"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

St. Aidan of Lindisfarne, Bishop

Aidan lived not as a prince bishop but as a simple monk, with an austerity difficult for us to imagine. He gave away almost every gift he was given, simply because someone else needed it, and he insisted that others -- including King Oswald -- be just as generous. As Aidan grew older and found traveling on foot more difficult, Oswald gave him a horse from the royal stables.

Aidan was overjoyed, and rode out on his journey. A half mile down the road he saw a beggar and gave him the horse, elaborate saddle and bridle included, and then continued on foot. When Aidan returned, Oswald was furious, asking, "Why that particular horse? Couldn't you at least have asked for an ordinary horse to give the man?" Aidan retorted, "Do you care for for the child of a mare than for a child of God?" Oswald cast off his sword and knelt in repentance.

For more information on St. Aidan, see the article here.

Monday, August 29, 2005

"St. Bernard and the 12th Century" Class

Our Thursday night class at St. Vincent's Cathedral continues this week with the "new religiosity" of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the Cluniac movement and the rise of the Cistercian order. We will round out the evening with a fine reading from St. Bernard of Clairvaux. You do not need to have attended previous sessions to benefit and there are no books to purchase, so please feel free to join us this week. We meet at 7:30 PM in the school library every Thursday evening. St. Vincent's is located three blocks south of Airport Freeway on Forest Ridge in Bedford, Texas.

Pope Meets with Traditionalist Leader

Roman Catholic readers of this blog (and others) might find this story from the AP today of interest:

Pope Meets With Head of Lefebvre Movement, By NICOLE WINFIELD Associated Press Writer

Pope Benedict XVI met Monday with the head of the ultraconservative schismatic movement founded by the late Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and both sides said they had agreed to take steps to resolve their differences. Both the Vatican and Bishop Bernard Fellay, superior general of Lefebvre's Society of St. Pius X said the meeting was held in a spirit of love for the church. But the society has spurned previous efforts by the Vatican to bring it back into its fold.

Lefebvre founded the Switzerland-based society in 1969, opposed to the liberalizing reforms of the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council, particularly its call for Mass to be celebrated in local languages and not in Latin. He was excommunicated in 1988 after consecrating four bishops without Rome's consent and died in 1991. All four bishops, including Fellay, also were excommunicated.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the meeting was held with "a desire to arrive at perfect communion." "While knowing the difficulties, the desire to proceed by degrees and in reasonable time was shown," Navarro-Valls said in a statement. Fellay concurred, saying the two sides discussed the "serious difficulties" between them and had agreed to take steps to resolve them. "The Society of St. Pius X prays that the Holy Father can find the force to end the crisis of the Church by 'restoring all things in Christ,'" he said in a statement. The society claims about 450 priests, 180 seminarians and has a presence in 26 countries.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

An Important Early Step in "the Process"

Just a bit of personal news: Last night the vestry at St. Vincent's Cathedral, my home parish, endorsed my application for admission to postulancy. I was honored by their confidence in my meager abilities and by their kind words of support. My sincere thanks to any vestry members who may stop by to read my humble blog.

As some of you may know, I first began to sense a call to ordained ministry more than eight years ago. But my long sojourn in a doctoral program and temporary residence in the doctrinally unsound diocese of Chicago meant waiting until I returned home to Texas before formally beginning to "discern" whether or not I am called to the priestly office. I rejoice that the formal process is now underway. Thanks to all my friends for the prayers and support.

Next up--the diocesan Commission on Ministry!!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Father Lee Nelson Ordained

The Rev. Lee Nelson was ordained to the Sacred Order of Priests in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church yesterday at the parish of St. Laurence in Southlake, Texas. I am sure that all readers of this blog will join me in praying for his new ministry.

Canon John Heidt, the canon theologian of the diocese of Fort Worth, delivered a moving and thought-provoking sermon at the ordination service. Here is an excerpt:

There are only three things your priest can do that no-one else can do. He can take those little pieces of tasteless bread and small sips of wine and turn them into the body and blood of your God; in God’s name he can shower divine blessings upon you, and he can forgive you your sins.

At first this sounds great, but when you come to think of it, what are these things but lunacy at best and sacrilege at worst? With the ancient Jews we want to cry out, "This is blasphemy; who but God can forgive sins?" And we ask ourselves, how dare my priest think that only he can bless us when our own children say such a divine blessing before our family meals? And who but a superstitious charlatan or deranged magician can possibly think that he can turn bread and wine into God’s body and blood?

We ask our priest: "Who do you think you are, anyway, a little God, another Jesus Christ?" And, as hard as it may be to believe and more difficult to understand, the answer must always be a resounding yes. Your priest is another Christ, what we call an alter Christus. He is the local embodiment of the presence of God among you - an icon, a window into the court of heaven, a walking sacrament of Jesus Christ.

Today we are making Lee Nelson one of these walking sacraments. And I can tell you right now that he is not going to do a very good job of it. I know this, because none of us do a very good job of it. The outward sign is smeared by our sins; the vision is clouded, the window misted over. You are right to demand much of your priest but do not expect much in return. He has nothing to give you but God; nothing to do for you, but give you back to Him. His task is to place you upon the hard surface of God’s sacrificial altar, and then lead you in lifting up your hearts for God to see. For the world this will seem like not very much, but for us it is the gate of heaven and the way into the salvation of our souls.

The entire sermon may be found on the diocesan web site here.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Bernard of Clairvaux, Abbot

"Honor and glory are indeed due to God and to Him alone, but He will accept neither of them if they be not preserved in the honey of love. Love is sufficient of itself; it pleases by itself and on its own account. Love seeks no cause beyond itself and no fruit. It is its own fruit, its own enjoyment. I love because I love; I love that I may love. Love is a great thing provided it recurs to its beginning, returns to its origin, and draws always from that Fountain which is perpetually in flood. Of all the feelings and affections of the soul, love is the only one by which the creature, though not on equal terms, is able to respond to the Creator and to repay what it has received from Him. For when God loves us He desires nothing but to be loved. He loves for no other reason, indeed, than that He may be loved, knowing that by their love itself those who love Him are blessed. " St. Bernard of Clairvaux, Sermon 83.

I remind all readers in Tarrant County that our class at St. Vincent's Cathedral on St. Bernard begins this Thursday at 7:30PM. We will meet in the school library. Do please come!

"The light was now within them"

I have a large number of friends who are either in seminary, about to begin seminary, or have recently completed their training and have begun their full-time ministries. For them, I post these words from Pope Benedict's homily to seminarians yesterday:

"The seminary years are a time of preparing for mission. The Magi "departed for their own country" and most certainly bore witness to their encounter with the King of the Jews. You too, after your long, necessary program of seminary formation, will be sent forth as ministers of Christ; indeed, each of you will return as an "alter Christus." On their homeward journey, the Magi surely had to deal with dangers, weariness, disorientation, doubts. … The star was no longer there to guide them! The light was now within them. Their task was to guard and nourish it in the constant memory of Christ, of his Holy Face, of his ineffable Love. "

The entire homily may be found here.

Additionally, the pope addressed leaders from several other Christian communities on ecumenism (also covered by Zenit). I found this paragraph to be particularly interesting:

"What does it mean to restore the unity of all Christians? The Catholic Church has as her goal the full visible unity of the disciples of Christ, as defined by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in its various documents (cf. "Lumen Gentium," 8, 13; "Unitatis Redintegratio," 2, 4, etc.). This unity subsists, we are convinced, in the Catholic Church, without the possibility of ever being lost (cf. "Unitatis Redintegratio," 4). This does not, however, mean uniformity in all expressions of theology and spirituality, in liturgical forms and in discipline."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"On My Knees with My Face to the Rising Sun"

I commend for your edification and reading pleasure a fine new article by M.B. Hwang, "Orientation in the Eucharistic Prayers." Any thoughtful student of liturgical theology or the history of Christian worship will benefit from reading it.

Monday, August 15, 2005

A Sermon for the Feast of St. Mary the Virgin

This sermon delivered at St. Vincent's Cathedral Church, Bedford, Texas, on August 15, 2005:

The Church of Holy Wisdom was the crown jewel of Constantinople, the largest and grandest worship space in Christendom, and that evening it was packed with the faithful: men and women, young and old, soldiers and civilians—and most amazing of all, both eastern Orthodox and western Catholic Christians worshipping together for the first time in four hundred years. For centuries the armies of Islam had battered the Christian empire of Byzantium, inflicting defeat after defeat. Now the armies of the Sultan had the capital completely surrounded. What remained of the united Christian army of Byzantine troops and volunteers from Western Europe gathered to partake of our Lord’s precious Body and Blood one last time. It was the 28th of May 1453, and the Turks were at the city’s walls preparing a final assault. Everyone knew the fate of Constantinople would be sealed in the next few hours. They were making their peace with God.

After confessing their sins and sharing in the Blessed Sacrament, the city’s defenders processed out to take their place on the walls. But near the main gate, the army stopped to pray one last time in front of Constantinople’s holiest icon—the Hodigetria, “the Indicator of the Way.” For most of the last thousand years this image of Madonna and Child, believed to have been painted by St. Luke the Evangelist himself, had watched over those who came and went from the imperial city. The Akathistos, an ancient hymn praising the Blessed Virgin Mary, rang out from the troops gathered before the sacred image, their voices filling the streets: “Hail, you through whom Joy will shine forth! … Hail, you who carries Him who carries all! … Hail, you through whom the Creator becomes a Baby!” By dawn, most of the warriors who sang this hymn would perish. Their city would be in ruins.

For me the devotions of that final night in Constantinople exemplify the high esteem in which the medieval Church held the Blessed Virgin Mary. These men knew with virtual certainty that they would not see another sundown. They were engaged in a life-or-death struggle to preserve their culture and—as they saw it, the Christian faith—from annihilation. No doubt many thoughts went through their minds as they prepared to defend the walls. But almost to a man they chose to spend their last hours on earth worshipping the Living God and honoring to the mother of Christ. Why? What was it about the Virgin Mary that inspired such devotion?

Mary had, of course, been there from the beginning. When she freely chose to bear the Lord of creation in her own flesh, this young Jewish girl from Nazareth entered into a more intimate relationship with God than any human being had ever known. For a thousand years the Holy of Holies in the Temple had been the quintessential meeting place of the human and the Divine, but from the moment Mary uttered those fateful words, “Let it be to me according to thy word,” the spiritual landscape of the Universe had changed. Now God and Man actually became One within the Virgin’s womb. By God’s gracious will, Mary was able to give her Son the genuine humanity that would bear our sins on the cross and conquer death at the empty tomb. An indissoluble bond was forged between the mother and her divine Son, a bond so powerful that the nails that tore through Christ’s hands and feet on Calvary also pierced Mary’s soul like a sword. And yet as painful as watching her Son suffer on the cross must have been, Mary did not dissert him as so many disciples had. She remained at the foot of His cross alongside John, the disciple whom He loved.

“"Woman, behold, your son!" Jesus told to his mother as the end drew near. “Behold, your mother,” Christ implored St. John with His final breaths. A new family was born that hour at Calvary, when the apostle took Mary into his own home. And through the sacred Blood that was shed on that Judean hillside so long ago that family has today grown to countless millions. As you and I became children of our Father God by faith in His Son and the waters of baptism, we received an awesome Spirit of Adoption. Jesus Christ, the King of creation, became our Brother. And being our Brother, Christ wants to share His mother with us just as He did with St. John. Christ intends His Church to be one enormous, grace-filled, loving family. A hundred generations of Christians have looked to the Virgin Mary as the mother of that family.

That, of course, is what motivated the outpouring of love and devotion to the Blessed Virgin in Constantinople on that solemn night. Men who were about to offer the last, full measure of devotion for their country, their families, and their God opened their hearts and sang. They sang praises to their Creator and Redeemer, handing their souls over to Him as they prepared to enter eternity. And not surprisingly they turned to St. Mary, who was in a very real sense their mother, telling her of their love and their fears. They wanted to be comforted by her presence and her prayers, just as our Lord Jesus had undoubtedly been as a boy in Nazareth. Marian devotion is not primarily a matter of the intellect. It springs from deep in the heart. It is the Church as family, sons and daughters reaching out for Mary’s motherly embrace.

Of course, one must be careful to keep things in proper perspective. We must not allow anything to stand in the way of developing a close personal relationship with our Lord Jesus Himself. Some Christians in the past, for example, incorrectly perceived Christ as little more than a distant and pitiless Judge. They dared not approach such a dreadful Christ with their fears and their hopes but instead cultivated a relationship with kind and caring Mother Mary, trusting that her tender heart would receive their prayers and present them before the throne of Glory on their behalf. Surely even the Judge of Doomsday would listen to His Mother, wouldn’t He? This misguided theology promotes a flowering of devotion to St. Mary, but it also warps our relationship with the One who died for us and rose again--the One who is at once both our sovereign Lord and our loving Brother.

Of course, St. Mary would never wish to distract Christians from their devotion to Jesus. Nowhere in Holy Scripture does Mary vaunt herself. In fact, she is clearly uncomfortable when others call attention to the special grace God has conferred upon her. When the archangel Gabriel greets her at Nazareth with the title “Favored One,” for example, Mary is “greatly troubled at this saying.” In humility, she sees herself as nothing more than “the handmaid of the Lord,” or to put it more plainly, “the Lord’s servant girl.” After St. Elizabeth expresses wonder at receiving a visit from the “mother of my Lord” and prophesies that Mary is “blessed among women,” the Virgin responds by turning the attention away from herself and onto “God her Savior,” who “has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden” and “done great things” for her. Even when she acknowledges in her great hymn of praise that “all generations” will call her blessed, Mary takes no credit for herself. “Pay no attention to me,” she seems to say, “Look to the One who ‘exalts those of low degree,’ the God of Israel.”

The ancient icon before which the defenders of Constantinople stopped to pray that night was called “the Indicator of the Way” for good reason. It perfectly captured the humility of “the Lord’s servant girl” in wood and paint. The mother of our Lord looks out at the believer, cradling the infant Christ in her left arm. With her right hand Mary gestures to our Savior, who is the only Way to salvation. Her eyes seem to plead with us to turn our attention not to her, but to the One who is both her Son and her Lord. The image of mother and Child forms a unity, but it is a unity centered on Christ Jesus. This icon reminds us that we cannot see Christ for who He is in reality—truly human and truly divine—until we see His mother, the source of His humanity and first witness to His divinity. But St. Mary does not want us to fix our gaze on her. Her soul, indeed everything about her, wishes only to magnify our Lord.

The great Marian feast we celebrate tonight arose in late antiquity. It commemorates the Blessed Virgin’s entry into eternal glory after a life of faithful service to God. An ancient Tradition of the Church tells us that Mary received one final grace from God when her time on earth was complete: God gathered her to Himself in the fullness of her being, both body and soul, so that she might abide in glory with the One who is her Son and her Savior. During her lifetime, Mary had served as a sign of God’s “mercy on those who fear him from generation to generation.” By this final mystery she becomes a sign of hope for all humanity. Mary now participates forever in the kind of intimate fellowship with God that all the redeemed await with eager longing, body and soul enveloped in His Love.

Sacred Tradition does not tell us exactly how or where the “assumption” or “falling asleep” of Our Lady took place, and the Scriptures do not speak of it. The ancient and medieval Church considered this final blessing upon Mary to be a mystery beyond human comprehension and made no effort to explain exactly how someone’s body could be taken into Heaven. We are clearly not meant to understand the “mechanics” of Mary’s passing into the arms of her Creator and Redeemer.

To my knowledge, no church anywhere in the world has ever claimed to possess the Virgin Mary’s mortal remains. Considering the mania for collecting the relics of even little-known saints that gripped Europe in the Middle Ages, this is an astonishing fact. One would have expected bits and pieces of Mary to be scattered all over Christendom, becoming objects of great veneration with towering cathedrals built around them. There are no such relics. But isn’t it somehow fitting that we cannot even pay our respects at the grave of St. Mary the Virgin? The Lord’s servant girl who turned praise away from herself and offered it to the Savior God of Israel--the mother who even now directs our gaze away from herself and points us toward her Son—I doubt that Mary would want to be the center of that much attention. She sounds rather like some other mothers I know. “Oh, don’t trouble yourself about me. Now, have I told you about my Son? He’s simply wonderful. Please let me introduce you.”

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

CA parish has tentative victory vs. diocese

From The Associated Press today:

"A judge tentatively ruled Thursday that a Newport Beach parish that left the Episcopal Diocese in a dispute over a gay bishop's ordination is the rightful owner of its building and property. Superior Court Judge David Velasquez delayed a final decision until Monday, when he will hear more arguments. His initial ruling sided with attorneys for St. James Church in Newport Beach who argued that a lawsuit in which the Episcopal Diocese is seeking control of the property interfered with St. James parishioners' freedom of speech.

The judge said the church had initially demonstrated that "they are being sued for acts arising from ... their publicly expressed disagreement with the church's views concerning the consecration of homosexual clergy ... " He also found that the church owned the property and that it was not being held in "trust" for the diocese.The diocese contends that it is only trying to get its property back, and that the case has nothing to do with free speech. But the judge indicated it was unlikely the diocese would prevail in trial.

St. James announced it was placing itself under the jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in Uganda because of a rift over V. Gene Robinson - a gay priest in a relationship with another man - being elected bishop by the Diocese of New Hampshire."

Read the whole story here.

Friday, August 12, 2005

New Middle School Philosophy Course

As you may know, I am teaching a great deal more at St. Vincent's Cathedral School's middle school this year than I did last year. I will be teaching 8th grade American History and Latin II, and combined classes of 7th and 8th graders for Ethics and Introduction to Philosophy. I will also be teaching Old Testament and World Religions to the 6th graders. I am particularly excited about the new Philosophy course I have designed. We are using Jostein Gaarder's entertaining novel Sophie's World as our textbook. I recommend it for all readers 13 and up (though Gaarder displays a "philosophy is better than religion" bias at times). You can view the syllabus here.

The image left is Francesca's St. Augustine.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Another Amusing Quiz

Some of you seemed to enjoy the "theologian" quiz about which I posted a few weeks ago, so I thought I would let you know about another amusing site--"Christian Traditions Selector." (Thanks to Anglo-Catholic Ruminations for calling my attention to it.) Here were my results:

Rank Item Percent
1: Roman Catholic (100%)
2: Anglican/Episcopal/Church of England (84%)
3: Eastern Orthodox (80%)
4: Presbyterian/Reformed (62%)
5: Lutheran (60%)
6: Congregational/United Church of Christ (47%)
7: Baptist (Reformed/Particular/Calvinistic) (30%)
8: Church of Christ/Campbellite (25%)
9: Methodist/Wesleyan/Nazarene (20%)
10: Pentecostal/Charismatic/Assemblies of God (12%)
11: Seventh-Day Adventist (12%)
12: Baptist (non-Calvinistic)/Plymouth Brethren/Fundamentalist (10%)
13: Anabaptist (Mennonite/Quaker etc.) (8%)

No great shock in these results, I suppose. Naturally, the maker of this selector was equating "Anglican" with a more liberal version of my tradition than is found in the diocese of Fort Worth!

You can find the quiz yourself here.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Sunset in Bedford, Texas

This was the sunset as seen from my backyard this evening.

Hail Gladdening Light

Of His pure glory poured

Who is the Immortal Father, Heavenly Blest

Holiest Of Holies, Jesus Christ Our Lord

Now we are come to the sun’s hour of rest

The lights of evening ‘round us shine

We hymn the Father, Son and

Holy Spirit Divine

Worthiest art Thou, at all times to be sung

With undefiled tongue

Son of our God, Giver of life alone

Therefore, in all the world Thy glories Lord

Thine own

Phos Hilaron, translated by John Keble, 1834

The Transfiguration of our Lord

"And so on the mountain he showed his Apostles the glory of his divinity, concealed and hidden by his humanity. For they saw his face bright as lightning and his garments white as light. They saw two suns; one in the sky, as usual, and one unusually; one visible in the firmament and lighting the world, and one, his face, visible to them alone. His garments white as light showed that the glory of his divinity flooded from his whole body, and his light shone from all his members. For his flesh did not shine with splendor from without, like Moses, but the glory of his divinity flooded from him. His light dawned and was drawn together in him. Nor did it depart somewhere else and leave him, as if it came from another place and adorned him, nor was it for his use. And he did not display the whole depth of his glory, but only as much as the limits of their eyes could encompass.

‘And there appeared to them Moses and Elijah talking with him’. And the words that they said to him were such as these: they were thanking him that their words and those of all their fellow Prophets had been fulfilled by his coming. They offered him worship for the salvation which he had wrought for the human race; and that he had fulfilled in reality the mystery they had only sketched. There was joy for the Prophets and the Apostles by this ascent of the mountain. The Prophets rejoiced when they saw his humanity, which they had not known. The Apostles also rejoiced when they saw the glory of his divinity, which they had not known, and heard the voice of the Father bearing witness to his Son; and through this they recognized his incarnation, which was concealed from them. And the witness of the three was sealed by the Father’s voice and by Moses and Elijah, who stood by him like servants, and they looked to one another: the Prophets to the Apostles and the Apostles to the Prophets. There the authors of the old covenant saw the authors of the new. Holy Moses saw Simon the sanctified; the steward of the Father saw the administrator of the Son. The former divided the sea for the people to walk in the middle of the waves; the latter raised a tent for the building of the Church. The virgin of the old covenant saw the virgin of the new: Elijah and John; the one who mounted on the chariot of fire and the one who leaned on the breast of the flame. And the mountain became a type of the Church, and on it Jesus united the two covenants, which the Church received, and made known to us that he is the giver of the two. The one received his mysteries; the other revealed the glory of his works."

Ephrem the Syrian, On the Transfiguration 8-9. The image is Fra Angelico's fresco Transfiguration (1439-1443) in Cell 6, Convent of San Marco, Florence.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Codex Sinaiticus On-Line Soon

On Wednesday the BBC carried this superb news about one of the most important uncial manuscripts of the Greek Bible:

"A manuscript containing the oldest known Biblical New Testament in the world is set to enter the digital age and become accessible online.

A team of experts from the UK, Europe, Egypt and Russia is currently digitising the parchment known as the Codex Sinaiticus, believed originally to have been one of 50 copies of the scriptures commissioned by Roman Emperor Constantine after he converted to Christianity.

The Bible, which is currently in the British Library in London, dates from the 4th Century."

Read the entire story here.

Our hearts are restless until they kick some butt!

This Augustine action figure is just the ticket! It can be found at a very clever site, Philosophical Powers. They also feature Anselm and Aquinas figures. Collect them all!

"I shall continue to call back the wandering; I shall seek out the lost.

Even if the branches of the wood tear me in my search, I shall still force my way through every path. Inasmuch as the Lord, who drives me to this task by his fear, gives me strength, I shall go through everything."

Augustine, Sermon 46, 14

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

New Thursday Night Class at St. Vincent's

I will soon resume teaching my Thursday night "adult Christian education" class at St. Vincent's. This autumn we will focus on St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153). Bernard was one of the most influential theologians of the Middle Ages. He was also a highly regarded preacher. Few Christian thinkers have presented a more compelling vision of God's love than did Bernard. He was also a central figure in monastic reform and the preaching of the second Crusade. We will take a look at some of his most important theological writings and read a few of his best sermons. The course will begin on Thursday, August 25th, and last approximately six weeks. We will meet in the library at 7:30 PM, immediately following Mass in St. Mary's Chapel. No previous knowledge of Medieval thought is required, so if you are in the area please come!

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