Email Scam Hits Home!
From the Pastor: Email Scam Hits Home!
Last May we received word that several the names of several priests had been “used” in email scams looking for money. I warned you about it and told you that if you receive an email from me asking for money for any emergency situation, don’t buy anything and don’t pay anything, for it is certainly not me asking for it. This week a parishioner received just such an email using my name in a scam. Here is what the first email said, using a Gmail account with the name of Rev. John Nolan:
I need a favor from you, email me as soon as you get this message.
Rev. Edwin Palka
There is no reason for me to send a message using someone else’s email account, but it is easy enough to overlook something like that when going through emails. The parishioner answered, asking how he could help, and the response came back from the same Gmail account stating:
Can you be able to help me get an iTunes gift card worth $500 at $100 or $50 denominations for a friend of mine going through cancer in the hospital. He needs the cards to download his favorite music and videos to boost his confidence on his next phase of surgery and fight over cancer which he's going to undergo today but i can't do this now.
Very strange! Yes, it was “signed” by me instead of Rev. John Nolan, though it was from “his” account. Thankfully, the parishioner contacted me instead of sending any money or buying iTunes gift cards. It certainly doesn’t seem likely that I would ask somebody to purchase music for a sick friend instead of, say, a prayer book, now does it? But whatever he needed, whether music or a prayer book or a chocolate milkshake, I think that I could pry open my wallet and purchase it myself. When I warned the daily Mass people about it, one of the ladies told me that the iTunes cards can be used as currency in some places. Go figure. Should you get one of these types of messages using my name, please let me know and forward a copy to me, for I would like to see it and see if I can find any common connection between the recipients. I highly recommend that, should you get an email from any priest, especially from me, or any parishioner or friend, or any anybody at all, asking for something that seems just a tad bit wonky, please don’t fall for it. Really. This is especially true if the email uses bad grammar, as an infamous fake Nigerian prince of email scam notoriety does while trying to “give” greedy people millions of dollars.
There are several priests named “Rev. John Nolan” out there, and I don’t believe I know any of them but we may be connected through something like the Knights of Columbus or the Association of Ornery Priests. Scammers may look for connections to increase the odds of successfully bilking people of their money. For instance, email addresses are free and it is easy to get one with a priest’s name so that it sounds legitimate. People are often pretty, shall I say, stupid, when sending or forwarding emails to groups of people and they don’t hide the multiple email addresses of the recipients. That allows anyone on the list or anyone who intercepts the list to then know that there are connections between all of these people. Seeing a priest’s name on the list then allows a bad guy to contact all of the people on the list, who would, most likely, know him and trust him, pretending to be the priest and scamming them out of money. So if this is how the scammer has connected one parishioner’s email to my name (though I am just speculating that this may be the case), others who were on the same email list might have also been targeted or might be targeted in the near future. I have, over the years, received scam requests multiple times from people I know, mostly from Yahoo or AOL accounts which were hacked, similar to this: “Help! I am stranded in a foreign country and my wallet and passport were stolen. Please wire me money right away! I will repay you as soon as I get back.” Imagine receiving something like this from your pastor, perhaps with an added line such as “I was leading a pilgrimage, which is why I am in Nigeria, and got separated from the group because I couldn’t board the plane without my passport” or something like that to “personalize” it. It might sound convincing. You might be worried sick about poor, dear Father. You might be flattered that he thought you were such close friends that he felt confident to ask for your help in such a dire situation. You might not think that he would have contacted family or maybe even the bishop before asking you for money. You may be taken for a sucker. Please don’t fall for it.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Donors to APA 2018, Thank You!
From the Pastor: Donors to APA 2018, Thank You!
I am always hesitant to publicly thank people who do things for God through the parish, as they often want to stay anonymous, despising rewards of honor in this life and instead desire them only in the next. Some even threaten bodily harm (in a half-joking way, of course!) if I dare mention them. So the folks who provide the food and drinks after the Sunday morning Masses or before Catechism class, those who Catechize the little sheep belonging to the Good Shepherd, the workers in the Women’s Guild and the Knights of Columbus and the Sacristy, those who clean up and stock the kitchen and bathrooms, who clean up the kleenex and used bulletins left in the church, who tend to the flowers and the statues, who train the Altar Boys and those who serve at the altar, who provide music and hymns for Mass and other liturgical functions, and (here’s the worst part) those whom I have forgotten to mention even in a generic way like this, usually do not get their names in the bulletin or called out across the room and they certainly don’t get applauded at Mass, to their great relief. Even more “prickly” is the notion of thanking by name those who give money, whether to the weekly collection or in support of the girls looking into a vocation or the young men in seminary, or who give to special collections, or who just quietly give money to solve a need at the parish. But there is one place where such acknowledgment, as hard as it is to make public and as hard as it is to accept as a public thanks, needs to be made. Not because the “event” is so extraordinary or because the money given is somehow more important than what is given elsewhere, but rather because so very often people have a hard time giving to this particular collection due to past “indiscretions”, shall we say, of our previous bishop (and public gross “mismanagement” of many other current bishops) yet they do it anyway, only to sometimes discover that their own parish didn’t even get credit for their donation. I am writing about the APA, or Annual Pastoral Appeal, which goes to pay the bills of the Diocese. Below you will find a list of those who gave to this appeal. I ask you as I have in the past years, and I am quite serious about this, not to peruse it in order to see who gave or did not give. Instead, I ask that if you gave to the APA for our parish, that you would check to see if your name is listed. If it is not, your donation went to a different parish. In the past, when we have found those donations which have gone astray (as my own donations have in the past, so I write from experience) we are able to check the following year to make sure it doesn’t happen again. There is not much worse than giving to a collection which you might not fully embrace for various reasons but, knowing that the parish must pay it one way or another, you give while holding your nose, only to discover that your gift went where you didn’t want it to go. (Please also note that not everybody gives this way. Personally, for instance, I am happy to give to APA and trust that our Bishop, knowing that he will have to answer for what he does with it, will spend it, using his own prudential and prayerful judgment—even if it varies from my own!—, for things necessary for running a diocese and helping get us all to Heaven.) The 2019 APA is already underway and we will be checking on anyone who notices a problem from the past, so please let us know if there is an issue with this or even with the amount (not listed here) which the Diocese sent you as a year-end tax statement. With that long way of saying I want to thank everyone but need to thank this group by name, I thank all of you who contribute to the spiritual and physical and intellectual and even emotional life of Epiphany of Our Lord parish.
The 2018 APA Donor List: NOT AVAILABLE ONLINE. PLEASE CALL THE OFFICE TO CHECK FOR YOUR NAME IF YOU ARE NOT SURE WHERE YOUR MONEY WENT!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
A Penny For Your Prayers
From the Pastor: A Penny For Your Prayers
Lent is underway and beautiful things are happening at Epiphany. One particularly wonderful Lenten penance undertaken by many of you is the “Prayers and Pennies for Semmies” dreamed up by our Ladies Guild. They got their idea from the diocesan vocation program called “Penny a Prayer for Priests” and asked to do something similar as a “memory device” to remind people to pray for vocations to the priesthood, being especially mindful of the current seminarians and future vocations from our own families. Unfortunately, I failed to explain the purpose of the program well enough for many (or most) people to understand. I hope to remedy that situation here, so please keep reading.
We currently have two seminarians which we claim from our parish because they attended Epiphany when they entered the seminary. Makes sense, right? Joshua Heiman is studying for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, a religious order founded in France and dedicated to the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass and the other sacraments in their traditional forms. Many of you already support him financially (he has to pay for his tuition and other expenses as he goes through the required schooling) via his GoFundMe page. If you don’t know the page, shoot me an email and I can get it for you. On that page, even without donating, you can keep up with what he is doing, as he posts occasional updates on his studies and seminary life. The ICKSP will even give you a tax deduction under some pretty strict guidelines. They will also allow you to contact him by mail or email, again under some pretty strict guidelines, as they keep a watchful eye on those under their formative care.
The second current seminarian, Esteban Merkt, is officially studying for the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, and is being “sponsored” by the diocese of St. Augustine. His family still attends here and you all just helped his sister Valeria raise funds to travel to the Home of the Mother convent in Spain to further discern a religious vocation with that community. (This is probably a good time to notify you that we expect to have a “Cents for Sisters” program for the girls in Religious formation this coming Advent!) Evidently, his diocese is not quite as keen on allowing such things as GoFundMe accounts so he was not able to set something up. He and his family are, like Josh, responsible for paying his way through seminary. (When I was there 500 years ago, the seminarians for this diocese had to pay tuition and expenses at the minor seminary and then, once at the major seminary, the diocese took over the tuition costs. I am not sure if it works that way for the St. Augustine seminarians, or even for our own diocesan seminarians for that matter, for things do change over the centuries.) Ask me, or, better yet, his mother, for his contact information.
This next group of men I will refrain from naming but you may know who they are anyway. We had one man in seminary for the Jesuits but he is back with us now for a while as he continues to discern which order God wills that he enter. Another of our men, who was studying to be a Benedictine monk, has switched parishes and I haven’t seen him in quite a while. One of our diocesan seminarians shows up every once in a while with his dad at the men’s Holy League when he gets a break from school for a few days. Yet another comes for daily Mass when he gets in town, even though he, too, officially belongs to another parish. And, finally, one of our parishioners went off to the Franciscan University in Steubenville and is now in the beginning stage of applying for the seminary for our diocese.
But I have become somewhat sidetracked. Why are we collecting pennies? NOT for the money! Yes, they can always use money. But they need something much more than that. Prayers. Collecting Pennies for Semmies is supposed to remind you to pray often for the men who will become, by the grace of God, priests. Scrounge around for a penny. Pick it up and say a prayer for the seminarian who will benefit from it. Put the penny in the box and say another prayer for vocations. This is a “whole family” prayer event. Even the little kids can search the sidewalk and couch cushions and grandpa’s pockets for these pennies (or quarters or fifty-dollar bills) and then say a Hail Mary for future priests. Soon they will actively be searching for pennies so that they can pray more! This form of Lenten Prayerful Almsgiving can become a year-round habitual virtue. It brings not just your family but all Epiphany Families together in a united form of prayer, and sets the proper tone for all true charitable giving, which is often overlooked even when giving to the Church! We must pray for our seminarians if we expect to have holy priests!
Return your box(es) on Palm Sunday. You may run out of room, as the boxes are kid-sized. That’s OK. Use a jar or convert your coins to bills or check (made out to Ladies Guild). The women plan to send the money to the seminarians on Divine Mercy Sunday (Low Sunday), the Sunday following Easter, with prayers for a merciful and glorious “resurrection” of the priesthood (as opposed to what we see in the news all too often). I hope this helps you make cents of this prayer program!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Current Lenten Penance Requirements
From the Pastor: Current Lenten Penance Requirements
I have been besieged with requests for more penance options for Lent. Reading about Heaven, as I suggested last week, just wasn’t seen to be enough. I wasn’t expecting it to be the only thing done for Lent, just one small part of it. But for those who really cannot find enough things to do for penance, I am more than willing to expand my suggestions. First and foremost, though, might I suggest that you simply know and follow the current rules for Lent? The Catholic Church, being both venerable and universal, really does have a good understanding of human needs and desires and abilities. As time progresses humans obviously become wiser and holier and we can count on the Church to see that and make adjustments in her disciplines based on our current human condition. Since we are right now at the pinnacle of human perfection and know more than any other humans at any other time in our history we have progressed beyond simple black and white rules. But formally issuing documents proposing shades of grey is not really good PR so the current regulations are black and white but with a few merciful loopholes. Let’s look at the current practice of Lenten penance, shall we?
To begin with the easiest and most obvious Lenten regulation, we turn to days of Fast and Abstinence. Current regulations are black and white. Eat as much of anything you want anytime you desire it except for eight days, namely, Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent. On those days you must Abstain by not eating any meat, and you must Fast by limiting yourself to only eating three meals a day. The first two meals combined cannot equal the size of the last one so plan accordingly. If you eat a breakfast of pancakes and eggs with a side of cheese grits and perhaps some buttery biscuits with honey in the morning you have done well. Oh, I forgot to mention the drinks, which might include a couple of cups of coffee or tea with cream and sugar, a glass of orange juice, and, needless to say, a few Bloody Marys or Mimosas. Note that there is no bacon, ham, steak, or sausage included in the meal, making it truly penitential. If your lunch was then a grouper sandwich with fries, coleslaw, and hushpuppies, accompanied by an ice cold beer or two, with a couple of chocolate chip cookies for dessert, you are still in penitential mode and can congratulate yourself on a job well done as you refrained from ordering the hamburger and pie. But you must be sure that the dinner you choose is substantial so that you don’t die of starvation or malnutrition after having not had any meat earlier in the day. Common sense encourages the Faithful to have dinner at a seafood buffet on Ash Wednesday so that Abstinence from meat is assured. Be sure to eat at least three plates of seafood and maybe a vegetable dish to ensure that the rule of Fasting (the two previous meals not equaling the current main meal) is strictly followed. It is highly recommended that several cocktails and a full bottle of wine (red with seafood, as penance for wine snobs) be taken at this meal, as scrupulous souls may be counting the alcohol content of the early small meals in determining if they are, combined, less than the evening meal’s drink count. Those who are very strong and desire even more penance might, for the remaining days of Fast and Abstinence (the 7 Fridays) forgo the evening seafood buffet and instead attend the local Knights of Columbus’ All-You-Can-Eat-Fish-Fry. But seven days in Lent without lobster, crab claws, shrimp, oysters, and scallops might be overkill as far as penance goes, even for the worst of today’s sinners.
Now that we have seen the black and white Lenten regulations for Fast and Abstinence, which might certainly be seen as draconian in nature and far too hard to accept for most Catholics today, let us look for the merciful “loopholes” which we might use to lessen these harsh mortifications. Let us begin with age. The young and the elderly, obviously, are too weak to Fast or Abstain. So if you are either young or elderly (actual age limitations can be ignored, as those are only in place for people too uneducated to understand “frailty” by any means other than chronological years of life) you may eat, drink, and be merry even during those still-mandatory (because the Church is slow to change) 8 days of penance during Lent. The same exceptions are in place for those whose jobs are strenuous (and whose isn’t nowadays?!), for those who are ill or use medications (including vitamins, herbal supplements, cannabis, and aromatherapy candles), or who are attending a Spring Training baseball game (for not even the greatest of Saints could be expected to pass up hot dogs or brats at the ballpark). You know you have done Lent right if you gain weight by Easter.
Let us now turn our attention to the other penitential practices currently mandated by Holy Mother Church for the 40 days of Lent. Wait. There aren’t any. You simply have to follow the same moral and disciplinary teachings which are in place the rest of the year. From what I hear taught and see written, from Synods to Encyclicals to funeral homily (and “official”) canonizations, those are about as difficult to follow as the Lenten Fast and Abstinence rules. Fortunately, there are merciful loopholes even there, so relax and enjoy the easy penitential season of Lent.
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka
Read About Heaven This Lent
From the Pastor: Read About Heaven This Lent
For three weeks now you have seen the violet tabernacle veil and, if you attend the Traditional Latin Mass, the violet vestments, as we have entered into a period preparing us for Lent. This period of preparation is just about over, as Ash Wednesday is this week! Have you figured out what you are going to be giving up for Lent yet? What extra prayers and spiritual readings you are going to take on during Lent? What additional Corporal and/or Spiritual Works of Mercy you will endeavor to fulfill? Time is short so don’t procrastinate any longer! A couple of years ago I suggested that you read a book or two on Hell for your spiritual reading. There is a terrible heresy spread far and wide these days that Hell probably does not exist or, if it does, that it is not too bad or, if it does exist and if it is bad that the few people who go there will only be there for a short time, as God cannot possibly punish anyone (let alone a bunch of people) for a long time, and certainly not for eternity. Reading books on Hell (written, of course, by orthodox Catholic authors) helps to combat such heresy and gives one a renewed interest in staying out of it. That leads to a better Lent, with more fervor behind the penances and reparations. The following year, I suggested that you read up on Purgatory. This subject, too, is one that many/most people, including Catholics, don’t engage in because they don’t believe it to exist or, if they do believe Church teaching about its existence, don’t understand how painful the purgation process will be. Reading up on it can be very helpful in trying to avoid it rather than looking forward to it or aiming for it, instead of Heaven, as life’s goal (as in “I just want to get a little pinky into Purgatory!”). This year I am going to encourage you to learn about Heaven. (See the logical progression here?) Dare I say that most people don’t believe in Heaven, either? Go ahead and challenge people you know and love by asking if there is a Heaven. Almost everyone will say, “yes” but then be completely and utterly unable to tell you why they would want to go there or what they would do there FOR ETERNITY. Saying that they believe in Heaven is no different than answering, “Fine” every time they are asked the question, “How are you doing”, whether they are fine or not. It is just the expected answer. It means nothing. What will they do in Heaven? Really, ask. See if they even mention God. Prayer. Adoration. Thanksgiving. Intercession. Knowing Him as He is. Beatific Vision. The properties of a resurrected body. Communion with angels and Saints. Or see if they rather answer, “Well, I’ll be happy” or “It will be pleasant” or “The weather will be nice” or “I’ll get to see grandma again” with no other idea of what to do or how to spend even a full day, let alone the remainder of eternity. “Golfing with Jesus” and “knitting with Mary” are the kind of things I hear priests talk about at funerals. Talk about being bored out of your skull after a few months! Why would anyone have that as their life’s goal?
But here is the problem with finding good writing about Heaven: it is impossible to describe it. St. Paul writes, “That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.” (I Cor. 2:9). We really cannot describe Hell or Purgatory, either, but we certainly find it easy enough to describe the pain and torments that will be inflicted upon the souls there. But we are not as good at describing consummate, lasting and holy pleasure, joy, happiness, contentedness, charity, prayer, or fulfillment. Even the Catechism of the Catholic Church is woefully sparse in its teaching on Heaven. Where to turn to, then? Plenty of people write about how to get to Heaven but far fewer write about it. Here are some sources. St. Thomas Aquinas is my first choice. He writes about Heaven in the Summa Theologica, explaining what it will be like, the properties of the glorified body, the states of happiness and much more. The Catholic Encyclopedia comes next, with quite a bit of good information in the online version at NewAdvent.org. Ludwig von Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma tells what the Church has officially taught on Heaven and the afterlife. If you prefer “stories” to “teachings”, you cannot go wrong with Dante’s Paradiso, though it helps a lot to have already read his Inferno and Purgatorio so you see his travels through Hell and Purgatory before he reaches Heaven. I assume you read both of those for your previous “Lenten assignments” so now is the time to jump into the third part of what is called the Divine Comedy. More books can be found with a google search, but I don’t want to recommend those which I haven’t personally read and approved and I really couldn’t remember which ones I have read as I did a search myself. As a general rule of thumb, though there are always exceptions, look for Catholic authors pre-1960’s, especially if they are priests! And absolutely stay away from non-Catholic authors, for nobody can really write well on Heaven if they have rejected the sure means of getting there!
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka