Easter weirdness

From a reader:

My wife and I attended the Easter vigil last night and while it was
well done for a NO Mass, I still rankled at few bits. Today, Sunday
morning, I was not able to attend at our usual parish, but instead
went to Saint M______. It is a fairly small, rural, New Jersey parish in the dioceses of Trenton.

I was greeted by a 6’+ tall nun, dressed like a Roman priest, complete with stole. When I entered the church, the din was so loud that it reminded me of a sporting event. No one was paying the slightest attention to the altar, statues, or the like.

Finally, a lay person greeted everyone, told us to hug our neighbors and introduce ourselves, and then led the congregation in a round of applause for being in church. The processional hymn was a very lively number that was accompanied by piano, trumpet, and tambourine. The musicians were actually quite good and under other circumstance, would have been enjoyable; just odd to hear them in church.

I had trouble following the Mass, as it seemed pretty well “adjusted” by the priest. Not sure where some of the readings and responses came from. The homily focused on God’s love and how everyone would be saved, regardless of belief. Even the consecration was also to a large extent ad libbed and no one knelt at any point. In fact, the folding chairs were placed such that sort of pushing my neighbors out of the way, it was not possible to do so.

The Mass ended with Father calling for and receiving round after round of applause for various people and groups.

Since I’ve only been a Catholic for a year this Easter, my exposure to things like this has been limited. It certainly gave me a new
appreciation for my parish, warts and all
. It may not be perfect or even close to traditional, but it is far more “orthodox” in practice than this.

Like Joni Mitchell said, you have greater appreciation for what you have lost, even if it wasn’t perfect, after you don’t have it anymore.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Christo et Ecclesiae says:

    Regarding the large nun-priest…

    I attended a church once where all the altar servers (who had donned albs) were wearing green stoles. Apparently the priest had blessed them and they wore them in honor of their church that was closing. Regardless, the last thing you want are altar servers confusedly looking like priests in the sanctuary. Perhaps people just find them as “appropriate to the mass” rather than to the priesthood. Odd.

  2. GordonB says:

    Easter Vigil at the parish I attended was ok, except during the “second” reading–technically the third reading from Exodus, it was sung in a blend of the reading and a responsorial where, at various times, the congregation would join singing “sing a song of freedom… horse and chariot are cast into the sea” and then there was no responsorial psalm at all– we just moved into the next reading.

  3. jarhead462 says:

    Get the Priest a “Say the Black Do the Red” Mug!
    I will pray for that parish, I think they need it.
    Or we can get Some kind of Liturgical S.W.A.T. team to go in by helicopter, and fix it by force ;)

    Semper Fi!

  4. Random Walk says:

    That is… weird.

    I thought our little parish was strange enough (with only the banners being covered, then uncovered at the apex of the Vigil), and the baptisms (we have quite a few each year) accompanied by music IMHO more appropriate to a Baptist revival… oh, and the Vigil was bi-lingual (English/Spanish – though the closing hymn did have its refrain in Latin).

    OTOH, at least I can explain a good chunk of why things in my parish are a bit ‘off’, mostly due to our incredibly small building size (room for maybe 400 when packed, no free-standing statues/icons at all except the crucifix and the stations, the parish office is actually a trailer, etc) and the fact that we have a very large Hispanic population (which explains why the Vigil was in two common languages).

    No idea at all how one can explain what the reader in the article put up with, though… and I’m not really sure I would have stayed, myself (I would have thought I had accidentally walked into an Episcopal or Unitarian service in his/her case… :/ ).

  5. tealady24 says:

    This is why my husband and I do not attend NO masses anymore! I would have left after walking in and being in the midst of all that din! What was going on there is anybody’s guess and they need our prayers to set them right! It amazes me that this is allowed by the bishop; I lived many, many years in the Diocese of Trenton and went to beautiful churches in Lakewood, which I miss to this day.
    For now we go to a simple little church in Greeley, PA where the Latin mass is said. We are there for adoration, praise and thanksgiving, reparation for our sins (the priest is available before mass each week for confession), and to implore God’s graces for our salvation.
    Yesterday, we had an almost overflow crowd, praise the Lord!

  6. tjvigg3 says:

    I would suggest that you write a respectful, short and very accurate letter with specifics of the liturigcal and doctrinal abuses you encountered and send it to Bishop O’Connell. You will get results.

  7. Winfield says:

    Although the 9:30 AM Easter Mass at our parish was packed, with overflow crowds in an adjacent room watching on closed-circuit TV, by eliminating the sequence hymn and the sprinkling with holy water following the renewal of our baptismal vows, the use of six or eight extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and a five-minute sermon, the Mass last 50 minutes start-to-finish. We were back in our home one hour after Mass began. It was faster even than Mass on other Sundays, which normally lasts about an hour with far fewer people in the pews. I wish we had been treated to the sung Roman Canon (never heard it at this parish), incense, and a liturgy with no parts omitted. Our priest is certainly orthodox in his sermons and says a dignified Mass, and for that I am grateful.

  8. James Joseph says:

    I suppose if it helps my fellow readers out, I can let them know that nothing infuriates me more than going to the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. (Well… nothing except the “Renewal” of Baptismal vows, and the whole it’s not the Eucharist on Good Friday… it’s only bread so all can recieve alla Bishop Braga)

    By the time my fury is cooled, it is Sunday again!

    I only go because Jesus is there… …Oh! Sweet-death where are you? You mean I gotta’ do this week in and week out until I’m old and dead? Or at least until the 1920 Typical Edition is freed-from bondage.

    How come I don’t just go to one of the local Melkite, Maronite, Coptic, Gheez, Malankara, et cetra ad nauseum parishes that are already loaded with former Roman Rite Catholics?


  9. SQ says:

    @ GordonB: I guess we attend the same parish! I especially hate that the singers/readers add words at the end (I’m pretty sure there’s a Biblical condemnation against adding to Scripture).

    But we do have that awesome new crucifix. A real one with a recognizable corpus and everything! And that is something to be thankful for… a sign of good things to come for our parish. I hope.

  10. Tina in Ashburn says:

    My sympathies to the newbie-Catholic writer who endured such suffering in a place where there should have been comfort, refreshment and strength.

  11. BLB Oregon says:

    “Easter Vigil at the parish I attended was ok, except during the “second” reading–technically the third reading from Exodus, it was sung in a blend of the reading and a responsorial where, at various times, the congregation would join singing “sing a song of freedom… horse and chariot are cast into the sea” and then there was no responsorial psalm at all– we just moved into the next reading.” –Gordon B

    Was that something some “Martha Stewart” of liturgists thought up and put in a “Your Easter Vigil Liturgy: How to Keep ‘Em Awake” piece? They did something like that at our parish, which is usually stays within the lines, or at least doesn’t cross them.

    It was sooo close to being right at our place. The reader got to the last lines, “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: I will sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant; horse and chariot he has cast into the sea”, but the choir stepped on his lines by pre-arrangement, putting in a responsorial “song” for those last lines. (The song had the appropriate words for the psalm, but in contemporary melody instead of chant.) Only when the responsorial was over did the lector announce “The Word of the Lord”, get the congregational response, and leave the ambo.

    I have not had a chance to find the members of the liturgy committee to ask what they were thinking by pulling that one. The group is far too competent for it to have been a mistake, though.

  12. APX says:

    When I entered the church, the din was so loud that it reminded me of a sporting event.
    That was a similar occurance at my Easter Vigil which started while there was a hockey game in over-time still going on. The man in my pew, as well as the two men sitting behind me were very vocal about how they were missing the game. One of the men behind me realized he could get the score on his cell phone, so he started chronically checking the score on his iPhone and giving updates until the game was over. (FYI: the light emitted by your cell phone in the dark is very distracting and blatantly obvious you’re not paying attention.)

    When it got to all the readings, the priest told us that it was “story time” and that we should “just sit back and relax, loosen your ties, and get comfortable because we’re going to be [there] for awhile.”

    When we got to the Litany of the Saints it was the OCP John Becker song version rather than being sung in the most common Gregorian Chant. It didn’t even sound like the Litany of the Saints.

    After the baptisms we were told to extinguish our candles because now we were “going to get wet” at which someone belted out laughing really really loudly. Like awkward moment loudness. We then had, not the “sprinkling” of water, but the left-handed backhanded flinging of water by the laughing deacon while the choir sang “Rain Down”.

    By that point I was almost in tears and it just went downhill from there. This was my first Easter Vigil, so I don’t know if this is the usual way things are done. Maybe it was made into a joke to make the 2.5 hours less painful for everyone..

  13. Kevin B. says:

    The Easter Vigil I attended saw the catechumens and candidates do all of the readings up to the Gospel. I thought, “Well… that’s nice that they’re getting involved but… technically they’re not Catholic yet.” I didn’t think it was a big deal. But then a catechumen skipped to the fifth reading after the third reading had been completed. The candidate after him skipped to the seventh reading. I know now that this is permissible for “pastoral reasons” (oh how I’ve come to dread that word “pastoral”) but the priests all seemed to be surprised, as if they had no idea this was going to happen. Afterward, we had the endless rounds of applause for the newly baptized and confirmed, the band, the assisting priests, and ourselves for attending because “I know how long this service is,” the pastor said.

    All things considered, it was a decent Mass. The focus, however, was always on us, the congregation. The orthodoxy was there, but the orthopraxy was somewhat lacking, to put it mildly. The guitars, drums, tambourines, among other things… they helped me reach a decision. From this time onward, I will attend the EF exclusively if one is available.

  14. youngcatholicstl says:

    I’m not trying to give the benefit of the doubt to the parish (trust me, I’ve seen plenty of crazy NO activities during my 27 years of life), but has the questioner verified that the church he attended is in good standing with the diocese? In St. Louis, for many years, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has run a listing of local Sunday church services. For several years, the so-called “women-priests” or a related renegage group ran a church in the area that advertised as something like “St. Clare’s Catholic Church” under the Catholic church services listings. The church never used Roman Catholic, and the listings in the paper never said “Roman Catholic”, but I have no doubt many people went there by mistake expecting to find a parish in line with the Archdiocese.

    Again, if the Church is (and I guess this is debateable) in “good standing” with the Diocese, then there are other issues. But the questioner should verify it was in fact a Roman Catholic church he attended.

  15. My husband was a sponsor for his boss who is joining a local church in the ordinary form. We drive two hours usually to assist at an EF of the Mass. We did not go with my husband. The weirdness that he told me about is hard to believe. When the Litany of Saints were sung, they ended by singing for all the candidates to pray for them; for example, saint Linda, pray for us, saint Allen, pray for us, saint Donald, pray for us. These were the CANDIDATES coming into the church that evening!

  16. amenamen says:

    It would be appropriate to include the patron saints of the candidates or catechumens in the Litany of the Saints. There is a Blessed Alan de la Roche. I think there is a Saint Donald (not sure). I am not sure about Linda, per se, but there is a Saint Ermelinda.

  17. Paul says:

    @youngcatholicstl It is indeed a Roman Catholic church in good standing with the Diocese of Trenton.

    @APX I understand your feelings. I too am sometimes almost moved to tears when priests and others joke and clown through the Holy Sacrifice. All I can say is, “hang in there.” Our Lord promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Holy Church and I firmly believe that.

  18. Rob Cartusciello says:

    My wife & I decided to skip the Easter vigil this year exactly because we did not want to feel trapped in a two-hour Mass with awful music.

    Instead, we attended Easter Sunday Mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. The service was beautiful and standing-room only. More than one person remarked that “this is what church should be like!”

  19. moon1234 says:

    God never guaranteed that the Church would be as big or that ALL Catholic churchs would not fall away. In fact Christ said “The Church” not “All Catholic Churchs”.

    I know how APX feels. It was VERY hard to go to Mass for myself and my wife before the EF was more available after SP. I felt like Christ in the desert. I still went to Mass, but I literally cried at times leaving Church. I felt so so ashamed to have been part of something that was so disordered.

    For me, the Tridentine Mass was a godsend. I prayed since I was sixteen for the return of the Traditional Mass. My prayers were answered about 13 years later. Almost like a dam broke and all of the spiritual graces of the Church were pouring out as if the hoover dam had broke.

    When SP came out, our Bishop celebrated with a Solemn Pontifical High Mass. There were many wet eyes that day in Church. Hold on and keep praying. Make noise that heaven can’t ignore (with your prayers). Ask the Blessed Mother to intercede for you. Say rosaries for the liberation from liberal abuses of the Mass and a return to orthodox praxis.

  20. GordonB says:

    SQ – Doesn’t sound like we’re at the same parish, mine has had a proper crucifix as long as I remember… apparently though this was something thought out and published for everyone’s consumption (unfortunately)…but sounds like something like that is perhaps permitted? I just don’t like to feel like I’m attending a broadway musical when I’m at mass…is it the influence of Jesus Christ Superstar on modern liturgists?

  21. marcpuckett says:

    As Rob Cartusciello said, the Vigil is too long to take a chance on it, so while in my parish I’m sure enough that there isn’t going to be illicit nonsense, I still go to one of the day Masses for Easter because the chances of awful music are much diminished (nor have I yet been personally acquainted with any of the catechumens etc, which would change the calculus). I really do try to be grateful that I don’t have to endure the illiceity and worse that others do.

  22. SQ says:

    GordonB -sad to hear that ‘reading’ is being done in multiple places. I’m not sure what influenced its publication … Jesus Christ Superstar or VeggieTales.

  23. Maltese says:

    Let me hazard a guess: of the few men actually present most were of the Birkenstock-wearing ilk?

  24. Maltese says:

    Well, of course it could have been worse:

    I like this quote the best (which begins pg. 2):

    “The message-sermon Floyd shared at yesterday’s service started with a contemporary twist: Floyd brought in a collection of Buzz Lightyear ‘Toy Story’ action figures his son had in all sizes [LOL!].

    The point: He likes to have different sorts of Buzz to play with at times.

    That quickly morphed into a message you might hear from many pulpits: that you can’t have as little or as much Jesus as you want in your life.”

  25. benedetta says:

    APX, I am really sorry to hear that was your experience of your first Easter vigil. I totally sympathize as what you describe is pretty standard where I am. Keep trying, and if you can, try out another place. Ultimately you may have to expand your radius in your search. A little commute isn’t so horrible. Look at it this way, a commute is worth it and a small price to pay for peace. Go over the border to the next state or province or diocese if you can manage it…I am now in that mode and it’s not the end of the world. Far from it, it is a lifeline. And pray for that parish.

    Even post-Vatican II a lot of people were brought up with the “pious” habit of trying to be or become, recollected, before Mass. A little silence before Mass is so helpful. At Easter with so many people and as you say, people following sports or the like on cell phone, perhaps the noise level is different. But I find that it seems that people are inclined to talk before, during and after Mass, even so much as possible. It’s almost as if they are somewhat aware that it’s best not to but do it anyway, and do it that much more. I can’t account for it. I need a little bit of quiet to pray, a moment to catch my breath, settle, try and refocus and let all the worries go, it’s that simple. Perhaps others have special gifts from the Holy Spirit which permit them to maintain a conversation with Our Lord and chit chat to the one next to them, simultaneously. Or to pray quietly when there is a lot of noise around in the church.

    I would say, to you and to anyone, that if something strikes you as off early on, then, go with your gut, and, look for a place that seems transparent. I wouldn’t attempt to stay on and feel discouraged, prevented from prayer, and annoyed every Sunday. This is hindsight for me. Those red flags, to me now reflect, total unwillingness to dialogue about it, period. I was probably naive to think that it’s workable. Sometimes patience doesn’t pay off, over years, or, decades even.

  26. MissOH says:

    Since there was not a nearby EF vigil and all of the vigil masses close to me would have ended up being a near occasion of sin for me (I just can’t deal with guitars, drums and Hagen-Haas), I crossed the Potomac and attended a very nice EF Latin vigil ad orientem. I had not heard the Exultet in Latin in years if ever. Wonderful. Prayers that the original reader will be able to find a better vigil mass next year.

  27. Ef-lover says:

    I was fortunate to attend Holy week at St. Mary in Norwalk Ct. which is about a 25 mim. drive from my home in NY the whole week was in the extra-ordinary form , totally glorious, the Easter Vigil was about 4 1/2 hours baptism and confirmation were both administered in the extra-ordinary form also

  28. Ezra says:

    We went to the pre-1955 EF Easter Vigil. It was four hours long, but one lost all sense of time. (Some of the differences between the pre-1955 and the 1962 include the use in the fomer of a triple candle – called the “reed” – to bring in the Easter fire, twelve Old Testament prophecies, a longer litany of saints, and inclusion of the Last Gospel.)

    Ours was an experience free of weirdness, free of distractions, prayerful, beautiful, and absolutely glorious. Frankly, whether OF or EF, if your parish can’t do the Easter Vigil in a reverent and prayerful fashion, you should probably consider changing parish.

  29. APX says:

    Ultimately you may have to expand your radius in your search. A little commute isn’t so horrible. Look at it this way, a commute is worth it and a small price to pay for peace. Go over the border to the next state or province or diocese if you can manage it

    Sadly, all the churches in the city I lived were amalgamated into one parish, so there was just the one vigil Mass. I was driving a 4 hour round trip commute to the nearest city to attend an EF Mass with the FSSP, but I didn’t have enough money to drive in for the vigil and spend the night (I wouldn’t have got home until 4:30 am). On top of that I was moving on Sunday, so I was short on time to be driving around too.

    I was fortunate enough to be able to take the scenic route home on Sunday and attend the EF Mass for Easter. That organ never sounded better, nor did the incense ever smell sweeter. Oh my goodness, the entire Mass was ineffable. Such reverent beauty.

  30. Ellen says:

    When I entered the church, the din was so loud that it reminded me of a sporting event.

    Me too. I left before Mass even started and went back on Easter Sunday. That was better, but the singers changed the words for the responsorial psalm to say God whenever the words He or Him appeared. Sigh.

  31. Andrew Mason says:

    I attend Mass at a parish in the Diocese of Trenton, and while I have never seen women in stoles I can certainly relate to the noise factor. My parish has a “contemporary choir” that does the music for the Sunday evening Mass. The music they do is very distracting and resembles a Billy Joel concert (the pianist is quite energetic) than it does any sort of sacred music. Perhaps worse, many of the members are teenagers who seem to have little idea of why they’re at church or what constitutes proper dress. I avoid the PM Mass for that reason, but when there is no evening Mass (like on Holy Days) they get to take over another Mass and I happened to attend that Mass. Many parishioners seem to like it, but I can’t stand it.

    There’s another parish here with a group that isn’t as young but does just as good a job of distracting. On Marriage Sunday they actually did some ’60s hippie song as a hymn! At that same Mass the priest, who is a collegee chaplain in Philly but assists here, used the occasion to “demand” that the Vatican immediately allow priests to marry. Worse yet, he got a standing ovation for it (my mom and I were the only ones not applauding). This parish is closer to me, but I actually belong to the other one because, while the music is bad, at least the priests are orthodox.

    I can’t think of a single parish in my county (Burlington) that has decent music at Mass. I’d love to attend an EF Mass, but there aren’t any here and I’d actually have to go to the neighboring diocese to find one.

  32. Andrew Mason says:

    Oh, and the Exultet was sung (not well) by one of the girls in the choir even though there was a deacon there (and we have at least three or four deacons plus two in training). Almost forgot that one.

  33. chloesmom says:

    At the Easter Vigil Mass, the exultet was sung (badly) by a choir member — male. Many of the readings were omitted, and the Gospel was the wrong one — Luke instead of Matthew. One of the readings was also in error. The parish is bilingual (English/French), and the reader in French was excruciating — there are many French-speaking parishioners, and they chose a guy whose first language is English! Previously, on Holy Thursday, the pastor started off with the Roman Canon, and I thought, “yay!” — but immediately after the Acclamation, he went right to the “Through Him, with Him, and in Him” – everything was rushed through as fast as possible. The Easter Vigil Mass lasted approximately 90 minutes. It’s depressing because the approach is (pardon me) so “half-assed” … it looks as if they’re just concerned with doing the minimum and then going on with whatever the next “important” thing is. On Saturday, the priest thanked the choir (which was not very good), the servers, the readers, and finally the congregation — but thankfully there was no applause. Could have been so much better!

  34. hicks says:

    Andrew Mason posted:
    “At that same Mass the priest, who is a collegee chaplain in Philly but assists here, used the occasion to “demand” that the Vatican immediately allow priests to marry. Worse yet, he got a standing ovation for it (my mom and I were the only ones not applauding). ”

    This nonsense is the worst. They should warn people: “We’ve had a change of plans tonight. In lieu of doing his job (you know, the thing we pay him actual money to do) your priest has decided to be a ham and fool around and turn this Mass into a big joke. We apologize to all our parishioners who put on their nice clothes and went to all the trouble to come down here with the expectation that somebody, anybody, would take something seriously around here.”

  35. As a fellow Trentonian, I’m sorry for the abnormal liturgy you attended. I second the commentor who said that contacting our (new) bishop should provide results. Bishop O’Connell is making some changes here in our diocese.

  36. GordonB says:

    SQ – Hmm, or could it be SATAN?? (said in Dana Carvey “Church Lady” voice)

  37. JustDave says:

    Every year I attend Easter Vigil hoping to hear the Exultet chanted. This year we actually had a Deacon who is very very good with chant so I thought the odd were much better. Well, that did not happen. We got the same old tired Haas arranged version that we hear every year that allows everyone to participate in singing this most wonderful prayer. Maybe next year.

    All of the readings were scripted into three parts two lay members and the priest read them. They did the same for the Gospel.

    Finally, we had two adults baptized. It was pretty normal until the actual baptism happened. For Easter our normal font is replaced by one that has a stream of water cascading down into a bowl. Father had the girls bend down so their heads were in the stream while he stood next to them and said the words of baptism. He did not touch them or the water during the process. I have no idea I’d this invalidates the Sacrament, but it sure looked odd.

  38. bookworm says:

    The only slight complaint I have about the Easter Mass I attended is that the offertory hymn — while beautifully performed by a choir with organ, trumpet, and other instruments accompanying them — strongly resembled a theme song from a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. I don’t know the name of the song but I’d swear it was written by Ennio Morricone :-)

  39. dcs says:

    @Andrew Mason,

    I can’t think of a single parish in my county (Burlington) that has decent music at Mass. I’d love to attend an EF Mass, but there aren’t any here and I’d actually have to go to the neighboring diocese to find one.

    Burlington is a big county. Your best bet would be either St. Peter’s in Merchantville or Mater Ecclesiae in Berlin (both in Camden County).

    There’s nothing at all wrong with assisting at Mass in a neighboring diocese. We do it every Sunday.

  40. Maxiemom says:

    I, too, live in the diocese of Trenton. And I can’t imagine our new bishop putting up with anything like that. Let him know.

  41. Andrew Mason says:


    St. Peter’s Merchantville is actually the one that I was referring to when I said that I would have to go to a neighboring diocese to find an EF Mass. I would love to go to Mater Ecclesiae, but it’s way too far away from where I live for me to attend more than once in a great while. I feel weird enough belonging to a parish other than the one I live within, belonging to a parish in another diocese seems wrong to me. I’d love to see an EF Mass instituted within this county but there aren’t exactly a lot of people here (largest county in the state, yet only about a dozen parishes) and I don’t really know anybody here who’s not my Mom’s age so I have no idea what sort of support there would be. Every other county in the diocese has at least one, Burlington doesn’t have any.


    I really do need to contact Bp. O’Connell about the chaplain priest. I wonder what the consequences could be, though, since he’s not a priest of this diocese and I’m not technically a parishioner.

  42. Maxiemom says:

    Andrew Mason,

    I don’t think it matters whether you are a parishioner at that parish, you are a parishioner in the diocese. And as far as the priest, he shouldn’t be saying mass in the diocese if he is going to conduct mass in that manner.

    Burlington County used to have a Tridentine Mass at a parish in Burlington. It was a bit controversial because of the way things like collections were handled and the state of the church/sacristy after the mass.

  43. Andrew Mason says:


    I was wondering about the TLM at All Saints in Burlington, I’ve seen it mentioned online but their parish bulletin says nothing about it (they’re now part of St. Katherine Drexel Parish along with the other former parish in Burlington) and everybody I know who attends an EF Mass does so at St. Peter’s Merchantville. It’s a shame that it couldn’t be sustained, that’s not much further from me than where I work and wouldn’t be any problem to attend.

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