Thank You, Sioux City Deacons and Wives

A heartfelt thank you to the deacons, candidates, and wives of the diocese of Sioux City, Iowa for allowing me to serve them last week as retreat master for their annual retreat. It was held at St. Benedict’s Priory in Schuyler (pronounced SKY-ler), Nebraska, a wonderful place for such a retreat. Here is a photograph, courtesy of St. Benedict’s website.

Courtesy of St. Benedict's Center, Schuyler, NE

Courtesy of St. Benedict’s Center, Schuyler, NE

The photo below includes their Director, Deacon David Lopez, Ph.D. and comes courtesy of the Diocese of Sioux City.

Courtesy of Diocese of Sioux City, IA

Courtesy of Diocese of Sioux City, IA

 

I preached on the theme of faith and the various aspects of faith that I gleaned from our Holy Father’s encyclical Lumen Fidei and his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. 

The 76 some men and women were wonderfully attentive, and the fraternity enjoyed delightful. On Saturday evening, there was a social during which time many of the men shared the “highs and lows” of ministry. Many splendid stories were told that brought laughter and refreshment to all.

May they have many more years of fruitful diaconal ministry!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Thursday, 12th Week of Ordinary Time, Year I

Here is my homily from this morning. God bless all!

The last verse from today’s Gospel begs the question, “Do I hear God’s Word, the teachings of Jesus, as spoken with authority, or not?”

Indeed, it is easy for all of us who are here every day for early Mass to say we hear God’s Word and accept its authority, and perhaps you do. But what happens when the storms and difficulties of life hit and we are buffeted by wind and hail? Do we have that strong foundation that only faith can give to us? Do we remain in faith, or do we excuse ourselves and our  situations.

A great question for our lives, especially our moral lives. How easily do we become faithless when influenced by the forces of the world?

Jesus is telling us that only by listening to his word in faith, and responding to what we have heard will we have that solid  foundation upon which to build our lives. It is only our shared faith which will give us the ability to weather the storms of life. Yes, life can be difficult, and in those moments we need to be able to see the presence of God in the midst of the storm and it is only with faith can we see God’s presence. Faith marks the presence of God in our world. Faith casts a light on God’s ever-present love. Without faith, we are blind and darkness seems to overcome us.

Indeed, some listen to God’s Word without faith, without a response, and they recognize no authority in it. Others, in the listening, respond and build upon that Word, knowing its authority and call to obedience.

May we pray for one another this day, that we all grow in our shared faith, listen attentively to God’s authoritative Word, and assist each other in the difficulties of life.

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“I Identify as…..”

I read with consternation in recent days of what many consider newsworthy regarding the resignation of the NAACP chair in Spokane, and all the surrounding commentary. From what I can ascertain, Rachel Dolezai has said she “identifies” as a black woman although her parents and family accuse her of lying and are saying she has no African-American bloodline. So it begs the question, doesn’t it, of what is the “truth” regarding Ms. Dolezai’s racial heritage.

We will hear in the upcoming weeks, as long as this story is kept in the headlines, that the “truth” of one’s race will be that with which one wishes to “identify” which is another way of saying that one’s racial identity is subjectively determined. Others will say that racial identity is genetic or perhaps familial.

Why do I even comment on this today? Because it is just another predictable and deplorable effect of the relativization of the Truth. If we so completely buy into the philosophical idea that truth is relative to the individual’s perceptions and judgment, then not only will one’s sexual identity, gender, and race no longer be objectively verifiable, but truth in all things will not be verifiable in any manner. Indeed, as the philosophers would opine, we risk falling into solipsism, and as the theologians warn, we fall into the heresy of Gnosticism.

Consider this: If truth is relative, then our judicial system is irrelevant. No judge or jury will be able to sentence anyone, sanction anyone for violations of the law. To what would a witness swear if the truth is completely subjective? Who’s relatively defined truth would prevail? How can anything be proven “beyond reasonable doubt?”

My readers, perhaps the greatest heresy of modern times is Gnosticism, i.e., the belief that the truth lies is special knowledge given to a few, a belief that denies the incarnational aspects of Truth, and a belief that brings disunity and social entropy. Gnosticism is so prevalent. What we need is a return to a true understanding of the Incarnation and how we share in that incarnation. We must return to an understanding that there does exist something and someone out there greater than me and that greatness is a Person and that Person, whom we call God, determines what is true for he is Truth and he wishes to reveal that truth to us. It is this truth for which we search and find. It’s not us; it’s him. He is the Creator; we are the creatures made in his image.

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Archbishop Nienstedt resigns, Archbishop Hebda appointed Apostolic Administrator

Earlier today, Pope Francis accepted the resignations of Archbishop John Nienstedt and Auxiliary Bishop Lee Piche of the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. As you no doubt have heard in recent years, the archdiocese has been hurting due to sexual abuse perpetrated by priests of the archdiocese – abuse that may have occurred years ago as well as more recently – and the manner in which the archdiocese responded to these incidents.

I will not comment on all of this save to say that I truly pray for healing and peace for all involved.

Pope Francis also appointed today Archbishop Hebda, currently coadjutor bishop of Newark, New Jersey, as apostolic administrator until a new archbishop can be appointed. Archbishop Hebda and Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens will now serve the Church in the Twin Cities area.

Below is a link to the letter from Archbishop Hebda.

Hebda-With-Cross

Source: Letter from Archbishop Hebda

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 2015

Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless you all!

11th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle B

June 13/14, 20015

Ezekiel 17: 22-24; 2 Cor. 5: 6-10; Mk 4: 26-34

 “It shall put forth branches and bear fruit and become a majestic cedar. Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it and the shade of its boughs. I, the Lord, bring low the high tree and lift the lowly tree. As I, the Lord, have spoken, so will I do.” Ez 17:22-24

Where is the Church today? Is it a lowly tree being lifted high, or a high tree being brought low? Is it, as Ezekiel described, a young green tree full of life, or a withered one?

It seems like many people have many different opinions of the Church, lots of opinions, feelings and beliefs about who she is, what she is about, and what their relationship is and ought to be with the Catholic Church. Indeed, so many are attracted to her for a variety of reasons, and many seem repelled by her for a variety of reasons. Sadly, very few in today’s world understand her, or to say it differently, so many misunderstand who she is and what she is about.

The Church is ever young, and yet so very ancient. The Church is so full of life and activity, so full of spirit and she bears such wonderful fruit with her charitable works, her educational institutions, her advocacy for the unborn, the aged, the ill, and in so many other ways, yet she is wounded by the sin of her people, her members and so the Church to some is a withered useless tree best cut to the ground (and many are trying to do just that). For others though she is a tree in which they rest, live, and find refreshment, she is a magnificent community of believers who make up the Mystical Body of Christ, she is beautiful beyond description, and she is present in the smallest and most ordinary of places, hidden from view, always at work. She is humble and bold, holy and marred by sin, elegant yet commonplace, but she is the Kingdom of God!

My friends, the Church is the Kingdom of God, which Jesus proclaims in today’s Gospel. The Church is the high tree brought low at times, and the lowly tree raised high. She is the house of God, the dwelling place of the Most High. She is the People of God, you and me. She is the sheep of God’s flock, she is the Body of Christ, and we, all of us, must find our home in her, in her branches, under her boughs, sustained by her grace and the sacraments. We, the People of God, cannot live or love, grow or thrive in this world, and become who we were created to be, without her.

Yes, our home is the Church, the Body of Christ, the community of believers, this Kingdom of God which Jesus proclaimed. We find our home in this Kingdom, walking by faith and with great courage.

Jesus continually proclaims in the Gospel that the Kingdom of God has come, has suddenly been revealed in our lives, in our time, in our world. Just as in his day very people left Jesus and did not follow him because they did not understand his teaching, so too today so many misunderstand. Today, as in Jesus’ time, many would want to silence her voice outside of these church walls. Jesus tells us though that we must scatter the seeds of faith and truth in our society and world.

We must sow the seed of faith in our world today! We must scatter the seed of life, of love, of truth, of fidelity and obedience, of justice, the seed of the Gospel. Each and every day we must wake up, get up and go out to sow perhaps what may seem the smallest of seeds in every corner of our lives, in our families, in our parishes, in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods. We must trust God, wait and watch in faith. The harvest comes after we are gone. We must water and nurture what we sow. We must scatter everywhere and often.

My dear people, we must find a home, a place of refreshment in God’s Kingdom, always walking courageously by faith in our world today. We must proclaim Jesus Christ in his Church. We must walk with faith, always in love, in a world which rejects God’s Kingdom all too often.

To those who would silence her or crush her, I can only say that it is in the Church that I and so many others have encountered Jesus Christ, that it is only in the Catholic Church that I have been given the Eucharist, that it is in the Church that I have found peace and forgiveness, that it is in the Church that my life has meaning and purpose. These are the same gifts given to each of you. Let us embrace God’s Kingdom and scatter the seed of the Gospel always!

 

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Memorial of St. Barnabas, Apostle

St. Barnabas was a man from Jerusalem, sent by the twelve Apostles into Asia Minor to preach. He took with him St. Paul and accompanied him on his mission there. In Antioch, to which they traveled, the followers of Jesus were first called Christians.

It begs the question, “What is a Christian?”

Before the coming of our Lord Jesus, before Mary said, “yes” and conceived the Son of God in her womb, before Jesus lived, suffered, died, rose, ascended and with the Father sent us the gift of the Holy Spirit, those chosen people of God called themselves followers of the Law. After Jesus’ resurrection his followers called themselves, “Christians,” followers of Christ.

Indeed, the person of Christ took precedence over the Law. All the Apostles were clear about this: Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the Law, and it was knowing Jesus and the power flowing from his resurrection, that was paramount, not observance of the Law. Yes, the Law was glorious in its own right, but the glory of knowing and being in relationship with Jesus far outshone the fading glory of the Law. This was the great message of the Apostles which they preached and taught and largely died proclaiming.

A Christian is someone who follows Jesus Christ, knows him, and wants to tell others about him. All the laws follow from this and are subordinate to it.

Mind you, this does not diminish the law of God or the Church, for in truth, it magnifies that law and illuminates the law, and gives us freedom in obedience to the law. The law of God  and the Church give us life (not death), when we understand them in the light of the resurrection of Jesus and our knowledge and relationship with Him.

This is our great gift, from God and to others. Let us be ever so grateful. Let us go forth to share this gift with others.

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Random Thoughts

Again, many weeks actually have elapsed since my last original posting. I have been busy preparing to preach two retreats, the first in just a couple of weeks and the second later this summer. Both are rather major events, and I am excited to be ministering to my brother deacons and their wives in this way.

FullSizeRender
I have placed in my office a new icon. It’s presence is a constant reminder of who I serve in this life, and His watchful care and guidance throughout my day. A silent reminder, but speaking in a  manner that conveys a certain peace for which each of us search.

I have been thinking about three questions that were proposed to the deacon directors at their annual NADD convention in Minneapolis a short while ago, namely: 1. What do you work for? 2. What are you working toward? 3. With whom or in what do you rest and find leisure? Interesting questions. What motivates me to attend to the duties of my work life? Where is my work taking me? Do I find true leisure in life, and with whom or in what, and how is that different than mere “entertainment” or “diversion.” I guess the fourth question that needs asking is, “How do I integrate work and leisure in life?” This question is in contrast to the question so many ask, i.e., “How do I balance work and leisure?” The “balance question” is a treacherous one to ask because it invariably puts into opposition work and leisure, whereas the “integration question” leads one to consider their seamlessness, or at least trying to accomplish that. So many of us work just for a paycheck (as important, good and needed that may be) and we scarcely ask  ourselves what value(s) are being pursued in our work  (where is my work taking me). Far too many of us find “leisure” in distracting entertainment rather than in personal encounter and self-awareness.

With the continual drumbeat of news on the social front, especially regarding sexuality, gender and marriage, one has a hard time remaining hopeful for our society’s health and well-being. I am frankly amazed that so many so quickly have been misled and confused by faulty thinking and erroneous assumptions and ideas. To some extent I fault  our educational institutions for failing to teach students critical thinking skills, and how to recognize arguments lacking validity and conviction. I think we must fault the Church for falling short in her articulation of truth in a convincing manner comprehensible to the contemporary man and woman. Pope Francis has mastered this, and I hope with his leadership we turn this around.

Of course, we must not dismiss Satan and his influence throughout all of this. Not a fun thought, but an important one. How often do we pray for protection from his deceptions?

My hope is that today, each of you find a day of peace and rest. God bless all of you!

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Pope approves “abuse of office” proposals for bishops in sex abuse cases

On Monday, the Holy Father accepted the recommendations of Cardinal Sean O’Malley and others whom he, Pope Francis, charged with the responsibility to advise him of needed changes in response to bishops fail to fulfill their episcopal responsibilities when dealing with clerics in their dioceses who have committed the crime of child sexual abuse.

I have provided you a link below that will take you to a short article describing the changes that are to be implemented.

Let us pray that our Holy Father continue to receive wise counsel and make needed decisions in responding to these crimes within the Church, and in reaching out to those victimize.

Source: Pope approves “abuse of office” proposals for bishops in sex abuse cases

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Quote for the Day

“We are called to depth of heart, breadth of vision, and integrity of action.” — Michelle L’Allier, OSF

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Quote for the Day

“It never pays to become discouraged at the faults of others or at our own.” — Venerable Solanus Casey, OFM Cap.

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Trinity Sunday, Cycle B, 2015

Here is my homily for this weekend. God bless each of you!

Trinity Sunday, Cycle B

May 30/31, 2015

 Dt. 4: 32-34, 39-40; Rom 8:14-17; Mt 28: 16-20

The central mystery of our Christian faith is the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. God, the only God, the one God, who is three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is the Trinity, and the revelation of the Trinity by God himself through the life, death, resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit that is the core of all we believe as Catholic Christians.

God is one, one God, the only God, infinitely perfect, infinitely pure, infinitely just, eternal, the complete Truth, without division or defect, God without beginning or end, who knows all, understands all, God who is pure Love. He is incomparable. He has no equal. He is everywhere at all times. He is brilliantly beautiful. This is the same God of whom Moses spoke in our first reading today:

Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live?This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and the earth below and there is no other.

 Yet, God is three as we heard in our second reading from St. Paul, and in our Gospel today. For St. Paul told us that God the Spirit enlightens us to recognize God the Father, Abba, and glorifies us in God the Son, Jesus; and Jesus told his disciples in the Gospel to go and baptize in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Notice he said name not names. One God, three Persons.

Yes, one God, three divine Persons. One divine nature, one divine will, all three persons acting together as one divine Being.

This God, who is both One and Three, and possesses all these attributes is the same God who dwells in you by the grace of your baptism. He is the same God who, as Moses said, now calls you to live your lives always aware of this relationship you have with Him, always conscious that wherever you are, whatever you do, God is there, the mighty eternal amazingly beautiful and awesome and powerful God, is right there each and every moment telling you to not be afraid to do what He asks and demands.

 We are called into the relationship with the Trinity. This is what we learn if we contemplate the Holy Trinity. We are called into a relationship , an intimate relationship with God himself! God never leaves us alone and we cannot flee him. This is why we so very much need each other and the Church, why we need family, why we need God. We were created to be in relationship with God, the triune God, who is himself a perfect relationship of Father, Son and Spirit.

Why is it today more and more of us think we do not need to be in Church, we don’t need each other to know God or worship Him? We cannot live in love, or thrive in life, without each other to sustain each other and to love each other. Just as God the Father never does anything without God the Son and God the Spirit, for indeed they, though three Persons are one God and act in complete unity, so too we must not act as lone rangers in our lives. We must not live as if we are only individuals and relate only to ourselves. No, we are one with each other. We desperately need each other. We must act together as on Body in Jesus Christ.

Just as the Father is always and completely a father to us, always and at each moment fathering us, so too the Son is always one with us in our human struggles to teach us how to be united to him and to follow him as true sons and daughters of God, and so too the Spirit, sent by the Father and the Son into our lives at baptism and confirmation, draws us up into the love who is God and enables us to be in relationship with the very nature of God.

Yes, the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central Christian mystery. No one can understand it with reason alone. Only God knows himself as he is. We only know what he has revealed to us about him, and he has revealed to us that he is One God in three divine Persons. Not only that, but he has sent the Spirit into our lives to draw us up into an intimate relationship with him. Only Divine Love could draw us into this relationship with the Trinity, because without God’s love in the Spirit we would be far too afraid to come close. We would hide in fear. But God sends us his love in the power of the Holy Spirit who always says to us, “Be not afraid!”

We are to live in these mysteries. Our lives are to be swallowed up, you might say, by the Holy Trinity. Our lives are to become one with God.

May God the Father protect you!

May God the Son walk with you!

May God the Holy Spirit inspire you to newness of life!

May the blessings of God remain with you always!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Thursday, 8th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I

Here is my homily from this morning’s Mass. God bless!

I fell in love with the Book of Sirach, which we are reading this week as our first reading at Mass, back in my freshman year in college. Back then, I was required to read the whole Bible from front to back as part of a full-year scripture course. I came to Sirach, which I had never read before, and I loved it.

In Sirach we hear described in so many wonderful ways who God is and how he acts in the world. Beautiful descriptions of God and his working in the world. It gives us the opportunity to contemplate, to reflect, on what we know about God.

Of course we think of God as the Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit, and we will be hearing about him in that way this Sunday as we celebrate Trinity Sunday, but what else has God revealed about himself?

God is one. There is only one God, there is no other. God is perfect unity. God is perfect balance. God knows all and is everywhere. We may try to evade God’s presence but we can’t. No matter where we may be, God is there. God is pure spirit. God has no defect or error. God is the Truth. God is pure Love. God is so much more than these attributes. No one cannot understand God, only God himself. We know only what he has revealed to us.

This is the same God who lives in you! The God of the universe lives in you! In the fullness of time, and with great love, he chose to become man to further reveal to us who he is and to draw us to him in an intimate relationship. God wanted to touch us as a man and forgive us and bring us into communion with him.

My friends, I think it is good for us to take the time today, maybe for just five or ten minutes, to sit back and think of God, and how he loves us and lives in us and wants us to become like him.

God lives in you! The God who is so much greater and different than us, the all-powerful Divine Being, the Triune God, lives in you! He brings you to himself!

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Random Thoughts as we enter Ordinary Time

Well, I just prayed Vespers for Pentecost. That means I have entered Ordinary Time, as have all of you who similarly have prayed the Office. For those of you who love the Easter season and do not want it to end, you can extend it a few hours, if you would like, you know like until about 7:30 pm your time. You really shouldn’t pray Vespers later though so as to drain the last few drops of Easter joy from the season!

I don’t know, but I rather like Ordinary Time. The Old Testament readings in the Office and at Mass, the “greenness” such a sign of life, and the breadth of the Gospel readings for Mass that challenge me as a preacher. Yeah, Ordinary Time is okay.

Moving on….. I was privileged to attend yesterday the wedding of the daughter of a good deacon friend of mine in Rochester, Minnesota. I kid you not, there were four priests on the altar, a deacon, a couple of other priests in the congregation, and four other deacons in attendance. Plenty of clergy. The couple was richly blessed in that way. The liturgy was excellent, the homily engaging, the conversation afterward rejuvenating. It is always so good to be with brother deacons, especially in liturgy and in celebration. I was able to meet and laugh with a deacon from the Diocese of Green Bay who boldly proclaimed the Gospel at the Mass and equally boldly kept us mutually in laughter at the reception. Good stuff all around. I always find it so remarkable that we deacons have common struggles and joys regardless of our dioceses or our assignments. Proved true yesterday.

I was wondering at 9:30 am Mass today, as I was being deacon in the sanctuary moving about in my activity, “How does one enliven a parish.? What brings newness of life to a community?” I don’t have a facile answer, although I keep going back to the idea of improved preaching. The beginning seems to me to always lay in the preaching of the Word to hopefully open ears, followed only then by the Eucharist. This is how the liturgy itself is structured, is it not? So I ask myself, “How much of ministry do we structure in the same way? What do we first give the people? Is it the Word? Or is it bread?”

Moving on again, I am anxiously awaiting the printing of the Josephinum Diaconal Review (JDR) for a couple of reasons: 1) my article entitled, The Diaconal Call to a Spiritual Martyrdom, will be finally published, and 2) I can begin to use the JDR for continuing education purposes for our diaconal community in the diocese. It will be filled with quality articles on the diaconate from noted persons throughout the world. If you haven’t subscribed, do so soon. Log on to the Pontifical College Josephinum and click on the JDR tab.

More thoughts will quickly follow. Until then, God bless!

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Deacon Bob’s Homily for Thursday, Seventh Week of Easter, 2015

Here is my homily from this morning’s early Mass. God bless each of you!

St. Paul says today, in our first reading, “I am on trial for my hope in the resurrection.” How many of us  here this morning would be convicted of this charge should we be on trial for it? Indeed, it is the resurrection of Jesus from the dead that is the central piece of the Gospel, the core preaching of deacons, priests and bishops. It is the resurrection and the call to conversion, to union with him.

When Jesus rose from the dead, it was a mighty earthquake of sorts. His resurrection shook the very foundations of the world. It was an event that was so pivotal that the Apostles couldn’t help but preach to the whole world that Jesus was the Son of God who had come into the world, saved it by his cross and resurrection, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father, and that there is no other way for anyone to be saved but through Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and by baptism into his body the Church.

Just as we heard also today in the Gospel, a portion of Jesus’ great prayer to the Father before his Passion, just as we heard that Jesus and the Father were one in the power of the Holy Spirit, one in the Father’s love, so too are we now one with Jesus by our baptism. We are one with God. We have been incorporated as members of his very Body, so much so that wherever Jesus is, so are we! Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father, and so are we in a certain sense. Jesus is here on this earth, in his Mystical Body the Church, and  so are we. We are one with Jesus, and the Spirit, and the Father. We have been drawn up into the Trinitarian life.

If we could only truly begin to grasp this! If we could only begin to wrap our minds around this mystery! We are one with God by virtue of our baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit. There is no other name in heaven or earth by which we can be saved… only Jesus through his Body, the Church. No other way; no other name. Only by knowing Jesus Christ!

Yes, we must come to know Jesus! We must, as the theologians would say, encounter Jesus. To know Jesus is to open for us the gates of heaven.

When we come to know him, then, my friends, then we must go out there and live as he has commanded us to live. Then, my friends, we will experience what Jesus told us, “My commandments are not burdensome.” Then, only after knowing Jesus, will we be be able to live the Church’s moral life with its obligations and live it well.

Know Jesus! Be one with him! Live then well!

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Quote for the Day

“Praised by you, my Lord, through Sister Water, so very useful and humble, precious and chaste.” —  St. Francis of Assisi

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