Worth Revisiting: CatholicTV Appearance

Today, perhaps you might have been expecting a lengthier post? Well, I hope that I am forgiven by sharing with you the fruits of a graced invitation.. to be a guest on CatholicTV’s “This is the Day”!

With a cup of coffee and toast in hand, I headed out the door expecting a flurry of brake lights and delays as customary with Fridays in Boston. Yet, instead God seemed almost to clear the roads giving way to time and a very relaxing ride into the city. So much so, in fact, my hubby and I arrived well in time to also make morning Mass at the station.

Every day that begins with Mass, for me,  is an intentional one in that as the 1st reading from Deuteronomy spoke:
“you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other. ”

Once God is given priority, then comes trust in His will. Father Helfrich’s homily on Matthew 16:24-28 was so on point. Much courage is needed to be a disciple, trusting in the plan that our Lord has for us,  leaving the security of the known to embrace unknown opportunities ahead. Still having difficulties doing this? You are not alone, but oh what joy lies in “giving it a try”!

If you were unable to tune in for the live show on August 11 2017..here is the podcast from the show! What a great time I had with Jay and Kevin. The time just flew by! There was even a shout out to Loyola Chicago!

Simply click the image below.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Examening Discovery

As a child, I reveled at the picture puzzle games that challenged each contestant with keen eyes to discover a familiar item amid a quite often cluttered larger scene. And with each object found, was a renewed sense of joy and understanding of the next step of the task at hand.  Yet, somewhere between childhood and maturity the thrill and purpose of the search can time and again allude us and at times even eclipse the delight of discovery.

Such was the course of a day that was to be experienced quite recently. Waking up late, and feeling “behind the 8 ball”, I had literally jumped feet first into a scene not of my own design or desire. With limited movement, either physically or spiritually, all that could initially be seen was the clutter. Misplaced item here, piles of unattended objects there, I longed for clarity of purpose- at the very least, for the frustration and confusion to leave me be. In this life sized puzzle of sorts it became suddenly obvious that the first hidden object of my search was indeed Christ himself. He, and only he, was the hingepin to finding my next piece of my day and the surest course of making sense of it all. So began my prayer- an inner groan, offered up for peace of spirit and discernment in the way God wanted me to move in my day.

“Where are YOU, Jesus, in this jumbled scene?”

A prayerful guide to mindful reflection, the daily Examen prayer, is at its heart a path to awareness and renewed discovery. Just what exactly are we discovering? Perhaps simply our way back to God and his will in our daily walk. Sometimes, we may not have strayed far but have just lost sight of Christ within the daily tasks we tend to for family and work. How long till we see the results? That too cannot be rushed, as we well know that God’s timing is not our own. I will say, however, that I have yet to be disappointed to discover that whatever I am going through, that God is there in the midst of it all.

Discovery then, in Ignatian spirituality, is the fruit of prayer directed towards the good desire. It could be the answer to a life altering decision, or an awareness that we are exactly where we need to be. If you are facing a difficulty today that you cannot see through, or need clarity of purpose or direction, ask yourself these as you begin the Examen:

Would this decision lead me or others on a life affirming course? Am I filled with confusion, doubt, fear or instead, encouraged and invited gently to consider the next step?

5 Steps of a Daily Examen

1. Become aware of God’s presence.
2. Review the day with gratitude.
3. Pay attention to your emotions.
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. 
5. Look toward tomorrow.

 Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: An Invitation to Lead

The following article appeared in the University of Notre Dame’s Institute of Church Life Journal a year ago on May 23, 2016.

Since it was written, God has continued to move me towards new roles and responsibilities within the life of the church. Lay ministry is indeed a graced vocation, one that not everyone is called to but one that can go unheeded in the fast pace of our society, and amidst prior commitments. What gifts might lay untapped in your life today? How might God be inviting you to use your gifts to lead others to Christ?

There is an extra spring in my step this morning knowing that today has been reserved, indeed set apart, to spend with both some of the youngest and oldest members of this parish community. After opening prayers they bound forward, from the left and right, towards the bright red book of the Gospels that I am holding and head to the lower church for children’s liturgy. This is indeed their community, one that the over 50 gathered have come to joyously participate in. With hands held together, in lieu of uncomfortable boredom, there are instead small voices raised and petitions uttered as the prayers of the faithful are spoken.

Pausing momentarily, in the back of the sacristy after Mass, I am instantly reminded to thank the altar servers whom I personally helped train and scheduled to serve that day. A hoped-for beginning to a life of service and love, their gift can easily go unnoticed. Many of these altar servers (a large percentage of which are girls), I have seen “graduate” on to Eucharistic ministry, lectoring and service-based volunteer work within the Church, families, and the greater community upon entering college.

Lay ministry leadership then takes on visible and invisible aspects and roles, enabling the community to not only run smoothly but also to be an inviting encounter with Christ in one another. So too is the work of those who respond to serve the larger community beyond the doors of the Church. Walking the halls of one of the nursing homes that I serve, I am familiar with each name on the door and many of the family members of the residents I see. There is such grace here, in bringing Christ and community to our older, at times forgotten, members of the Body of Christ. Moreover, this joy is meant to be shared, whereby all feel enjoined and invited to partake in this beautiful ministry.

Over the years, I have seen the need, heard the invitation, and taken on these and a number of other lay ministry roles—as catechist, coordinator, presenter, and Catholic radio show host. Perhaps you too have recognized the great need within our parish communities, unearthing a desire to serve through leadership within the Catholic faith. Yet, what does this look like realistically? First, it needs to be said that women have been serving in leadership positions within the Church for quite some time—not only filling roles left vacant due to a shortage of priests but also actively involved in the faith formation and pastoral care of the community.

Still there has been a definitive shift recently in encouraging the participation of women in lay ministerial leadership roles. Pope Francis and others like Cardinal Sean O’Malley are even expressing their openness and anticipation for “more women in positions of responsibility at the Vatican.”[1] Likewise, in recent years a number of women are seeking to receive additional theological training and advanced degrees to gain the tools to better utilize their gifts and help build the Kingdom. In 2016, women held 80% of the over 39,000 lay ecclesiastical ministry positions, and 9 out of 10 “considered their ministry ‘a vocation, not a job.’”[2] This is the path that I, too, followed, and which has led to my recent acceptance of a paid staff position as Director of Parish Ministries for two parishes entering soon into collaboration. While there still remains much discussion and polarization about shape of leadership within the Catholic Church, I am witness to the innumerable ways to serve and immeasurable blessings in doing so.

Peace,

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[1] John L. Allen Jr. and Lisa Wangsness, “Pope Softening Tone, not Stance Cardinal Sean O’Malley Says” in The Boston Globe (February 9, 2014).

[2] Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, Research Review: Lay Ecclesial Ministers in the United States (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University, 2015).

When the Spirit Speaks

God, I have found, is never outdone in generosity. Always the gracious giver, he longs to surprise us breaking into our everyday ordinary to do the extraordinary. And still how easily these moments could have been missed by our failure to respond. Ever have a day where an inconvenient appeal on time and energy turns into a unexpected source of joy and grace? Where had the answer been no that the loss, in hindsight, would have been great? Oh how precious are the lessons that our Father has in store for us! All that is required of us is our “yes!”..and then the Spirit does all the rest.

Recently called to the bedside of a woman actively dying, I unexpectedly felt unprepared. Tying up last minute details, both professionally and personally, in preparation for our family move and my upcoming pilgrimage to Israel, time has been elusive. Each minute spent planing ahead so that my absence is not severely felt and everything runs seamlessly. Yet, here I was sprinting to squeeze in prayer time on the way to another communion call.

With a bit of creative parking and magnificat left behind I resigned myself that the Spirit had this in hand. I had brought the most important part, I was reminded, clutching the pyx and proceeding ahead. Upon entering her room, I noticed there was not an inch of space unused. For, she was not alone. Surrounded by her family, she was being held and loved in these remaining days. Taking my place at her feet in her chair, I invited her family to pray together. The sound of their voices in harmony provided such a beautiful resonance, and it was clear that I indeed was witnessing a gift.

Closing in prayer and requesting the Spirit to intercede, I prayed for her strength for the next steps in the journey till at last she would meet Jesus face to face. Knowing how hard it was to leave this loving family behind, she needed assurance. For, they too had a journey.  Pouring forth an appeal for God’s grace, strength and peace to be felt among them in the coming days ahead, I said Amen. Glancing up, it was remarkable how her face had relaxed and her breathing eased. Softly, she whispered something to her son standing beside her.  “Wow,  that was beautiful wasn’t it mom?”, he said. “Yes.”, I thought, “the Spirit does beautiful work. ”

Having only brought one communion host, and surveying the room of expectant faces I suddenly was met with a joyful dilemma. “I only have one host…”, I said. “It doesn’t matter how small, we would all like to receive if possible” “Well, ok then.”, I said reminded of the loaves and fishes. Not even counting the members in the room, I stopped at 10 equal pieces. And wouldn’t you know, it was exactly enough with one piece remaining for “Mary”.

The family and I spoke for awhile about her life and how much her faith meant to her. A lifelong parishioner, she endeavored to bring each of them up in the faith. The children also added that they had all been baptized and married in the church. “Do you know what a blessing you are to her right now?”, I asked. “Do you know what a blessing she has been to each one of us?”, they responded.  Truly, this brief encounter with this incredible family would have been missed if I hadn’t responded to the Spirit that day.

Reflect:

Have I ever considered praying with someone in need, or that is dying? If so, what has prompted my words, or guided my actions?  If not, what has held me back from responding?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: You Lead, I’ll Follow

Spiritual direction, it seems to me, is a beautiful dance.

An intimate sharing of self, a gracious reception of the Other. Each step towards self knowledge is but a lyrical movement towards acceptance of the pre-existing dispositions and disequilibrium within our lives. Oh the freedom of  movement that comes with self acceptance! No longer are we resolutely restrained by the confines of our former self, but in desiring to model the steps of our divine Partner we can finally abandon our will for His.

This is what St. Ignatius would refer to as resignation or indifference, a course of abandonment from self seeking fulfillment to a desire to know and follow the will of God for our lives. This conversion of self and discernment of our next steps is, of course, the fruit of spiritual direction. Yet, as mankind is by nature relational, this dance reaches its fullest potential in dialogue with and under the guidance of a trained spiritual director.

Helpful Rules of the Road of Spiritual Direction:


1.    “Spiritual direction cannot be confined to the religious realm, as though this existed in isolation, but must deal with the whole man and his actual problems” Friedrich Wolf, Encyclopedia of Theology, ed. Karl Rahner.  Because of this, the more authentic and truthful you with are with the challenges you face in spiritual direction- the more helpful the time spent will be.

2.     You must be open to hearing and giving consideration to what your spiritual director notices about you and your situation without automatically defending a position. In entering spiritual direction, you are eliciting a consulting perspective, not asking simply for an echo of your own. You may have not noticed something simply because you are too close, or to familiar with its occurrence.

3.    If there is something in particular that you are aware of holding you back before a session, and your spiritual director is a priest, ask to begin with the sacrament of reconciliation. If this is the case but you are seeing a lay spiritual director, consider reconciliation at a nearby parish before your session. Otherwise, you may feel very self conscious of the sin, guilt or shame you are harboring and unable to be as open and ready to be moved through direction.

4.    Spiritual direction does compel a response or corresponding action by you.

“nothing less than a real conversion is needed if the searcher is to accept the profound self-knowledge which he gains with the help of another…in a word to carry his own cross after Christ.” Friedrich Wolf  

Simply speaking, once we see ourselves truthfully, in the light of faith, we begin to desire change. When we seek to follow Christ, we also wish to model our lives after him.

5.   Letting go of that which prevents us from growing spiritually closer to God.

Very few choices in our life are without consequences, be they good or bad. So it goes without saying that which doesn’t bring us closer to who God has intended us to be, is at best keeping us spiritually delayed.

6.  Recognizing who we are now, allows us to envision who God wants us to be and to            invite God into the decision making process. This is the ideal environment for spiritual      growth! Our relationship with God grows as we partner together in all of the                        decisions-big and small- that come before us. We may just find that we are less                    stressed about the outcome, because we trust that we ask God to guide us in the first          place!

Reflect:

Have you thought about seeking greater direction in your life? If so, research local spiritual directors in your area to find one that might be accepting new directees.

If you already have a spiritual director, does he/she challenge you to see things from a new perspective? Are you resisting or accepting of the task ahead?

Peace,

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There You Are!

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
 You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
 Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
 You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence? Psalm 139: 1-7

“Oh, there you are!”, He says. 

“Yes Lord, here I am. I’m sorry I have been preoccupied with other things. I realize now that you have been waiting for me.”  
“You are here now, that is what matters. Come, and find your rest with me.”

There is no judgement or guilt in His words as they fall upon my heart. Simply love- and an exclamation of joy that I at last found him in the midst of my day. His desire? Not a feeble attempt at an explanation but rather one undertaken by a beloved to comfort and renew my soul. In this brief exchange between his heart and mine, more is expressed in mere moments than hours of conversation. Who is this God who loves me still? None other than the One who seeks me, waits patiently for my return and all the while holds me and the world all in the palm of his hand.

Since returning from retreat, you might say I have been experiencing a “spiritual reunion” of sorts. One whereby I slip into soulful dialogue with God so often, that I cannot judge the time apart. That is not to say that this time is replete with words for there is meaningful silence here too. Each minute full and intentional and I arise aware that whatever is ahead, I am never alone. Needless to say, discernment is immensely easier in these times as God has both our attention and our desire to do His will.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast. (V. 9-10)

Walking into church and upon approaching the tabernacle, I saw him standing there in the back. “Do you have a bible that I could purchase?” Well dressed and in his early thirties, he had suddenly found himself at a crossroad in life. “Not one that we would sell, but one that we would gladly give you. Hold on a moment and let me get one for you” Knowing that I was already a few minutes late for a promised communion call, I quietly wondered if God would stretch out time. Returning with the bible I turned to Psalm 139. “This is a psalm I turn to when I find myself at a crossroad, or simply need to be reminded who I am. Would you like to read this together?”

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.. (v. 11-14)

As we sat, I felt him relax into each word. It truly is a beautiful vision to see God’s word at work. “I do have to go for now, but please stop by anytime and ask for me by name. The bible is yours for however long you need it.”

Reflect:

Does God have my upmost attention? When do I notice His presence the most in my day? What is it that I seek most at the crossroads in life? 

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Being Astonished

What is it that astonishes us these days? Is it the headlines that flash across the written page, or in gossip carried to our all to willing listening ears? Olympic feats, milestones reached or previous limitations met and surpassed? Perhaps, however, it is something closer to home. Sparked by an awareness of God at work around us, even in the seemliest detail often overlooked and missed- astonishment abounds.

In the poem entitled Messenger, by Mary Oliver she speaks of the beauty of discovery in our natural world. Creation giving and responding to its Creator, and each of us partaking in the holy within our everyday.

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Yet, can astonishment also be found in the imperfect, broken or worn parts of our lives too? Absolutely. For, we cannot deny the many ways we fall short of the often self-imposed standard of perfection we hold.  But are we really willing and ready for change?

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,

Here, with all due reverence to Mary Oliver, I find astonishment and beauty also in the reworking and remaking of my very being into who I was meant to be. Even the letting go and surrender of that within ourselves which is “still not perfect” can very well be a daily source of astonishment. To the point that I believe she strives to make, however, we mustn’t get wedded to the imperfections themselves. Rather, to attend to the work of responding- to the graced invitations around and within us.

which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all the ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.               Messenger, by Mary Oliver

So what do we do with these astonishing gifts- these simple moments of revelation and acknowledgement? Do we live a life inspired, willing to experience surprise, wonder and transformation?

Reflect:

Spend a few moments outside today. Be still, and invite the Holy Spirit to accompany you in revealing these “hidden” gifts of the moment. What is to be learned for you in being astonished?

Peace,

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In Deep Water

Never a strong swimmer by any means, the mere idea of treading water is completely unappealing to me. As well is the comfort of being within reach of the shore, and the proximity of my toes on the safety of the bottom. Every inch of distance apart requires surrender, faith and trust. Yet, while there is risk in venturing out there is also promise of new discoveries never to be found in the shallow.

The treasures of the day-  the perfect sand dollar tucked away under a shiny blue mussel, and the brightly colored conch shell alongside the finger like coral just out of arms length. Seems like an easy choice right? Well, not if we consistently cling to the safety of the familiar and certain. For, then even though we might glimpse the possibility of a fortune that awaits we cannot let go to claim it. God asks each one of us to be open to the disclosure of his will, to embrace the beauty that lies in surrender and the joy that springs forth from change.

Recently, our family finally made the decision to move closer to where my husband and I now both work. Having tried for the last 3 years to find a new home in the area, we have most certainly been down this road before. So what makes this time different?  Abandonment of the safety net that we had so insisted on before. After prayerful discernment, we are decidedly moving without the contingency that our home sells first.  Trusting that God will work out the rest, we are taking a leap of faith.

Sometimes, the right decision is not the easiest one.

Though this is the right decision for the family our youngest is perhaps the most impacted by the consequences of change. Heading into the 8th grade, he is leaving behind his friends, school and home that he has known his entire life. All to move into a community where he knows no kids his own age, at a time where acceptance is paramount.

“Mom, I understand that this move is good for everyone else but I can’t see how I am benefiting at all.”
“Thomas, do you trust me?”
“Yes, of course mom.”
“Have your dad and I ever made a decision without considering every member of our family?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Good. Because, your dad and I are looking at the big picture and God is revealing wonderful things to come for our family, especially more time with one another, in this move. Just like my earlier question to you, He is asking us to trust him.”
“It’s important that you know how hard this is for me. I am thankful, though, that you are listening.”
“I will always listen, and your dad and I are always here for you. Thomas, you see the gifts that you are clutching in one hand- your friends and home and their value. But sometimes God wants to give us more, that can only be taken with both hands. That doesn’t mean that we loose completely what we had but that are open to the greater that He promises.”

Pray:

Father, you are the Giver of all good gifts. Help me today, in this moment, to surrender my will to Yours. Help me not to be so content in the life that I have that I refuse to embrace the life you have meant for me. Though not always the easiest path, let me trust you always. Knowing that there are so many opportunities that await in the offering.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: The Scent of Her Presence

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“An awareness of smells can illuminate our present. It can help us live more mindfully and gracefully. It can help us recognize that God’s goodness saturates the world, in scents that are both obvious and subtle.”

Ginny Kubitz Moyer, Taste and See ( Loyola Press)

Early morning dew, the scent of grateful peonies and roses greet me.
The aroma of homemade strawberry rhubarb and blackberry pies cooling midday meet me.
Nighttime breezes carrying a day well spent at play, leave me ..the promise of yet another summer day in the South.

My Grandmother’s house was my favorite place to be as a child, particularly in the summertime.  What might appear as lacking in structure or activity, each day was abundant in hidden treasures that could only be discovered by a slower pace and ready spirit. All this I too might have missed had I not been seeking- albeit anticipating- God’s respondent grace and presence. Grandma’s hard work in the garden wafted through her small home as she baked and canned the fruits of each day’s gifts. Receiving the present she also prepared for the future, when these would not be as easily gathered. Mindful also that nothing given should ever be wasted.

Indeed, there are so many indelible memories forever tied to the smells of my childhood spent with my Grandma. Sunday mornings brought an even more unique scent- as my Grandma readied herself for church service. Not accustomed to wearing makeup or perfume during the week, grandma was on this day a delightful combination of Ivory soap, Jergens lotion, Covergirl makeup and Emeraude perfume. How I loved this smell, so much so that I would take it all in as I cuddled close before church. Infused with the understanding that Sunday’s were intended to be special, she put forth her best for God.

Many years later I would smell that smell once again, over 1, 400 miles apart. Then 33 and in my third trimester I could not travel as she feel seriously ill this time. My heart was nonetheless with her, and almost without pause I found myself praying for her throughout the day.

“Lord let her know how very much I love her, let her know that though I cannot be there in person that I am truly beside her. If I could carry her as she carried me all these years, I would.”

God heard my prayer, and knew the close bond he had established between us would not end in death. Only moments before the phone rang, God gave me an otherwise inexplicable gift-my Grandmother visited me. In the shower, I suddenly and overwhelming experienced the all enveloping scent and presence of my Grandmother. It was all around me, permeating every space with love and memories. As tears of joy and grief streamed down my face, I said my goodbyes- for now, fully embracing the gift of being with her again. Profoundly aware that God was allowing me to experience this sacred moment of my Grandmother’s passing from this world to the next.

Then just as suddenly as she had come, she was gone. Though I tried to recover the scent for an instant, I knew that she was no longer there. As the phone rang, with my cousin who had been sitting with her in these last few moments on the line, I knew her words before they were spoken.

“Liz, Grandma just left us..”
“I know..she was here..and just left too.”

I then shared with her how I knew and the unbelievable love that I had felt in these last moments.Together we cried tears of joy for the gifts given to be with our grandmother all these years. Though eleven years have now passed- the fond memories of growing up through every season infused with the scent of her presence will forever remain, evidence of the world unseen .

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: 31 Days of St. Ignatius

31 Days with Saint IgnatiusThis month Loyola Press is inviting each of us to “discover the riches of Ignation Spirituality”  This celebration culminates on July 31st on the feast day of St. Ignatius. So please  join me along with other Catholic bloggers and authors these 31 days of St. Ignatius, for a month long Ignatian feast !

Today’s challenge:

What is it to truly fall in love? If not with the Author of love itself? Read the excerpt below and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and inner movements of gratitude for the gifts God has given. Afterwards ask yourself, Were there people or things that I had previously overlooked or even taken for granted in my day?

Fall in Love

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.

What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.

It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read,
whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in Love,
stay in love,
and it will decide everything.

 Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. (1907–1991)

Peace,

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