Rumors and Repentance

October 25, 2014

Rumors and Repentance

Today, Christians are often compromised by the proliferation of rumors, or flawed stories, that are passed around in social and professional circles through Face Book, Twitter, Tumblr and other social media. When we are drawn into these conversations we fail to realize the damaging effects. Secondly, we have our little “pity parties” and take no action.

During the holiday season we surround ourselves with our friends and give out our beautiful stories of holiday cheer on all of our social interactions to the point we cover over a hard reality–there are millions of people who are suffering on our streets alone. They have no food, they have no friends, they have nothing but the clothes on their back, and the majority can not find health care.

Presently I know two people who are dying of cancer, and it has been impossible to get them the support they need. There is one young man, with a college degree, who has been unable to find a job, and lives out of his van, and moves from one city to another looking for work.

These are not rumors, but flesh and blood people, out of countless millions. We hear of our economic recovery and yet that recovery does not touch the lives of millions. Our media over looks that the majority of the time. We cry out for our government to take care of “those in need”, and for what it is worth the City of San Francisco has done its best, I can give nothing but praise to the efforts of San Francisco. What is needed is a transformation in all of society to turn our eyes to the needs of the “least of these” and to give of our own plenty.

Jesus reminds us that “if we do not repent, we will all perish,” and repentance takes the form of opening our eyes and seeing the need, and moving from that seeing into doing. And that doing during this Thanksgiving time can lead to doing all year long. By doing for me it simply means to feed people each day of my life, to look them in the eye and to speak to them, to continually through emails, phone calls, and letter writing to lift up the needs of the homeless to our government officials, and to live simply, in order that other’s may life.

Frankly it is simply a matter of opening our eyes, and experience that suffering as we walk with people. We can hide behind our charades of “all is well”; or “our elected officials are doing what they can,” or “these people deserve what they have,”, or we can open our hearts, repent of our ignorance and of doing nothing, and take the one little step at a time. And those little steps together will swell into a water fall of steps and change the situation. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

“He Descended Into Hell”

October 24, 2014

October 24, “He Descended Into Hell” St. Anthony Mary Claret, Eph. 4:1-6; Luke 12:54-59

We were required to be in therapy the two years prior to our ordination, to “descend into the hell’ of our own lives, as the Apostle’s Creed says Jesus did. It was a tough time, but from that time I learned that was what we were called to do, “to descend into hell” of our parishners lives.

Last night I sit with a young man as he descended into his hell, of drug abuse, sexual abuse, sexual identity, parental abuse, and for two hours I saw Satan in his life, and in that process I saw the presence of the Risen Christ.

It is never easy to sit with someone and descend into hell with them, it is the hardest work that one can do, tough work, and sometimes debilitating. But it is in that work that we experience the resurrection. And I have realized through the years that is where we need to be the most present in the hell of people’s lives.

Last night a person was raging at me because I served a vegan meal and frankly a part of the awareness that has come to permeate my life the past four or five years can be found in the words of Will Tuttle:

“We can argue that animals are largely unconscious, decreeing that because animals seem to lack the complex language that allows them to formulate thoughts in words as we do, their experience of suffering must therefore be less significant or intense for them.

This same thinking, however, could be used to justify harming human infants and senile elderly people. If anything, beings who lack the ability to analyze their circumstances may suffer at our hands more intensely than we would because they are unable to put the distance of internal dialogue between themselves and their suffering.”

Jesus rises each time we descend into hell and brings resurrection in all areas of our life, we simply need to let go of ourselves and surrender to that experience. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fire In the Bones

October 24, 2014

October 23 Luke 12:49-53 “Fire in our Bones”

A person told me today that in order for one to be a good “service provider” one should simply provide the services and move on, without being affected by the person’s life. He was pointing out how much easier my life would be, and I pointed out to him that my life would be a hell of a lot more boring. The reality is I do not shrink from unforeseen passion, but move into life knowing that the cross awaits. For it is in the cross that one finds the love of God. For me I find fire in the wood of the people I serve, and it is in that consuming fire that I find Jesus revealed. Only by giving ourselves, all of our being in service do we truly find Christ. Jesus is a consuming fire for me, in all of his being, and in being consumed I am being born into eternal life. Being a priest is offering my life as a sacrifice to God, and that sacrifice in service to the lives of people. Life for me is not about retiring, or worrying about growing old, or worrying about where my next meal is going to come from–it is about offering my life daily to Christ and all the rest will be taken care of.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Buckminster Fuller often emphasized that the way of cultural transformation is not so much in fighting against destructive attitudes and practices, but in recognizing them as being obsolete and offering positive, higher-level alternatives.

The competitive, violent, commodifying mentality of the ancient herding cultures is, in our age of nuclear weapons and global interconnectedness, profoundly obsolete, as is eating the animal foods of these old cultures, which are unhealthy in the extreme both to our body-minds and to our precious planetary ecology.Dr. Will Tuttle

Believing in Humanity

October 22, 2014

October 23, “Believing in Humanity” Adorers of the Blood of Christ–Martyrs in Liberia (1992), Eph. 3:14-21; Luke 12:49-53

Sr. Shirley Kolmer of the “Adorers of the Blood of Christ,” before her martyrdom said, “Believing in Jesus is believing in humanity, and that is, I believe, the greatest challenge of our time.”

It is a struggle to put your life on the line for what you believe, and it is a bigger struggle to work at practicing our faith in the simple things of life. There was another article bashing the people working in techs for the high rent today, and I thought back to twenty years ago when on October 1 I came to the door of where I live and was told that there were ten people a head of me, for my one room, where I share a bath , and that I did not stand a chance. I had a good job and savings, and so I made an offer–two years advanced rent, and a hundred dollars more a month–and strangely enough I moved in two days later.

Even though I was moving in to start this ministry–with all of my good intentions–I bought my way into my room over others. I thought nothing about doing so. And my fear is I would do it again, if I had the opportunity. That is why we need rent control, and laws that keep rent from raising so high. To protect those who do not have the ability to beat the system. Frankly I could not do that now, but to say I would not if I could would be an out right lie.

“Believing in Jesus is believing in our humanity” and I believe we need to look at our own needs and the needs of others and seek to protect the needs of all. To do so, at times means to have just laws. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

All the world’s major religions have their own form of the Golden Rule that teaches kindness to others as the essence of their message. They all recognize animals as sentient and vulnerable to us, and include them within the moral sphere of our behavior. There are also strong voices in all the traditions emphasizing that our kindness to other beings should be based on compassion. This is more than merely being open to the suffering of others; it also explicitly includes the urge to act to relieve their suffering.

We are thus responsible not just to refrain from harming animals and humans, but also to do what we can to stop others from harming them, and to create conditions that educate, inspire, and help others to live in ways that show kindness and respect for all life. This is the high purpose to which the core teachings of the world’s wisdom traditions call us..Dr. Will Tuttle

Letter to District Attorney on the Death of Rashawn Williams

October 22, 2014

October 23, 2014

Dear Mr. District Attorney:

I have always found you as Police Chief, and now as District Attorney to be an individual who looks at all sides and is fair in your decisions.

I hope that in the case of the young man who is accused of murdering Rashawn Williams you will look at the case from the perspective of the young man’s age, and his future. At fourteen the adolescent’s brain is not fully developed, their decisions are made in the moment and without thought to the consequences. And in looking at the information presented so far my guess is that he was jealous of Rashawn’s life, the prospects he was given going to Sacred Heart, and in those moments acted out, with terrible consequences.

I hope that in your decision making process you will take this into consideration into how he will be tried. Rather than charging him as an adult, I would hope he would be charged as an adolescent—given the maximum sentence with counseling, giving him a chance to see his wrong doing, to change his life, and live a productive life. Through counseling this young man’s life can be turned around to become a productive member of society.

In conclusion what better memorial for Rashawn would there be but to hold out the hope for redemption in the life of the one who is alleged to have murdered him.

In Jesus, Street Person and Rebel,

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.S.T., sfw

Cc: members of California People of Faith

New Wineskins

October 21, 2014

October 22, Eph. 3:2-12; Luke 12:39-48″ New Wineskins–New Ways–Same Jesus”

Paul talks in his writings of the mystery of the gift of God–it comes in unexpected ways Jesus continuously demonstrated throughout his ministry that his truth comes through the most unexpected characters and events and ways. Tax collectors and lepers, fishermen and Samaritan women, even a stray fox or sparrow flying over head were harbingers of his holy breaking in.

People often asked me where I go to church on Sunday–and I tell them, “No, I only go to church on Sunday if I am being paid,” and they look at the priest with horror. The reality is I celebrate the Eucharist three times a week–just not on Sunday–one with a group of people who are nurses, a paramedic, and five others who have been disenfranchised from the Church for various reasons–they give their offering to various causes, not necessary Temenos Catholic Worker, the other two times I celebrate are on Polk and the Haight. Recently a new vegan church started in Oakland, and they meet on Thursday. There are new wineskins–we simply have to be aware–Jesus comes in unexpected ways.

For me the church is where the body of Christ is present in the people and the Eucharist, regardless of day or time.

What I have learned in this ministry is that the Gospel comes in so many new wineskins–the giving out of needles and condoms leads to sharing the gospel of love, and in that sharing one meets Jesus most present. William, 30, just came to the door and asked for some clean needles, socks, and food, and as I was turning away after giving him his supplies, he asked me to pray and anoint him–and in that moment–Jesus became truly real. So let’s not confine ourselves to the traditional, time bent wineskins, but look to the new. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

The motivation behind vegan living is the universal spiritual principle of compassion that has been articulated both secularly and through the world’s religious traditions; the difference lies in veganism’s insistence that this compassion be actually practiced. The words of Donald Watson, who created the term “vegan” in 1944, reveal this practical orientation and bear repeating:

“Veganism denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practical, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose; and by extension promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals, and the environment.” Dr.Will Tuttle

Order Out of Chaos

October 21, 2014

October 21, “Out of Chaos–Order” Eph. 2:12-22; Luke 12:35-38 St. Margaret Clitherow

I have heard the comment there is chaos always around me, and yes there is, for life is messy. I met one guy on the street this after noon who is terminally ill with cancer and he was throwing up and crying, and yelling out of fear. We talked and their came peace and order. My own life is has always gone from chaos to order. Over twenty years ago I was removed from on denomination, became a whore, than counselor and returned to ministry-but it was a chaotic time, as has been working on the streets of San Francisco. I have found a keen sense of order in my life through the practice of the Eucharist, and the practice of the Liturgy of the Hours. God centers us, God brings order.

In much the same way each Tuesday and Thursday when I am cooking I bring order out of chaos. I cook the meals alone because frankly when I have had people helping me it seemed like chaos to them at the beginning. For ninety percent of the time I come into fixing the meal not knowing what I am going to make, because I do not know what is at the Food Bank, and I change what I had projected because they do not have the supplies. For example tomorrow and Thursday we are having:

Noodles with Beans and Apples

We soak the beans for 9 hours/ cook them all night on low in crock pots.

In the morning we will mix in cut up apples in and put on warm–about 100 apples

tomorrow afternoon we will cook noodles–15 bags and mix

seasoned with salt/pepper/and onion powder

and then package in containers and serve.

This is creating order from chaos–and this is the way we are called to live our lives-not expecting it to be easy, straightforward but finding God in what ever is available for us. Never easy–but always a hell of a lot of fun! Deo Gratiast! Thanks be to God!

“Shojin is “religious abstention from animal foods” and is based on the core religious teaching of ahimsa, or harmlessness, the practice of refraining from causing harm to other sentient beings. Shojin and samadhi are seen to work together, with shojin purifying the body-mind and allowing, though certainly not guaranteeing, access to the spiritually enriching experience of samadhi. Outer compassion and inner stillness feed each other. Shojin and veganism are essential to our spiritual health because they remove a fundamental hindrance on our path.”. Dr. Will Tuttle

Life Is Not Defined By What You Have

October 20, 2014

October 20, “Life Is Not Defined By What You Have” Luke 12: 12-21
St. Mary Bertilla Boscardin

“Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” Luke 12:15

Someone told me a few days ago he was looking forward to the day when he earned enough money so that he could simply throw his clothes away each day and wear a new set; a former Mayor who is 80 years old, is continually earning millions; on the surface this City is possessed by wealth, the need for more, as it always has been–in pursuit of the gold rush. Underneath that drive of people, underneath the glitter there is much poverty and pain, a poverty of need that consumes and ultimately destroys.

St. Francis believed in living in poverty, as did Dorothy Day, for living with what you need liberates you to be open to God and to other people. Many years ago I remember sitting at the University of Northern Iowa where I was working on a second Master’s degree, listening to Fr. Frank Cordova talk about living in the catholic worker movement. Around me were older men and women who were near retirement and they were looking forward to retiring with their pensions and doing the work. And I thought to myself, “Hell, I do not want to get to the end of my life and then give my life in this way to God–what a waste,” and this pushed me into coming to San Francisco. Now I am nearing their age and I thank God each day I followed this call.

For I have found living simply on what I have is liberating, it opens me to the needs of others, and in that process to Jesus in their midst. It is like yesterday I was coming from the post office and a guy asked me for some socks, he had been sick and was completely dirty, and his socks were a mess. All I had was the one’s on me and I took them off and gave them to him. The look on his face was worth a million dollars–if I had been in my former life of working to make money I would have never even seen him.

Our scripture lays it out by saying that “Life is not defined by what we have, even when we have a lot,” it is in the giving, the doing for others that matters, and in that we find the presence of the Divine. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Intuition liberates, connects, illumines—and threatens our herding culture’s underlying paradigm of violent oppression of animals and of the feminine. Intuition sees the shadow clearly, and disarms it by embracing it and not feeding it. It sees the animal hidden in the hot dog, ice cream, and omelette, feels her misery and fear, and embraces her with love. Dr.Will Tuttle

Render Unto Caesar

October 19, 2014

Render Unto Caesar “I Thess. 1:1-5 Matt, 22:15-21

“We know this because our good news didn’t come to you just in speech, but also with power and the Holy Spirit, and with deep conviction.” I. Thess. 1:5

The one’s I most respect are people like Frank Cordova who stands up to the government against the war, against poverty, without blinking an eye, going to jail at times, but always standing up.

This year I voted–but I voted for no candidates–only the prepositions–because not one of the candidates ever sees into the darkness of deep poverty. We are a nation that is increasing in poverty and we turn our eye. And yet I would live no where else, for you see there is the ying and the yang and we need to have a balance, and we need to be actively involved in working for that balance. I see no party as right or wrong, but I see them both as extremely self-centered, and in that self centeredness they hurt the poorest of the poor. We need the balance, we need to come together and find a balance. For we are opposites and what we can agree on is that we are human beings in need of love, care, respect.

Jesus calls us to “render unto Caesar”, he calls us to serve the One who calls us to love God, and our neighbor” as our top priority and when we do our government will find its balance. We tend to forget the early Christians conqueror the world with love before they became accepted by the state for the Gospel has great power–and that power is to love our neighbor–and that means everyone–as Jesus loves.

Dr. Will Tuttle writes:

We can see that in general, the more a culture oppresses animals, the greater its inner agitation and numbness, and the more extroverted and dominating it tends to be. This is related to the scarcity of meditation in Western cultures, where people are uncomfortable with sitting still.

Quiet, open contemplation would allow the repressed guilt and violence of the animal cruelty in meals to emerge to be healed and released. Instead, the very activities that would be most beneficial to people of our herding culture are the activities that are the most studiously avoided. We have become a culture that craves noise, distraction, busyness, and entertainment at all costs. This allows our eaten violence to remain buried, blocked, denied, and righteously projected.


October 18, 2014

October 18 Mother Antonia Brenner, Feast of St. Luke 2 Tim. 4:10-17; Luke 10:1-9

In honor of my 20th anniversary a friend offered to buy me a gift, and I chose a new tattoo, it is entitled, “Matthew Shepherd: Murdered” (a picture is on face book following this post). I chose it because it reminds me of the suffering that young man like “Jed” goes through. Last week he called me and told me he had been beaten up because he was gay. He did not think that would happen in San Francisco–the gay mecca and as I look back at my own history and see homophobia raise its ugly head through the years, and still raises it head. We can close our eyes, ignore it, but it never goes away. This tattoo reminds me of the suffering of so many through out the world. It reminds me to never let the privilege of the society that I presently live in hide my face from the pain underneath that society.

Many years ago when I was simply a whore I sat with my friend Rio at a restaurant in L.A. and he made a comment, that has stuck with me through the years, “It still strikes as strange that anyone could have any moral objection to someone else’s sexuality. It is like telling someone else how to clean their house.” And I translate that to having objection about anyone’s race, gender, religion, and nationality as well.

I am often asked why I am a priest, and I think of the definition of “priest”: “A priest is one who offers sacrifice. .sacrifice comes from the Latin word to make whole; to take what is broken and put it together again; to complete that which is only partial.” That is what I believe we are all called to do. This week I underwent some surgery and I have thought about my mortality a lot, and as I look at my life I realize that I get distracted by the voices of people who want me to do what they believe I should be doing and I am simply going to focus on being the priest of this definition–bringing together what is whole, simply through my day to day work of feeding people, clothing people, needle exchange, and walking with them in their pain. In doing so my prayer is that they too will feel called to do the same. For in this political season we are seeking to be “saved” by our candidates when actually –our salvation comes from within us. Will Tuttle writes:

“Authentic spiritual teachings must necessarily teach an ethics of loving-kindness, because this reflects our interconnectedness and the truth that what we give out comes back to us. It leads to the harmony in relationships that is necessary not just for social progress, but also for our individual inner peace and spiritual progress.”

Mother Antonia Brenner was a wealthy woman who raised her kids in L.A. and at 50 turned her back on society and moved into a prison in Mexico. She was too old to be accepted into an order so she made her own habit, took private vows and lived with the prisoners in this prison for the rest of her life. She said: “Happiness does not depend on where you are. I live in a prison. And I have not had a day of depression in 25 years. I have been upset, angry. I have been sad. But never depressed. I have a reason for being.” Our reason for being comes from with in–not from with out. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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