Posted by: fvbcdm | June 11, 2021

The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart (11 June 2021)

When I began high school, I came under the tutelage of the Jesuit Fathers and Scholastics who have traditionally had a special devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And then cousins of mine, with whom I grew up like siblings, lived in Sacred Heart Parish here in New Orleans, and the girl attended the Academy of the Sacred Heart. So my young life was very much lived in the warmth and beauty of the Heart of Christ.

This Friday, the Church celebrates the solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, so for me this is a very special day. Our devotion to the heart of Our Divine Lord has spiritual, metaphorical, and physical elements.  Spiritual, because we are celebrating the love of God for us as expressed in the humanity of Jesus. Metaphorical, because we speak of the heart as the capacity of the human being to love.  We say things like “I give you my heart . . . she has won his heart . . .” Our love songs and poetry are filled with allusions to the heart as the center of human love. We speak of “sweethearts” meaning those who love one another. And since Jesus is our Divine Lover, we tend to focus our attention upon his heart as that part of his human personality by which he loves us.

And finally, our devotion is even physical, since when the dead Christ hung upon the cross, one of the Roman soldiers, to make sure that he was dead, thrust a lance into his chest, and there poured out of his heart what Saint John calls, “blood and water.”  Medical science explains the “water” as that clear serum that forms in the body in a traumatic situation.  Our mystical theologians have seen that “blood and water” as symbolic of the sacraments of the Eucharist and Baptism, those constituent elements of Christianity. Within our own time, Our Lord appeared to Saint Faustina in Poland, assuming the form of a man with white and red rays emanating from his breast, symbolizing the blood and water from his dead body on the cross, and indicating to the world the Divine Mercy which led him to the institution of the Sacraments and then his life-giving death by crucifixion.

When Jesus appeared to Saint Margaret Mary, a French nun of the 17th century, he took the form of a man whose heart appeared flaming with love and crowned with thorns. And he said to her, “Behold this heart which has loved humanity so much, and has been so little loved in return.”

On this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, we are asked to contemplate the love by which God loves us—and to focus our loving contemplation of his love upon the human Heart of the Son of God who became a man. The heart of Jesus was formed, as was his entire body, by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit in the womb of Our Blessed Mother.  Jesus had all the affective, sensitive, and emotional capabilities of any human being, and thus we speak of his loving us with “his heart.”  He tells us in the gospel, “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart.” These are the only ones of his virtues that he calls our attention to and asks us to imitate.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, make us, too, meek, humble, and loving. With these qualities, sanctity is within our reach in this world, and heaven is within our reach in the next. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago. Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | May 24, 2021

The Solemnity of Pentecost (23 May 2021)

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit whom Our Divine Lord was so eager to send upon the young Church. As God the Father fashioned a human body out of the dirt of the earth and then breathed his own divine life into its mouth and nostrils to begin the human race, so did Jesus our Lord fashion a Church from his disciples, his sacraments, and his doctrine and moral code, and then he was eager to breathe divine animation into that incipient Church. This happened on the morning of that first Pentecost Sunday when the Spirit of the Living God — the third Person of the Trinity — came upon the young Church in a rush of wind which shook the house and of fire that hovered over the head of each of them.

A great many books and articles have been written down through the ages of Christianity trying to define and explain the Holy Spirit and help us grasp this divine reality. I am not qualified to add anything to all that erudition. But I will tell you that the Holy Spirit is presented to us by the Church as the indwelling and loving presence of God in our hearts, both individually and collectively. He makes us his temple, his tabernacle, his sanctuary, and enables us to live the Christian life as Christ our Lord wants us to.

The ancient and beautiful hymn called a “sequence” which is used on Pentecost prays thus: O most blessed light divine; shine within these hearts of thine; and our inmost being fill. And it goes on to pray: Bend the stubborn heart and will; melt the frozen, warm the chill; guide the steps that go astray.

Let us open our hearts to the brightness of this “blessed light divine.” Let us surrender ourselves totally to the bending of our stubborn wills, the melting and the warming of our love of God and neighbor, and the guidance of our wayward steps into the path of holiness. Let us give ourselves as profoundly willing victims of this Divine Wind and Heavenly Fire which will accomplish in us what God wants. Pentecost is the birthday of the Church, and we are meant to be the living stones of that Church, adoring, loving, and serving God and contributing to the sanctification of the world and our human family. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago. Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | May 10, 2021

Feast of Saint Damien de Veuster (10 May 2021)

When I was a child in grade school, one of the lives of the saints that especially impressed me was that of Fr. Damien of Molokai, the Belgian priest who went to the Hawaiian islands and then to the leper colony on the island of Molokai where he gave his life for the betterment of the wretched conditions of the lepers, both spiritually and materially. It’s a marvelous story; a number of good books have been written about him, and now he is [Saint] Damien, having been [canonized] by Pope [Benedict]. 

On Easter Sunday in 1953, the aircraft carrier in which I was serving in the Navy glided into the quiet waters of Pearl Harbor and that afternoon, I was able to begin my exploration of those beautiful islands. I went downtown and there found the cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, the church in which Damien had been ordained to the priesthood after finishing his priestly studies in the islands. It meant a great deal to me to be there where his priesthood began; it ended just a few miles across the waters of the Pacific as he died of leprosy contracted while caring for his beloved flock—a martyr of generosity and love. Many years later I was able to visit his tomb in Louvain, Belgium, and celebrate Mass there. I have also very proudly visited his statue in the Hall of Statuary in our national capitol building in Washington, where each state is invited to place two statues of those considered its outstanding citizens. When Hawaii became a state, it placed there a statue of Fr. Damien. 

[Saint] Damien died on April 15, the date of my ordination to the priesthood, but the Church observes his feastday on May 10. So today I am happy to celebrate that life: so terrible in its material aspects and so beautiful in its spiritual value. 

In Paris, there is a street called Picpus where the seminary and motherhouse of [Saint] Damien’s congregation are located. That’s where Damien studied and from where he left for Hawaii. During the French Revolution, a guillotine stood in a public square nearby. When the Carmelite Nuns of Compiegne were killed there because they clung tenaciously to their Catholic faith and their Carmelite religious life, their bodies were dumped into a common grave in the graveyard of that seminary. Possibly the beautiful example of their courage moved Damien to volunteer first for the Hawaiian mission, and then for the extraordinary work among the lepers. They became martyrs to faith and religious life; he did so to generosity and love. Jesus promised eternal life to those who visited him when he was sick in the persons of all the sick of this world. No one has visited the sick in so profound a way as [Saint] Damien. In a number of the books about him, you can find two photographs of him whose juxtaposition is striking: Damien as a fine-looking young Belgian seminarian and then Damien as a dying leper, his face and hands terribly disfigured by the disease. On my visit to the Picpus cemetery, I felt tremendous pride and joy at the courage of the Carmelite Nuns whose bodies are still in that common grave, and of [Saint] Damien who studied there on his way to Hawaii, priesthood, generosity, death by leprosy, and the admiration of the Church and the world. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P. 

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago. Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown. 

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 21, 2021

Feast of Saint Anselm (21 April 2021)

I like the way Saint Paul speaks to the Romans when he says, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Think about that for a moment. “Wages” is another word for “salary.” When you work, you get a salary, agreed upon between employer and employee beforehand. So, when we sin and die spiritually, we are getting what we deserve. There is an element of justice there. But Saint Paul doesn’t use the term “wages” at all when it comes to our living as God asks of us. He doesn’t call that “wages,” but rather “the gift of God.” A gift is not part of justice. It is a result of gratuitousness, kindness, love, esteem. When the schoolboy mows the neighbor’s lawn for the prearranged price of $5, and the neighbor gives him his $5, that is justice. But if the neighbor ALSO gives him a slice of freshly baked apple pie with a big scoop of ice-cream on it, that is a gift. That did not enter into the original agreement. 

We “work” for God in the sense that we obey his word, his commandments, his holy will. And do we get a just salary for this “work”? Listen to Paul’s words again: “the eye has not seen, nor has the ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man to imagine what God has prepared for those who love him.” The reward for our virtue is so great that we can’t even envision things like that. That is not strict justice; that is the divine abundance and generosity of a loving father who, because he is God, is totally unlimited in what he can give us. How fortunate we are to be working, not for wages, but for divine generosity and love! Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P. 

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago. Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown. 

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 9, 2021

Easter Friday (9 April 2021)

The Sunday that we’ll be celebrating this weekend has gone by a number of names in the history of the Church. Back in the days when the liturgy was in Latin, the Sundays were usually designated by the first word of their entrance antiphon—the “Introit” as it was called then.  And the Sunday after Easter began, and still begins when the entrance antiphon is not replaced by an opening hymn, by the words “Like newborn children. . .” And the Latin word used to begin that antiphon is “Quasimodo.”  So the Sunday after Easter was “Quasimodo Sunday.”  In the famous novel, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Victor Hugo, the abandoned baby is found on the steps of Paris’s cathedral on the morning of the Sunday after Easter, so the priests called him “Quasimodo.”  In Advent we have a Gaudete Sunday; in Lent, a Laetare Sunday—again, names taken from the opening word of the entrance antiphon of that day. 

Then, this Sunday came to be called “Low Sunday” to distinguish it from the very HIGH Sunday the week before. And now, it is the Sunday of Divine Mercy, so called by our late Pope, [Saint] John Paul II.  We use as the first reading of this Sunday’s Mass a passage from the first letter of Saint Peter, where the Prince of the Apostles tells us that God “in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” And then, in the gospel we read of what happened on the night of that first Easter Sunday. The risen Savior came into the upper room where his apostles were gathered. He greeted them with the Hebrew “Shalom”: Peace be with you. Then he breathed on them (“breath” in Hebrew is the same as “spirit”) and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven.” Another one of these stupendous gifts of God to humanity for our salvation. He gave us the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper; he gave his life on the cross; now he gives to his newly ordained bishops and priests the power of forgiving sins. 

When a soldier defeated an enemy in those days, he could bring home with him any booty or plunder from the battlefield or the country of the defeated enemy. The newly risen Christ brings with him from his encounter with death and his conquest of it a choice piece of plunder indeed: he had made atonement for our sins by his death on the cross, and now brings back with him divine mercy, forgiveness, pardon.  If I were to say to a penitent who comes to confession all that I might say, I could say, “we have sinned. But Jesus wants to forgive us and bring us back into the circle of his love, so he died in atonement for our sins. And on rising from the dead, the first thing he gave to his first bishops and priests was the power to forgive sin, to dispense mercy, to pardon, to reconcile, to make clean again.” This is Divine Mercy Sunday. He wants to forgive us more than we want to be forgiven. He loves us more than we love him, even though he is infinitely lovable, and we certainly are not. But you see, love is measured not by the lovability of the beloved, but by the love of the lover. And Christ, our lover, is infinitely loving. 

And Jesus wants to forgive us “not seven times, but seventy times seven times.” And so we pray particularly on this beautiful Sunday, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have MERCY on us! Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P. 

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago. Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown. 

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 8, 2021

Easter Thursday (8 April 2021)

When I was in grade school, one of the Sisters suggested to us that we use the tabernacle light in church as a symbol of ourselves. It burns there all the time to remind us that Jesus is present in the tabernacle. It is quiet; it doesn’t misbehave, doesn’t cause a fuss or create a problem, and as it burns day and night, dependably, reliably, it spends itself in its mission of proclaiming Jesus, and finally, when it is totally consumed, it goes out and is replaced by another one. The Sister went on to say that we should be like that: always proclaiming by our authentically Christian lives that Jesus is here, in our hearts, minds, words, actions, attitudes. And that we should quietly and faithfully consume ourselves by lives of service of God until the day comes when we have finished our duties in this world and can surrender ourselves into the hands of our Creator. It’s a beautiful idea; I have thought of it often when in a church or chapel with the tabernacle light beside or near the tabernacle where Our Divine Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is always present. 

During this Easter time, we might also give our attention to the Easter candle that burns in our churches. Each of them was blessed with great solemnity at the beginning of the Easter vigil, carried into a darkened church, set on a stand in a very conspicuous place so as to be seen by all in the church, and then used as a source of light for all the individual candles held by those in the church, so that soon the entire church is aglow with the light from the Easter candle, which of course symbolizes the risen Savior who first said to us “I am the light of the world.” Then, after preaching to his disciples, he told them, “YOU are the light of the world.” Whether on the lips of Our Lord or those of his disciples who repeat it endlessly throughout the history of the world, divine truth is the light of the world, guiding all men to their eternal destination. 

During the lifetime of Saint Therese of Lisieux, there lived another Carmelite nun in another monastery in France. She was Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, recently beatified and, I hope, soon to be canonized. Her spirituality is centered upon the Holy Trinity dwelling in those in the state of grace. One day, as she was reading Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, she came across the passage (Ephesians 1:14) that says that we are destined to praise the glory of God. She was deeply struck by those words, and from then on, she thought of herself as a living praise of the glory of God. When we see the Easter candle giving its own quiet, steady, lovely praise to the risen Lord, we can apply that to ourselves also. The resurrection of Christ is the basis of our faith. “If Christ is not risen,” as St. Paul says, “our faith is in vain.” But Christ IS risen, and our faith is rock-solid. And we can think of ourselves as candles, burning steadily to give glory and witness to our risen Savior. By our faith, by our joy, by the good example of our lives, each of us becomes an incarnate “Alleluia.” 

So let us see ourselves as witnesses to the risen Christ, men and women who live in praise of his glory and who gladly share our light with our fellow men and women in this world of ours. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P. 

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago. Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown. 

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 7, 2021

Easter Wednesday (7 April 2021)

Today we come to my favorite passage in the gospels.  It occurs in the last chapter of the gospel according to Saint Luke.  I have always thought that if I could have been present at any moment in the life of Jesus, either before or after his resurrection, it would be that one.  We all know the story: two of our Lord’s disciples are returning from Jerusalem to their own homes, evidently in the village of Emmaus.  They are deeply disappointed and saddened because they thought that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ, and now all their hopes and joy have been destroyed because his enemies were able to capture him and kill him.  So much for their messianic dreams and faith! Then a stranger catches up with them, going the same way.  They begin to talk; he sees that they are dejected, and they admit that they hoped Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, but then, the beautiful bubble burst.  He hears them out, and then begins to speak.  “How foolish you are!  How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets said!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and thus enter into his glory?”  They listened in fascination!  He seemed to know what he was talking about.  It made sense. 

Their previous delight over Jesus, his preaching, his miracles, his marvelous personality, came rushing back into their minds and hearts.  They came to the town to which they were going, but he seemed to be going farther on.  And they said to him one of the most touching things addressed to our divine Lord in all of scripture.  They said, “Stay with us. It’s getting dark and the day is nearly over.”  He went with them for supper.  They sat at table, he blessed and broke bread and gave it to them. And in that wonderful moment, they recognized him.  It was Jesus himself!  Alive, as fascinating as ever; full of truth. And before they could even embrace him or ask him what it was like to be dead and now to be alive again, he vanished from their sight.  And now they say something else very touching, very beautiful. “Weren’t our hearts BURNING within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”  This time there would be no disappointments, no sorrow, no dashed hopes or destroyed faith.  They rushed back to Jerusalem where they met with the apostles and each told the other their experiences of that day—that first Easter Sunday. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P. 

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago. Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown. 

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 6, 2021

Easter Tuesday (6 April 2021)

As we continue celebrating the resurrection of Our Divine Lord Jesus Christ during this eight-day period, called an octave—the octave of Easter—we have the opportunity to contemplate the events of that first Easter Sunday when Our Lord gladdened the world by emerging glorious and triumphant from the tomb. 

Who were the holy women and the men who were faithful to Our Lord during the terrible hours of his sufferings and death and then the glorious ones of his resurrection? When we read all four gospel accounts of Our Lord’s death and resurrection, we find basic agreement among them but also each of them adds its own elements to the story. 

A group of sympathetic women whom Jesus calls “Daughters of Jerusalem” follow him through the streets of the city from Pilate’s palace where Jesus was condemned out to the hill of Calvary where he was crucified. An ancient tradition, but not found in the gospel accounts, is that a sympathetic woman took pity on Jesus as he made his painful way to Calvary; she wiped his face with a cloth and in gratitude for that act of kindness, Our Lord left the image of his face on that cloth. When Saint Francis of Assisi composed the devotion that we call “the Stations of the Cross,” he incorporated that tradition into the list of those stations. 

At Calvary, near the cross of Jesus, the four gospels place Our Lady, Saint Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, a woman named Salome who was probably the mother of the apostles John and James, another person called Mary who was the wife of someone named Clopas, a woman named Joanna, and then Saint Mark speaks of “many other women.” 

The men at Calvary were less numerous; only one of the twelve apostles seems to have been there, and that was Saint John the apostle and evangelist, into whose care the dying Savior entrusted his blessed Mother. Then there was Joseph of Arimathea who volunteered his unused tomb for the burial of Jesus. And Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin (the high court of the Jewish nation) but a secret disciple of Jesus who had visited Jesus by night so as not to be seen visiting the wonder worker of Galilee in broad daylight. These two, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, took charge of Our Lord’s burial when his body was taken down from the cross. 

On that first Easter Sunday morning, Mary Magdalen, Mary mother of James, Joanna, and Salome brought aromatics to the tomb hoping to place them around the body of Jesus, only to find the tomb open and empty and to see the risen Lord in his glory. 

Saints Peter and John, two of the apostles, also went to the tomb and found the same thing, but they evidently did not see Jesus until that night when they were gathered in the upper room where the Last Supper had been eaten before Our Lord’s arrest in the Garden of Gethsemani on the Mount of Olives. 

We have all these friends of Jesus with whom we can identify in our joy over the resurrection of Jesus and whom we can invoke in asking for a greater faith and devotion to the risen Lord, who says to us in the gospel: I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P. 

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago. Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown. 

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 5, 2021

Easter Monday (5 April 2021)

In 1963, Easter Sunday fell on April 14. The next day, my classmates and I were ordained to the priesthood. For that reason, I celebrate two anniversaries each springtime: Easter Monday, and April 15, on both of which I received the great gift of the priesthood, to which I had looked forward nearly all my life. I ask you today to join me in thanking God for the gift of his Divine Son Our Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, for the gift of the Church, the Sacraments, and especially the sacrament of Holy Orders, and most particularly for my vocation to this priestly state of life.

Yesterday, on Easter Sunday, I was invited to spend the day with friends. At their home, I met two of their friends: a mother and college-aged son who had been received into the Church at the Easter Vigil, the night before. So it was a celebration marked by special joy and happiness—the Sacred Chrism almost literally still moist upon their heads, and the wonder of their incorporation into the mystical Body of Christ still filling their hearts with happiness.

All this week we will be celebrating the Resurrection of Our Victorious Lord from the tomb into new and eternal life. The words “victorious” and “victor” come from the Latin verb “vincere,” meaning “to win, to conquer.” Our Lord Jesus won over sin, evil, and death, and became the divine Victor, the quintessential Conqueror who by his sufferings and death made it possible for all of us to triumph over all kinds of evil, including death. Since the name “Victor” was given to me at the time of my entrance into our Dominican family, it is very meaningful to me and in a sense makes Easter my special feast day. I always like it when we call the risen Christ our Victor—our winner, our conqueror. As the young David brought down the enemy giant Goliath and shared his victory with his people in the Old Testament, so Jesus, the young Savior, brought down the power of Satan and shares his victory with his people in the New.

So let us rejoice in the victory, the triumph of our Lord as he rose from the tomb, and let us pray our Alleluias with special fervor and happiness. “Alleluia” means “Praise the Lord” in Hebrew, and is the greatest cry of exultation in all of sacred scripture—the shout of a happy people who have been rescued from evil by their Lord and God. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago. Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

Posted by: fvbcdm | April 3, 2021

Holy Saturday (3 April 2021)

Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday are, in a sense, one great Christian festival.  On Holy Saturday, those who love Our Lord heave a sigh of relief that his sufferings are over and he is resting in the tomb, on the divinely-instituted day of rest — the Sabbath.  As God the Creator rested on the first Saturday after creating the world, so God the Redeemer rested in the tomb on that Saturday after redeeming the world by his death on the cross.  We say, in the Apostles Creed, “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into hell — or, as a better translation has it, he descended to the dead — On the third day he rose again.  What does it mean that “he descended into hell”?  That is an English translation of the Latin term “ad inferos,” meaning “to the lower world.”  The soul of Our Lord did not go to the hell of the condemned, but rather to those who died in God’s grace before Jesus did.  They awaited there the moment of his salvation.  All the holy patriarchs, prophets, and virtuous people who lived from the time of the original sin until that day when Jesus died on the cross — all were eagerly awaiting his redemption.  Now, he goes to announce to them that their waiting is over and very soon they will be with him in heaven.  So soon, in fact, that when he spoke to the good thief on the cross beside his own, he said, “THIS DAY, you will be with me in Paradise.”

Then the day of rest ended with the setting of the sun that Saturday night. Not only did the sun set upon one day, but upon the Old Testament; it rose to the New Testament of the resurrected Christ. Imagine the joy that Saint Joseph, who would have been among those who waited, experienced when Our Lord came to bring the good news.  And then let us try to imagine the immense happiness that flooded the immaculate heart of Our Lady when the newly-risen Christ came to her on that first Easter morning.  The first annunciation had caused her to be deeply disturbed, as Saint Luke’s gospel tells us. The archangel has to reassure her: “Mary, do not be afraid.”  But this time, there is no disturbance, no need for reassurance.  This ineffably beautiful son of hers whom she literally adores for he is God, is the most thrilling thing she has ever seen as he stands before her and, no doubt, embraces her in all the glory of his new life.  She is transformed into one exultant cry: “Alleluia”!

Let us unite ourselves with the joy of the Mother of God as she, and we, celebrate the resurrection of Our Savior into the new life which he shares with us. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  Father Brown composed this message some years ago. Please pray for the souls of the faithful departed, including Father Brown.

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