business as usual: a lukewarm comfortable compromise with the status quo – an unspoken deal with the spirit of this world – an exchange: the soul of the apostolate, for her continuing silence on the world’s broad godless path to hell?

There is a path to be walked, a Gospel to be preached, a Life to be lived, a Sacrifice to be embraced.  A bit more than a hundred years ago, near Fatima in Portugal, the Blessed Mother Mary brought the message anew to us through the simple and obedient – to children.  Mary appeared and said to Lucia:

Jesus wishes you to make me known and loved on earth. He wishes also for you to establish devotion in the world to my Immaculate Heart…. If you do what I tell you, many souls will be saved, and there will be peace. (Fatima Apparitions, 13 June 1917)

Mary also warned, that if this call is not heard and obeyed – if this devotion is not established as God desires – there will be more wars, and persecutions, and martyrs.  Much suffering will come, but…. “But in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph.”

There seems to be no shortage of contemporary “programs” (for a fee) offered to dioceses and parishes in the U.S. to help ignite a renewal of vitality and activity among Catholics.  A summary of my conclusions about these offerings, discussed in more detail in an essay in HPR (see ref. below) expresses what’s missing in broad terms: “We have been trying to build (1) using plans that are incomplete, (2) with materials inadequate to the task, and besides that, (3) upon sand.” 

What Happened to The Catholic Faith?

In this essay, I want to focus on what I am beginning now to see is one simple but essential “factor” that is missing in some very popular programs of renewal: Mary, and devotion to her Immaculate Heart.

Heart-felt devotion to Mary in the Church, to her Immaculate Heart, has continued to decline since shortly after Vatican II.  Today, as new programs for parish evangelization and renewal emerge and fade and reappear, circulating around dioceses in America, we see a painful work of the minimization of Mary, of rightful Marian Devotion, among some popular programs du jour.  It ought not be surprising that the fruit of such programs is lacking in depth, zeal and power when Mary is either omitted or mentioned only in a perfunctory, passing way, almost reluctantly, lest anyone be “offended” by bringing her up.  A very, very well-known teacher and writer and “lay authority” on Catholic evangelization once told me, rejecting any supposed need for Marian devotion for Catholics (please forgive me while I recount these words very painful and hard to hear):

The Church teaches that all approved devotions including Marian devotions are encouraged but not in any way required of disciples. We are free to participate and integrate devotions into our prayer life and spiritual practices or not.

All that is required of any faithful Catholic is belief in the Marian Dogmas like the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption. There are many legitimate and fruitful spiritual paths with the whole of the Catholic Tradition. Some are deeply Marian and some are not. … I will not tolerate any implications that one cannot be a true discipleship without participating in Marian devotion because it does not reflect the Church’s teaching on our freedom in this area.

Marian Devotion: Intrinsic to Christian Worship

The Catechism (#971) reflects anything but such a minimizing of the need for Mary in our lives: ““The Church’s devotion to the Blessed Virgin is intrinsic to Christian worship.” (Pope St. Paul VI, MC 56). “Intrinsic” is a very strong word.

The intrinsic need for Mary in our life of devotion to Christ becomes clear in the light of our call far beyond mediocrity, lukewarmness and tepidity in imitation of Christ.  Such a life is an insult to Christ, to His Cross, and to our call into the holiness of life worthy of God’s Holy Kingdom.  Indeed, “Your decrees are firmly established; holiness befits your house, LORD, for all the length of days.” (Psa 93:5). 

Pope St. Paul VI wrote, concerning the place Mary has as model, example, guide for Catholics:

 In her earthly life, she realized the perfect image of the disciple of Christ, reflected every virtue, and incarnated the evangelical beatitudes proclaimed by Christ. Therefore in her, the entire Church, in its incomparable variety of life and of work, attains the most authentic form of the perfect imitation of Christ.  (Pope St. Paul VI, 11/21/1964 close of Vatican II 3rd Session)

A Brief Conclusion: The Rosary

We need – need – to recover in the Church an authentic, personal and ecclesial devotion to Mary, and more specifically, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Our hearts, still wounded and confused in the darkness of a fallen nature, are mixed and unclean.  The heart of Mary, mother of our Savior and our mother in Him, is pure, simple, unconfused, immaculate.  Our prayer, our worship, our moral lives, our reception of the saving sacraments – all is mixed, impure.  A wholly pure – immaculate – intercessor and mediatrix between us and Christ our Lord is thus an immense simplicity in our life-journey to Him and thus to our salvation.  The more we learn of her place in our salvation (that is, her maternal role as Mother of God and our Mother in Christ), the more we can seek and welcome her active role as intercessor and mediatrix – a unique divine gift of a loving and self-giving bridge to and into her Son.

One suggestion, to begin to incorporate Marian devotion into Christian discipleship: pray the Rosary daily, slowly, when you have a full hour of time to complete – without rushing, without interruptions, without worrying about the time – the five decades of the Mystery of the day.  I would almost say that it is a waste of time to rush, when praying.  An excellent way to meditate on the mystery while praying the vocal prayers of the beads, I have found, is by adding a phrase within the 10 Hail Marys that expresses the mystery.  For example, in the Rosary of the Joyful Mysteries, the 1st decade, modify each of the 10 Hail Marys by adding the phrase:

… and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus who became incarnate within you.
Holy Mary, mother of God, …

In praying this decade of Hail Marys, consciously strive to pray – not merely recite – but pray, intending to mean every word you say.  Pray with attention and devotion every word you utter in prayer!  Seek to be present to both – conscious of both – Mary and Jesus, divine Son and human Mother, both living their roles given by the Father in the work of salvation.

For example in the 4th Sorrowful Mystery, perhaps adding the phrase:

… and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus who carried His Cross for us.
Holy Mary, mother of God, …

And, another example, in the 3rd Luminous Mystery, perhaps adding the phrase

… and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus who proclaimed the Holy Gospel.
Holy Mary, mother of God, …

And I repeat: pray slowly enough to hear and to say meaningfully, intentionally, prayerfully every word you are saying.  I think you will begin, in time, to experience the union of Jesus and His Mother in the one divine will in the work of salvation.  The Rosary is all about Jesus and Mary.  It is about Mary the perfect disciple and thus model for Christians; Mary the Mother of the Church, forming Christ in each faithful one, Jesus walking the path in front of us, Mary intrinsic to our life in Him as she was intrinsic to His Life among us from the beginning.

In praying through all the four Mysteries of the Life of Jesus and the Church in this deliberate way, day after day, week after week, month after month, a work of God can be proceeding within you, forming you interiorly as is His will.  This is the fruit of authentic Marian Devotion, united to the Son, beginning to come forth. 

_______________________________________________________________

Reference for Homiletic & Pastoral Review (HPR) essay — https://www.hprweb.com/2017/09/disciple-making-with-mercenary-love/#fnref-20178-1

Posted by: Thomas Richard | March 29, 2020

The First Step Toward Defeating Coronavirus

COVID-19.  Why?  When will it be over?

First, “Why.” The question “Why?” is very, very important. If we can truly, deeply understand why God even permits such evils as suffering and dying in His creation, we can begin to understand when it can be over – when God can permit it to be over.

This article – “the First Step” – I hope to be followed by “The Second Step” – so keep that in mind as you read this.  First steps, however, are very important.

If we look to Scripture – God’s word of revealed Truth given to guide us to, and into, Jesus the Son – we learn very quickly the root cause of suffering and death: it is sin.  Adam and Eve were created in a world without suffering or death, and were given one boundary to their freedom: a tree having fruit they must not eat.  To Adam was given One Law.  One rule.  One boundary.  And the penalty was given as well, if he were to transgress: 

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Gen 2:16-17)

The root cause of human suffering and death is human sin. God revealed more, explicitly, concerning the effects of human sin in all of creation: man’s embrace of sin, his love of sin to the exclusion of God, infected the whole of God’s creation with a fundamental, foundational disorder.  The whole of creation: the universe, the cosmos, was placed under a bondage to futility, to decay, an interior corruption at its very core.  This was revealed to St. Paul:

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now;
and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Rom 8:18-23)

Covid-19 was permitted by God, to awaken us once more to the grave and urgent problem, and the problem is not “merely” covid-19, nor is it the problem of viruses in general or lethal bacteria or mortal diseases or ultimate death.  The problem is sin.  The problem is the love of sin, even to the exclusion and rejection and rebellion against the God who created us — for much much more than a few years on earth, with or without money, a nice home and family, health insurance, unemployment benefits, federal bail-outs and the war against terrorism. 

Our greatest and ultimate problem, our ultimate enemy, is sin.  Covid-19 may well one day be defeated – but there will be another, and another, until God’s call to humanity, into true holiness, is accomplished.  “Thy kingdom come!  Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

God’s Solution

God’s solution to sin has begun.  Jesus defeated sin on the Cross; He defeated death in His Resurrection; He defeated the love of sin to the exclusion of God in His Ascension,  when He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell His Church.  His Church at that moment – when the Holy Spirit was sent and received – became not merely one more well-meaning group on the earth of weak human beings.  His Church became the enduring Presence of Christ sent now into the whole world as His saving witness of holiness, of personal embrace not of sin but of God, the door of salvation for all mankind.

And so why can’t we simply say, “Problem solved!”  “The problem of sin is taken care of!”  No, the problem of sin is not “taken care of.”  Sin continues to be loved and embraced, to the exclusion of God, in the world and even within His Church!  Even within His Church, the problem of sin is present and active; the power of death continues to work among us, even here, in His Holy Church and therefore throughout the whole world.  The problem of sin remains and therefore the problem of the consequences of sin continue: suffering and death continues.

  • We do not seek Him – and His holiness! – above all else.  
  • We do not love God with our whole heart and mind and soul and strength.  
  • We do not take up our cross daily, with patience and holy charity, and follow Jesus.  

Lent is an excellent time to strive for a deep, heart-felt longing and commitment for repentance and renewal in Christ.  It is a time to turn from the world, and the things and loves of the world, to God – to holiness in His Name.  A good beginning is to remember and once more affirm our Baptismal Promises. (This version is from the Roman Missal, 3rd Edition from 2011, see on Catholic Culture on-line.)

Promises of Baptism

Dear brethren, through the Paschal Mystery
we have been buried with Christ in Baptism,
that we may walk with him in newness of life.
And so, let us renew the promises of Holy Baptism, in
which we once renounced Satan and his works
and promised to serve God in the holy Catholic Church.

And so I ask you:

V. Do you renounce sin, so as to live in the freedom of the children of God?
R. I do.

V. Do you renounce the lure of evil, so that sin may have no mastery over you?
R. I do.

V. Do you renounce Satan, the author and prince of sin?
R. I do.

V. Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth?
R. I do.

V. Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered death and was buried, rose again from the dead and is seated at the right hand of the Father?
R. I do.

V. Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
R. I do.

V. And may almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given us new birth by water and the Holy Spirit and bestowed on us forgiveness of our sins, keep us by his grace, in Christ Jesus our Lord, for eternal life.
R. Amen.
(All are sprinkled – and can make the Sign of the Cross – with holy water.)

This is the beginning of a renewal that is real: to take seriously, literally, earnestly, Baptism.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | March 11, 2020

An Interior Pilgrimage

I began writing a book on the prayer, The Our Father, many years ago. A few years later, it was first (self-) published, in 2004: The Interior Liturgy of the Our Father. The work of prayer and writing brought forth in me an appreciation for – a reverence and awe of – this prayer given from the mouth and heart of God Himself: Jesus Christ. My love for the gift of this prayer only increases, multiplies, in time as the years add upon years. No one on earth will ever, I suspect, plumb the depths of this prayer, nor draw from it all the divine wisdom and truth held in it.  It is truly, divinely, beautiful.

I wrote a short guide to prayer and meditation on this prayer, to help a reader/seeker begin to embrace it, or more deeply embrace it. The guide is on this website; if you are reading this you are only “a click away” to the first page, which is here: An Interior Pilgrimage for the Soul. On this first page is an Introduction to the prayerful journey through the petitions of the Prayer. The next page presents a meditation on the first petition of the prayer, as a “Station” along the journey.
At the end of each page, each step of the pilgrimage, is a link to the next page, and the next step of the journey, the pilgrimage. Each of the seven petitions of the Our Father is its own Station, toward the final end of the Prayer, holy union in and with the Father.  At the end of the final page is a link to return to the Home Page of the Renew The Church website.

I recommend any and all to this Pilgrimage! This Prayer is in truth “the perfect prayer”, and “the complete prayer.” It is the norm for all prayer. Those who find it and enter it in authentic prayer, are blessed indeed.

Posted by: Thomas Richard | January 24, 2020

Because Wickedness is Multiplied

“And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold.” (Mt 24:12)

Jesus foretold of this coldness, this chilling of the heart toward one another, because of the growth, the multiplication, of wickedness among men in the Last Days. We can see, I believe, this ugly, bitter fruit of evil growing among us even now. A growing distrust – a growing impatience – a growing cynicism that suspects the other as enemy. Even in one’s own home, and family – workplace, and church – the buyer, and the seller – what is he working against me? What harm to me, like an arrow, is drawn back in his bow? What is he really saying? What is he really planning, scheming, in the back of his mind?

Wickedness is growing! Chasms of separateness are being revealed between us, the one and the other, and the old bridges seem to be collapsing before our disbelieving eyes: how can this be? What happened to the bonds of past days? Why does he seem so cold – distant?

I look at our national leaders, and see two factions as if in a fight to the death! Not two approaches to the best for our country – for the common good of us all – but a clash of enemies having no compromise admissible, allowable, or even possible. I look at my Church – Catholic, universal – and I see progressives against conservatives, traditionalists opposing modernists, seekers of God in prayer confronted by seekers of human rights in law. I see, in our holy Church, factions of ideology in the same conflict as our secular cousins – different uniforms, different vocabularies, different playing fields, but the same goals, the same futile end, the same bitter fruit: a growing institutional coldness.

What are the faithful to do, as the tide of evil rises? Where ought we to turn, as the consequent winds of contradiction and controversy grow in fury? We must remember our Lord. Jesus taught us about the wise man, in such a time:

“Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. (Mt 7:24-25)

Our house – our home – must be built upon the rock. Our Church must be built upon the Rock, and our Domestic Church – our personal home – must be built upon the Rock. The work of building, the constructing, the assembling, must be the works and the material of Truth, of Light, of Life. The foundation upon which the building stands or falls must be True, of the Light, of His Life: then it will stand, then it will not fall. The foundation must be the Rock, our Lord, our eternal God.

Jesus taught this parable to all and any having ears to hear. The world is not interested, not listening, not hearing. The Church? Are we listening? Are we hearing? Are we learning? The teachings of Jesus are wisdom: precious, priceless, potent. This Rock is eternal. His Truth is rock-solid and cannot perish: He will always be true. And we? Will we listen, and learn, while there is time? Will the Church be Church, living her mission to be Light for the world, as darkness and dying creep into and among us, the light fading into night, the hearts of men cooling and hardening as wickedness grows?

Friends, while there is light, let us seek Him in holy prayer more and more, listening to Him in His Holy Word, holding Him close, tight, until His Word, His Truth, presses into our hearts and lives making us new! Let us be done with the compromises and contradictions of half-hearted religion, and double-minded believing! Let our “Yes!” to Him be single-minded and pure; let us guard the integrity of our hearts – His altar is holy! Let us be enkindled with the fire of the one Holy Spirit – the fire that consumes not life but death, the fire that is not of death but is of eternal life.

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