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Sunday Sermon

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Fr. Gene reflects on virtuous communication, Pope Francis and the Year of Mercy

Fr Gene Reflects on keeping families healthy, happy and holy

November 12 -- Fr Gene with an Advent "Pre-View"

October 12 -- Fr Gene's reflections on the environment and ecology and our place in the whole puzzle of God's green earth

August 11 -- Fr Gene talks about the Pope's latest encyclical and reflects on his upcoming visit and his thoughts on ecology and the environment

June 8 -- Fr Gene reflects on his days in the Seminary

Father Gene reflects on the missionaries who came to this country, their courage and their commitment to the faith

Father Gene shares his thoughts about an amazing exhibit called "Picturing Mary: Woman, Mother, Idea" and highly recommends it

New Year's Resolutions from a different perspective

Father Gene's thoughts on the Immaculate Conception and the Holy Family

Father Gene reflects on Chaplains and our nation's veterans on Veterans Day

Father Gene shares his thoughts about procrastination

Father Gene visits Relevant Radio to discuss the lessons learned from the events of September 11

Can something as simple as a garden make a difference in your life? -- Father Gene explains how it's done -- August 12, 2014

Father Gene Hemrick shares his thoughts about the virtue of understanding (May 13, 2014)


Follow this link to our digital Archive
and explore some more of our audio files


January 29, 2016

In this edition:
1. Eucharistic reflections for Lent.
2. Liturgy and care for the world.
3. Lent arrives in Year of Mercy.
4. What does "mercy" mean?
5. The foot-washing rite and women.
6. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Family meals -- or just eating?
b) Online world, terrorist recruiters.
7. Immigration orders go to high court.


January 15, 2016

In this edition:
1. Migration's growing, "pivotal role."
2. Bishops protest deportations.
3. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Muslims in America.
b) Declining number of baptisms.
4. Deacons, icons of service.
5. The church and gun control.
6. Book on mercy interviews pope.













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Here's What We're Reading!

Freedom, Truth, and Human Dignity

Silence: Making the journey to inner quiet, Author: Barbara Erakko Taylor

Joy to the World: How Christ's Coming Changed Everything (and still does), Author: Scott Hahn

A Still and Quiet Conscience The Archbishop Who Challenged A Pope, A President and A Church, Review by John A. McCoy

John of the Cross: Man and Mystic, Author: Richard P. Hardy

We Have Found Mercy: The Mystery of God's Merciful Love Christoph Cardinal Schonborn

It's in the News!

Sudden Sadness and the World Around Me

By Eric Immel, SJ

Addicted, lonely and exhausted...

A few Saturdays ago, I felt a profound sadness I hadn't ever experienced before. I'd had a few tough disagreements with friends, and I was caught in the pains of my freshest (and, perhaps, fifteenth) attempt to quit a tobacco product. Classes were about to begin, and I was already tired of them, papers and pages piling up in my exhausted mind. The grief of upcoming May goodbyes had started to grip me, and I was afraid of feeling lonely. And I had no idea where I would be living in a year. And I felt fat and tired after weeks of holiday indulgence. And I was truly homesick for the first time in ten years. So much pain to face. So much to do. So much resistance.

My eyes stung with tears, a volcano of anxiety, anger, frustration, and fear churning deep within and ready to erupt. This sadness, while startling in its immediate ferocity, had grown slowly over time, a culmination of factors that on



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Views from Alongside a Border

by Michael Seifert
Brownsville, Texas

CSM Migration Update

Last week I met with a writer who is thinking about moving to the area. He had been out and about, meeting people, visiting different places, getting a feel for the Rio Grande Valley. We met in a downtown Brownsville cafe.

This cafe is only a few blocks from the border wall, from the Rio Grande, and from Mexico. It is a much-needed space for art, and encourages young and old musicians alike to share their talent on the small stage. The hospitality of the owners of the cafe makes it a great place for conversation.

Although there is no altar or priest, I think that it is quite possibly the best church I have ever been in.

The writer and I had just settled into the back and forth of getting to know someone, when one of the owners sidled up to the table, introduced himself to the writer, and took a seat.



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On Reading Difficult Passages in Scripture

Ron Rolheiser

A colleague of mine shares this story: Recently, after presiding a Eucharist, a woman from the congregation came up to him with this comment: "What a horrible scripture reading today! If that's the kind of God we're worshipping, then I don't want to go to heaven!"

The reading for that day's liturgy was taken from Chapter 24 of the Second Book of Samuel where, seemingly, God gets upset with King David for counting the number of men he had for military service and then punishes him by sending a pestilence that kills seventy thousand people.

Is this really the word of God? Did God really get angry with David for doing a simple census and kill seventy thousand people to teach him a lesson? What possible logic could justify this? As it stands, literally, yes, this is a horrible text!

What do we do with passages like this and many others where God, seemingly, demands



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Mercy Me

I don't know about you, but Pope Francis just continually inspires and surprises me. There is something so pastoral to his demeanor. Pope Francis has declared this year a Jubilee of Mercy, inviting us all to seek and to live and to serve mercifully. He certainly has been inspiring others into action with this message; on a more personal level, Francis taught me a lesson about mercy at the start of this year.

I recently participated in a retreat with the Ignatian Spirituality Project. This organization provides a retreat based in both Ignatian Spirituality and the spirituality of the Twelve-Step Program to men and women who are homeless and struggling with addiction.

Preparing for the retreat, a strange line of questions appeared: is this really what the men need? Is there a better way to provide shelter, or employment, or rehabilitation and renewal? Is offering a retreat really the priority?

Well, whatever doubts or questions that arose along these lines faded away as soon as the retreat began. These men do have physical needs, but that is not their only area of need. Those who participated all opened themselves up, sharing their stories, their struggles, and their hopes. It was perhaps one of the most moving experiences I have ever witnessed.



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Role models around a dinner table inspire hope

Christine Schenk

Every once in a while I get discouraged about where things are going in this country. Especially during election cycles, when certain politicians (who shall not be named) bombastically blame the poor for their plight.

Inevitably something happens to drag me out of my "ain't it awful" doldrums. This year, it was the dedicated work of my friend, Tim Grady, and the gifted young scholars he serves as executive director of Boys Hope Girls Hope (BHGH) of Northeastern Ohio.

(Full disclosure: I've known Tim since he was a child. He's the son of my lifetime friend and college roommate, Mary Ellen (Rodenhouse) Grady and her husband David. Together they birthed six beautiful children.)

Tim was just 14 when his dad died of kidney cancer at age 47. Despite dying so young, David gave more fatherly love and parenting to his six children than many receive in a lifetime. I suspect the tough circumstances of losing his father so early, and the unwavering love and strong faith of his mother, gave Tim a heart highly attuned to struggling youngsters. (His Catholic education at St. Ignatius High School and Villanova University didn't hurt



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Inter-Mission: Waiting for the next act

by Janet Gildea

Taken from The Catholic National Reporter

I have never left a theater during intermission. Maybe the show has just not been bad enough to forfeit the price of admission. Usually there is enough curiosity to know how the story might be redeemed to keep me in my seat.

I just received the sixth (and I hope last) round of chemotherapy for recurrent ovarian cancer. While in the throes of post-chemo side-effects I must admit that there are moments I'd like to leave the theater before the show is over.

One resource in particular is keeping me in my seat. The Year of Consecrated Life draws to a close on the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple Feb. 2, and in his letter announcing the year, Pope Francis laid out three desires for consecrated people: to look to the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion, and to embrace the future with hope. Overall he encouraged us to "wake up the world" by the prophetic form of our religious life. I can't help but wonder how I have lived up to these challenges during the past four months.

Looking to the past with gratitude for a cancer survivor



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A New Creation


Just as finals were winding down in December, I hopped aboard a red -- eye and traveled home to be with family for the holidays. Even with my flight delayed, and the remains of a meatball sub spilled all over my shirt, I was excited to spend time with my siblings and parents. In addition to our normal celebration of Christmas, my niece, born in late July, was to be baptized and my sister thoughtfully waited until I was home so I could witness the moment. Christmas would be even more special this year for my family since there was a new Christian around the tree.

***

God has given you a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and welcomed you into his holy people . . . .

On the 4th Sunday of Advent I watched my sister hold her baby over the font as water was poured through her soft hair. I saw Alexis Maria's godparents trace a cross on her forehead, promising to support her young Christian life. And, I was there at the dinner afterwards where the guest of honor, all 5 months old and -- umpteen pounds of her, was passed around and oogled at. Through it all, she squirmed and smiled, peed and pooped, but never cried. I, on the other hand, was all tears.

This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ . . . .

The baptismal ceremony is really beautiful; it's high drama at its finest and most meaningful. There's an abundance of symbols: oil,



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Frustrations from serving in 'The Field Hospital'

Bill Tammeus

Taken from the National Catholic Reporter

I've been enjoying the stories in NCR's new reporting effort, "The Field Hospital" about how various parishes and ministries are responding to the lead of Pope Francis to care for the poor and needy.

And I'm happy to report that many of the same kinds of in -- the -- trenches ministries are happening among us Presbyterians, including several springing from my own congregation.

But it's not without some challenges and second thoughts. And because I don't want just Presbyterians to be challenged and second -- guessed, I thought I'd throw some of that your way to see whether and how Catholics are dealing with that, too.

The first challenge comes from the frustration of endlessly repeating the same types of ministry efforts because hunger never seems to end, homelessness seems an enduring problem and it's hard to find ways to attack the causes as opposed to simply responding to the symptoms. So, as one person quoted in a "Field Hospital" report said of a bag lunch program she coordinates, she has seen "some of the same people for a long time, for almost as long as I have been there. We have grown old together."

Her persistence is laudatory, but isn't the goal to get people not to need such assistance?



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Forever Being Ahead Of Our Souls

Ron Rolheiser

Sometimes nothing is as helpful as a good metaphor.

In his book, The God Instinct, Tom Stella shares this story: A number of men who made their living as porters were hired one day to carry a huge load of supplies for a group on safari. Their loads were unusually heavy and the trek through the jungle was on a rough path. Several days into the journey they stopped, unshouldered their loads, and refused to go on. No pleas, bribes, or threats, worked in terms of persuading them to go on. Asked why they couldn't continue, they answered: "We can't go on; we have to wait for our souls to catch up with us."

That happens to us too in life, except mostly we never wait for our souls to catch up. We continue on without them, sometimes for years. What's meant by this? Mostly it means that we struggle to be in the present moment, to be inside our own skins, to be aware of the richness of our own experience. Mostly our experiences aren't very soulful because we aren't very present to them. For example:

For the past twenty years, I've kept a journal, a diary of sorts. My intent in keeping this journal is to record the deeper things that I'm aware throughout each day; but mostly what I end up actually writing down is a simple chronology of my day, a daybook, a bare, no-frills, recounting of what I did from hour to hour. My diaries don't much resemble Anne Frank's diary, Dag Hammarskjold's, Markings



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Communication and Mercy

Pope Francis

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Holy Year of Mercy invites all of us to reflect on the relationship between communication and mercy. The Church, in union with Christ, the living incarnation of the Father of Mercies, is called to practice mercy as the distinctive trait of all that she is and does. What we say and how we say it, our every word and gesture, ought to express God's compassion, tenderness and forgiveness for all. Love, by its nature, is communication; it leads to openness and sharing. If our hearts and actions are inspired by charity, by divine love, then our communication will be touched by God's own power.

As sons and daughters of God, we are called to communicate with everyone, without exception. In a particular way, the Church's words and actions are all meant to convey mercy, to touch people's hearts and to sustain them on their journey to that fullness of life which Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to bring to all. This means that we ourselves must be willing to accept the warmth of Mother Church and to share that warmth with others, so that Jesus may be known and loved. That warmth is what gives substance to the word of faith; by our preaching and witness, it ignites the "spark" which gives them life.

Communication has the power



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Maintaining Our Zest in Challenging Times

Eugene Hemrick

"We live in a time of no room, which is the time of the end. The time when everyone is obsessed with lack of time, lack of space, with saving time, conquering space, projecting into time and space the anguish produced within them by the technological furies of size, volume, quantity, speed, number, price, power, and acceleration."

"The primordial blessing, 'increase and multiply,' has suddenly become a hemorrhage of terror. We are numbered in billions and massed together, marshaled, numbered, marched here and there, taxed, drilled, armed, worked to the point of insensibility, dazed by information, drugged by entertainment, surfeited with everything, nauseated with the human race, and with ourselves, nauseated with life.

. . . The time of the end is the time when men call upon the mountains to fall upon them, because they wish they did not exist."

Why? Because they are part of a proliferation of life that is not fully alive, it is programmed for death. A life that has not been chosen, and can hardly be accepted, has no more room for hope. Yet it must pretend to go on hoping. It is haunted by the demon of emptiness. And out of this unutterable void come the armies, the missiles, the weapons, the bombs, the concentration camps, the



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Insulation: a practical implementation of Laudato Si'

Thomas Reese

Taken from The National Catholic Reporter

Having written extensively [1] on Laudato Si', I decided it was time to see how I could implement it in my life. I decided to start with the house I live in, an old three-story building with 15 bedrooms dating from the end of the 19th century. If I could make it more energy efficient, I would be reducing our carbon footprint as well as saving money for my community.

My guess is that many family homes, to say nothing of churches and other church buildings, could also benefit from such an examination so I am sharing my experience with you.

Luckily, a major improvement at our house was completed in the fall with the purchase of an efficient gas-powered hot-water heating system to replace the ancient oil-fired furnace. Natural gas is cheaper and has a smaller carbon footprint than an oil furnace. In addition, a constant gas supply is more convenient than depending on trucks for delivering oil.

The windows were also undergoing a major upgrade. Thus two of the most expensive improvements were already taken care of. It was my job to look for the simpler, cheaper ways of making our house more energy efficient.


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A Shirt of Flame

Ron Rolheiser

They say that the book you most need to read finds you when you most need to read it. I've had that experience many times, most recently with Heather King's book, Shirt of Flame, A Year with Saint Therese of Lisieux.

The title of the book is borrowed from T. S. Eliot's, Four Quartets, where he famously suggests that Love itself, God, is behind the torment we often feel in our fiery desires and that the burning we feel there is an "intolerable shirt of flame."

King writes this book from a fiery context within her own life: She is a free-lance journalist and writer, single, divorced, an alcoholic in recovery, reconciling some darkness in her past, dealing with a paralyzing obsession because the man she is in love with will not respond to her, risking the financial stability of a career in law for the insecurity of being a free-lance writer, and struggling with the sense of being an outsider to normal family, marriage, and



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You want to be a leader, then listen

Eugene Hemrick

"To whom would you point as real leaders among our bishops?"

This question arises every time people learn I worked for the Bishops' Conference in Washington, D.C. When they discover that I also live a block from the U.S. Capitol, they inevitably ask, "Who among our senators, congressmen and congresswomen can we consider respected leaders?"

Leadership has been and always will be a major topic of discussion. Why is this so? Because it is at the center of power. Abraham Lincoln once said, "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."

What one quality more than others must priests possess to be revered leaders?

On a visit to St. Vincent's Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, I interviewed several monks on the Rule of St. Benedict as it applies to



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The Kiss of God on the Soul

Ron Rolheiser

What is the real root of human loneliness? A flaw within our make-up? Inadequacy and sin? Or, does Augustine's famous line, You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you, say it all?

Augustine's adage, for all its merit, is not quite enough. We are infinite souls inside finite lives and that alone should be enough to explain our incessant and insatiable aching; except there is something else, that is, our souls enter the world bearing the brand of eternity and this gives all of our aching a particularized coloring.

There are various explanations of this: For example, Bernard Lonergan, the much-esteemed theologian and philosopher, suggests that human soul does not come into the world as a tabla rasa, a pure, clean sheet of paper onto which anything can be written. Rather, for him, we are born with the brand of the first principles indelibly stamped inside our souls. What does he mean by this?



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Four ways to heal the divide between pro-life and social justice advocates

Mike Jordan Laskey

Taken from the National Catholic Reporter

Nine years ago this Friday, I went to the March for Life for the first time during a study "abroad" college semester I spent in Washington, D.C. A few days later, I took the Metro down to the National Mall for another huge protest. This one was calling for an end to the Iraq War.

I remember looking around at the masses of people at the antiwar march and noticing that it was a very different crowd than the one that had filled Constitution Avenue the week before (fewer priests and nuns, more anti-Bush t-shirts.) I imagined a Venn diagram of these protesting groups: two completely separate circles, with me as the singular point of overlap. It felt lonely.

Weather permitting, I'll be back at the March for life tomorrow, Jan. 22 the 43rd anniversary of



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The Name of God is Mercy


Taken from The Jesuit Post

"Lord, forgive me if I have forgiven too much. But you're the one who gave me the bad example!"

This line, from a priest who had doubts about whether he was too forgiving in the confessional, is one of many priceless anecdotes from Pope Francis in the newly-released The Name of God is Mercy (Random House, 2016).

This book is a collection of conversations on God's mercy between Vatican reporter Andrea Tornielli and Pope Francis.

It is quintessentially Francis.

The Pope elaborates on some of the most quoted lines from his papacy, such as the question-heard-'round-the-world regarding gay people who seek the Lord: "Who am I to judge?"

Pope Francis emphasizes the need for merciful shepherds, not modern-day "scholars of the



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Worth Reading: What "the Other" Can Say


Published in the Jesuit Post

Three months have passed since Navid Kermani -- author, essayist, practitioner of Christian-Muslim dialogue -- was given the 2015 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. Three months have passed, but his words have not faded.

That night, wearing a suit to match his graying hair, he took the podium in St. Paul's church in Frankfurt, Germany and, like all good journalists, began with the crisis: a man has been kidnapped.

On the day I received the news of the Peace Prize of the German Publishers' Association, the same day, Jacques Mourad was abducted in Syria. Two armed men entered the monastery of Mar Elian on the outskirts of the small town of Qaryatain and demanded to see Father Jacques. They found him no doubt in his bare little office, which also served as his living room and bedroom, seized him and took him with them. On May 21, 2015, Jacques Mourad



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Creating Endearing Friendships

Chi dorme con cani se leve con le pulci[i]
Eugene Hemrick

The quotation above is one of the first wise maxims learned in our home. It translates, "He who sleeps with dogs awakes with fleas."

In our neighborhood, rowdy gangs roamed the alleys, used fowl language, smoked and swore. My parents were forever reminding me, "Seek respectful friends who stand for values!" This didn't imply being snobbish, but rather finding friends who could lift you up intellectually and morally.

When we speak of friendship, what defines it best?

Roman statesman and philosopher Cicero states friendship is "mutual harmony in affairs human and divine coupled with benevolence and charity."[ii]

Cicero's definition may sound philosophical, a closer look at it, however, reveals down-to-earth principles leading to goodness. The charity of which he speaks is a heart-felt desire to do acts of goodness. Benevolence, on the other hand, moves us from desire into action.

As enlightening as is Cicero, I believe the primary virtue of friendship lies in promoting the well-being of another; it is here where charity's affection of the heart and benevolence come



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On Bowing and Raising our Heads

Ron Rolheiser

At end of every Roman Catholic liturgy, there is an invitation given to the people to receive a blessing. That invitation is worded this way: Bow your heads and pray for God's blessing. The idea behind that, obviously, is that a blessing can only truly be received in reverence, in humility, with head bowed, with pride and arrogance subjugated and silent.

A bowed head is a sign of humility and is understood, almost universally, as our proper spiritual posture. Spiritual writers have rarely questioned or felt the need to nuance the notion that spiritual health means a head bowed in humility. But is it really that simple?

Admittedly there is a lot of wisdom in that. A head bowed in reverence is a sign of humility. Moreover pride heads the list of deadly sins. Human pride is congenital, deep, and impossible to uproot. It can be redeemed and it can be crushed, but it always remains in us, necessarily so. There is no health without pride, but pride can also derail health. There is something inside of human nature, inherent in our very individuality and freedom, which does not like to bend the knee before what is higher and superior. We guard our pride fiercely and it is no accident that the archetypal image of resistance to God is expressed



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The Iowa Caucus: Just What We Need


Taken from The Jesuit Post

The Iowa Caucus is kind of ridiculous. But for those of us from Iowa, it's our ridiculousness. And for those of you not from Iowa, perhaps it's not such a bad thing. Let me explain.

As a recent New York Times column demonstrates, critics frequently note that Iowa, a state with about 1% of the country's population and a state that is not at all racially representative of the country,1 has disproportionate political influence because of having the first electoral event each presidential year since 1972.2

People also raise concerns about the actual caucus process. One does not vote in the Iowa Caucus as one does in a traditional primary. Instead, one votes by attending a local meeting at a designated time, which can exclude the homebound, people with irregular work schedules, and those with young families. Once there, at least for the Democratic Caucus,3 one votes with one's body -- you literally show your support for a candidate by going to her/his corner of the school gym or church where the meeting is held. Some argue that the non-secretive caucus is subject to unhealthy peer pressure.

Such criticisms of the Iowa Caucus are legitimate, but there are also good reasons for keeping it as it is.



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Our inspiration for the National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood stems from a longstanding friendship with Father John Klein, a priest of the

Fr. Klein's picture

Archdiocese of Chicago. On the day of his passing in 1999 at the age of 49, Cardinal Francis George said "Father John Klein was a model for seminarians and priests. His joy in his priestly ministry encouraged all of us and was a sign of the Lord's constant presence in his life." May we learn from his example and strive to be the presence of Christ in the lives of all those we touch every day as priests and fellow citizens of the world.


Our work is made possible in part by grants from the Catholic Church Extension Society, the Paluch Family Foundation and Our Sunday Visitor. We are also grateful for the prayers of the Madonna House. In addition, The Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation has generously provided us with a grant in honor of Monsignor Ken Velo, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago who has been an inspiration to so many for so many years.

If there is any way that I can be of service to you, I hope you will take advantage of the link below to send me an email. I would enjoy hearing from you with any comments or questions you may have.

Father Gene Hemrick
The National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood
Washington Theological Union
6896 Laurel Street, Northwest
Washington, D.C.

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Last updated February 10, 2016