(Lake Superior)

           “We must not attempt to find an absolute in the flesh” (C.S. Lewis)

My niece came over a few days ago and she told me that her High School class in Michigan is reading America’s iconic novel about the roaring twenties, The Great Gatsby. She told me that the teacher often reads parts of the book to the class, and also shows them a movie version of the book. I told her she might want to consider listening to an audio rendition of the book because I have found that listening to this particular book being read is almost more edifying and real – or at least more pleasurable – than reading it.

In any event (as I explained) most of the action in the novel takes place in Long Island, and secondarily in Louisville, but almost unknown is the fact that one of the most important scenes in the novel takes place in Michigan! If you drive to the far western end of the Upper Peninsula – really as far as you can go west and south and still stay in Michigan – you will come close to a bay on Lake Superior known as Little Girl’s Bay or Little Girl’s Point (and there is a park nearby where you can camp called Little Girl’s Point County Park). A little further north along Lake Superior are the beautiful Porcupine Mountains where I camped two summers ago, and where I witnessed a spectacular display of stars the first evening there (my own mystical experience on Lake Superior!).

It is at Little Girl’s Bay that the dramatic transformation or recreation of James Gatz’s life takes place and he changes into the person known as Jay Gatsby. “James Gatz – that was really, or at least legally, his name. He had changed it at the age of seventeen and at the specific moment  that witnessed the beginning of his career – when he saw Dan Cody’s yacht drop anchor over the most insidious flat on Lake Superior” (Chapter 6). Dan Cody “had been coasting along all too hospitable shores for five years when he turned up as James Gatz’s destiny in Little Girl Bay” (Chapter 6).

Julie Kenyon points out in an essay on The Great Gatsby that there is a folk-tale associated with the naming of Little Girl’s Point, which tells of a “young maiden who runs off with her fairy lover. At night her moonlit figure is seen on the shore by the fisherman across the waters. When they approach she flees, sheltered by her lover’s green plumes.” It is interesting to note, in this context, that Daisy’s maiden name, Fay, means fairy, and that the euphoric green light that formed the basis for all of Gatsby’s dreams and aspirations signified her presence. One could argue that The Great Gatsby is a fairy tale that crashes into reality and ends with a very unhappy ending. 

But as the fairy tale goes, Gatsby hit it off with Cody, a multi-millionaire, hopped on his yacht, and sailed around the continent for five years! Pretty cool! During this voyage of discovery, Cody became a Father figure for Gatsby, educating him in a “vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty” (Chapter 6). If you look up the word meretricious it means fake, or insubstantial, or even prostituted. Fitzgerald adds, “So [Gatz] invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.”  

Gatsby’s reimagining himself as a new person has a religious dimension because he sees himself, as Fitzgerald indicates, as a “son of God,” a clear reference to the life of Jesus, and a very poor and vulgar comparison. I think at this point Fitzgerald would have been better off sticking to his philosophical description of Gatsby’s “Platonic conception of himself” rather than bringing in the weak (and crude) religious comparison as well. After all, Daisy is a Platonic ideal for Gatsby, she is the perfect form that gives life a transcendent reality for Gatsby, and all his efforts are employed at getting her back from Tom Buchanan. 

And there is no Jesus sacrifice made by Gatsby at the end of the novel, implied by him “shouldering” his mattress to the pool and being asked if he needed help to carry it, and this is because Gatsby has no idea he is about to be shot by George Wilson. So again, the Jesus allusion is weak, contorted and pretty much unnecessary. 

The real relevance Jesus has to this novel are his warnings about the dangers of riches and a purely materialistic view of life. For the American dream, at least in its most elevated form, sees God as the transcendent reality by which all material gains must be seen in their proper perspective. It is said that F. Scott Fitzgerald admired the literary skills of G.K. Chesterton. But in actuality it is Chesterton’s theological insight that seems far more applicable to the life of Gatsby. Chesterton says:

“The whole case for Christianity is that a man who is dependent upon the luxuries of this life is a corrupt man, spiritually corrupt, politically corrupt, financially corrupt. There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck.”  

As Fitzgerald acutely observes in the novel, Daisy ultimately “tumbled short of Gatsby’s dreams – not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion.”

Jesus was not influenced by Gatsby’s illusion (an illusion which transcends time and place). He understood the true value of things (and persons) in relationship to God. See, for example, Matthew 4: 8-10. Simply put, Gatsby is not a Christ figure, and it was Fitzgerald’s own misconception to imagine it so.

And so to my niece I say: be careful what you dream about on the shore of Lake Superior!

Thomas L. Mulcahy

References: The essay by Julie Kenyon is entitled, “Little Girl Bay,” Frontier, and Folklore: Fitzgerald’s Use of Regional History in The Great Gatsby (available online). The quote from Chesterton is in his famous book, Orthodoxy. With respect to the spelling of Little Girl’s Point (or Little Girls Point) I note here that some internet sites use the apostrophe and some do not.

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                              “So put aside every trace of malice” (1 Peter 2:1)

Critics have mentioned that Wuthering Heights is ambiguous when it comes to providing an over-arching moral to the harrowing tale, and argue that this ambiguity might have been deliberate by the author. Thus, one famous critic of Wuthering Heights speaks to the “absence of anything” in the tale “one could confidently name a moral.” The critic continues: “…it is not a moral tale. The author’s preferences are not shown” (G.D. Klingopulus). And a very early review of Wuthering Heights makes the same point: “What may be the moral which the author wishes the reader to deduce from her work it is difficult to say; and we refrain from assigning any, because to speak honestly, we have discovered none but mere glimpses of hidden morals or secondary meanings. There seems to be a great power in this book but a purposeless power” (a review in the 1848 Douglas Jerrold’s Weekly Newspaper).

Nevertheless, from my own reading of Wuthering Heights I find very strong moral themes, and whether these themes flow from my personal subjectivity or were actually intended by Emily Bronte is something I do not intend to dwell on. Moreover, I intend to keep my comments short and to the point.

First and foremost, what a valuable moral lesson we gain from the life of Heathcliff. I mean, who would ever want to be like Heathcliff? : confirmed in evil, ruthlessly vindictive, full of malice, a menace to the community, and impenitent to the end. If there is one giant lesson I learn from Wuthering Heights it is NOT to be like Heathcliff. The life of Heathcliff teaches me to set aside all malice, and all thoughts and temptations to revenge, and to move in the direction of mercy, renewal and forgiveness. What tremendous harm Heathcliff caused to the people around him –  becoming more a demonic presence than a human one as Chesterton points out. Heathcliff’s life is a wonderful model of the person you don’t want to become.

Secondly, the love between Heathcliff and Catherine is not rooted in reality. It is a moors love, infecund as that land, incapable of being for the greater good of the community. I mean, would you want your daughter to marry Heathcliff! A relationship based on fanatical Romanticism and occult salvation may make you one of literature’s most famous couples, but it is not a good foundation for a marriage. Their love is a delusive, destructive love incapable of producing true peace and happiness.

Third, there is no Jane Austen moment of self-discovery for Heathcliff, where he might have said: “Look what a son-of-a-bitch I have become. Who can save me from my wretchedness?” There is no redemption for Heathcliff as there was for Mr. Rochester (another brooding land-owner in the Byronic tradition) in sister Charlotte’s competing Gothic tale, Jane Eyre. Both Heathcliff and Rochester have women problems, the kind of problem that occurs when you love a woman other than your wife! And yet Mr. Rochester undergoes a significant conversion after the devastating fire at Thornfield, a conversion not unrelated to his prayer and penitence (“I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I began to experience remorse, repentance, the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers they were but very sincere”). In reality, Mr. Rochester underwent the most painful of purifications, losing everything, as his entire life is essentially purged in the devastating fire at Thornfield, wiped out so to speak, burned up. He emerges from this holocaust as a new man, humbled, repentant, blinded and maimed. And yet in God’s Providence, which is an underlying theme in Jane Eyre, he and Jane will be reunited, and will experience true happiness, true communion of souls (which is not the case for Heathcliff and Catherine).

There is no conversion for Heathcliff, no change of heart. He is set in his ways. The only salvation for Heathcliff is the salvation he confers on himself. He will do it “my way” to the end, defiant and resentful. Now who do you want to emulate: Mr. Rochester or Heathcliff?

Next, there is the matter of Heathcliff’s final impenitence of which Emily Bronte does not leave in doubt.  Heathcliff is in fact offered a final chance to reconcile his life to God, but his is a deathbed without faith. “A deathbed without faith,” says F.W. Faber, “oh what a very wilderness it is – nothing can make up for it – all other beauty only darkens it….” It is Nelly who attempts to rescue Heathcliff from his “godless indifference” as related in the final pages of the novel. The scene unfolds as follows:

‘You are aware, Mr. Heathcliff,’ I said, ‘that from the time you were thirteen years old you have lived a selfish, unchristian life; and probably hardly had a Bible in your hands during all that period. You must have forgotten the contents of the book, and you may not have space to search it now. Could it be hurtful to send for some one–some minister of any denomination, it does not matter which–to explain it, and show you how very far you have erred from its precepts; and how unfit you will be for its heaven, unless a change takes place before you die?’

‘I’m rather obliged than angry, Nelly,’ he said, ‘for you remind me of the manner in which I desire to be buried. It is to be carried to the churchyard in the evening. You and Hareton may, if you please, accompany me: and mind, particularly, to notice that the sexton obeys my directions concerning the two coffins! No minister need come; nor need anything be said over me.–I tell you I have nearly attained my heaven; and that of others is altogether unvalued and uncoveted by me.’

You may want to do better on your deathbed than Heathcliff did. He shows no contrition, no sorrow, no repentance; his heart is hardened by malice, his revolt against God is complete. His death will be a good one, only in the sense that with Heathcliff gone order and peace can return to Wuthering Heights (interestingly, Charlotte Bronte wrote, “Heathcliff, indeed, stands unredeemed; never once swerving in his arrow-straight course to perdition….”).

Finally, we come to the end of the story and the reestablishment of order. As mentioned above, it is not until Heathcliff is dead that the tranquility of order can be reestablished in Wuthering Heights.

The shutting down of Wuthering Heights, the blessing of a marriage that will take place on New Year’s Day between Cathy and Hareton, and the fearlessness of Cathy and Hareton (a fearlessness noted to be more powerful than evil), all of these things (mentioned in the final paragraphs of the novel) point to a new beginning and to the reestablishment of order and goodness in Wuthering Heights. The “garden gate” that Cathy and Hareton pass through has swung wide open, and peace and happiness have returned to its inhabitants.

“Augustine of Hippo defines the term “Tranquillitas Ordinis” (tranquility of order) in Book 19 of the City of God as ‘the peace of all things’ or ‘well ordered concord’. Augustine links peace with his meaning of order, in which all things in the universe have their proper place established by God, their creator. Peace is therefore the state a person or thing achieves when it is in accordance with the larger created order” (Wikipedia).

The novel ends, then, not on the side of disorder and chaos, but on the side of order and true love, that is to say, on God’s side!


Is there to be no sympathy for Heathcliff in this note? Yes, there is sympathy for Heathcliff. Although he was loved by Mr. Earnshaw, Heathcliff suffered ongoing abuse and cruelty at the hands of Hindley (who, himself, felt unappreciated by his father), all of which had a deleterious effect on Heathcliff and spurred his lust for revenge. A Catholic psychiatrist observes: “Biological birth is not enough. Psychic birth through authentic affirmation is an absolute necessity for a man to be capable of finding true happiness in this life. Affirmation is at the root of all happy human existence” (Conrad Barrs, M.D.). Thus, another lesson to be learned from Wuthering Heights is the obligation of kindness (brotherly love) that we owe to our neighbor, and the harm that is done to another person when we fail in this obligation and tend towards contempt, derision or even hatred. The harm caused to others by the deprivation of love is a major theme in Wuthering Heights, and we see, by way of contrast, that the kindness of young Cathy is so very helpful to both Linton and Hareton. The key point here is that every person’s life touches the lives of many others – either for the good or bad. This is all about the solidarity that exists between human beings.  How we treat others really matters. “The worst kinds of unhappiness, as well as the greatest amount of it, come from our conduct to each other” (F.W. Faber). Thus, “if our conduct…were under the control of kindness” we would live in a vastly happier world.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

References:  The quotes in the first paragraph are in Theresa M. Kenney’s helpful essay, “Compassion and Condemnation in Wuthering Heights,” in the Ignatius Critical Edition of Wuthering Heights. She says, “Heathcliff needed to be saved, and he was not saved.” In another essay, Joseph Pearce states that the novel ends “on the side of the angels,” noting Lockwood’s observation that, together, Catherine and Hareton “would brave Satan and all his legions.” The quote from Conrad Barrs is in his book, Born Only Once.

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“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (Revelation 12:1).

One of the ultimate revelations of Christianity is that we are eternal persons – not only by virtue of our soul, but by virtue of our soul and body. “The Father’s power ‘raised up’ Christ his Son and by doing so perfectly introduced his Son’s humanity, including his body, into the Trinity” (CCC 648, emphasis added). The great Catholic historian, Warren H. Carroll, states: “Christendom is the reign of Christ…. Much of that reign is invisible, since His kingdom is not of this world. Much of it is personal, since the primary concern of this divine Person is with us as human and eternal persons. But some of it is public and historical.” Now Mary’s assumption into Heaven (soul and body) is no doubt an intensely personal matter, and yet it is public as well since the Church promulgates it not only as an established fact, but as a fact which has infallibly occurred. Do you want to understand the meaning of life? Well then, look at the life of Mary of Nazareth. Mary was closely united to Jesus, the Savior, and now she is a citizen of Heaven – forever.

Every Catholic firmly believes that Mary is in Heaven right now interceding for the faithful here on planet earth. Vatican II speaks of Mary’s intercession in these profound words:

“This maternity of Mary in the order of grace began with the consent which she gave in faith at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, and lasts until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this salvific duty, but by her constant intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation. By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into the happiness of their true home” (Lumen Gentium, 62, Documents of Vatican II).

The dogma of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, body and soul, was declared infallible from the Chair of Peter in 1950 by Pope Pius XII, who wrote in Munificentissimus Deus:

“Hence the revered Mother of God, from all eternity joined in a hidden way with Jesus Christ in one and the same decree of predestination, immaculate in her conception, a most perfect virgin in her divine motherhood, the noble associate of the divine Redeemer who has won a complete triumph over sin and its consequences, finally obtained, as the supreme culmination of her privileges, that she should be preserved free from the corruption of the tomb and that, like her own Son, having overcome death, she might be taken up body and soul to the glory of heaven where, as Queen, she sits in splendor at the right hand of her Son, the immortal King of the Ages” (40).

It is fascinating to note, in a Church overflowing with relics dating back even to Jesus’ crucifixion, that T. L. Frazier points out in his essay, “Assumptions About Mary,” : –

“Yet among all the relics there is not be found a single one said said to be a relic of Mary’s actual body.”

Biblically speaking, Jesus entrusted Mary to the care of Saint John (see John 19: 25-27). In the Book of Revelation – the final book in the Bible – John recalls a vision he experienced on the island of Patmos where he saw the Blessed Virgin Mary clothed in glory. He states:

“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” (Revelation 12:1).

Saint Pope John Paul II explains that this woman “clothed with the sun” is preeminently Mary, “the woman of glory”:

“The mutual relationship between the mystery of the Church and Mary appears clearly in the “great portent” described in the Book of Revelation: ‘A great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars’ (12:1). In this sign the Church recognizes an image of her own mystery: present in history, she knows that she transcends history, inasmuch as she constitutes on earth the ‘seed and beginning’ of the Kingdom of God. The Church sees this mystery fulfilled in complete and exemplary fashion in Mary. She is the woman of glory in whom God’s plan could be carried out with supreme perfection” (Redemptoris Mater, 103; see also no. 47 – “And by her ecclesial identification as the “woman clothed with the sun” (Rev. 12:1), it can be said that ‘in the Most Holy Virgin the Church has already reached that perfection whereby she exists without spot or wrinkle.’”)

And in the encyclical letter, Ad Diem Illum Laetissimum, Pope Saint Pius X wrote:

“A great sign,” thus the Apostle St. John describes a vision divinely sent him, appears in the heavens: “A woman clothed with the sun, and with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars upon her head.” Everyone knows that this woman signified the Virgin Mary, the stainless one who brought forth our head…John therefore saw the Most Holy Mother of God already in eternal happiness, yet travailing in a mysterious childbirth. What birth was it? Surely it was the birth of us who, still in exile, are yet to be generated to the perfect charity of God, and to eternal happiness. And the birth pains show the love and desire with which the Virgin from heaven above watches over us, and strives with unwearying prayer to bring about the fulfillment of the number of the elect.

Revelation 12:1 shows Mary with a body, not as an disembodied spirit. She is seen, head to toe, with a Queenly crown on her head and the moon under her feet. The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible (ICSB) points out that the “woman of Revelation 12” is “Mary, the Mother of the Messiah and the spiritual mother of his disciples….And because the woman is a queen who wears a crown and a mother who bears a royal male child, she is also the Queen Mother of the Davidic kingdom reestablished by Jesus [Mary, the mother of Jesus].” The ICSB further states: “She also represents the faithful of Israel, crying out for the Messiah, as well as the Church, attacked by the devil for witnessing to Jesus.”

It is often argued that belief in Mary’s Assumption came late in the history of the Church, not even being formally defined until 1950. But as T.L. Frazier demonstrates, there was a genre of popular stories “enjoyed by the early Christians” and “devoted to just this single theme of of the Assumption of Mary.” This literature is known as the Transitus Mariae (Passage of Mary). Frazier explains:

What does the Transitus literature teach us? It teaches that the Assumption didn’t just pop up out of nowhere in 1950, which is often the vague assumption of non-Catholics. Indeed, the belief was so widespread in the fifth century that it is hard not to conclude that it must have originated at a much earlier date. Many scholars place the Syriac fragments of the Transitus stories as far back as the third century, and noted Mariologist Michael O’Carroll adds, “The whole story will eventually be placed earlier, probably in the second century–possibly, if research can be linked with archaeological findings on Mary’s tomb in Gethsemani, in the first [century].”(Michael O’Carrol C.S.Sp., Theotokos: A Theological Encyclopedia of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Wilmington: Glazier, 1982) s.v. “Assumption Apocrypha,” 59.) This conclusion would seem to be supported by the fact that the doctrine flourished without anyone, especially the bishops, protesting against a growing “superstition.”

CONCLUSION: The dogma of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven stands on a strong foundation, Biblically, theologically and historically. For faithful Catholics it has been proved over and over again in approved apparitions such as Lourdes and Fatima, and, of course, Guadalupe, imaged above.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

References: The Truth About Mary, Volume II, by Robert Payesko; “Assumptions About Mary” by T.L. Frazier, This Rock, Volume 3, Number 5 & 6May-June 1992; Ignatius Catholic Study Bible; and an EWTN note on Rev. 12:1 by Fr. John Echert containing the quote from Pope Pius X. This post is dedicated to my sister, Mary Colleen VanZandt, who passed away this year on July 18th. Mary was born on August 15th. Please pray for her.

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“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.” (John 6:56)

The Feast of Saint John Vianney is on August 4th, and so I bring to your attention a supernatural event that occurred in his life involving the Holy Eucharist. G.K. Chesterton (the writer, the critic, the convert) held on to his faith in an age of increasing skepticism because, among other things, “the objective occurrence of the supernatural.” He states: “If it comes to human testimony there is a choking cataract of human testimony in favor of the supernatural.” He adds: “Looking impartially into certain miracles of medieval and modern times, I have come to the conclusion that they occurred…. I am forced…by a conspiracy of facts” to conclude “that miracles do happen.” Here, then, is an example of such a “supernatural occurrence” testified to by Saint John Vianney himself.


“Life! Life! Eternal Life!” cries Christian as he flees the City of Destruction

Here I am, living through a pandemic and a time of social unrest, and I’m somehow drawn to Bunyan’s ancient novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress! And this is because Bunyan’s novel reminds us so poignantly that life is a journey with many obstacles and difficulties to overcome.

Let’s face it – as pure adventure The Pilgrim’s Progress is a fantastic story. The fact that it is also an adventure story about getting to Heaven is an added bonus (one not to be underestimated!). The fact that the story is also one of the greatest examples of allegorical literature ever written is still another added bonus (full of pedagogical significance!).

Charlotte Bronte alludes to The Pilgrim’s Progress in the ending of Jane Eyre, and so does Louisa May Alcott (more specifically) in Little Women, and just mentioning these two examples, among many others, gives you an idea of the spectacular influence of The Pilgrim’s Progress in Western Literature. This was one of the most popular books in England (and elsewhere?) for quite a long period of time, although its present appeal and relevance has clearly waned under the influence of secularism. But still, as Professor Willison mentions, The Pilgrim’s Progress “with its allegorical form and content…is the best of its kind in the [English language] and will never be matched, for no one in our scientific, atomic, skeptical age could or would attempt anything like it.”

Of The Pilgrim’s Progress G. K. Chesterton states:

“The Pilgrim’s Progress certainly exhibits all the marks of such a revival of primitive power and mystery. Its resemblance to the Bible is not a mere imitation of style; it is also a coincidence of mood. Bunyan, who was a soldier in Cromwell’s army, had himself been thrown into a world almost as ferocious as that of Gideon, or the Maccabees, and he was really under the influence of the same kind of emotion. This was simply because, as I have said, Puritanism was a thing barbaric, and therefore eternal. Nowhere, perhaps, except in Homer, is there such a perfect description conveyed by the use of merely plain words. The description in Bunyan of how Moses came like a wind up the road, and was but a word and a blow; or how Apollyon straddled quite over the breadth of the way and swore by his infernal den– these are things which can only be paralleled in sudden and splendid phrases out of Homer or the Bible, such as the phrases about the monstrous and man-killing hands of Achilles, or the war-horse who laughs at the shaking of the spear.”

C.S. Lewis adds:

“We must attribute Bunyan’s style to a perfect natural ear, a great sensibility for the idiom and cadence of popular speech, a long experience in addressing unlettered audiences, and a freedom from bad models. I do not add ‘to an intense imagination’, for that also can shipwreck if a man does not find the right words….

Many do not believe that either the trumpets ‘with melodious noise’ or the infernal den await us where the road ends. But most, I fancy, have discovered that to be born is to be exposed to delights and miseries greater than imagination could have anticipated; that the choice of ways at any cross-road may be more important than we think; and that short cuts may lead to very nasty places.”

But on a more practical level (one might say on a teaching level) The Pilgrim’s Progress is a veritable handbook or catalog of the vices that plague us all as we attempt to grow in moral goodness. And since Bunyan transforms these vices (and virtues) into allegorical images, these images can exercise a certain power in your life that an academic study is incapable of. Drawing from the novel, I might – and I have – in a certain type of examination of conscience ask myself: Am I becoming a Mr. Love-Lust or a Mr. Malice? I see I am becoming Mr. Talkative. Now I have become Mr. Morality living in the town of Legality. Now I appear to be Mr. Obstinate. Look now: I have fallen into the Slough of Despond because of my fears and doubts; I must climb out of this bog and rekindle hope and faith. Have I returned to live in the City of Destruction? Have I become enamored with prosperous living in Vanity Fair? Am I afraid to climb Difficulty Hill? Am I going to allow Giant Despair to imprison me in my thoughts? Do I understand that my true goal is the Celestial City? In short, I find these allegorical images of Bunyan –  images of the difficulties one encounters on the spiritual journey –  to be very helpful in assessing my own shortcomings. And what can be more useful than correcting our faults?

Published in 1678, The Pilgrim’s Progress is still quite a significant novel. Life is still an adventure. We are all still trying to get to Heaven. There are still significant obstacles and difficulties in the way of such a lofty goal. But The Pilgrim’s Progress helps us to better understand these obstacles and difficulties, and to overcome them, and thus to stay (or get back) on that narrow road that leads to the Celestial City!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

P.S. I therefore highly recommend this book for homeschoolers and even for a high-school theology or English class. Recommended: Max McLean’s audio rendition of The Pilgrim’s Progress, and the well done and enjoyable movie version of the novel starring Daniel Kruse (released in 2008).

Image: From Wikipedia, which states it is in the Public Domain, U.S.A.

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“I could never separate the devotion to the Heart of Jesus from the devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and I will never be able to explain how and how much the Sacred Heart of Jesus deigned to favor me in the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist” (Blessed Maria of the Divine Heart).


This short outline of the life of  Blessed Maria (or Mary) of the Divine Heart is derived from and based on Ann Ball’s short biography of her in Modern Saints (TAN), and also from the Wikipedia article on Blessed Maria. This saint (she is beatified) shows us how much Jesus desires consecration to His Sacred Heart. The story which follows is a powerful incentive to consecrate yourself and your family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.

A short portrait of Blessed Maria of the Divine Heart:

1. Blessed Maria Droste Zu Vischering, 1863-1899, was a Catholic nun known as “Maria of the Divine Heart.”

2. She was born to a wealthy family in Germany, and upon attending boarding school at the Sisters of the Sacred Heart (at age 15), she began to understand “that the love of the Sacred Heart without a spirit of sacrifice is but empty illusion.”

3. According to Wikipedia, “While at school, she contracted pneumonia and shortly before her eighteenth birthday, returned home to recover. In 1883, at the chapel of the Castle of Darfeld, Maria is said to have had an interior locution of Jesus Christ who said her: ‘Thou shalt be the wife of My Heart’. On 5 August of that same year, on the Silver Jubilee of her parents’ marriage, Maria told them of her desire to become a religious.”

4. Maria joined the Sisters of Charity of the Good Shepherd and made her final vows on January 29, 1891 at age 27. She received the name Maria of the Divine Heart.

5. She had considerable success as a youth worker with young girls, and “attributed all her success in her apostolate to the Heart of our Lord.”She stated: “Only the Heart of Jesus is responsible for the success I always had with the girls….When you are appealing to His Divine Heart for a soul, He will never refuse you, although sometimes He demands much prayer, sacrifice and suffering.”

6. In her mystical life, while Superior of the Convent of the Good Shepherd in Oporto , Portugal , Jesus told her of His wish to consecrate the entire world to His Sacred Heart, and directed her to make this wish known to Pope Leo XIII.

7. Sister Maria “had predicted that she would die as soon as the consecration was accomplished.”

8. According to Wikipedia:

“On June 10, 1898, her superior at the Good Shepherd monastery wrote to Pope Leo XIII stating that Sister Mary had received a message from Christ, requesting the pope to consecrate the entire world to the Sacred Heart. The pope initially did not believe her and took no action. However, on January 6, 1899 she wrote another letter, asking that in addition to the consecration, the first Fridays of the month be observed in honor of the Sacred Heart. In the letter she also referred to the recent illness of the pope and stated that Christ had assured her that Pope Leo XIII would live until he had performed the consecration to the Sacred Heart. Theologian Laurent Volken states that this had an emotional impact on Leo XIII, despite the theological issues concerning the consecration of non-Christians.

Pope Leo XIII commissioned an inquiry on the basis of her revelation and Church tradition. In his 1899 encyclical letter Annum Sacrum, Leo XIII decreed that the consecration of the entire human race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus should take place on June 11, 1899. In the same encyclical, Pope Leo XIII referred to the illness about which Sister Mary had written, stating: ‘There is one further reason that urges us to realize our design; We do not want it to pass by unnoticed. It is personal in nature but just as important: God the author of all Good has saved us by healing us recently from a dangerous disease’.”

Pope Leo XIII also composed the Prayer of Consecration to the Sacred Heat, and included it in Annum Sacrum. Pope Pius X later decreed that this consecration of the human race, performed by Pope Leo XIII, be renewed each year.”

9. “On June 8, 1899 , two copies of the encyclical were personally delivered to her [Sister Maria], and at 3:05 pm [on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, according to Wikipedia, although not confirmed by Ann Ball] she quietly gave her soul to God.”

10. “On June 11, 1899, Pope Leo XIII consecrated the entire human race to the Heart of Jesus.”

11. “Pope Leo XIII called  this consecration ‘the greatest act of my pontificate’. “

12. Sister Maria was declared Venerable in 1964, and was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1975.

13. Blessed Maria of the Divine Heart, intercede for and share with us your great love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

P.S. According to Wikipedia, “Blessed Mary of the Divine Heart’s incorrupt body is exposed for public veneration in the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Ermesinde, in northern Portugal.”

Image: Image and caption at Wikipedia (Public Domain, U.S.A.)

Book RecommendationThe Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus: How to Practice the Sacred Heart Devotion by Rev, John Croiset (TAN Books).


Men Of The Sacred Hearts: Home Enthronement To The Sacred Heart .

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“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Cor. 14:1)

If I have any prophetic gifts, they remain undiscovered (and my temperament is such that I tend to be skeptical of private revelations). But I have great respect for Dr. Ralph Martin of Renewal Ministries (and for Father Scanlan whom he relies on), so I am sharing this recent and important post of Mr. Martin. Click on the link below:

Ralph Martin – Fr. Michael Scanlan’s Amazing Prophecy An Urgent Message for Today

“Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good….” (1 Thes. 5:21-22).


Thomas L. Mulcahy


Ralph Martin is president of Renewal Ministries. He also hosts The Choices We Face, a widely viewed weekly Catholic television and radio program distributed throughout the world. Ralph holds a doctorate in theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome and is a professor and the director of Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Detroit. He was named by Pope Benedict XVI as a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and was also appointed as a “peritus” to the Synod on the New Evangelization. Ralph is the author of a number of books, the most recent of which are The Urgency of the New Evangelization, The Fulfillment of All Desire, and Will Many Be Saved? He and his wife Anne have six children and sixteen grandchildren and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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“God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5)

In his great Epistle on justification, Saint Paul presents the Holy Spirit as the hero of the Christian life, whose full power has been unleashed by Jesus’ death and resurrection! The overarching theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans (chapters 1-8) is POWER leading to LIFE. Thus Paul says at Romans 1:16:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

This POWER flows from Christ’s resurrection:

“[Jesus] who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4).

The general condition of humanity before the Gospel is powerlessness, both for Jew and Gentile. “We have already brought the charge against Jew and Greek alike that they are under the domination of sin” (Romans 3:9). Even compliance with the “works of the law” in the Old Testament economy is insufficient for justification: “a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law” (Romans 3:28).

Our reconciliation and justification comes from faith in Jesus Christ (chapters 4-5). “At the appointed time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for us godless men” (Romans 5:6). This justification by faith flows not only from Jesus’ sacrificial, atoning death, but also from the power flowing from his resurrection! “Jesus who was handed over to death for our sins and raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25).

Moreover, flowing from this gift of justifying faith is HOLY SPIRIT POWER! “We have gained access by faith to the grace in which we now stand, and we boast of our hope for the glory of God….And this hope will not leave us disappointed, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

Paul then asks: does this grace of justification give us immunity from sin?, to which he essentially answers: HELL NO! “Are we to say, ‘Let us continue in sin that grace may abound?’ Certainly not!” (Romans 6:1-2). Why is this? Because through faith we have been baptized into the sin-forgiving death of Jesus and the new life giving resurrection of Jesus. “Through baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life” (Romans 6:4). “Do not, therefore, let sin rule your mortal body” (Romans 6:12).

We then come to chapter seven of Romans where we encounter this mysterious, representative man who is struggling so mightily with the power of sin in his flesh. He cries out: “For I do not what I want, but the very thing I hate (7:15), and, “when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand” (7: 21). Is Paul speaking of himself here, or of Israel, or of the “universal plight of all men” (ICSB)? Whichever the case may be, the powerlessness this man feels in the flesh (in his human weakness) has a solution: it is the HOLY SPIRIT who will give him – give us – victory over sin through our new life in the Spirit!

The flesh may be weak, but the Holy Spirit is POWER! And as Paul foreshadowed at Romans 5:5, the Holy Spirit has been given to us! We are not on our own in our fight against sin. We have a most powerful ally: the indwelling Holy Spirit. Here is the solution to the man’s problem in Romans 7: through faith in Jesus Christ, received in baptism, we have access to the Holy Spirit.

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (7:24-25). “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (8:1-2).

And if you think Paul is being subtle in pointing out the Holy Spirit as the solution to this man’s problem, think again! In chapter 8 of Romans, Paul makes reference to the Holy Spirit some 18 times! He uses the didactic method of repetition in order to drill into our minds that we have victory over sin in the power of the Holy Spirit! The following verses are representative:

“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life  because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of  his Spirit who lives in you.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Romans 8: 5-14).

Conclusion: Do you know why St. Paul never allows even a shade of unethical conduct in his Epistles? Because the Holy Spirit empowers you to lead a holy life. Paul is utterly taken up by the reality of the Christian life. He is ablaze to the core with the Holy Spirit. The hero of the Christian life is the Holy Spirit. His full power has been unleashed, as Paul points out, by Jesus’ death and resurrection. This is a radical quality of Christian morality. God has given you the Holy Spirit! This is a supernatural reality made possible by Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is a reality perceived by faith, and received in baptism. Holiness is a POWER. The Gospel has come to you in POWER! You are justified, you are set right with God, because Jesus has given you access to the full power of the Holy Spirit, who gives you victory over sin, because of His indwelling, sanctifying presence in your soul. The power of the Holy Spirit is the principle of LIFE! The death and resurrection of Jesus is therefore the engine which carries us along to the state of justification. “Romans 8 unveils the solution to the problem laid out in Romans 7. It is a divine solution orchestrated by the Trinity. The Father sent the Son to redeem the world from sin (8:3) and sent the Spirit to raise the world from death to new life (8:9-13)” (ICSB). See the source for this conclusion under References below.

Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.

References: As you can see, I am relying on the notes in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. But primarily I am relying on notes I typed up years ago from a class on the Epistles of Saint Paul. I don’t even remember the name of the professor, but the entire conclusion above, and the whole theme of power leading to life, and of the Holy Spirit being the hero of the Christian life, comes directly from his lectures, and the notes I took. He was a Jewish convert, teaching at the St. Mary’s Campus in Orchard Lake Village, MI. Finally, I have also relied extensively on Dr. Scott Hahn’s excellent audio series on Romans.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” and through Baptism:

‘But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus’ [Romans 6: 8-11].

Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ’s Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself:

‘[God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature. . . . For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized’ [Saint Athanasius].”   (nos. 1987-1988)

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                      “FOR OUR CITIZENSHIP IS IN HEAVEN”  (PHILIPPIANS 3:20)

In the Ascension Jesus is lifted up, is raised higher and higher, until we can see that He is above all else! If there are earthly powers, if there are heavenly powers, if there are demonic powers, Jesus is “Lord of the cosmos” and all creation is subject to him (see CCC 668), for “to which of the angels did God ever say, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet’?” (Hebrews 1:13). Only Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:21). In the Ascension, then, we see in the clearest terms that Jesus is Lord, or rather the Lord-God.

Jesus’ Ascension establishes humanity’s true destiny in Heaven. I picture Jesus returning to the Father in Heaven, saying, “FatherMission Accomplished,” and then saying, “Father, let us breathe forth our Holy Spirit upon the world through my risen and Glorified body.” It was good, then, for Jesus to ascend back to the Father so that the Holy Spirit could be given to us to guide us, likewise, to our heavenly home.“If I go [back to Heaven],” says Jesus, “I will send him [the Holy Spirit] to you” (John 16:7).

One lesson we clearly glean from our Lord’s Ascension is that the entire trajectory of Jesus’ earthly life was Heaven. He, Jesus, is the first born of many brethren (Romans 8:29). Therefore, the absolute true meaning of life is Heaven. Saint Paul says it beautifully: “Our citizenship is in Heaven” (Philippians 3:20). To truly understand the meaning of life we must get this principle straight. Take a look at your Passport: I hope it says “Citizen of Heaven.” Heaven is your true home. We are pilgrims here on planet earth.

Another lesson we glean initially from our Lord’s Resurrection, and ultimately from his Ascension, is the incredibly profound meaning of the the ultimate destiny of the human body. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read the following very significant words: “The Father’s power ‘raised up’ Christ his Son and by doing so perfectly introduced his Son’s humanity, including his body, into the Trinity. Jesus is conclusively revealed as ‘Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his Resurrection from the dead’ ” (CCC 648, my emphasis). “Christ’s Ascension marks the definitive entrance of Jesus’ humanity into God’s heavenly domain, whence he will come again….” (CCC 665). Consequently, any claim that Christianity devalues the body or human nature is misguided. Pope Benedict XVI, in a homily in 2005, stated: “Christ’s Ascension means … that He belongs entirely to God. He, the Eternal Son, led our human existence into God’s presence, taking with Him flesh and blood in a transfigured form. The human being finds room in God; through Christ, the human being was introduced into the very life of God.” C.S. Lewis adds:

“Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

Christ’s Ascension also signifies the beginning of the final hour of human history. By Christ’s Ascension into Heaven the final age – indeed the final “hour” – of the world has begun. The Catechism states: “Since the Ascension God’s plan has entered into its fulfillment. We are already at ‘the last hour’. ‘Already the final age of the world is with us, and the renewal of the world is irrevocably under way; it is even now anticipated in a certain real way, for the Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real but imperfect’ ” (CCC 670). All Christians are living in “end times,” which means that we should be diligently preparing for the return of the Lord who is already present to us through the Holy Eucharist. 

Finally, our Lord’s Ascension shows that He is the King and High Priest of all creation. There are powerful words in the Epistle to the Hebrews about Jesus’ ongoing priestly ministry in Heaven (words that should really give us great encouragement!). In the seventh chapter of Hebrews we read: “… because Jesus lives forever [in Heaven], he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them” (Hebrews 7:24-25; CCC 519). Is it not incredibly encouraging to know that Jesus is always living to make intercession for you! Does not that revelation of his incessant intercession for you fill your heart with confidence!

Moreover, the author of Hebrews identifies Jesus’ never-ending priesthood in Heaven as the true fulfillment of the Order of Melchizedek, the very first priesthood mentioned in the Old Testament (see Genesis 14). In fact, the Order of Melchizedek is mentioned multiple times in Hebrews! This is a very significant point for Catholics because the “thanksgiving offering” made by the priest Melchizedek in the Old Testament was that of bread and wine (Genesis 14:18), which constituted a “communion sacrifice” per Dr. Scott Hahn. Jesus is identified in Hebrews as “the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 12:24). The true sacramental sign of this New Covenant is identified by Jesus as the Holy Eucharist (“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” – Luke 22:20). As such we are advised in Hebrews not to neglect ‘to meet together” for the New Testament liturgy (Hebrews 10:25), the Mass, of our High Priest, Jesus Christ (see CCC 692). Jesus ascended into Heaven is the true High Priest at every Mass.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.


Sources: Significantly, Luke 22:20 is the only place in the Gospels where Jesus uses the term, “New Covenant.” For the material in this note on Hebrews and the High Priesthood of Jesus, as it pertains to the Order of Melchizedek and the Eucharist, I am relying predominantly on Dr. Scott Hahn and The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible. See also Dr. Hahn’s audio commentary on Hebrews. The quote from Pope Benedict XVI found at

Ascension Thursday and meeting Christ face-to-face 


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“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7)

“Forgive, and you will be forgiven…for with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:37-38)

“He who knows how to forgive prepares for himself many graces from God” (Saint Faustina Kowalska, Diary, 390)

It’s in your own best interest to forgive. If you’re hanging on to unforgiveness, it’s in your own best interest to let go! You don’t want to forfeit graces God wants to give you because of a refusal to forgive. God’s will is quite clear here: even though it can be quite difficult, we must forgive. Indeed, a plethora of New Testament passages, set forth below, speak to a spiritual law of the Gospel that, in essence, impedes us from seeking the Father’s mercy if we are unable to extend mercy to those who have harmed us.
 Luke 6:37…………………..Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
 Matthew 6:12……………. “and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us.”
 Matthew 6:14-15……….. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
 Mark 11:25…………………..”And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
 Ephesians 4:32……………”Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
 Colossians 3:13…………..”Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
 Matthew 18:21-22……….”Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, echoing the scripture passages cited above, talks about how hardened, unforgiving hearts can cut-off the outpouring of mercy. The Catechism – almost getting a little emotional – talks of this situation as being “daunting.” These important words are from Section 2840 of the CCC:

2840 Now – and this is daunting – this outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us. Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see. In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father’s merciful love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to his grace.

Conversely, the floodgates of grace open up when we honor God’s will and courageously choose to forgive. In Life Everlasting, Father Garrigou-Lagrange, the great Dominican and mystical theologian (who once taught the future Pope John Paul II), tells us of the amazing transformation of a Jewish man he personally knew who had the courage to forgive. He relates: 

“I knew a young Jew, the son of an Austrian banker, in Vienna. He had decided on a lawsuit against the greatest adversary of his family, a lawsuit that would have enriched him. He suddenly recalled this word of the Pater Noster, which he had sometimes heard: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” He said to himself: “How would it be if, instead of carrying on this lawsuit, I would pardon him?” He followed the inspiration, forgave completely, renounced the lawsuit. At that same moment he received the full gift of faith. This one word of the Our Father became his pathway up the mountain of life. He became a priest, a Dominican, and died at the age of fifty years. Though nothing particularly important appeared in the remainder of his life, his soul remained at the height where it had been elevated at the moment of his conversion. Step by step he mounted to the eternal youth which is the life of heaven. The moral runs thus: One great act of self-sacrifice may decide not only our whole spiritual life on earth but also our eternity. We judge a chain of mountains by its highest peak.”

Dear friend, Saint Faustina Kowalska tells us that we are most like God when we show mercy and forgiveness to others (Diary 1148). But, practically speaking, it is simply in our own best interest to forgive. Why would we want to harm our own spiritual progress by hardening our hearts and refusing mercy to others? And keep in mind that God is constantly sending us actual graces to give us the courage and desire to forgive. God is all-helpful: ask Him for the power to forgive.

To be be merciful, to have a merciful heart, to have a forgiving spirit, we cannot place too high of a value on such a blessing!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

Reference: See Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, page 369, fn on Col. 3:12, wherein it states: “We express gratitude to the Lord by imitating his mercy in our relationships with others. In fact, extending forgiveness to others is necessary if we hope to receive the ongoing forgiveness of the Father (Mt 6:14-15;18:23-35).”  In his book, The Seven Secretsof Confession, Vinny Flynn discusses section 2840 of the CCC.

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