The Cross and Resurrection

January 21, 2017


St. Agnes  Mark 3:20-21

Judge John Hathaway, Juvenile Court Judge, writing to a social worker who works with children writes:
“I’ve been reading and thinking and praying a lot lately about joy and peace on the one hand and suffering on the other.  I long for the joy and peace Christ promised.  Too often I’m more about depression.  I’m trying to figure out the connection or distance between suffering and depression.  Depression is biological, and we can and must treat it.  I’ll struggle with it my whole life.  Suffering is something you and I I’m afraid will always experience, because we’ve had a taste of the kingdom and we know how much better things should be and ultimately will be.  We ache for the children and families we’ve served for so long – we suffer because we so want better for them and helping them achieve it is so hard.  This is our vocation.  If it really is, don’t we have to suffer in some way in the process just as Jesus suffered?  His work came at such a cost – how can ours in his name not cost something?  Suffering and joy.  Cross and resurrection”
We live in a broken world. We have seen in these last days how much pain people are in, how much fear they hold.  We are expressing that fear, anger, and pain at ourselves and others.
I am am working with a young man facing the death sentence, people’s anger have been turned on me, because I talk of seeing goodness in him. I am criticized because I do not talk of housing people, or of getting them off the streets. You see I talk of being their pastor, walking with people, without judgement or expectation. Success for me is in the dedication to my chosen path, not in numbers.  And so on.  It is painful, very painful to to have threats and comments made.
Dorothy Day said: “The greatest challenge is how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each of us.”
Arlie Russell Hochschild talks in her book Strangers in Their Own Land,
about the economic and sociological reasons for the rise of President Trump. At the heart of her thesis is that we all have the same basic needs, it is just that we have become unwilling to talk to one another, with our differences, and work together–we have separated into tribes.
To do so we need a revolution of the heart, one in which we look at ourselves, our differences, and put them aside to care about one another. In which our hearts see the other with eyes of love and care.
Dr. N.T. Wright in his book The Day the Revolution Began talks about how the crucifixion signaled a transformation of life, a transformation in which Christ loved us and in that love calls us to love one another in all areas of life. The crucifixion is a life changing event for all of life in the here and now.
These days I am simply listening, praying, letting people email me, face book me, or however in this crazy age of social media, and going into my own heart. I am doing my work– my activism, my marches, and protests– are my daily work of feeding people, taking them to the hospital, listening, and caring for them. I am seeking to allow God revolutionize my own heart more and more.  For like Judge Hathaway tells us suffering and resurrection go together, and it is a slow process, not completed in our own life times, but one of eternity.Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!
Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw
P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 94164
Temenos Catholic Worker
Society of Franciscan Workers, Inc
Franciscans Against the Death Penalty


Being Crushed by the Crowds

January 19, 2017

Being Crushed by the Crowds

Mark 3: 7-12, “Jesus told his disciples to have a boat ready so he would not be crushed by the crowds.”

The crowd’s are crushing, you don’t have to think, you simply go along, it’s easy,  crowd’s  are destructive, crowd’s kill emotionally and physically.

Arlie Russell Hochschild, writes in her book, Strangers in Their Own Land, how we Americans are so divided because we stay in our own “tribes,”–rich white with rich white, queer with queer, black with black, brown with brown, liberal with liberal, conservative with conservative. That failure to mix, share, and respect has lead to much division and hate.

The past few days I have been making arrangements for my memorial service, and the disposition of my body when I die. It is simply a practical step, that must be done. And as I have been preparing these plans I have reviewed the past year.  As I have walked with a person going through a murder trial, I have found people pulling away–because I say simply I see the broken face of Christ in him.  I see his goodness.  It does not mean I am giving support to the most evil of evils, but within him their is goodness, and he is God’s child. It is like the man who killed my son, as I gave him the Sacrament of  Reconciliation as he was dying, my heart saw him as the child of God.  I loved him in those moments with all my heart, but I did not like him, and I forgave him.  All of us are broken human beings and it is in admitting that, and seeing in the presence of Christ a new beginning do we grow.  I am against the death penalty because first of all in human hands it is imperfect, innocent people are executed, secondly it does not give a chance for the person who committed the crime to find reconciliation and to grow, and vengeance only causes more violence.

We need to step away from the crowd and look at ourselves, and in so doing look at our own brokenness, and  see ourselves in each other, and  walk with compassion with each other. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Join me tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. to Vigil Against the Death Penalty at 350 McAllister Street–if you are nice I might even buy you breakfast.

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw


Temenos Catholic Worker

Society of Franciscan Workers, Inc

Franciscans Against the Death Penalty


Hope Springs Eternal

January 18, 2017



In Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl describes hope as the key to survival amid the horrors of a concentration camp.  Hope is not sentimental optimism, but in the words of Marianne Kara “Hope is a discipline.” When we hope, we face reality because God is found in what is real.  We know that things may not turn out as we want, but we strive valiantly regardless.  God is faithful, and there is meaning in all circumstances.  When we hope we live generously and gratefully in the present because we know deep down that all will be be well–not perfect, but well. With every word or deed steeped in hope, the future opens up to reveal a present beyond our imagining.


This week we are remembering that forty years ago the death penalty was reinstated.  We are celebrating the Week of  Prayer for Christian Unity, and last week Dylan Roof was sentenced to death in South Carolina.

The news reports talks of the coldness in Dylan’s eyes, of his flat tone, he is portrayed as ruthless,  but if you look close enough you can see in those eyes a scared kid, raised on hate, not hearing much of love and diversity, and driven by a force of evil, which overcame him.  Dylan is a broken human being, and rather than send him to death, he should receive life without parole, and in the years in prison be given a chance to see his wrong, to come to an inner peace, and through that peace to become the child of God that deep down he is.

Pope Francis says: “Capitol punishment is cruel, inhumane, and an offense to the dignity of life.  There is no crime in the world that deserves the death penalty.”

This Friday, rather than watch the inauguration at 9:00 a.m. come join us at 350 McAllister Street, in San Francisco, CA at the Earl Warren Building as we Vigil Against the Death Penalty.

Sr. Margaret Magee speaks to us in these words:

“Our Franciscan char-ism and spirituality calls us to be Chris-tic peacemakers, instruments of peace. Francis of Assisi was truly a man of peace and reconciliation. Francis lived, embodied, and witnessed the person of Jesus Christ by breaking down barriers and seeing all people and all creation as sister and brother. In doing so, Francis became visibly marked by the wounds of Divine Love, the stigmata.  May we be the visible instruments of God’s presence opening doors to reconciliation, creating new relationships and new ways of building up the Kingdom of God.

Let us hear those words, let us try to live those words out in our lives.

Come Join Us! Let us remember the Fortieth Anniversary of the Reinstatement of the Death Penalty! Let us remember The Week of Christian Unity! Let us remember Dylan and all those on death row! Let us remember the victims! Let us seek new ways of building up the reign of God! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Franciscans Against the Death Penalty


Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw


Witness Against Torture

January 4, 2017


Dear Friends,


Witness Against Torture is once again gathering in Washington D.C to Fast for Justice. The first car loads of people have arrived. The first actions are being crafted and our last meal has been consumed.  Every year, we come from around the country to reflect and take action. We center our work together by remembering the Muslim men that remain in Guantanamo. Most of them have never been charged with any crime. For the next 8 days, our lives are intertwined together in this basement hostel, where we will create a resistance community, we will build a shared analysis, and we will fast.


We will fast in solidarity with the 59 Muslim men that remain in Guantanamo.


We will fast to resist white supremacy, racism, islamophobia, and fear of our neighbor.


We will fast to denounce state violence.


We will fast to remain human in a culture that dehumanizes our communities.


We know that human rights face a new danger: Donald Trump. His racist and islamophobic rhetoric threatens us all. He has said he wants to torture. He has vowed to keep Guantanamo open. Just yesterday, Donald Trump reminded the world he will not release anyone.



This year, we are fasting and building together to strengthen our resistance for the years to come. We  invite you to join us in this work.  We are fasting until January 11th. We are engaging in creative direct action. You can come to DC or you can participate from home. Just send us an email and let us know your plans:


If you want to receive the daily fasting updates, please let us know by emailing


Schedule for January 8th to the 12th:

Click here to see Full Fast Schedule


Join us next week for these larger events in DC:


Breathing Fire: A Teach-In on Teargas in Prison


Sunday, January 8th, 6 to 8pm:


Location: First Trinity Lutheran Church
501 4th St NW, (entrance on 4th Street)
Washington DC 20001 (4th and E Sts. NW)
(Judiciary Square Metro)

This Teach-In will include:
1. What is tear gas? Who makes it? Who uses it? Why is it banned?
2. Who does teargas impact? Activity with testimonies of being gassed in prison, in protest and around the world?
3. Facing Teargas in Prison: The letters from the inside, the petition of 13K, what we are gonna do at the Department of Justice the next day
4. Prison Militarization: what does that even mean?


Words From the Grassroots: Strengthening Our Resistance to State Violence


Tuesday, January 10, 2017, 7:00pm to 9:00pm

Location  801 22nd Street NW
Gallery 102, Smith Hall of Art
Washington, DC 20052


Join the Center for Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture, and the Tea Project for a night of tea, art, poetry, music, and words by artists, activists, and leaders in the movements to end state violence from indefinite detention at Guantánamo, police murders, and institutionalized Islamophobia. Speakers will share stories of hope and lessons from the front lines of their work, while speaking to the ways we need to change our resistance to confront the incoming Trump administration.

January 11th Rally:


No More Guantanamo. No Torture Presidency.  No Indefinite Detention

Join Witness Against Torture and our coalition partners on January 11th in Washington, D.C. for our annual

Rally to Close Guantanamo!


Location: White House Ellipse
12 noon: Music
12:30: Rally
1:30: March to Department of Justice


Witness Against Torture on Social Media

Please “like” us on Facebook & follow us on Twitter & Instagram.

Check out our latest news and updates on Tumblr.

Post any pictures of your local activities to our flickr account and we will help spread the word.


Donate to support our work

Witness Against Torture is completely volunteer driven and run. We have no paid staff, but do have expenses associated with our organizing work. We need your financial support. We are fiscally sponsored by the Washington Peace Center. The Washington Peace Center is a verified US-registered non profit.If you are able, please donate here:


Witness Against Torture:Fast for Justice

January 3, 2017

Witness Against Torture: Fast for Justice

Tuesday, January 3, 2017 to Thursday, January 12, 2017
Ohio to Washington, DC

Go to Washington, DC to witness against torture and call for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison and an end to Islamophobia or you can write your representatives from home and pray for those in the Capitol.

We will participate in a liquid fast (as able) and join in direct actions, vigils and educational sessions around the topics of anti-militarism, nonviolence, anti-racism, anti-Islamophobia, and more.

Contact: if you are coming to Washington D.C. for housing or to let her know you are fasting.


In reading  Guantanamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, edited by Larry Siems we are overwhelmed by the inhumanity of our soldiers in their treatment of the detainees. It goes against every value that we have been raised to believe as American values of fair treatment of all.

To maintain our humanity we must protest torture and the imprisonment of people without fair hearings in  our names.  To maintain our humanity we must protest the killing of people in our names through the death penalty.

So let us join our brothers and sisters in Washington D.C. in spirit, and if possible with our presence. We can write letters or emails to our congressional leaders, and to the president, and the president elect, and let our voices be heard. We can fast during this time. Drink liquids, eat simpler, but let us pray, and look within ourselves and move out in protest to bring life to the those at Guantanamo and to eliminate the death penalty.  Let us walk the seamless thread of life. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw

Franciscans Against the Death Penalty


December 31, 2016



“Where Jacob Wrestled With God”

Newsletter of Temenos Catholic Worker, P.O. Box 642656, San Francisco, CA 94164,, 415-305-2124

In Memory of Diane Sims


Journal of An Alien Street Priest:

There was a young man who drew a picture of the cross surrounded by question marks. He was struggling with the contradictions in his life of being gay, a Christian, and not welcomed by friends or family, and ultimately he took his on life.

On Christmas Day I took some volunteers to serve food in the Haight.  On Tuesday as I was talking with one of the guys   he commented, “It must really drive you crazy being with all those “weird” people.” I laughed, just simply laughed, because he describes what we all feel in our different peer groups about  others–they are “weird”. Ministers and priests in their buildings, see me as weird, different races see each other as weird, different religions see each other as weird-when in reality we are united by our shared humanity.

And that describes my life, it is a life of contradictions, that have been  interwoven together with the scars that come from living in the midst of those contradictions–scars from much pain, but scars that have become a beautiful piece of wood that allows me to live within those contradictions.

I am a priest–clergy–who feels uncomfortable within a church building–because I was condemned, and pushed out because of being gay; yet God pulled me back kicking and screaming, for I have come to see that the Church is the body of Christ–and it is human beings in their weaknesses, their own pain that hurt others, not the living presence of Christ; I do not refuse to interact with any one because of what they believe, what they feel, because I believe we are all on the same journey, and it is in interacting that we grow.  People make their own choices.  They are free to choose, and I respect those choices. I listen to people, and in listening I see them find their path, not the one I choose for them.

My cousin Diane Sims, died yesterday, she was 59.  She was a life long Christian, taught Sunday school, attended church for most of her life. She struggled with alcoholism.  It was on her journey to sobriety that she came to understand that  she was a lesbian, and through coming out brought wholeness to her life. When she came out to her church (my former denomination) she was no longer welcome to teach Sunday school, even though she was welcome to attend- because “God loves us all, ” ( extreme and I mean extreme sarcasm).  Diane found her spiritual home in AA, and she lived a life of service. Like the young man who drew the picture with the “Questions” she faced those questions and in her struggle found wholeness and freedom.

Diane lived out the questions in her own life. She lived a life that witnessed to the wholeness of faith and witness. Diane did not want to die, she enjoyed life. Her life was a life of contradictions, and she witness to the wholeness within those contradictions.  I chose to live my contradictions with in the context of the Church, and found a place outside its walls, in which I can witness to the contradictions. I remember Diane today in praying the Office of the Dead and I remember her in every person I meet who is struggling with the questions and offer her as an example of one who lived within those contradictions, who lived out the questions of life to their fullest. She lived a life of joy and love. Diane chose life, and not death.

In this life of contradictions what holds me together is my faith in the living person of Jesus of Nazareth and this New Year my only resolve is to continue to follow him in his summons that “You shall love the Lord your God with your mind, strength and your soul, and your neighbor as yourself.”   Through out the epistle readings from the books of I/II/III John this last week we have heard that all God requires of us is to love. And in the following quote from Pema Chjodron we find a summary of my New Year’s resolution, and hopefully yours as well:

“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals.  Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

And I will continue as long as their is breath in my body to invite others to a relationship of compassion, in which we recognize our shared humanity.I am a person of contradictions like we all are–but the unifying factor for us all is that we are children of the one God.

Happy New Year! May God, The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, bless, preserve, and keep you now and forever more. Amen. Dio Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Witness Against Torture: Fast for Justice

Tuesday, January 3, 2017 to Thursday, January 12, 2017
Ohio to Washington, DC

Go to Washington, DC to witness against torture and call for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison and an end to Islamophobia or you can write your representatives from home and pray for those in the Capitol.

We will participate in a liquid fast (as able) and join in direct actions, vigils and educational sessions around the topics of anti-militarism, nonviolence, anti-racism, anti-Islamophobia, and more.

Contact: if you are coming to Washington D.C. for housing or to let her know you are fasting.





May God’s Angels Carry You To Heaven~


WE ARE BEGGARS: We depend upon your generosity to provide support for our pastoral care, food, socks, and harm reduction supplies.  In the words of John Wesley, “Earn as much as you can and give as much as you can.”

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

pay pal:

Thank You!


Poem by Jerry


“This Buddha sits with you

in the broken light

of pain-strewn streets

and slow-folded knees

that signal

unquestioned  presence—

throughout the darkness,

the voice of a friend”


Walking A Mile in the Shoes of Another

December 28, 2016


I John 1:5-2:2 Matthew 2:13-18 Feast of the Holy Innocents

Rabbi Manis Friedman tells us  that “When a poor man knocks at your door and says ‘I’m hungry,’, and your first thought is Why can’t you get a job? you’ve invaded his privacy.  Why would you need to know why he can’t get a job? He didn’t come to discuss his inabilities or bad habits; he came to discuss his hunger.  If you want to do something about it, feed him.”

The Holy Innocents of our society are the homeless, who are judged, ridiculed, studied.  They come to our door–they asked to be fed, housed, provided health care, and rather than judge and discuss we should provide for their needs.

The one thing I have learned in twenty two years of walking with people on the street is never to judge–each one is where he or she is for a reason, and those reasons are usually the result of a society that has not provided for them.  For example I would have been on the streets if I had not been a lucky sperm–who knows I may still wind up on the streets with the way rent is going–a lucky sperm who is a white male, a lucky sperm who had parents with money and provided him the best education money can buy, a lucky sperm who was loved and cherished from the day he was born, a lucky sperm who has always had medical insurance, and a lucky sperm who has encountered people who have loved him, and  cared for him when needed.  It is a matter frankly of just plain happen stance that we are where we are, with our privileges. Rather than judge another we should walk in the shoes of that person, and listen to them, and feel their pain. We should learn to keep our mouths shut, listen, just simply listen.

Eli KIhamarov tells us that “Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn’t commit.”  Let us give a pardon for that crime in each person who we see and talk to who is poor and homeless. They are the Holy Innocents of our society today. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


The Sacramental Life

December 27, 2016


Acts 6:8-10;7:54-59; Matthew 10:17-22

The Feast of St. Stephen

St. Stephen is a witness to being faithful to the very end for the Gospel–for as a witness to the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He seems like an arrogant prick–but he was faithful to the end. Christ does not look for perfection-but for those who stand with him.He stands as a radiant witness.

Munchella said to Bruno: “Poverty is not a natural condition–it is man-made.”  We must change ourselves before there will be less poverty. And I can hardly handle changing myself.

But what I do know is a quote sent to me by a friend is true for me: “You can’t change the world–I understand that-but you  do this to keep the world from changing you”

And then there is another quote  from Pope Francis:

“Christmas is a charade!” Francis said last year.

 “Christmas is approaching: There will be lights, parties, lighted Christmas trees and manger scenes. … It’s all a charade.” . . .“The world continues to go to war. The world has not chosen a peaceful path. There are wars today everywhere, and hate,” Francis said. “We should ask for the grace to weep for this world, which does not recognize the path to peace. To weep for those who live for war and have the cynicism to deny it. God weeps; Jesus weeps.” 

These quotes were swirling around in my head as  I worked on thank you notes and reflected  on yesterday and how we are all basically human beings who struggle with the same issues,  and I received a call where I spent two hours with a twenty seven year old young man. He is struggling with drug use, pain over the people he has hurt, semi-homelessness, and  dysfunctional family, in fact the universal issues we all struggle with.

In our time together I realized of how sacramental life is.  As I fixed him a meal and served him I thought of the Eucharist, and in those moments the bread became body of Christ  as we shared together. For he opened up  his life.

In his sharing he basically shared of his fears, and the struggle with addiction and the pain it has caused him and others, and in those moments he was confessing his sins, and in the end as I assured him of his goodness I was pronouncing  absolution. He left forgiven, and starting again.

  People asked me all the time if I am “happy”, and I say I am “content”, the truth is  I am  supremely happy in season and out of season, for happiness comes in serving God, and letting all else fall into place. It is never about comfort or material needs. I learned that from my mother the Church.  The Church is God’s tool to facilitate our  growth and service, but like all mother’s and sons’ we hate each other half the time, but ultimately we love each other. It is to God the Church points, and in God through Christ we know wholeness and meaning. The Church points to all of life being sacramental. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



The Center

December 24, 2016

The Center

Luke  1:66-2-4  “He set the power of salvation in the center of our lives.”

At the center of my life is Jesus of Nazareth. Through the years it has been my faith that has held me together. Scott Peck said, “Life is difficult,” and having Christ at my Center has allowed me to see life as difficult, nothing is easy, but there is  beauty. We are called to live life in all of its dynamics–its joys, pains, its sorrows and in so doing grow.  Christ at my center has enabled me to see each person as a child of God, pure and simple, to see each creature as God’s creation, and as sacred.  During the past weeks I have received a lot of Christmas cards and thanks, I have also received some hate filled emails and phone calls–the ying and the yang-and at the center is Christ reminding me of the goodness of humanity because he is a part of us.  I have had friends turn on me, and again Christ reminds me people are fragile beings, but he is the Center.

I am a priest.  And that is my calling, and God has used this calling to bring a lot of people into my life, but ultimately, being a priest is not why I care for people, it is because at the center of my being is Christ who calls me to care out of my relationship to him. We are each in all of our humanness children of God, and God cares for each of us so much.  And I am grateful this Christmas Eve. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


What Will This Child Be?

December 23, 2016


What Will This Child Be?

Luke 1:57-66

This is the question parents asked when they have children.  My mother had big dreams for me, my dad had plans of me taking over his business. It was important for my dad to have his business carried on, but it ended with him.  Disappointment–he never showed any, he was always proud of me.

Today I reflect upon my parents. They were southerners, they were segregationists, and they were homophobic, and I believe if they had lived they would have changed, for at the center of their hearts was a love of Christ, and through that love serving others. A month before my dad died he took me into the his office, and we destroyed a large file of charge receipts. I bet it was in the six figures. My dad believed everyone should eat, and so no one who came into his business left hungry, he charged it. If they paid, they paid, but they always got food. At his death I discovered that we had lived on half of his income–the other half was given away to programs where people needed to be fed or housed; both of my parents  were very clear they wanted the cheapest caskets–horrified my family members. Yet we lived well, I attended the best schools, and one of dad’s last comments to me was: “Remember you can not take it with you, so do all the good that you can with what you have.”  Throughout my childhood that attitude was demonstrated, never preached, and from that I learned to be a gifter. My dad was right you can not take it with you.  Give it away, and you are truly free.

My parents taught me the things that have guided my approach to life–to always work hard, always earn my own way; never look down at any job–all work is good. No title or degree determines your work; treat people equally; life is difficult–so turn lemon juice into orange juice,  and most importantly to see in each person the face of Christ, and never expect thanks or appreciation in return–our call is to give.

As we enter Christmas, and as I move on the streets, I remember my parents. Today I am sure they would be called co-dependents, dysfunctional, among other names, and so am I, but like John the Baptist in my own inadequate way I point to Jesus, in the short time I have, and seek to answer the question my parents asked “What Will This Child Be?” My prayer is they are smiling upon me now with pride. And that when my time comes they with Jesus can say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”  You see life is to be lived–in joy, in pain, to be lived to its fullest, giving it away. Like the Velveteen Rabbit we are called to wear ourselves out.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164