Wherein Fr. Z rants and points a finger

In another post, I commented on some good points made by Joseph Shaw in a piece at HPR.

I want to return to Shaw’s piece for some final points.  Picking up toward the end…


It certainly would not have been the way I would have chosen to do it — I have previously argued for the restoration of a longer Eucharistic fast — but the enforced infrequency of Holy Communion will do much to restore the fame eucharistica, “eucharistic hunger,” the lack of which Pope John II so lamented. It is to be hoped that priests will encourage the Faithful who are able to receive less frequently to make the most of it when it is possible, by careful preparation, ideally including fasting, an act of perfect contrition (or, if possible, sacramental Confession), and prayer, and to follow it with a serious thanksgiving.


Good stuff here.

First, I have had an informal poll about increasing the length of the Eucharist fast on the sidebar of this blog for a while now.   Frankly, the present fast of one hour before Communion is a joke.  The reduction of the Eucharistic fast from three hours to one before Communion, is merely one of many signals given – perhaps unwittingly, at first – by the post-Conciliar Church that the Eucharist just isn’t that important.

There were quite a few signs which bolstered a stronger Catholic identity.  For example, women using chapel veils.  Like them or hate them, veils are signals.  Families were recognizable as Catholic when they headed to the church on Sunday – in their Sunday best – even because a little girl had a little hanky or piece of tissue bobby-pinned to her hair.  A full church with half or more of the heads covered in veils signaled not nothing, if you get me.

The fact that Catholics did not, by law, eat meat on Fridays was an obvious signal to a wider society.

These are just a couple of examples.

Moving to another point, think about how for the past few decades most of our churches are before and after Mass.  Is there silence?  Is the atmosphere one of recollection and preparation before and awe and thanksgiving after?   I’d wager that most parish churches are busy and noisy and distracting before and after Mass.  After Mass… right.  How many people are left after Communion?

I once popped into a parish church on a Sunday while visiting my mother in her town.  I can’t say for sure, but of the congregation, perhaps half a dozen were under 30.  At Communion about half the congregation headed for the doors. After the final blessing and truly horrid song – maybe the reason many left? – the place erupted in chatter.

We’ve removed so many of the signals that what we do in church is important that you can’t blame people who treat the place like a McDonald’s.

I point my finger at priests.  Including myself.  Je m’accuse.

These days when libs want to obliterate something, they blame “clericalism”.  It’s a handy label, rather like how the Left shouts “Racism!” if you challenge their math… or anything else.   The modern, post-Conciliar priest is to be not the mediator between the people and God’s altar, not the one who renews the Sacrifice, blesses and absolves.  No, he is to be a nice guy who affirms you and gives you the white thing to make you feel good about being with other people before you sing a song.   Before Mass, the priest is supposed to joke around with the myriad servers and “Eucharistic Ministers”.  After Mass – er “liturgy” – the priest is supposed to be at the front door saying “Have a nice day!” rather than in the sacristy or sanctuary.

A “sacristy priest”, oh dear, worst of the worst of clericalism.

But sacristies are important.  They are signals.

Priestly practices have knock on effects.

Just as his ars celebrandi – his manner and attitude and style at Mass – have a effect on the participation and comprehension of people in the pews, so too does the priest’s habits of preparation before Mass and his thanksgiving after.

Sometime ago I wrote about how a feature in old Roman sacristies hit me.

Sacristies usually have or once had a niche with a kneeler and a framed plaque with the preparation prayers priests would say before and their acts of thanksgiving after Mass.  These prayers are also in the traditional Breviarium Romanum.

Not only that.  There are or were sinks in sacristies with a sign or sometimes an inscription in the marble or painted on the wall with the prayer that the priest would say as he washed his hands before putting on his vestments.

Fathers… did you know that there is a prayer for washing your hands before putting on your vestments?  And of course there were and are prayers for the donning of each vestment.  Did you get that in seminary?

There was etiquette for how priests were to acknowledge each other as they went to and returned from the altar.

The aptum.  The pulchrum.  Decorum.

Ritual, which brings discipline and which over time provides interior formation, surrounded the ritual of the Mass itself.

I wonder what would happen – think about this with me now – what would happen, what kind of knock on effect there would be on the wider Church, were priests to begin to do these things again.   If bishops were to do these things.

I can hear it now.

“But Father!  But… but… Fffff…. ‘ordained minister’!”, the libs writhe and howl.  “This is … is… pure CLERICALISM!   And it’s probably RACIST!   You… you… and your Latin and hats and books.  Your … your… prayers with ‘thee’ and all that begging and unworthiness.   We’ve grown up!  We’ve evolved and don’t have to grovel anymore.  No, we STAND!  We take because we are … are…. an EASTER PEOPLE!   But you don’t get any of that because YOU HATE VATICAN II!”

Let’s not lie about Vatican II.

Shaw, at the beginning of the HPR piece I mentioned at the top, had an outstanding line:

“What exactly is gained by not adding exorcised salt to the holy water?”


The Council said that in the liturgical reform, nothing was to be changed unless it was for the true good of the people.  The Council Fathers mandated that nothing was to be done unless it was in continuity with what we had before.

That’s not what we got.

What exactly is gained by not adding exorcised salt to the holy water?

Absolutely nothing.

What was lost?

A whole world.  An identity.

The results of which we see in our churches today.

The results of which we see reflected in Pew Research studies.

The results of which we see in the contempt shown for the people who desire traditional worship…. who desire salt in their Holy Water, as it were.

It was not for nothing that John Paul II in 1988 wrote in Ecclesia Dei adflicta 6:

“[B]y virtue of my Apostolic Authority I decree… respect must everywhere be shown for the feelings of all those who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition, by a wide and generous application of the directives already issued some time ago by the Apostolic See for the use of the Roman Missal according to the typical edition of 1962.”

Sweet Jesus, have mercy.  To what point have we come if John Paul thought he had to command bishops to respect people’s feelings and to be generous to them in entirely legitimate matters?  And lately we’ve seen a Pope who ridicules them!  Bishops write in tones of disdain for people who “demand” Communion on the tongue and who have to be “accommodated”.

To what point have we finally arrived?  And whither?  QUO?

People who are attached to the Latin liturgical tradition – people who want salt in their Holy Water – are the most systematically marginalized demographic in the Church.

I want back all the SALT.

ALL the salt.

The Latin liturgical tradition John Paul wrote about means salt in the Holy Water.  Salt in the Holy Water is a metaphor for a whole identity.

Think about this.   The Church is the greatest expert in humanity that there has ever been.  Her practices were wise on profound levels that shaped us.

I mused, above, about a knock on effect through the priestly rituals surrounding Mass, his prayers before and after.

In fact, Holy Mother Church made sure that the people saw the priest ritually preparing to say Mass and to pray after Mass: the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar beforehand and the reading of the Last Gospel afterward.   These were remnants retained in the Missal from the priest’s preparation and thanksgiving that developed over the centuries.

The Church decided that you – for centuries – should see him do it.  That’s how important it is.

As Fr. Jackson put it in his splendid book there is “Nothing Superfluous” in the traditional rites.

And what did the usurpers of the Conciliar liturgical reform do?   They cut out the priest’s preparation before and his prayer after Mass, relegating anything that he might choose to do entirely to his private practice.

They also stopped adding salt to the Holy Water.

Yeah yeah… in the Novus Ordo Missal there’s an option for salt, but it’s not the same thing.

As I said, above, I am pointing a finger at myself.

I am often lax in making a traditional preparation before Mass and thanksgiving after.  I get distracted, impatient to get on with oh-so-important things I know I have to do.

Preparing for Mass and being recollected after can be hard in a parish setting where there has not yet been established a minimum of discipline in a sacristy. People want to talk to the priest.  The priest wants to talk to them.  There are things to discuss, etc.  All important, I’m sure.   In general, priests like talking to people.

But the knock on effect of that, of not preparing and not pausing after, is corrosive for priestly identity, not fortifying.  And if the priest’s identity is corroded, it follows as the night the day that his flock will feel the effects to one degree or another.

I wonder if people really, if it came right down to it, wouldn’t rather know that Father is praying and preparing before Mass, giving thanks afterward, rather than seeing him act like a or host with an hors d’oeuvre tray at a dinner party.  In his sacred Mass vestments.  They might be a little disoriented at first, not seeing him slapping people on the back as they go out. Over time, however…. I wonder.

This is something that lay people need to chime in about.  Priest or dinner party host.   Mediator who renews the Sacrifice or nice guy.

I know that there are multiple angles to this and a great depends on context but I can’t shake the feeling that what can be lost is far greater in long-term significance than what can be gained.

I have some work to do.  I’m going to put the salt back into my preparation before and my time after Mass.  I owe it to myself, to our forebears, and to you.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "But Father! But Father!", Decorum, Hard-Identity Catholicism, Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, Pò sì jiù, Priests and Priesthood, Save The Liturgy - Save The World, Seminarians and Seminaries, The Drill, The future and our choices, Wherein Fr. Z Rants and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Yes, I want priests to be priests first. The more pleasing a priest is to God, the more good he does for his flock.

    There is this idea at the heart of stripping the liturgy and all that goes with it: that attending to prayer and other things of God leaves us no time to get other things done. This is a lie that comes from the enemy. The truth is, it’s the other way around.

    I used to pray my daily Rosary while driving to work. I guess that was better than not saying the Rosary at all, but then I stopped to think about how many distractions I had while doing that, and the fact that I was just checking a box off my list. So I bit the bullet and started getting up early enough to say it before leaving for work. And you know what? The day would go better. Life generally got better in a lot of ways.

    Maybe it’s because we have to seek first the Kingdom of God, and then all these other things will be added unto us.

  2. TRW says:

    The chatter before and after mass is one of the most irksome and troubling things that I witness at my parish. I just can’t comprehend why it doesn’t occur to people that they are in a sacred space. Many of us are only there for that ONE hour a week. I know that it pains many pastors that people just blithely leave right after the last “song” and then chat in the narthex. I always got the impression that my parish priest just really wanted to go and pray before the tabernacle instead of having to do the post-mass meet and greet. He was friendly, but it kind of looked as though it pained him not to be able to go straight to the tabernacle after Mass.

  3. sibnao says:

    Father, would people understand? I mean, if the priest simply made an announcement or put it in the bulletin, something to the effect that he plans on greeting people 10 minutes after Mass, and hopes they have time to stick around a bit, but that he really feels called to silent prayer and thanksgiving after Mass. To that end, he asks that everyone converse outside the doors.

    I wonder if such a simple request/announcement might have two effects: first, without any “should” or “ought” language aimed at the pew-sitters, the priest maybe encourages, through example, those who would like to do likewise. Second, it might encourage people who were hoping to ask a question or chat with Father to actually chat with their fellow parishioners — in the narthex or on the front sidewalk — in the meantime. Maybe it could “build community” by giving a reason for folks to linger, so that they can say hi to Father.

  4. SanSan says:


  5. FN says:

    Sibnao, brilliant. At my old parish you would always have to wait 20 minutes if you wanted a chance of speaking to Father. That wait time became an “excuse” for anti-social me to have so many precious meetings with people I’d otherwise, shamefully, have blown off. Your idea should immediately be implemented everywhere it doesn’t happen already.

  6. Mike_in_Kenner says:

    My wife and I recall an FSSP priest at a place we used to live who was a stickler for details of the rubrics. He did not stop at the door of the church after Mass and greet people while still wearing the sacred vestments. He stayed in the procession back to the sacristy, removed the vestments, made a thanksgiving for several minutes, then came out to socialize.

    When people asked about this behavior, he would cite the Ritus Servandus, XII.6, which says (from the translation on SanctaMissa): “When all this has been finished, … in the same way as they came, they return to the Sacristy, saying in the meantime the antiphon Trium puerorum [and] the Benedicite, or other prayers which he prefers. After he has removed his vestments, he continues the period of thanksgiving for a convenient amount of time, offering the prayers below, or others according to his own devotion.”

    That priest’s church was quiet after Mass. People stayed in the pews for several minutes after Mass making a thanksgiving. People did not expect to speak with the priest until at least several minutes after Mass, and they spoke outside the church.

    On a couple of occasions my wife and I have politely tried to encourage other priests that maybe they ought to do that, but the priests have said that it would be too different from what the people are used to. To which my wife says, “Every Sunday at Mass there’s a part between the Gospel and the Creed where the priest explains things to people. Why is that so hard?”

  7. On the topic of Eucharist fast: As I was catechized for my First Holy Communion in 1981 this was absolutely no topic. Years later, when I was a sacristan, I learned of it by reading the regulations printed in the diocesan liturgical directorium. As I mentioned the Eucharistic fast to a songstress of the child schola, when she offered a bag of chips minutes before the mass started, I was reprimanded by the celebrant, a fresh ordained vicar, to keep my mouth shut, as if information about church rules are harmful.

    Considering who much some priest talk during the homily without saying much, you can bring a sandwich to church and eat it during the Kyrie with no risk on harming the one hour fast until reception of the Eucharist.

  8. MikeRogers says:

    The volume of chatter before & after Mass in Australian NO parishes is truly dreadful, there is no sense of the sacred left at all.
    I have found only two exceptions to this, St John Vianey in Toongabbie & St Anthony in Flemington, both NO Parishes in Sydney.

  9. arcanum_divinae says:

    You know what other issue this reminds me of? The suppression of the beautiful and easy to read hour of Prime, which fortifies the faithful and connects us to history by the reading of the Roman Martyrology. How could this possibly be for the good of the people?

  10. Fr. Reader says:

    Some time ago I was asked to help with a Mass in another parish.
    In the sacristy there were no prayers for the priests, but they put in the wall the “prayers for the servers before the Mass”.
    They prepared no cincture for the priest, and whey I tried to take one from a drawer they told me: those are for the ministers, not for the priest.
    As strange as it was, I noticed how the average Christian wants and need these signs, it is the priest who -with so much “education”– dismisses them as things from the past, not needed for an enlightened mind like his.

  11. Mariana2 says:

    I’m a convert from high church Lutheranism, and in Scandinavia.

    Posts like this, and ‘Phoenix from the Ashes’, which I’m now reading, has me seething at all the lovely things I didn’t even know we had.

    At the same time I’m remembering how in my old Lutheran parish, we did lots of these things, or at least versions of them. Before the service, we, the choir, and the clergy prepared in the sacristy by praying something that began with ‘One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in his temple’ as an Antiphon. AND there was never any acrobatic problem with receiving what we thought was the Eucharist on the tongue, as we received kneeling. AND we made the sign of the cross as the processional cross passed in front of us, and at the end of the Credo, etc, etc.

    Only slowly have I realised that this used to be normal in the Catholic Church. I’m in a Novus Ordo parish, and grateful to live in a town where there actually is a Catholic parish; everything is done reverently, no abuses or anything, but….ARGH.

  12. Littlemore says:

    Marcus der mitt dem C
    Re. eating during early part of Mass, then receiving Holy Communion. I’ve only seen once a priest deny a child from receiving because they had been drinking from a bottle of Coke (other soft drinks are available), and to say loud enough for the whole congregation to hear, the reason why Communion was not given.

  13. rtjl says:

    Sometimes we need to be creative in ways we solve problems and not all things new are bad. In my city, one of the oldest churches in the area burned done about 20 years ago. With the insurance money, a new and modern church built on the site. It is truly a modern church, and in some ways would likely horrify many of the readers of this blog, but, having said that, it is not the kind of monstrosity that was built in the 70’s and 80’s. Although modern it was built with an eye to aesthetics and quality. No cheap commercial carpet here, the flooring consists of quality stone tile, for instance, the church has a high and spacious interior and a solid altar that looks like an altar and not a “fellowship” table. And it is equipped with a pipe organ!

    One of the most significant aspect of the architecture, however, is that it includes a large and generous entrance separated from the nave by a heavy glass wall. This serves two significant functions. First, the glass partition means that the nave is fully visible at all times from the church office, which in tun means that the church can be left open during the day for prayer. This is an inner city church and it is the only church in our area that is left open for prayer. The others are all locked. Second, because the entrance is so large, people are able to gather in the entrance for chatter. Without anybody having to be told, people instinctively began using the entrance and the nave appropriately. If you are looking for silence and prayer, you can do that in the nave. If you want to chatter, you can do it here in the entrance, while respecting those who wish to pray in silence. The glass used in the wall is heavy enough to effectively prevent sound transmission form one area to the other. As a result, both needs, the need for fellowship and the need for private worship, are met and neither interferes with the other.

    I know this is a solution that is not available in most churches, that have to make do with the buildings they have, but for those who may be looking at building or rebuilding a church, providing an ample entrance is one effective way, albeit an expensive one, to get the chatter out of the nave.

  14. Mike says:

    Indeed, let’s not lie about Vatican 2. In reading Sacrosanctum consilium, [Sacrosanctum Concilium] the council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, one sees no “mandates” about continuity or anything else, but a great deal about progress and revision. We certainly got that.

    [No. You are wrong. SC 23: ” Innovationes, demum, ne fiant nisi vera et certa utilitas Ecclesiae id exigat, et adhibita cautela ut novae formae ex formis iam exstantibus organice quodammodo crescant…. There must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already exists.”]

  15. Zephyrinus says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z, for this spiffing Post and Rant.
    An Italian Priest friend has had a large wooden sign put up on the Sacristy Door (both sides of the door). It say: “SILENCIUM”.
    Plus, some magnificent and most worthy VESTING PRAYERS FOR PRIESTS can be obtained at:
    Why not present your Pastor/Parish Priest with a Set of these magnificent VESTING PRAYERS for Ascension Day (Thursday, 21 May 2020) ? He will be eternally grateful.
    Plus, reference ” . . . Families were recognizable as Catholic when they headed to the Church on Sunday . . .”: I recall the time, very early one Winter morning a few years ago. Bitterly cold with lots of Snow on the ground. I was staying in a Town, far from home, and wished to attend Sunday Mass. Not knowing if, or where, any Catholic Church was, I stopped a passing Policeman and asked him for information. He just said to me: “Follow the footsteps in the Snow. There are only Catholics up at this time on a Sunday, going to Mass”. I followed the footsteps for nearly a mile and entered the Church.

  16. Sandy says:

    Excellent and well deserved rant, Father! It’s horrendous that we have to search high and low to find a priest to use the “old blessing” for salt and water. Not all of us have access to the FSSP, etc. I have about half a container of blessed salt that I use sparingly, including using a pinch of it repeatedly for a recent sore throat.

    I can imagine what people like Mariana above, think and feel when they find out what they have been denied. It feels worse for those of us who lived through it and have known all along what we have lost.

  17. robtbrown says:


    I wonder whether you read SC or just did a search on “continuity”.

    Many of the texts in VatII first state the Catholic position. Then a later text, which sometimes follows, will undermine the first text. An easy example is found in Chapter IV, on the Divine Office.


  18. robtbrown says:


    SC Chapter IV no. 101 is clear that Latin is to be retained by clerics in the Divine Office. What follows, however, are texts that could, if implemented (which they were), let Latin be dumped (which it was).

    There are other texts of Chapter IV that are similar disasters.

  19. Fr PJM says:

    I wish there were a way to give a star to you Fr Z. Thanks for that red correction about organic continuity.

  20. Orual says:

    Regarding chapel veils: Yes, they are a sign! A sign that Jesus is really and truly present in the Blessed Sacrament! I’m tired of people accusing women who veil of trying to be ‘holier than thou.’ It has nothing to do with that! It’s not about the woman wearing the veil, it’s about Jesus! Do you genuflect before the Tabernacle? Why? To show respect to Our Lord? Well, that’s why I veil. But, I’ve heard people say, I can be respectful to the Lord and not veil. It’s what’s in your heart that counts! Okay, then why do you genuflect? Couldn’t you be respectful and not genuflect if it’s what’s in your heart that matters? Sure, I guess. But, do we want to discourage genuflecting? If not, why are women who veil viewed suspiciously by some members of the Church?

  21. matt from az says:

    Are there vesting prayers for deacons?

  22. Kerry says:

    ” And turning to the woman, he said unto Simon: Dost thou see this woman? I entered into thy house, thou gavest me no water for my feet; but she with tears hath washed my feet, and with her hairs hath wiped them. Thou gavest me no kiss; but she, since she came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
    My head with oil thou didst not anoint; but she with ointment hath anointed my feet.”

    And turning to Jesus, Simon said, “But Lord, I can show my love to You without giving you water for The feet, and by giving no kiss, neither anointing Thy Head…
    Alice von Hildebrand said, “…it is a mystery… mysteries are always veiled”.

  23. Mike_in_Kenner says:

    matt from az, There are vesting prayers for deacons and subdeacons. The prayers for washing hands, and for the amice, alb, cincture, and maniple are the same as for the priest, then the proper prayers for the tunicle or dalmatic are used, which can be found among the vesting prayers for when a bishop pontificates. New Liturgical Movement had an article about them: http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2011/12/pontifical-vesting-prayers-of-usus.html#.XrlmPGhKjIU
    Cards with the vesting prayers are available from places such as the Abbey Shop: theabbeyshop.com/index.php?cPath=21_29_98

  24. This young pastor from Long Island made a video ‘Behind the Scenes of the Mass’ which includes him vesting and showing the prayers. The video is for the NO but this priest does celebrate the LM also. https://youtu.be/tnjIZgwQLXQ

  25. Mike says:

    robtbrown: You nailed me, except the search was for words beginning with ‘mandat’. And that gets to the core of my particular concern. Do words like ‘must’ and ‘shall’ constitute a mandate? If it does, what is the penalty for violating the mandate? Who enforces the penalty? Most importantly (as you helpfully point out), is the context of the mandate consistent? (My reflexive response regarding consistent context in V2 documents is a mad wail, but I don’t have the Unicode for that.)

  26. Zephyrinus says:

    Reply to “matt from az”.
    Yes, there are Vesting Prayers for Deacons at

  27. Semper Gumby says:

    Thank you Fr. Z.

    “What was lost?

    “A whole world. An identity.

    “The results of which we see in our churches today.

    “The results of which we see reflected in Pew Research studies.”

    Not entirely lost Father, the barbarians haven’t won a complete victory and never will.

    “Sweet Jesus, have mercy. To what point have we come if John Paul thought he had to command bishops to respect people’s feelings and to be generous to them in entirely legitimate matters? And lately we’ve seen a Pope who ridicules them! Bishops write in tones of disdain for people who “demand” Communion on the tongue and who have to be “accommodated”.”

    These prelates, for the sake of their souls, should set down the Alinsky-ite tracts and vanity mirrors, and pick up Dante.

    “This is something that lay people need to chime in about. Priest or dinner party host. Mediator who renews the Sacrifice or nice guy.”

    Faithful priests are required, demanded. The “nice guy” tends to be, to borrow from Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” a paper-mache Mephistopheles.

  28. seeker says:

    Silence after Mass…how I remember and long for it. Also a silent few moments after receiving Communion for meditation. From time to time I ask a priest or nun about silence after Mass. “Have the rules changed?” I ask. “I know what I was taught and I was just wondering if there’s been a change I didn’t hear about.” Sister just looked pained and hemmed and hawed. Father explained that we didn’t want to alienate anyone. But I am alienated. I feel alienated by Fr. who isn’t supporting the Real Presence by teaching, preaching, reaching out and giving the truth to parishioners. And I feel alienated when I am trying to pray after Mass and there is cacophony of chatter everywhere. And it’s not about the homily or the readings, or how much people love God, it’s all the worldly chit chat-which is wonderful in its place-that people could have in the extension or narthex or parking lot. 100 feet and 10 seconds later and the friendly exchange of pleasantries is good Christian friendliness. But in the church…backs often turned to the tabernacle…while a few lone holdouts insist on trying to have a few words with the Almighty, its selfish and disrespectful.
    I used to take a 75 minute exercise class which ended in darkened silence, all lying on their mats. We were told to leave when we wanted, quietly, and not disturb the other people. Total respect for that request. 10 to 20 people got up at different times, without making a sound, and departed. And no one felt alienated or put upon to respect others and keep silence. I think if an exercise instructor can do this then the men who have power to bind and loose on earth can do it too.

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  30. matt from az says:

    Thank you, Mike in Kenner. I appreciate your response and the link.

  31. matt from az says:

    Gratias ago tibi

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