Ad Limina Apostolorum (Blog) | St. Augustine's Library
Thursday, December 23, 2004

Augustine on the Goodness of the Corporeal Realm 

A very lively discussion on the paradisical state on Disputations (see here and here) ended up breaking into about thirty sub-discussions, one of which had myself and another commenter, Rob, in a lengthy discussion (really taking off about here) on the moral status of the material order, with Rob (as I read him) taking the position that the material order is, at least in part, culpable for sin. At the end of the day, I was asked to draw upon more resources than I could supply on short demand, so I asked my patient partner in dialogue for permission to continue the conversation here. Rob has rightly requested a greater degree of biblical/doctrinal support for my position, of which he prefers the biblical. I ask permission to get at the biblical through the doctrinal, since this would permit me a more logical arrangement of sources. I have chosen (as my readers might have guessed) to draw upon St. Augustine of Hippo as a partner in dialogue. In some of his anti-Manichaean writings, the doctor of grace, drawing exclusively from biblical sources in a masterful manner, defends his position far better than I could do myself. The position, as I am defining it, is that corporeality (or, 'materiality') is a subset of the created order, subsequently taken up in the Incarnation, and cannot thence be in any way held responsible for evil in the world.

A warning: Some of my quotes get a bit lengthy, but I ask for patience, which always bears fruit in reading Augustine.

First, St. Augustine establishes that the everything created by the all-good God is good, just as it was declared by Him to be good (Gen. 1:9, etc.). This includes, of course, the material and corporeal world, even man's body, which God fashioned from the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7):

The highest good, than which there is no higher, is God, and consequently He is unchangeable good, hence truly eternal and truly immortal. All other good things are only from Him . . . . since every nature, so far as it is nature, is good, it follows that no nature can exist save from the most high and true God . . . . Therefore . . . every corporeal entity, is from God. (On the Nature of the Good 1, emphasis added).

The material world, then, cannot be anything but good, unless it were created by another besides God; and matter, too, possesses its share of created beauty - measure, form and order:

For neither is that material, which the ancients called Hyle ['matter'], to be called an evil. For nobody can form and create corporeal beings but God alone; for neither are they created unless there subsist with them measure, form, and order, which I think that now even they themselves confess to be good things, and things that cannot be except from God . . . And because every good is from God, no one ought to doubt that even matter, if there is any, has its existence from God alone. (Ibid., 18)

According to St. Augustine, evil cannot arise from matter itself, or from anything that God created (which would make God responsible for evil), but rather from a 'corruption' or 'defect' in this created order:

When accordingly it is inquired, whence is evil, it must first be inquired, what is evil?, which is nothing else than corruption, either of the measure, or the form, or the order, that belong to nature. Nature therefore which has been corrupted, is called evil, for assuredly when incorrupt it is good; but even when corrupt, so far as it is nature it is good, so far as it is corrupted it is evil. (Ibid., 4, emphasis added).

No nature, therefore, as far as it is nature, is evil; but to each nature there is no evil except to be diminished in respect of good. But if by being diminished it should be consumed so that there is no good, no nature would be left. (Ibid., 17).

The decisive example of such 'corruption' is the moral corruption engendered by the free wills of creatures upon the created order, commonly known as 'sin.' Note that evil does not, then, arise from within the created order, but rather is violently inflicted upon it from without. The human body, then, is not to be viewed as something morally tainted, or even as unseemly; Augustine quotes St. Paul's use of the body as an analogy for the Church (hardly a good choice of metaphors, if the body were the cause of evil):

We deny that there is anything disgraceful in the bodies of saints. Some members, indeed, are called uncomely, because they have not so pleasing an appearance as those constantly in view. But attend to what the apostle says, when from the unity and harmony of the body he enjoins charity on the Church: "Much more those members of the body, which seem to be feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body." (1 Cor. 12:22-25). The licentious and intemperate use of those members is disgraceful, but not the members themselves. (Reply to Faustus the Manichaean 29.4, emphasis added)

St. Augustine also refers to the words of St. Paul elsewhere, which refer to a man's obligation to love his own body:

If you are blind to these things, hear at least the words of the apostle. . For the apostle, in speaking of the love which husbands ought to have for their wives gives, as an example, the love of the soul for the body. The words are: "He that loveth his wife, loveth himself: for no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ the Church" (Ephesians 5:28-29) . . . . See where the apostle begins, and to what he ascends. Consider, if you can, the greatness which creation derives from its Creator, embracing as it does the whole extent from the host of heaven down to flesh and blood, with the beauty of manifold form, and the order of successive gradations. Whoever, then, denies that our body and its members, which the apostle so approves and extols, are the handiwork of God, you see whom he contradicts, preaching contrary to what you have received. (Ibid., 21.6-9, emphasis added)

But we can go beyond creation in demonstrating the innate worthiness of the human body; for God took on a human body itself (even more, human flesh itself, as the Gospel of John's opening word remind us) to redeem us. St. Augustine, like the Gospel writers themselves, goes to great pains to press home that this was a true body, taken from among men, and not some illusory, pseudo-human body. There is, in fact, a great significance in God taking a body from among men, for it was men whom He wished to redeem; to paraphrase the well-known words of St. Irenaeus, 'God joined Himself to men, so that men could join themselves to God.' (or as St. John says, "Jesus Christ has come in the flesh" - John 4:2.) Just as importantly, what is at stake is the genuine veracity of the Incarnation. Without a doubt, Christ appeared to be a true man, having a human body as all men do (as all agree); if this were not true, if in fact His body only seemed to be like ours (the Docetist position) but was in fact quite different, then God would be responsible for deceit.

Who will venture to say that the Son of God could not, if He had pleased, have made for Himself a true human body in the same way as He did for Adam; for all things were made by Him? or who will deny that He who is the Almighty Son of the Almighty could, if He had chosen, have taken a body from a heavenly substance, or from air or vapor. . . Or, once more, if He had chosen to take a body of none of the material substances which He had made, but to create for Himself from nothing real flesh, as all things were created by Him from nothing, none of us will oppose this by saying that He could not have done it. The reason of our believing Him to have been born of the Virgin Mary, is not that He could not otherwise have appeared among men in a true body, but because it is so written in the Scripture, which we must believe in order to be Christians, or to be
saved. We believe, then, that Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, because it is so written in the Gospel; we believe that He died on the cross, because it is so written in the Gospel; we believe that both His birth and death were real, because the Gospel is no fiction. Why He chose to suffer all these things in a body taken from a woman is a matter known only to Himself. . . . But this may be confidently affirmed, that what took place was exactly as we are told in the Gospel narrative. . . . How can this infamous liar [Faustus the Manichee], who declares that Christ feigned death, expect to be believed? Did Christ utter falsehood when He said, "It behoves the Son of man to be killed, and to rise the third day?" And do you tell us to believe what you say, as if you utter no falsehoods? In that case, Peter was more truthful than Christ when he said to Him, "Be it far from Thee, Lord; this shall not be unto Thee;" for which it was said to him, "Get thee behind me, Satan" . . . . But that He feigned all the experiences of humanity is only your opinion in opposition to the Gospel. In reality, when the evangelist says that Jesus slept, that He was hungry, that He was thirsty, that He was sorrowful, or glad, and so on,-these things are all true in the sense of not being feigned, but actual experiences . . . . Still, the things are true; and the accurate narrative of them is intended to instruct whoever believes in Christ's gospel in the truth, not to delude him with falsehoods. (Ibid., 27.7-8)

If Christ deceived us about the nature of His body, making it seem a normal human body when it was not, then he was also deceptive about His resurrection body, of which He gave all appearances that it was tangible:

Hence also the marks which He showed to His doubting disciples must have been false; and Thomas was not assured by truth, but cheated by a lie, when he exclaimed, "My Lord, and my God." And yet you would have us believe that your tongue utters truth, though Christ's whole body was a falsehood. Our argument against you is, that the Christ you make is such that you cannot be His true disciples unless you too practise deceit (Ibid., 29.2)

But if Christ's resurrection was a true resurrection, then so too will ours be. St. Augustine dwells at length upon the words of St. Paul, which - although they affirm the great difference between the earthly and resurrection body - at the same time affirm that it is one and the same body.

[A]s St. Paul teaches: "It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body." To illustrate this distinction between the natural and the spiritual body, the apostle adds what I have quoted already about the first and the last Adam. Then he goes on: "But this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." And to explain what he means by flesh and blood, that it is not the bodily substance, but corruption, which will not enter into the resurrection of the just, he immediately says, "Neither shall corruption inherit incorruption." And in case any one should still suppose that it is not what is buried that is to rise again, but that it is as if one garment were laid aside and a better taken instead, he proceeds to show distinctly that the same body will be changed for the better, as the garments of Christ on the mount were not displaced, but transfigured: "Behold, I show you a mystery; we shall not all be changed, but we shall all rise." Then he shows who are to be changed: "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall rise incorruptible, and we shall be changed." And if it should be said that it is not as regards our mortal and corruptible body, but as regards our soul, that we are to be changed, it should be observed that the apostle is not speaking of the soul, but of the body, as is evident from the question he starts with: "But some one will say, How are the dead raised, and with what body do they come?" So also, in the conclusion of his argument, he leaves no doubt of what he is speaking: "This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality." (Ibid., 11, emphasis added)

Crucial here, as St. Augustine points out, is that the New Testament contains an ambiguous usage of the word 'flesh' (Greek sarx). 'Flesh' can sometimes refer to the corporeal body in general, as when Jesus says to His disciples, "Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have" (Luke 24:39). Or 'flesh' can refer specifically to the mortal and corruptible body which precedes the resurrection, which St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:50 shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. If 'flesh' means the same thing in both passages, then it follows that the resurrected Lord could not inherit the Kingdom of God, since He insists that He indeed has flesh (cf., Ibid., 12). The word 'flesh' can also take on an additional meaning in the New Testament, which has a particular moral meaning. St. Augustine references Romans 8:8 - "Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Now, as he points out (Ibid.), we cannot take 'flesh' in this passage in either of the two aforementioned senses, for then the passage would read that no one having a corporeal body could please God. This, of course, would include Christ, whom we have already demonstrated must have had a corporeal body; even if one claims (wrongly, I think) that His post-resurrection body was incorporeal, one would still have to admit that He only began pleasing God after the resurrection, and not before. Thus, we must admit an additional, moral meaning of the term 'flesh' - St. Augustine interprets it to mean living according to the things of the world, or 'preferring worldly goods.' It is in this sense that we must interpret passages such as John 6:63: 'The Spirit gives life, the flesh counts for nothing." To interpret them otherwise would be to denigrate God's creation and that which He has taken on in the Incarnation.

In summary, a theological position which would see materiality or corporeality as the source of sin seems to do violence both to the goodness of God's creation and the authenticity of the Incarnation.

# posted by Jamie : 1:33 PM


Benedict Groeschel's Christmas Letter 

As I approach Christmas many people are asking me how are you doing? I've decided that my stock answer is "for a guy that's supposed to be dead I'm doing absolutely marvelous." All of us tend at holiday time to look over the past and to be grateful to God for what we have received. When I recall that it was just a couple of weeks after Christmas last year that I went three times to the doorstep of death, I am very grateful. I'm not only grateful that I survived but that I recovered my senses, ability to think, to remember and to walk.

I've been praying to Our Lady of Lourdes through the intercession of St. Bernadette very particularly for recovery and it seems like the Lord is hearing those prayers. Thank you for all your prayers and kindliness to me during this difficult year.

May God bless you and your family during the coming year and may He bring peace to the world and healing to the Church.

Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, CF

Glad to hear the old codger's on the road to recovery. He should be in all of our prayers.

# posted by Jamie : 9:04 AM


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Liturgical Abuse of the Week Returns! 

A close friend of mine recently informed me that the pastor of his suburban parish occasionally invites the lay parish administrator to offer the homily in his stead. His reason, upon being asked, was that he was overstretched on Sundays (spread between three parishes) and lacked the energy to deliver multiple homilies.

Now in my past diocese I had the frequent experience of laypersons being invited to give 'reflections' or 'informative reports' in place of the priest's normal homily (a convenient way to dive in and out of the loopholes left in the liturgical canons), but these occasions were at least accompanied by an explanation that this was in place of the homily, rather than a proper homily. In the case currently in question, no such explanation was offered. When questioned about whether or not this practice was permissible, the priest replied that his Archbishop had given explicit permission.

Now, my knowledge of liturgical law is admittedly musty; and, of course, one of the first rules of liturgy is that the bishop is the 'first liturgist' in his diocese, and is generally given a pretty broad authority in liturgical matters. Experience teaches us not to be so hasty to jump to conclusions. So I did some consultation with some personal contacts in liturgical offices, and did some digging into sources myself, to find out whether or not this was in fact a breach of liturgical law.

Most recently, we have this from Redemptionis sacramentum:
64. The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself, 'should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson. In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a Priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate.'

65. It should be borne in mind that any previous norm that may have admitted non-ordained faithful to give the homily during the eucharistic celebration is to be considered abrogated by the norm of canon 767 §1. This practice is reprobated, so that it cannot be permitted to attain the force of custom.

66. The prohibition of the admission of laypersons to preach within the Mass applies also to seminarians, students of theological disciplines, and those who have assumed the function of those known as 'pastoral assistants'; nor is there to be any exception for any other kind of layperson, or group, or community, or association.
Referenced here is Can. 767 §1 of the Code of Canon Law:

The most important form of preaching is the homily, which is part of the liturgy, and is reserved to a priest or deacon. In the course of the liturgical year, the mysteries of faith and the rules of Christian living are to be expounded in the homily from the sacred text.
A second reference is to the Practical Provisions of the Instruction Ecclesiae de Mysterio, Article 3 §1:

The homily, therefore, during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, must be reserved to the sacred minister, Priest or Deacon to the exclusion of the non-ordained faithful, even if these should have responsibilities as 'pastoral assistants' or catechists in whatever type of community or group. This exclusion is not based on the preaching ability of sacred ministers nor their theological preparation, but on that function which is reserved to them in virtue of having received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. For the same reason the diocesan Bishop cannot validly dispense from the canonical norm since this is not merely a disciplinary law but one which touches upon the closely connected functions of teaching and sanctifying.
Cited also is a dubium from the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, which is available here only in Latin:

Can. 767, § 1 (cf. AAS, LXXIX, 1987,1249)

Patres Pontificiae Commissionis Codici Iuris Canonici Authhentice Interpretando proposito in plenario coetu die 26 maii 1987 dubio, quod sequitur, respondendum esse censuerunt ut infra:

D. « Utrum Episcopus dioecesanus dispensare valeat a praescripto can. 767, § 1, quo sacerdoti aut diacono homilia reservatur »

[My rough sight translation: 'Whether a diocesan bishop can validly dispense from the prescripts of can. 767 § 1, which reserves the homily to a priest or deacon?']

R. Negative.
What is left unclarified here is the precise definition of a homily. Lay preaching, surprisingly, has never been formally forbidden from laypersons; what is forbidden is the preaching of a homily, which is a particular and 'eminent form' of preaching (Ecclesiae Mysterio, Article 3 §1). Exactly what defines a homily is left somewhat nebulous in the legal texts, but there is a broad sense of consensus among canonists that three fundamental characteristics are constitutive of a homily: (1) he who delivers it - in this case, an ordained minister; (2) its content - the central mysteries of the faith, the guiding principles of the Christian life, based upon the sacred texts and the liturgical year (qua per anni liturgici cursum ex textu sacro fidei mysteria et normae vitae christianae exponuntia, Ibid.); and (3) its place in the liturgy - between the proclamation of the Gospel and the prayers of the faithful.

Therefore, if a layperson is permited to 'preach' (using the term in a generic sense), the content or placement of this preaching cannot possess the fundamental characteristics of a homily - i.e., bearing on the central mysteries of the faith, etc., or being positioned between the Gospel and the prayers of the faithful; if it does, then it becomes subject to the norms which govern homilies, including its being reserved to the ordained. And as has been outlined above, the diocesan ordinary has no authority to abrogate ecclesiastical law on this subject. Thus, while a bishop has a certain amount of discretion over the practice of lay preaching, broadly speaking - say, an informative report given before Mass begins, or a reflection given after communion - he has no discretion in the preaching of the homily, which is governed by the aforementioned provisions. All bishops, even the Bishop of Rome, has no authority to transgress the law of the Church.

# posted by Jamie : 3:33 PM


Monday, December 20, 2004

Hitler's Pope gets Humble Pie 

The Economist is reporting that John Cornwell, author of the infamous Hitler's Pope, has backpedaled on many of his charges. Cornwell now admits that his biography 'lacked balance':

"I would now argue," he says, "in the light of the debates and evidence following 'Hitler's Pope', that Pius XII had so little scope of action that it is impossible to judge the motives for his silence during the war, while Rome was under the heel of Mussolini and later occupied by the Germans."

From Professor Bainbridge via Gleeful Extremist via Jimmy Akin (these things make the rounds, don't they...)

# posted by Jamie : 8:46 AM


Thursday, December 16, 2004

One of the coolest sites I have seen on the web 

Just discovered 'The Text this Week': Lectionary, Scripture Study and Worship Links and Resources. Apparently the brainchild of a Methodist (?) laywoman with a background in liturgy and patristics and too much time on her hands. She cross-references the lectionary (of five churches) with Scripture passages, appropriate references and articles from the Fathers and modern theologians, art and literature, and even film. Granted, the webmaster would probably fall in a slightly different position on the doctrinal spectrum than myself or my readers, but one can't look a gift horse in the mouth. I can't think of a better homiletic resource. Maybe everyone else already knew about this site and just didn't tell me about it. Harumph.

# posted by Jamie : 1:33 PM


In the news... 

Fr. Richard McBrien on the role of Cardinal Bernardin's 'consistent life ethic' in the recent USCCB elections.

Archbishop Harry Flynn reports that, after his recent ad limina visit to the Vatican, he wasn't asked to change his policy of 'open invitation' to the Eucharistic table for the Rainbow Sash crowd, so, apparently, he feels no need to alter it. But Flynn knows who the real enemies of the faith are, those nefarious Legionaries of Christ, whom he has banned from his Archdiocese. The new USCCB vice president, of course, had a slightly different take on the whole rainbow sash movement.

Meanwhile, things are shaking up in preparation for the Apostolic Seminary Visitations next year.

# posted by Jamie : 11:59 AM


Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven
. (Ps. 85:10-11)

"Truth hath sprung out of the earth, and righteousness hath looked down from heaven. "Truth hath sprung out of the earth": Christ is born of a woman. The Son of God hath come forth of the flesh. What is truth? The Son of God. What is the earth? Flesh. Ask whence Christ was born, and thou seest that "Truth is sprung out of the earth." But the Truth which sprang out of the earth was before the earth, and by It the heaven and the earth were made: but in order that righteousness might look down from heaven, that is, in order that men might be justified by Divine grace, Truth was born of the Virgin Mary; that He might be able to offer a sacrifice to justify them, the sacrifice of suffering, the sacrifice of the Cross. And how could He offer a sacrifice for our sins, except He died? How could He die, except He received from us that wherein He might die; that is, unless He received from us mortal flesh, Christ could not have died: because the Word of God dieth not, Godhead dieth not, the Virtue and Wisdom of God doth not die. How should He offer a sacrifice, a healing victim, if He died not? How should He die, unless He clothed Himself with flesh? How should He put on flesh, except truth sprang out of the earth? (St. Augustine, Expositions on the Psalms 85.10)

# posted by Jamie : 8:44 AM


Monday, December 13, 2004

UPDATE: Adoremus Bulletin has published some observations on the recent meeting of the USCCB, with a focus on the election of Bishop Trautman as head of the Bishops' Committee on Liturgy.

# posted by Jamie : 1:26 PM


Thursday, December 09, 2004

Trautman and the new shape of the Bishops' Committee on Liturgy 

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam gives us an interview with Bishop Trautman of Erie, PA, recently elected as new Chair of the USCCB Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy, replacing Cardinal George. Trautman announces his priorities as securing the 'proclaimability' (apparently he means something like inculturation) and ecumenism of the texts.

We have to look not only at the accuracy of those texts but also to the proclaimability of those texts. Are we using expressions readily understood by Catholics today? That's so important. For example, in the lectionary right now, we talk about the kors of wheat. No one knows what that expression means.

The committee wants to be faithful to those principles (in the document Liturgiam Authenticam; principles which govern much of the translation process). They are in possession, they are normative. But we also need to help interpret and apply these principles to the new text coming to us.

We have to ponder also the ecumenical dimensions of liturgical texts. For the last 35 years we, with the Protestant tradition, have used the same liturgical texts. An example would be the Nicene Creed, the Apostle's Creed, the Holy, Holy, Holy, The Lamb of God. We've all used the same texts. Now that is being questioned because some of those texts are not translated according to (the Liturgiam Authenticam) document.

Trautman also gives us his picks for new committee members. Compared with the current committee, we'll have a few changes:

Axed: Archbishop Liscomb of Mobile, Bishop Smith of Trenton, Bishop Vigneron of Oakland (members); Bishop Sevilla of Yakima, Bishop DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, and Bishop Murry of Saint Thomas (consultants).

New: Bishop Braxton of Lake Charles, Bishop Ramirez of Las Cruces, Bishop Wcela of Rockville Centre (members), Bishop Curry of Los Angeles and Bishop Grosz of Buffalo (consultants).

Cardinal George, the former chair, has been downgraded to consultant (probably his request, given his new duties). Trautman does not give us the names of the 'theologians' and 'advisors' he has appointed. The Committee now has two Los Angeles bishops - Mahoney and his auxiliary, Curry - as consultants. Bishop Braxton is an African-American bishop, and speaks frequently on behalf of Black Catholics and the need for inculturation. Bishop Ramirez is obviously Hispanic, and has been a tireless advocate of social justice issues, especially those concerning immigration. Bishop Wcela had worked closely with Trautman before on USCCB Committees, where he helped lobby for an inclusive language version of the Psalms (an issue near and dear to Trautman's heart). Bishop Curry is actually Irish-born, and is known mostly for his scholarly work on Church-State relations. Bishop Grosz has close ties with the Ukrainian and other Eastern-rite churches, and was recently named diocesan administrator of Buffalo.

Related: 2002 piece about Trautman's history with the American liturgical movement.

# posted by Jamie : 10:44 AM


Extreme Catholic has a piece on Francis Cardinal George, the USCCB's new VP. I like his acceptance speech:

"I am grateful for the election - I suppose," said the cardinal when he stepped up to the podium.

# posted by Jamie : 10:07 AM


Annuntio vobis gaudium magna. Habemus episcopa! 

Effective immediately (6am today), Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, formerly President of the USCCB and Bishop of Belleville, is appointed Archbishop of Atlanta, Georgia. That Archdiocese's previous ordinary, Archbishop John F. Donoghue, made Episcopal Spine Alert headlines twice for extraordinary statements during CommunionGate 2004. Donoghue stepped down on August 19, at the ripe age of 75. The two will hold a press conference this afternoon at 1:30. What might have ordinary been an isolated, bureaucratic post at the USCCB shot Gregory into the international spotlight once the sex abuse scandals broke in 2004. This move, a significant 'promotion' in ecclesiastical circles, can be seen as a something of a Vatican endorsement of(or at least a reward for, sort of like a Purple Heart) his firm leadership during this turbulent period.

UPDATE: Word is that the Archdiocese plans to run a streaming video of their 1:30 ET Press Conference. Stay tuned. Vital episcopal stats from

At the same time, Msgr. Michael J. Bransfield (here greeting the Pope in 1994), previously rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., has been appointed bishop of Wheeling-Charleston. Bransfield succeeds Bishop Bernard W. Schmitt, who is similarly stepping down due to reaching the age limit. Schmitt had his own share of Episcopal Spine Alert headlines. I pray that our two new shepherds, vicars of the apostles and guardians of the faith of the Church, will have the courage and faith to match those whose offices they succeed.

UPDATE/RELATED: "Rev. Michael Bransfield named bishop of W.Va. diocese" (Timesleader). Vital episcopal stats at

UPDATE: Check out these pieces from last month (also via Extreme Catholic):

Poor Bishop Gregory: "I am looking forward to some downtime," said Gregory. "This episode has been so intense and so unrelenting that I just want some downtime for a while."

George on Gregory: Chicago's Cardinal Francis George says, "When this all hit in 2002, you saw the mettle of the man. He rose to the challenge. That will be what is most remembered. We are on target because he made the right choices. The bishops are grateful to him for the work he has done."

I love it that America Magazine's Thomas Reese specifically rejected the possibility of Gregory's being appointed Archbishop of Atlanta: "History's not on his side," said the Rev. Thomas Reese, editor of America magazine. "Most of the people who have been president of the bishops' conference have not been promoted afterward.

# posted by Jamie : 9:11 AM


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

We all would be immaculate 

Presiding at a special Mass marking the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of Mary's Immaculate Conception, Pope John Paul II said God "desires that, in Christ, we all would be holy and immaculate in love."

(via AMDG).

# posted by Jamie : 4:11 PM


Who knew? 

St. Bernard's Commentary on the Song of Songs is online!

# posted by Jamie : 3:24 PM


Prayer to Saint Augustine 

In the N. 47 - 24 November 2004 Edition of Vatican service L'Osservatore Romano, on the occasion of the Holy Father's November 11 reception of the relics of St. Augustine into his private chapel, on the occasion of the 1650th anniversary of St. Augustine's birth, published a beautiful prayer to St. Augustine. Since it is no longer available on the internet, I am taking the liberty (with the awareness that I am probably in flagrant violation of copyright laws) of posting it in full:

O great Augustine, our father and teacher
who knows the shining paths of God
and also the crooked paths of men,
we admired he marvels that divine Grace
has worked in you,
making you a passionate witness
to truth and goodness
at the service of your neighbor.

At the start of a new millennium
marked by the Cross of Christ,
teach us to read history
in the light of divine Providence,
which guides events to the
final encounter with the Father.

Guide us towards goals of peace,
kindling in our hearts your own desire
for the values upon which we,
with the strength that comes from God,
can build the 'city of Man'.

May the profound teaching that you drew,
with loving and patient study,
from the ever-living sources of Scripture
enlighten all who are tempted today
by alienating mirages.

May you obtain for them the courage
to set out on the way
towards that 'inner man' in whom the One
who alone can restore peace
to our restless hearts, awaits.

So many of our contemporaries seem to have
lost the hope of reaching,
admist the many conflicting ideologies,
the truth that they continue to yearn for
in the depths of their hearts.

Teach them never to give up their quest
in the certainty that, in the end,
their efforts will be rewarded
by the fulfilling encounter
with that supreme Truth,
who is the Source
of every created truth.

Lastly, O St. Augustine,
communicate to us too a spark
of that burning love for the Church
the Catholic mother of the Saints,
which sustained and gave life
to the efforts of your own long ministry.

Enable us, as we walk together under
the guidance of our legitimate Pastors,
to reach the glory of the heavenly Homeland
where, with all the Blesseds,
we can join in singing
the new and eternal Alleluia.

# posted by Jamie : 2:31 PM


Akin on the New Social Justice Compendium 

Jimmy Akin expresses some concerns about the newly-released Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. Akin points out that the Compendium was originally conceived of as a 'parallel' to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which may have some troubling implications:

The announcement of a social doctrine "Catechism" seemed to further the placing of "social teaching" (about which Jesus and the apostles had to say little) on the same level as dogmatic theology (on which they had to say much). Indeed, the very use of the word "catechism" was disturbing, as a catechism is intended to teach the basics of the faith, not just one area only contingently attached to the doctrines of the faith.

Akin finds, to his surprise, that the promulgation of the Compendium was somewhat 'dumbed down' in terms of solemnity and authority, with a 'tepid' endorsement by the Holy Father that, so to say, 'damns with faint praise', giving the impression that the Vatican has made a concerted attempt to 'downgrade' the Compendium, perhaps hoping that it be 'buried in silence.'

I share Akin's concern that the social teaching of the Church not be so readily equated with its moral and dogmatic teaching, which admittedly admit [yeah!] of a greater degree of solemnity. But this concern is balanced with another (which Jimmy certainly shares as well) that the Church's social teaching not be itself downgraded to the level of 'optional' or 'throw-away,' a hodgepodge of socioeconomic suggestions paperclipped to the Really Important Stuff (tm) like the Pope and the Sacraments and all that.

The idea that the Compendium would be a 'parallel' to the Catechism of the Catholic Church does strike one as a bit odd. First off, the Catechism itself contains a hefty package of social teachings itself, including everything from private property to ecology, lumped under the heading of the seventh commandment. One might wonder why this same material needs to be reproduced in a second document, if it is already covered in the first. But this is more intelligible, I think, if the Compendium is thought of not as a 'parallel' but as a 'supplement,' to expand and clarify material contained more summarily in the Catechism. We have plenty of 'supplemental' documents like this already in existence; the U.S. Bishops just finished their National Adult Catechism, expected to receive a recognitio from Rome shortly. The famous Baltimore Catechism, in fact, was nothing but a supplement to the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Cardinal Thun uses the words 'similar to [the Catechism], which he seems (or at least claims) to be paraphrasing from the Holy Father himself. And if the Compendium is a mere supplement to the Catechism, rather than a 'parallel,' then it would make sense of why its promulgation was accompanied by significantly less pomp and circumstance as that of the Catechism.

But the fact that the Catechism already contains the Church's social teaching, at least in summary form, brings up another point. It simply doesn't make sense to think of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as a collection of the Really Important Stuff - like hard, dogmatic teaching - with the Church's social thought playing the the ugly red-headed stepchild. If the Church's social teaching is included in the Catechism, then it is the Really Important Stuff as well, or at least integral to it. The Holy Father, in fact, when he first called for the creation of this Compendium in 1999, made the point that this document would (a) be an expansion of material already contained in the Catechism, and (b) be essential to the task of the new evangelization:

To this end, it would be very useful to have a compendium or approved synthesis of Catholic social doctrine, including a 'Catechism', which would show the connection between it and the new evangelization. The part which the Catechism of the Catholic Church devotes to this material, in its treatment of the seventh commandment of the Decalogue, could serve as the starting-point for such a 'Catechism of Catholic Social Doctrine'. Naturally, as in the case of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, such a synthesis would only formulate general principles, leaving their application to further treatment of the specific issues bound up with the different local situations. (Ecclesia in America, 54)

Even further, I would press the question of whether the Church's social teachings can be so easily separated from the Church's dogmatic and moral teachings. Is not the Church's social teaching not moral in its very essence (even if it rarely advances to the level of solemn, dogmatic statements about morality)? Is it not also a 'doctrine' in the fullest sense of the word? In fact, the Holy Father has claimed the Church's principles of social doctrine, as enunciated especially in Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum, "belong to the Church's doctrinal patrimony" (Centesimus Annus 3), constituting a "genuine doctrine" (5), and "an essential part of the Christian message" (5). John XXIII called it "an integral part of the Christian conception of life" (Statement on New Social Justice Compendium, Cardinal Martino (I know, I know, but at least give him the time of day) said, "When, in any way whatsoever, one loses the keen awareness that this Social Doctrine belongs to the Church's mission, Social Doctrine itself is manipulated, falling prey to various forms of ambiguity and partisan application."

In sum, I would agree that the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church cannot be thought of as a 'twin brother' of the Catechism, to be placed on an equal footing. It is clearly (?) intended to be a supplementary outworking of principles already contained in germ in the Catechism itself. Thus, it has significantly lessened authority, as was made clear in the somewhat ho-hum nature of its promulgation. But neither can we expurgate and isolate the Church's social doctrine, as contained both in the Compendium (which I have yet to read) and in the Catechism, as something utterly dispensible and second-rate vis-a-vis the Really Important Stuff.

In any case, I do look forward to reading the Compendium (someday), and in the meantime, look forward to Jimmy's initial reactions upon reading it.

UPDATE: Jimmy posts a [very] thorough response.

# posted by Jamie : 11:21 AM


That the Lord then was manifestly coming to His own things, and was sustaining them by means of that creation which is supported by Himself, and was making a recapitulation of that disobedience which had occurred in connection with a tree, through the obedience which was exhibited by Himself when He hung upon a tree, the effects also of that deception being done away with, by which that virgin Eve, who was already espoused to a man, was unhappily misled -- was happily announced, through means of the truth spoken by the angel to the Virgin Mary, who was also espoused to a man. For just as the former was led astray by the word of an angel, so that she fled from God when she had transgressed His word; so did the latter, by an angelic communication, receive the glad tidings that she should bear God, being obedient to His word. And if the former disobeyed God, the latter was persuaded to be obedient to God, in order that the Virgin Mary might become the advocate of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so is it rescued by a virgin; virginal disobedience having been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience. For in the same way the sin of the first created man receives amendment by the correction of the First-begotten, and the coming of the serpent is conquered by the harmlessness of the dove, those bonds being unloosed by which we had been fast bound to death.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, 5.19.1

# posted by Jamie : 9:19 AM


Fr. Bryce Sibley at Saintly Salmagundi just discovered an authenic recognitio for P.O.D. in the online Acronym Finder. He also points us to an article about himself in the Register. I liked this line:

"Father Sibley has taken it upon himself to be an example to men in general, as men being men," [a parishioners] adds. "He seems to be very sure of his masculinity and very proud of it."

Maybe the rabbit-hunting trip that Father is on today, avec falconry, is part and parcel of this masculinity.

But of course, being the Medieval aficinado that I am, this has to recall for me the declarations of more than a few synods:

We forbid hunting and fowling to all clerics; wherefore, let them not presume to keep dogs and birds for these purposes. (Lateran IV, can. 15)

They shall, moreover, at all times wear a becoming dress, both in and out of church; shall abstain from unlawful hunting, hawking, dancing, taverns, and gaines (Trent, Session 24, c. 12).

Of course, a full implementation of Trent would have to bring up that awkward 'taverns' clause. I'd love to see them implement that in a few countries off northern Europe. I wonder, incidentally, if a more recent reform council would have to ban 'rapping' from clerical activities. We might see the end of Fr. Stan Fortuna, the 'rapping monk.'

# posted by Jamie : 7:50 AM


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Mary Immaculate: Patroness of the United States 

"There is some irony in the choice of Mary Immaculate as our patroness. One of the hallmarks of our society is self-reliance, getting the job done on your own, being independent and doing things your own way. The meaning of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception is that Mary was always totally dependent on God, that her mission in life was given to her, and that she never did anything on her own but always did things God's way."

"Mary Immaculate is our patroness. She speaks to us of God's initiative in her life and ours; she witnesses to the primacy of grace in her life and ours. She tells us, proud of our own initiatives, to do it God's way."

# posted by Jamie : 1:37 PM


Monday, December 06, 2004

Tom Crowe at Domine, Non Sum Dignus reports back on his reading of City of God:

"[P]agan emporers and warriors of Rome's past did indeed at times enjoy success and successfully advance the empire; but Augustine argues that such was the reward due them since their purposes and goals were, at root, earthly. God therefore rendered to them that which they deserved. They did not enjoy the reward in the afterlife because they did not seek it."

"They did not enjoy the reward in the afterlife because they did not seek it.' Reminds me of the famous phrase of C. S. Lewis in The Great Divorce: "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done'."

"It had a purpose," Augustine says of the Roman Empire. That purpose, however, points upward and outward, far beyond the reaches of that earthly city. The purpose, in short, is to serve as a 'foil,' so that the citizens of the true Eternal City "could understand what love of their Heavenly Fatherland should be inspired by everlasting life." Augustine's City of God is a panacea for secular absolutism, as Augustine's 'political relativism' flattens any claims of finality that an earthly kingdom might dare to make. Its claims can only be 'temporal' in the fullest sense of that word. But, and I think it was Chesterton who pointed this out, it is precisely those who have abandoned this world, in order to live more fully in the next, who are able to love it most authentically. That is why the greatest works of charity on earth are carried out by those who care nothing for earth (think Mother Theresa here). Paradoxically, to hold your citizenship in this world, is to be powerless to reform it, or to see it as capable of anything better than it is. To hold your citizenship in God's Kingdom, in the end, is the only way to make that Kingdom come . . . "on earth as it is in heaven."

# posted by Jamie : 2:28 PM


Peeking through the Window 

The Ad Limina visit, after which this blog is named, is the obligatory report that each bishop is required to make, in person, every five years, to the Holy See. It gives a bishop the chance to report on the activities and status of his diocese to the Holy See, and, perhaps more importantly, to receive guidance from the Servant of the Servants of God. There is always a liturgical component - the 'visit' is technically a pilgrimage to the churches of Rome, especially to the tombs of Sts. Peter and Paul, usually involving masses at these churches - as well as an administrative component, as the bishops 'make the rounds' of the curial offices, receiving guidance and instruction from the various Congregations, both in groups and individually. In sum, the Ad Limina visit is both a potent theological sign of the Unity of the Church of Christ, and a fruitful means of mutually informative dialogue among her shepherds.

It confirms the origin of the ministry of the bishops in Christ and its visible source of unity in the service of St. Peter and his successors. It inspires new enthusiasm and new energy for carrying out the weighty and irreplaceable service of Shepherd of Flock, after the Heart of Christ the Good Shepherd.

In previous years the faithful received the fruits of these visits only indirectly; in recent years, with the rise of 'information age' bishops, the faithful have been fortunate enough to benefit from those bishops willing to share their experiences and photos on diocesan or personal webpages. This report, published last Friday by Archbishop Raymond L. Burke of St. Louis, is the most fantastic I have seen, both theologically and in terms of detailed information provided. Reports such as these provide a 'peek through the window' at the Holy See's concerns regarding Catholicism in the United States. There is always a certain 'slant' on the report, depending upon the particular bishop's interests and possible bias, but this can be taken into account.

With regard to Archbishop Burke's report, a number of understandable concerns fill out the conversations - the state of Catholic education in the United States and the Catholic identity of universities, abuses concerning the celebration of the Eucharist and the promotion of the Year of the Eucharist, the Church's response to the sexual abuse crisis, the Holy Father's teaching on nutrition and hydration, etc.

But the dominant theme during this year's visits, which seemed to dominate the conversations both with the Holy Father and with every curial office: Priests. The Priesthood. Priestly Formation. Priestly Ministry.
The Holy Father then spoke to us about the importance of our communion with our brother priests, our co-workers in the apostolic ministry, underlining the fraternal care of every priest, which must be ours. He reminded us that our unity with our priests has its origin in the ministry of St. Peter and, in turn, builds up the whole community in unity. In the same line, he reminded us of the affection and care which bishops must have for their seminarians and of the importance of a strong program for the promotion of priestly vocations. He asked that we institute a national day of prayer for priestly vocations. Care for seminarians and priests, he reminded us, means providing a sound seminary formation: growth in theological education, in holiness of life and in leadership, and in dedication to the service of the People of God. He stressed that it also means providing for the continuing or lifelong formation of the clergy. He noted the importance of sending young priests for further studies in order to enrich the life and ministry of all the priests and of all the faithful.

[Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re of Congregation for Bishops] also stressed the importance of the closeness of bishops to their priests, reminding us that we are father, brother, friend and Good Samaritan to the priests of our archdioceses and dioceses.

Cardinal [Zenon] Grocholewski [of the Congregation of Catholic Education] spoke strongly about the importance of seminary studies and priestly formation for the future of the Church. He reminded us that the bishop's most important work is the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and the care of seminarians. He expressed concern about the low number of seminarians in the United States and Western Europe, in comparison to other parts of the universal Church. He stressed the importance of the clear identity of the ordained priesthood, conferred with the Sacrament of Holy Orders, in relationship to the royal priesthood of all of the faithful, conferred with the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, for an effective apostolate of priestly vocations. He reminded us that the ordained priesthood is at the service of the other vocations. . . . he noted the need of a fundamental and systematic theological formation, in order that future priests will be reliable teachers and moral guides.
More priests, smarter priests, well-formed priests, faithful priests, priests in union with their bishops, priests with distinct sacerdotal identities. The unprecedented initiative to establish a national day of prayer for vocations, along with the well-publicized Year of the Eucharist, can both be seen as underlining the unique and irreplaceable role of the priest in the life of the Church. In the United States, where the last three years have seen an attack on the nature and identity of the priesthood of immense proportions, such a concern is nothing if not well-placed. The growing influence of well-educated, faithful Catholic laity within the Church has often been hailed, and rightly so. One can hardly imagine today's Catholic Church functioning at even quarter capacity without the assistance of these dedicated and committed laypersons. But, as is becoming all too clear, we can never forget that the lay vocation depends for its very life upon the sanctifying, teaching and governing ministries of the Church's ordained ministers. The ordained vocation is truly at the service of the lay vocation, which it animates and infuses with sanctifying life. If the future of the Church lies with the lay faithful, then it is all the more true that the future of the Church lies with the priest.

# posted by Jamie : 9:48 AM


What a way to wake up on a Monday 

A thought-provoking and insightful reflection on the implosion of the abortion-on-demand agenda in November....

"The [pro-choice] movement, some felt, has gone too far when it defends such gruesome procedures [as partial-birth abortion]. I am convinced that the negative reaction, for example, of some Catholic leaders to Senator Kerry's candidacy to the presidency was based on his opposition to banning this procedure."

"I am deeply struck by the number of thoughtful, progressive people who have been turned off to the pro-choice movement by the lack of adequate and clear expressions of respect for fetal life. [Such people] have felt forced to defend what appears to be an absolute right to abortion that brooks no consideration of other values - legal or moral. This often means a reluctance to even consider whether or not fetal life has value."

A prophetic challenge to the nation's Catholic bishops....

"[T]he nation's 300 Catholic bishops do not seem to take abortion seriously . . . If bishops really believed that abortion was murder, they would individually and collectively make far more sacrifices to ensure that abortions did not happen . . . It is clear that the amount of money spent on preventing abortions is very little. The bishops claim that abortion is the greatest moral issue of our time, that Catholics cannot vote for candidates who are pro-choice and that pro-choice Catholic legislators are committing a grave sin by supporting legal abortion. This is a weak rhetorical response to 'murder.' How can any bishop or parish priest justify spending one penny on anything discretionary rather than on helping the many women who would continue their pregnancies if they had the resources to bear and raise a child? No dinners, no business-class plane tickets, no vacations, no flowers on the altar as long as one penny is needed to prevent abortions."

All this from . . . Frances Kissling? That Francis Kissling? I need more sleep.

# posted by Jamie : 8:26 AM


Friday, December 03, 2004

A Cardinal Ratzinger Fan - And Proud of It! 

Ingatius Insight is featuring a two-part interview with Christopher Blosser, founder of the Cardinal RatzingerFan Club, and about a dozen other fantastic theological websites. Good interview, but perhaps I'm partial.

# posted by Jamie : 9:12 AM


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Year of the Eucharist 

"As two pieces of wax fused together make one, so he who receives holy communion is so united with Christ that Christ is in him and he is in Christ" (St. Cyril of Alexandria)

Always a bit late in the liturgical game (I just yesterday realized that we're no longer on the green breviary - doh!), I'm just now trying to get caught up on the Year of the Eucharist, of which we are now in the second month.

As far as Resources go, the USCCB Liturgy Office (trust me) has some truly fantastic resources, though Our Sunday Visitor also has some good materials. It's a wonderful spiritual initiative of the Holy Father's, and a great moment for deepening our understanding of this sacrament, both intellectually and spiritually, and I for one would hate for it to be wasted on me.

My personal goals:

1. Self-Catechesis: Read the Holy Father's Corpus Christi Homily, Apostolic Letter Mane Nobiscum Domine, and, Lord willing, Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia.

2. Devotion: Attend daily mass and visit our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament as often as possible, and make an act of spiritual communion when it is not possible.

3. Sabbath: Reflect more seriously on how I spend my Sundays, giving priority to preparation and thanksgiving for the Eucharist, and enjoying time with family and friends.

# posted by Jamie : 1:00 PM


This man and this woman are not, for each other, replaceable and substitutable individuals but are rather irreplaceable and non-substitutable persons.

Through their own free and self-determining choices, they have given to themselves and to one another a new kind of identity, and nothing they subsequently do can change this identity. They simply cannot unspouse themselves. They cannot make themselves to be ex-husbands and ex-wives any more than I can make myself to be an ex-father to the children whom I have begotten. I may be a bad father, a terrible father, but I am still my children's father. I may be a bad husband, a terrible husband, but I am still my wife's husband, and she is my wife.

Dr. William E. May, Marriage: the Rock on which the Family is Built, p. 21. (Thanks to Polish Prince for the reference.)

# posted by Jamie : 11:55 AM


A number of news outlets, secular and Catholic, have reported on the Holy Father's request to the American bishops to establish a National Day of Prayer for Priestly Vocations.

I finally found the full text of the ad limina address in question on the Vatican website, after a lengthy search:

An essential concern of responsible governance must also be to provide for the future. No one can deny that the decline in priestly vocations represents a stark challenge for the Church in the United States, and one that cannot be ignored or put off. The response to this challenge must be insistent prayer according to the Lord's command (cf. Mt 9:37-38), accompanied by a program of vocational promotion which branches out to every aspect of ecclesial life. Inasmuch as "the entire People of God is responsible for promoting vocations, and does so chiefly by persistent and humble prayer for vocations" (Ecclesia in America, 40), I would propose for your consideration that the Catholic community in your country annually set aside a national day of prayer for priestly vocations.

# posted by Jamie : 11:51 AM


Around the Blogosphere 

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam parodies Planned Parenthood's Christmas cards.

I read this book last year, and had mixed feelings about it. Its greatest value, for the Catholic, lies in the extent to which it lays bare the immense Catholic influence in Lewis' background and career. I mean, the Pope isn't surrounded by as many Catholic churchmen as Lewis was; every notable Catholic in England, from Waugh to Tolkein, could claim his friendship. Which makes even more inexplicable the curious fact that Lewis remained on the far side of the Tiber. And to this question, Pearce offers no satisfactory answer, except to blame his Ulster upbringing, which - I would agree with Hutchens here - is no answer at all. But the other value of Pearce's book is to show the extensive Catholic thought that bleeds into Lewis' works, consciously or no; if Lewis was not Catholic, he was far from being a Protestant. Even the Anglican communion couldn't hold him, and I don't think Hutchens grasps this fact adequately enough. But that's precisely his value, perhaps. Who was it who said that ecumenical initiatives between Catholics and Protestants could begin with the first five ecumenical councils, the ancient creeds, and the collected works of C. S. Lewis?

# posted by Jamie : 11:36 AM


Under the Patronage of
St. Augustine of Hippo

Contact me:

Ad Limina Apostolorum: An ecclesiastical term meaning a pilgrimage to the sepulchres of St. Peter and St. Paul at Rome, i.e., to the Basilica of the Prince of the Apostles and to the Basilica of St. Paul "outside the walls".

"Augustine of Hippo Refuting Heretic"
(illuminated manuscript,
13th century)

"Jamie . . .
I could kill you in three seconds.
-Bishop Sheridan

Books Recently Read or Currently Reading

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J. B. Schneewind's Invention of Autonomy: A History of Modern Moral Philosophy (reading)

Paul Hacker's Ego in Faith: Martin Luther and the Origins of Anthopocentric Religion (finished: 3 stars)

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