Saint Patrick's Confession
I, Patrick, a sinner, am a most uncultivated man, and the least of all the faithful, and I am greatly despised by many.
My father was the deacon Calpornius, son of the late Potitus, a priest of the town of Banna Venta Berniae (probably near Carlisle) He had a small estate nearby, where I was taken captive. I was barely sixteen. I had neglected the true God, and when I was carried off into captivity in Ireland, along with a great number of people, it was well deserved. For we cut ourselves off from God and did not keep his commandments, and we disobeyed our bishops who were reminding us of our salvation. God revealed himself to us through his wrath: He scattered us among foreign peoples, even to the end of the earth, where, appropriately, I have my own small existence among strangers.
Then the Lord made me aware of my unbelief, so that - however late - I might recollect my offences and turn with all my heart to the Lord my God. It was He who took heed of my insignificance. Who pitied my youth and ignorance, who watched over me as a father would a son. That is why I cannot remain silent (further it would be inappropriate to do so) about the great favours and graces which the Lord deigned to grant me in the land of my captivity. For the way to make repayment for that revelation of God through capture and enslavement is to declare and make known His wonders to every race under heaven.
Because that there is no other God, nor has there been, nor will there be in the future, other than God the Father, begotten without beginning, from whom all things begin, who governs all things, as we have been taught; and his son Jesus Christ. Whom we testify to have been manifestly with the Father always, to have been spiritually with the Father since before the beginning of time to have been of the father before the beginning in a way that cannot be described. And by him were made things visible and invisible. He was made man. Having vanquished death he was taken back into heaven to the Father, who gave him the full power to govern all things in heaven and earth and hell, so that every tongue should confess to him that Jesus Christ is Lord and God. We believe in him and expect his coming in the near future as judge of the living and the dead, who will make return to all according to what they have done. He poured out abundantly on us the Holy Spirit, the gift and pledge of immortality, who makes of obedient believers sons of God and co-heirs of Christ. We confess and adore him as one God in the Trinity of the Holy name.
It was he who said through his prophet:
cal on me in the day of your trouble
and I will free you and you will glorify me And again he says:
it is an
honourable thing to make known and proclaim the works of God. Although I am
imperfect in many ways, nevertheless I wish my brethren and kin to know what
sort of man I am, so that they may understand my motives. I am not unaware of
what my Lord has taught, since he has made it clear in the psalm:
destroy the speakers of lies. And again he says
the lying mouth kills the
soul. And the Lord also says in the Gospel
The idle word that people speak,
they shall account for it on the judgement.
So I realise I must be in the greatest dread - in fear and trembling - of incurring this sentence on the day when no one can hide himself or sneak away but we shall all, every one of us, have to account even for our smallest sins at the tribunal of the Lord Christ.
Patrick defends himself from criticism
Therefore, while I have had it n mind for a long time to write, up to now I
have hesitated. I was afraid of being exposed to criticism, because I have not
the education of others, who have absorbed to the full both law and sacred
scripture alike and who have never, from infancy onward, had to change to
another language; but rather could continually perfect the language they had.
Whereas, with me our words and our language have been translated into a foreign
tongue, so that it is easy to ascertain - from the flavour of my writing - the
manner of my education and of my training in expression. Because it is said:
The wise man will be distinguished by his language as will judgement and
knowledge and true teaching. But excuse, however true, are pointless, especially
if we take them in conjunction with my presumption in attempting only now, in my
old age, to achieve more than I could in my youth. For my sins prevented me from
continuing to build on my early education. But who believes me, even if I repeat
what I have already said? As youth, nay, almost as a boy not able to speak, I
was taken captive, before I knew what to pursue and what to avoid. So because of
this, today I am ashamed and agitated with fear, at exposing my lack of
education; because I lack the fluency to express myself concisely, as my spirit
longs to do and as I try with heart and soul.
But, even if I had been given what was given to others, nevertheless, out of
gratitude I would not be silent. And if perhaps I seem to many people to be
pushing myself forward, with my lack of knowledge and my lame language, yet it
is indeed written:
The stammering tongues will quickly learn to speak peace.
How much more ought we not to aim at that, since, as it is written, we
the letter of Christ for salvation, even to the end of the earth
and even if the language does not flow but is blocked and turgid
it is written
on your hearts not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God. And again
the Spirit affirms that rustic backwardness, too was created by the most high.
So, therefore be astonished all you, both great and little, who fear God. And you, reverend professors listen and pay close attention. Who was it that lifted up me - stupid me - from the middle of those who seemed to be wise and skilled in the law and powerful and all matters? And who was it that inspired me - me! - above others to be such a person (if only I were!) as could do good faithfully - in fear and without complaint to that people to whom Christ's love transported me and gave me; if I should prove worthy in short to be of service to and truth?
Consequently, I take this to be a measure of my faith in the Trinity that, without regard to danger, I make known God's gift and the eternal comfort he provides; that I spread Gods name everywhere dutifully and without fear so that after my death I may leave a legacy to so many thousands of people - my brother and sons whom I have baptized in the Lord.
Patrick tells how God has singled him out
And I was not a worthy or a fit person for what the Lord granted me, his minor servant: that after such calamities and such great burdens, after captivity, after many years, he should bestow on me, so great a grace in behalf of the nation - a thing which once, in my youth, I never expected nor thought of.
But after I had arrived in Ireland, I found myself pasturing flocks daily, and I prayed a number of times each day. More and more the love and fear of God came to me, and faith grew and my spirit was exercised, until I was praying up to a hundred times everyday - and in the night nearly as often. So that I would even remain in the woods and on the mountain in snow, frost and rain, waking to pray before first light. And I felt no ill effect, nor was I in any way sluggish - because as I now realise, the Spirit was seething within me.
And it was there in fact that one night, in my sleep, I heard a voice saying
It is good that you fast, who will go soon to your home land. And again,
after a short space of time I heard this pronouncement:
Look! Your ship is
And it was not nearby, but was, as it happened, two hundred miles away. I had never been there and I knew no one. And shortly after I had afterwards I fled that place, leaving the man with whom I had been for six years. I travelled with the aid of God, who guided me as his son, successfully on his way and I had nothing to fear, until I arrived at that ship.
On the day I arrived the ship weighed anchor, I explained that I had the
wherewithal to sail with them. And that day, furthermore, I refused for fear of
God. Nevertheless I hoped that some of them would come to faith in Jesus Christ
(for they were heathen). This displeased the captain who answered sharply, with
Your wish to travel with us is quite futile.
And when I heard this, I left them in order to return to the shelter in which
I had lodged, beginning to pray as I went. Before the prayer was finished, I
heard one of them, who shouted out to me
Come quickly these men are calling
I returned to them immediately and they began to explain to me:
will accept you in good faith. Bind yourself to us in whatever way you wish.
Because of this I was received amoung them and we set sail straight away.
And after three days we reached land. We travelled for twenty-eight days
through a wilderness. They ran out of food, and hunger weakened them, and the
next day the captain addressed me:
What's this, Christian? You say your God is
great and all powerful. Then why can't you pray for us? For we are in danger of
dying of hunger. In fact it's doubtful if we'll see another human being I said
to them confidently:
Trust in the Lord my God and turn to him with all your
hearts - since nothing is impossible for him, that he may send you today more
than sufficient food for your journey - for he has an abundance everywhere.
And with God's help it came about. There right before our eyes, a heard of
pigs appearded. They killed many of them, and spent two nights eating their fill
and fully recovered their strength, for many of them had grown weak and were
half-dead along the way. After this they gave the greatest thanks to God, and I
gained prestige in their eyes. From that point onward they had abundant food.
They even found some wild honey and offered it to me, saying
It is a sacrifice.
Thank God I tasted none of it.
That very night, when I was asleep, Satan tested me most severely: the memory
of it will remain with me as long as I am in this body. It was as if a huge rock
fell on top of me and I had no use of my limbs. But from what quarter came the
inspiration to my ignorant spirit to call on Helias? In the midst of all this I
saw the sun rise in the heavens, and when I shouted
Helias! Helias! with all
my strength - see the brilliance of the sun came down on me and straightaway
removed all the weighty pressure. I believe that the Lord came to my help, and
that it was the Spirit who was already crying out in me; and I pray that it will
be so on the day of my troubles, as it says in the Gospel:
On that day, the
It is not you who speaks, but the Spirit of the Father who
speaks within you.
(And on another occasion many years later I was taken captive. And I spent
the first night with my captors. However I heard a divine announcement too me:
You will be two months in their hands. This is what happened. On the sixteenth
night the Lord freed me from them).
While we were on our journey he provided us with food, fire and dry conditions until, on the tenth day, we met peope. As I have indicated above we travelled for twenty eight days through a wilderness, and on that night on which we met people, we had truly no food left.
Another time, after a few years, when I was in Britain, my family received me
as a son, and they asked me weather after such tribulations as I had undergone
they could trust me now, as a son never to leave them again. But while I was
there, in a night vision, I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name
was Victorious, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read
the voice of the Irish. As I began the letter, I imagined in that
moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of
Foclut, which is beside the western sea (unknown location but some authors claim
it is a site west of Killala Bay, in Co. Mayo) and they cried out, as with one
We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us. I was
pierced by great emotion and could not read on and so I woke. Thank God that
after my years the Lord answered my call according to their cry.
And another night he spoke (God knows, not I, weather within me or beside me)
in his words which I heard in terror, but without understanding them, except
that at the end of the message he said:
He who gave his life for you, it is he
who speaks within you and so I woke, full of joy.
And again I saw him praying in me, and I was as it were within my body, and I
heard him above me, that is, over my inner person and he was praying hard with
groanings. And all the while I was dumbfounded and astonished, wondering who it
could be that was praying within me. But at the end of the prayer, he spoke,
saying that he was the Spirit. And so I woke, and I recollected what the apostle
The Spirit helps us in the deficiencies of our prayers, for we do not
know what it is proper to pray for; but the sprit himself pleads on our behalf
with unutterable groanings which cannot be expressed in words. And again:
Lord, our advocate, prays on our behalf.
Patricks Trial by his Seniors and his Vindication
And when I was attacked by certain of my seniors, who came and cast up my sins against my laborious episcopate; on that day I was powerfully tempted and might have fallen, now and I eternity. But the Lord showed his mercy to his disciple, who is an exile for his name and he came mightily to my support in this humiliation. Since it was not through my fault that I was brought into scandal and disgrace, I pray God that it will not be reckoned against them as sin.
They found a pretext from thirty years earlier, bringing against me words of confession I made before I was a deacon. Because, in an anxious and melancholy state of mind, I had privately told my dearest friend about something I had done one day, indeed in one hour, when I was a boy before I had the strength of character. I am not sure, God alone knows if I had yet reached the age of fifteen, and I was still, since my childhood, not a believer in the living God; rather I remained in death and unbelief until I was severely chastised and truly brought down to earth, every day, by hunger and nakedness.
On the other hand, while it was not of my own choice that I arrived in
Ireland at that time when I was almost a lost soul, it was a good thing for me
because I was reformed by the Lord and he prepared me to be today what was once
remote from me; so that, whereas once I did not even consider my own salvation,
now the salvation of others is my care and concern. Therefore, on the day when I
was rejected by the people mentioned above, that night I saw in a dream the
dishonouring documents in front of me, while at the same time I heard the divine
Voice saying to me:
It displeased us to see our chosen one in this state:
stripped of honour. Nor did he say
it displeased me but rather
us (as if linking himself with him, just as he had said:
Whoever touches you,
it is if he touched the apple of my eye.
For that reason, I offer thanks that he gave me strength in all matters, as he did not frustrate the journey upon which I had decided, and the work which I had learned from Christ my Lord, rather I felt all the more his great power within me. And my faith was vindicated before God and men.
Therefore I tell you boldly that my conscience does not reproach me now or
for the future. I have God as a witness that I do not lie in what I tell you.
But I am all the more sorry for my close friend: how did we deserve to hear such
evidence given? He to whom I had entrusted my very soul! And before that case
(which I did not initiate, nor was I present in Britain for it), I learned from
some of the brethren that it was he who would act on my behalf in my absence.
(He is the very one who had told me, with his own mouth:
Look: you should be
raised to the rank of bishop, of which I was not worthy) But how did he come,
shortly afterwards in public, in the presence of people both good and bad, to
bring me into disgrace over something which he had willingly and gladly forgiven.
As had the Lord, who is greater than all?
Patrick Makes the case for his Mission to the Pagans
Enough of this, nevertheless, I must not conceal the gift of God, which he so freely bestowed upon me in the land where I was captive. Because it was at that time that I strenuously sought him and found him. And he has saved me from all injustices, so I believe, because his spirit is within me and works in me to the present day. Another bold statement, but God knows that if the voice that guided me were merely human, I should have kept silent for the love of Christ.
And so, tirelessly, I thank my God, who kept me faithful on the ay I was tired, so that today I might offer to him, the Lord Jesus Christ, the sacrifice of my living soul. He saved me in all your dignity you have shown yourself to me, so that today I constantly lift up and magnify your name among the heathen, wherever I have been, not only in good times but bad?
So, whatever may come my way, good or bad, I equally tackle it, always giving thanks to God, who granted me unlimited faith in him, and who helped me so that, ignorant as I am, I might in these final days dare to undertake this work, so holy and so wonderful. It is just as if I were a follower of those whom the Lord foretold, once in former times, who were to be harbingers of his gospel for a testimony to all races before the end of the world. And indeed, we have seen this done. See: we are witnesses: the gospel has been preached to those places beyond which nobody lives. However, it would be tedious to tell in whole or in detail of my undertaking. I shall relate briefly how the most holy God frequently freed me from slavery and from twelve dangers in which my life was at stake not to mention numerous plots, which I cannot express in words; for I do not want to bore my readers. But God who knows all thoings before they happen, is my authority that he readily and frequently gave me his counsel, just because I am in his are, though I am poor and insignificant.
From where did this understanding come to me, who had knowledge neither of the number of my days nor of God? From where did I afterwards receive so great and so beneficent a gift, to know and to desire God, relinquishing homeland and family for him?
They offered me many gifts, with tears and lamentation, and I offended them, as well as going against the wish of certain of my seniors, but God guided me not to agree with them or consent to them. This was no thanks to me; rather it was God who triumphed within me and opposed them all, so that I might come to the Irish heathen to preach the gospel and suffer the insults of unbelievers. But then! To endure disgrace because of my departure! And many prosecutions, even to the extent of imprisonment, and to sacrifice my patrimony for the sake of others! I am ready indeed to give my life, freely, in his name, and I choose to spend it here even until death, if the Lord will allow me.
Because I owe a great deal to God. He gave me this great boon: that through
me many heathen should be reborn in God, and that afterwards they should be
confirmed as Christians, so that everywhere clergy should be ordained for a
population newly coming to the faith, a population which the Lord redeemed from
the ends of the earth, just as he had promised through his prophets:
will come to you from the ends of the earth and will say: 'how empty the idols
which our forefathers erected and they are of no use' and again
I have placed
you as a light among the nations so that you may bring salvation even to the end
of the earth.
And it is there that I choose to await his promise, in which, at least, he
will never fail, as it is stated in the Gospel:
they will come from the east
and from the west and will recline at table with Abraham and Isac and Jacob: so
we believethat beleievers will come from the whole world. Therefore indeed it is
true that there is an obligation to fish well and diligently, as the Lord
follow me and I will make you fishers of men And again, he
tells us through the prophets:
Look, I send out many fishers and hunters says
God, and so on. From which it follows most cogently that we are obliged to
spread our nets so that we can catch a great shoal and multitude of God. And
there should be clergy everywhere to baptise and preach to a population which is
in need and longs for what it lacks, as the Lord says in the Gospel, where he
admonishes and teaches, telling us:
Now therefore, go and teach all nations,
baptising them in the name of the Father and of the holy spirit, teaching them
to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you
all days even to the consummation of the world.
And again he says:
Going therefore out into the whole world, preach the
Gospel to all of creation: whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; they
who do not believe will be condemned.
this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole
world as a testimony to all peoples, and then the end will come.
And the Lord also foretells through the prophet, saying:
And in the last
days, says the Lord,
I will pour out my Spirit over all flesh and your sons
and daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions and your old
men will dream dreams, and indeed in those days I will pour out my spirit over
my male servants and my female servants and they will prophesy.
And Hosea, he says:
A people that is not mine I will call my people and a
people that has not obtained mercy I will call a people that has obtained mercy.
And it will be in that place where it was said:
You are not my people: there
they will be called 'children of the living God'.
So this is why it come about in Ireland that people who had no acquaintance with God, but who up to now always had cults or idols and abominations, are recently, by this dispensation, made a people of the Lord and are known as children of God. Sons of the Scotti and daughters of chiefs are openly monks and virgins of Christ.
And indeed there was a certain blessed noblewoman, of Scottic origin, mature and beautiful, whom I baptized. A few days later she had no reason to come to us; she told us privately that she had received a message from the angel of God who commanded her to become a virgin of Christ and so draw nearer to him. Thanks be to God, just six days after that she had been embraced in the most excellent and eager way that which all the virgins of God follow. They do not do it with their fathers' consent; on the contrary they endure harassment and false accusations from their parents. And nonetheless their numbers increase (and we do not know the number of those of our own race who were born there), as well as those of widows and women living in chastity. But it is those who are held in slavery who have most to endure, even to the extent of suffering continental fears and threats. But the Lord has given grace to many His handmaids, so that they can bravely imitate Him in spite of all prohibitions.
That is why, even if I wished to leave them so that I could visit Britain (and with all my heart I was ready and anxious for my homeland and my parents, not only that, but to go on to Gaul to visit the brethren and be in the presence of my Lord's saints, god knows how much I longed for it), I am bound by the spirit, whose testimony is that if I do this he will afterwards find me guilty. And I am afraid of wrecking the task I have begun, nay, not I, but Christ the Lord who bade me come here and stay with them for the rest of my life, if the Lord will, and will guard me from every evil way that I may not sin before him.
I hope however that I did what I should have done; but I have no trust in this self of mine so long as I am in the body. For he is powerful who endeavours every day to turn me from the faith and from the pure teachings of true religion which I hold even to the end of my life for the Lord Christ. But through the flesh the enemy is always dragging me towards death, that is towards what is enticing but unlawful; and I know in part, why I have not led a perfect life like other believers. But I admit it to my Lord, and am not ashamed before him, because I do not lie. Indeed since I learned to know him in my youth, the love and fear of God have grown in me, and up to now, with the Lord's help, I have kept the faith. Let who will laugh and scoff. I will not be silent, nor will I conceal the signs and wonders which the Lord has shown to me many years before they happened, he who knows all happenings since before the begging of time.
That is why I should give thanks to God without ceasing, because he has often
been lenient with my foolishness and my carelessness. And because on more than
one occasion he has not been wrathful with me, who was given to him as a helper
but who did not quickly accept the task which was made clear to me nor do as the
spirit prompted. And the Lord took pity on me countless times, because he saw
that I was ready but that I did not know how to organise myself for these
matters. For there were many who hindered this mission. They even talked amoung
themselves behind my back saying:
who is this fellow going into danger amoung
enemies who do not know God?
This was not from malice, but because they didn't like the look of it, I bear witness to that myself, and you may take it that it was because of my naivete, and I was not aware of the grace that was within me. Now I know that I should have understood this earlier.
Now, then: I have given a simple explanation to those of my brothers and
fellow servants who have believed in me because of what I preached, and continue
to preach, for the strengthening and confirming of your faith. If only you too
could be persuaded to do better! This will be my renoen; for
it is the sons
wisdom that gives honour to the father.
Patrick's Declaration to his fellow Workers
You know, and so does God, how I have been among you since my youth in truth of faith and in sincerity of heart. I have kept and will keep faith even with the heathen among whom I live. God knows I have deceived none of them, nor even thought of doing so, lest I stir up and attak on God for fear of raising persecution against them and all of us and for fear that through me the name of the Lord be blasphemed for it is written: Woe to the man through whom the name of Lord be blasphemed.
For although I lack skill in anything, yet I have tried to do whatever I could to safeguard myself in my dealings, even the Christian brethren and with virgins of Christ and with religious women, who would spontaneously offer me gifts or throw some of their personal ornaments on the altar. These I repeatedly gave back to them, and they were offended with me, not knowing why I did so. But I did it from the hope of eternity, because of which I aimed at being careful of my integrity in all dealings, so that the unbelievers should not catch me out in any detail, and so that I would not in the smallest matter give a pretext to them to disparage or denigrate the ministry of my service.
Perhaps when I baptized so many thousands of people I was hoping for as much as a ha'penny from any of them? Tell me and I will return it to them. Or when the Lord, through my very ordinary person, ordained clergy everywhere and I assigned his ministry to each of the free of charge - if I asked any of them for so much as the price of my shoe, speak out against me and I will return it to you.
On the contrary, I spent money on your behalf, so that they would receive me. And I journeyed among you, and everywhere, for your sake, often in danger, even to the outermost parts beyond which there is nothing, places where no one had ever arrived to baptize or to ordain clergy or to confirm the people. By the Lord's grace, I achieved all these results conscientiously and gladly for your salvation.
At times I gave presents to chiefs, apart from the stipend I paid their sons who travelled with me. Nevertheless, once, they seized me with my companions, and on that occasion they were most eager to kill me. But the time had not come. They stole everything they found in our possession, and they put me in chains. On the fourteenth day the Lord freed me from their power, of firm friends whom we had had the foresight to acquire. However, you have seen for yourselves how much I have paid to the administrators of justice in all the districts I was in the habit of visiting regulary. I reckon to have distributed to them no less than the price of fifteen men, so that you could continue to enjoy me, and I you, in God. I have no regret, nor have I done with it: I still spend, and will spend more. The Lord has power to grant me that I may continue in the future to spend my very self for the sake of your souls.
Patrick Sums up his Testament
Look: I call God into my soul as a witness, that I am not lying. Nor would I wish to write to you ingratiate myself or to gain anything from you, nor beacaue I look for respect from any of you. If my integrity is not clear to you, it is enough for me that I am sure of it in my heart. Moreover, He Who made His promise to the faithful, He never lies.
But I see that already, in the present, I am lifted up beyond measure by the
Lord, and I was not worthy of that, nor of the way He has provided for me; since
I know for certain that I am better fitted for poverty and misfortune than for
wealth and luxury. But the Lord Christ too was poor for our sake. I am indigent
and unfortunate, and even if I wanted wealth, I do not have it. But that is not
how I estimate myself; because I expect daily to be killed, betrayed, or brought
back into slavery, or something of the kind. But, because of the promise of
heaven, I fear none of these things. For I have thrown myself into the hands of
Almighty God, who reigns everywhere; as the prophet says:
Cast your cares upon
God and He will sustain you.
See: I now commend my soul to my most trustworthy God, Whose ambassador I am, in spite of my obscurity. He accepts no person, but He chose me for this task, to be one of the least of His servants.
Because of this I will repay Him for all He has bestowed on me. But what shall I say, what shall I promise my Lord, since I have no power over anything unless He gives it to me? But let Him look into my innermost being: I greatly desire and am prepared for Him to grant me that I might drink from His chalice, as He permitted to others who loved him.
Therefore, let God never permit me to lose the people that He has won in the ends of the earth. I pray God to give me perseverance and to design to allow me to give faithful testimony of Him until my death.
And, if I have ever succeeded in following any good for the sake of God, Whom I love, I pray him that, with others of His converts and captives in His name, I may shed my blood, even though I might go without burial, or my miserable corpse might be torn limb form limb by dogs or wild beasts, or the birds of the air might devour it. I know for certain that this should happen to me I should gain my soul along with my body, because, without any doubt, on that day we will be moulded to His image, and we will then reign from Him and through Him and in Him.
For the sun is that which we see rising daily at his command, but it will never reign, nor will its splendour last forever. And all those who worship it will be subject to grievous punishment. We, however, worship the true sun, Christ, who will never perish. Nor will those who do his bidding, but they will continue forever just as Christ will continue forever, he who reigns with God the father almighty and with the holy spirit before time and now and in eternity. Amen.
See: again and again, I would reiterate what I wish to express in my declaration. I testify, in truth and in joy of heart, before God and his angles that I never had any reason beyond the gospel and its promises, ever to return to that people from whom I had formerly barely escaped. But I implore those God fearing believers who agree to read or accept this document which unlettered sinner I, Patrick composed in Ireland, that none of them will attribute to an ignorant person like me any little thing I may have done, or any guidance I may have given according to God's will. Consider, and let it be truly believed, that it may have been rather the gift of God. And that is what I have to say before I die.
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