Temenos Newsletter

December 2, 2015

December Newsletter
Lent, 2007;
“Where Jacob Wrestled with God” Father River Damien Sims M.Div., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656,
San Francisco, CA 94164

Telephone: 415-305-2124

Website: http://www.temenos.org.

1. 46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
2. 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.
3. 48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
4. 49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
5. 50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
6. 51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
7. 52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
8. 53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
9. 54 He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
10. 55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.
11. 56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
As we enter Advent and the Christmas Season, we will be overwhelmed with the commercials of the “perfect” Christmas where everyone is happy and having a joyful time. The world that I live and move in is just the opposite. I see people of all ages struggling to survive minute by minute: Jay, a 15-year-old Chinese young man thrown out of his home because he is gay, simply living with anything he can find; Judi, 30, who is a sex worker, a drug user, a mother, going from one “date” to another; Larry who has a grocery basket full of belongings, and sleeps outside my door and hangs out on Polk each day, simply living; and the list goes on and on. There are thousands of individuals like these guys, literally thousands, and they are passed by each day ignored, mistreated. The majority have some form of mental illness, and little treatment available.
Lance Cheslock wrote an article in the La Puente Newsletter in which he states that HOMELESSNESS IS A SYMPTOM, NOT A PROBLEM and he says:
“Homelessness is a symptom of:
-Lack of affordable housing
-Fallout from addiction
-High employment
-Lack of low-wage jobs for low skilled workers
-Access to health care
-Limitations of services for the mentally ill, veterans, immigrants and other subpopulations
-Family dysfunction/domestic violence.”
The message of Mary is that Jesus is bringing in the reign of God NOW. The reign of God comes into the present in the actions of those who follow Jesus. We can make a difference in our own “little way,” as St. Teresa once said. We can advocate through the mail, email, text, phone, and in person with our legislators to face the reality of the homeless crisis–to change our funding to meet those needs, and to work with people on looking at how each one of us can meet those needs. Governor Jerry Brown has taken actions to deal with the drought. We need like-minded actions to deal with homelessness–they will be tough, they will affect all of us, but we need to sacrifice to provide for others;
Secondly, each of us can work with our local churches, synagogues, temples, and secular organizations to open their doors for the homeless, to provide shelter, food, and healthcare. We need to move out of our “tribes” into the world at large and provide for people;
Thirdly, each of us can participate in the “little way” of St. Teresa by simply paying attention to people we encounter on the street. One of my street youth commented to me recently, when he saw me and I did not have the food he liked, “River, it does not matter. You spend time with me, everyone else does not give a f…ck.” It is simply in the giving of our presence that Christ meets people. Buy them something to eat or to drink, give them some of your excess clothes. If you have none of that, simply chat with someone–that means life or death to many, the human touch of voice and care.
Let us rejoice in God our Savior this Advent Season–let us be Christ to others! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!
December 24
Meal and Christmas Gifts in the Haight at 3:00–6:00 p.m.
7:00 p.m.–9:00 p.m. Meal and Gifts in Hemlock Alley on Polk
December 25
Service/Snacks/Gifts in the Haight at 5:00 p.m.
Temenos Catholic Worker, a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit, operates on donations–your gifts, given out of the generosity of your hearts. We give out ten thousand pairs of socks a month; feed countless meals; provide pastoral care to many; hang out with countless individuals. We make countless hospital calls. Only two percent of our budget goes to administrative costs. The needs are increasing. People are always asking how do you survive, and our answer is by the grace of God, and the generosity of people who love others. So please open up your hearts and minds to our needs.
This year we are giving each person on the street a stocking cap–we have purchased 1000 stocking caps. They are your gifts.
For those of you who have given this past year, if you need a tax summary please email me at punkpriest1@gmail.com and I will send you one.
Thank you for your giving this past year, thank you for your love of me, and your love of the individuals we serve. They are not clients, parishioners to me, but my friends, and your friends as well.
Please give through snail mail:
P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 94164
Pal pal on http://www.temenos.org
May you have a Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!
Thank you really from the bottom of my heart.

Reflections on the Hunger Games

November 29, 2015


“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

The story of the Hunger Games is our story. Around me I see wealth, and when you look closely you see thousands sleeping on the street, not having food, going without; along the coast and in the backwoods of the Peninsular there are thousands sleeping in their cars and in tents. They are pushed aside, mistreated, ignored. It is this way across our country.  In the Hunger Games all money and all power goe to Panem-the capitol, and Katniss lives in District 12, “where you can starve to death in safety.”

Those of us who call ourselves Christian will not look at the poverty in our midst, we will not lift our voices or our hands to fight to bring it to light for fear we will lose what we have. We often find that our sports events,take so much attention similar to the Roman circuses– a means of distracting people from reality. The money spent on the stadiums could provide for so many. We complain when we have to raise minimum wage, which is not nearly enough to live on, our consumptive practices are destroying people. Our consumerist lifestyle comes at a price, and it is the poor in spirit around the world who are paying it. They are the ones sacrificing to provide us bread, but we are the one’s distracted by our circuses so much so that we do not care about the suffering.. We are culture and , appearance obsessed. 

The Kingdom of God is about working for a equal world, where no one goes hungry, no one is without. Jesus calls us to another way of living–selflessly, and not fighting among ourselves, but for the welfare of everyone.  It is a subversive way. And during Advent we will explore what it means to live in a counter-cultural manner, to be subversive. We will look at our selves straight in the eyes and call ourselves to accountability.  I invite each and everyone of you to join me in this journey. I invite each one of you to each day when you see a person on a street corner, in an alley, at your doorway who is homeless–to invite them to a meal, to sit down, and to talk with them; I invite you each day to fast at least one meal a day and to share that money with someone who is homeless.

Read the first volume of The Hunger Games or watch the movie–look at the comparisons of our societies–they are present–for our literature reflects the truth of our times. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Read the Gospels for the next three days:

Sunday: Luke 21:25-36

Monday: Matt. 4:18-22

Tuesday: Luke 10:21-24

Wednesday: Matthew 15:28-37

Want to discuss or comment email me at punkpriest1@gmail.com

Advent –Christ is Coming–Change is Coming

November 27, 2015


Jeremiah 33:14-16; I Thess. 3:12-4:2; Luke 21:25-38; 34-36

This Sunday we begin our journey through Advent. The season of Advent is often referred to as the time where we prepare for the birth of Christ. When I think about Advent I often think about the song from the musical Godspell “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.” It is as if we are waiting for the Christ to come to us. Yet the word Advent comes from the Latin ‘advenio’, which literally means to ‘come to.’ We seem to spend a great deal of our time waiting for Christ to come to us. Perhaps this Advent season we should consider “coming to” Christ instead waiting for Christ to come to us. What does this mean, “to come to Christ?” In the second reading we are told: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts” The only way to come to Christ is to “abound in love… for all”

In his book Everything Must Change, Brian McLaren discusses how Jesus over and over talks about the kingdom of God. He says: “We consider how this message of the kingdom – contrary to popular belief – was not focused on how to escape this world and its problems by going to heaven after death, but instead was focused on how God’s will could be done on Earth.” He goes on to say: “We described God’s kingdom in terms of God’s dreams coming true for this earth, of God’s justice and peace replacing earth’s injustice and harmony.”

This Advent let us imagine what this Kingdom of God on Earth will look like. What would happen if we truly believed that we are all the “Body of Christ” as we often proclaim? Will it be a world where we will “abound in Love for one another” and for all creation? As Brian McLaren says: “If Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God is true then everything must change.”

And change must come through us. Last night we served meal after meal to people on the street; one after another told us  it was the only meal they had had on this day of Thanksgiving.  In the City of St.Francis people go hungry; we served meals in a shelter–and people were on a waiting list to come into sleep–thousands sleep outside;  there was an article in the Santa Cruz paper this week saying that 44 per cent of the population in the area is homeless; L.A. has declared a state of emergency for homelessness; and the list goes on and on.The Kingdom of God begins with you and I–each of us are called to responsibility for the suffering on the streets.

One of our favorite series of  movies is The Hunger Games Trilogy.  It is a reflection of the mood of our time and says a lot about where we are and where we may be going, and holds out hope. It is not a Christian movie, but the Gospel is present.  During Advent we will be doing a retreat which  is entitled: “The Hunger Games and the Gospel, based upon the book: The Hunger Games and the Gospel by Julie Clawson.  We will put  reflections in our journal a couple times a week. If you would like to have a discussion and further reflections email us  at punkpriest1@gmail.com.  We are eating one meal a day during this penitent season as a reminder of all who go without food on our streets.  

We need to move away from looking at ourselves, putting the blame on others, and depending on others to take care of those who are on our streets. We need to get involved, get our hands dirty.  We need to “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord!”  Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Something Bigger More Beautiful

November 24, 2015

Luke 21:5-11, “Something Bigger More Beautiful

It’s midnight. I have drunk a bottle of wine because it was in the refrigerator of the church, and I am cooking for Thanksgiving and hate to see anything go to waste. That comes from being on the street for three years prostituting to survive. Mr. Straight edge here sat by the bed and anointed a 3o year old as he he died tonight, and there is much pain.Christmas is the worst season of the year for me, because we are surrounded by gift giving, and I see people who have nothing, and will get nothing, and it hurts. That is why after December 1 I center on my parishners, I do not go in and out of the typical Christmas celebrations back to the street, it is difficult, I center in on the the guys I work with. 

The Scripture for today points out we need to look beyond our buildings and the beautiful and see the heart of people.  When you go to the store see the person asking for money, look into his face–and see the need there, see the pain.  That is the Gospel.

People tell me to be “happy”, well my take on that is not to see the pain, but what I am is content, very content, and satisfied in what I do, for in the pain there is joy. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

By questioning our inherited cultural conditioning to commodify, abuse, and eat animals, we are taking the greatest step we can to leave home, become responsible adults, and mature spiritually, and by actively helping others do the same, we return home with a liberating message of compassion and truth that can inspire and bless others.

By leaving home we can find our true home, contribute to social progress, and help the animals with whom we share this precious earth have a chance to be at home again as well. Dr. Will Tutt

Walk Humbly With God

November 23, 2015


“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

My friend Michael Lautes wrote the piece below. I met Michael when he was a young kid on the streets; he is now a teacher and is married and teaches in Vietnam.  Michael reflects below on the economic situation where he lives as compared to our country.

In reading this piece I encourage you to give thanksgiving for the goodness in our country, but to remember that when we point a finger at someone else we are pointing four back at ourselves:

1. There are 300,000 people homeless in California;

2. In Seattle they now have an area downtown where people can camp and live;

3. 1 out of 4 people go to bed hungry in San Francisco; and so on.

We need to  become the power of one to change this situation–I hear little from our political candidates, and so it begins with us. So I invite you to read Michael’s article and remember we cover our problems up and they are increasing:

“Where do I begin? I continually see people posting about their ridiculous problems online and keep thinking to myself “really?” Let me start by saying I was not a privileged middle class kid, aside from being a white male. I grew up in a working class family who struggled to survive and later I was homeless and addicted to drugs, so I already had my ideas about how spoiled people in the USA are and how little they stop to think about anyone but themselves, but a year ago I moved to Vietnam to teach English and my eyes were opened even further.
I lived in Hanoi for a year and am currently living in Saigon and have now seen true poverty. Let me qualify the fact that Vietnam was not nor is a real socialist/communist society, but like most so called socialist countries is a totalitarian state where you cannot protest or even speak out against the govt without fear of being jailed. The USA is more socialist than Vietnam. Here there are no social safety-nets. If you lose your job, then it’s too bad for you. There is no unemployment, no job placement assistance, no food stamps, no housing aid, no welfare. If you find yourself homeless, you are given a home, in jail. If you beg for money to feed your family, again you go to jail. So although there are taxes here, they only go to pay govt employees. And you complain about your govt?
The average monthly wage is $150 and don’t think things are super cheap because the cost to live is still between $400- $600 per month to live in a half decent home. This means that large extended families live in one broken down home where they may or may not have hot water or a stove or any of the amenities we take for granted. You will often see the extremely hard working women of Vietnam with a small grill outside making food and using the water that comes from the tap which is unsafe to drink as it is not purified. That there in itself is something everyone takes for granted, clean water from the tap. There are rats everywhere and the stink in the poorer areas is enough to make you gag. Sounds great huh?
In the downtown areas it might seem like it’s a wealthy city as you see a gold Lamborghini drive by, however it is simply a huge disparity between classes. Drive 10 minutes from the city center and you will begin to find homes made from sheets of metal, children and adults defecating and urinating in the streets, and trash clogging the lakes and rivers. You see dirty faces of women and children in the downtown trying desperately to sell something to foreigners, young children who should be in school or playing. There are small children eating fire on the streets of Saigon to make money to give to their dad who is probably on drugs. There is of course a huge sex market as westerners flock to exploit Asian women because of some racist view of their subservience, so you see young girls crowded in bars wearing skimpy clothes hoping to turn a trick to make money often to bring to their family. The ones who aren’t prostitutes are trying desperately to find a western man to marry and help them escape this place. Such comfort and happiness.
The women in Vietnam usually are the workhorses. They work all day while taking care of the house and children while their husbands gamble on cock fights (often they are also on heroin and their women work to support that habit as well). The daughters also are made to do whatever work the mother cannot do because she has to work so hard, so these young girls do not have much of a childhood and once they are married they are treated like dogs too often. The men here laugh about being “king” and how women mean nothing. It is so deep seeded in their society that women are worthless even the women ask you “how many sons do you have?” not how many children, how many sons. Must be great to be a woman here, huh?
There is no safety here. No OSHA or anything to protect anyone nor is their a real police force to protect you as the police are a joke and everyone knows it. The police don’t really enforce laws, they simply stop people to take bribes. The rules of the road don’t matter as people just do what they want and drive the wrong way down one ways, run red lights; turn right from the left hand lane, etc. etc. There are wrecks all the time and here you get in less trouble if you kill someone when driving as opposed to them surviving and you having to pay the hospital bills, so often people if they hit someone they will back up and run them over again to make sure they’re dead. The fine for this is only a couple thousand dollars. Bus drivers can kill one person before losing their jobs. Those damn rules and laws you complain about, well here’s what it’s like without ‘em.
There is an overall lack of value for human life because of the awful poverty here like you can never understand. Luckily, the class separation is going to get even worse thanks to the TPP which will exploit these people even more. So next time you want to complain about your first world problems, please shut up and instead think about how you can help someone less fortunate outside your selfish little world, think about how you can make the world a better place for someone other than yourself for once in your life!!” Michael Lautes

The Gospel Adventure

November 22, 2015

THE GOSPEL ADVENTURE Christ the King Daniel 7:13-14; Revelation 1:5-08; John 18:33-37

The Feast of Christ the King serves as a “parable of reversal”.  Jesus will reign but not from political power, he rejects political power, he reigns through love. His reign is through us.

I spent several hours tonight with a man who is having suicidal feelings; another who is a Muslim and insults were hurled at him today by Christians; another who was coming down off drugs and had no idea where he was.  I saw fifty plus people sleeping in the alleys and on the street around Polk tonight. Christ the King comes to each one of these people with our presence–spending time, feeding them, listening.

Sr. Helen Prejean sent me an email today wishing me a “Happy Thanksgiving” and wishing me well on “your Gospel Adventure.”  That is the best summary someone can give of how I feel about ministry. It is a “Gospel Adventure”, and I love every minute of it. Yet in the midst of this there is pain, and like now I am sad, because of what is going on in our country and around the world; a close friend of mine may have a very serious illness; and the suffering I see on the street.I learned along time ago to feel the sadness, to endure it, because it leads to depression. Some of the kids joke with me about being a “straight edge punk” because I don’t use drugs, and I have never used drugs because I want to feel the pain and in feeling it you move through it to resurrection.

But  the sadness is also mixed with the joy in the hope of the resurrection.  The day I do not feel sad, I do not feel the pain of people is the day I will quit. For that is our call as those who follow Christ to take on the pain of the world, and through walking with people in that pain to bring the reign of God. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Happy Thanksgiving

November 20, 2015


We are entering  Thanksgiving Week, preparing for our family and friends. As we enter this week I find myself very sad, by the events both  at home and abroad.   Most particularly am I sad about the events in our own nation with our attitudes towards refugees and people who are homeless.  There is fear, there is anger, and Facebook is filled with that anger and fear.There are no answers to offer, no easy fixes. What I do offer are some suggestions for this coming week:

1. First, Thank God for each breath of life that you take. I thank God each day for another moment, and another day of life. It is a blessing, a true blessing to be alive. So thank God for your life.

2. Secondly, give thanks for your family and friends, for those you hold dear. 

3. Thirdly, I encourage you at sometime this holiday season to talk to a person out side of your ethnic, religious, gender, sexual orientation, and economic situation. Spend time with them, look them in the eyes, see in them the face of the God of many faces.

4. I encourage you to reflect on your own fears,  fears of terror, of death, of rejection, and face them, and then look at the faces of the people who have nothing, and who are different from you, and think of their fears, and find ways of reconciling those fears. Think about what it would be like to live in Exile, away from all you know–really feel for others.

5.   Thirdly, I am personally a vegan. The reasons are simple I value each life as Maimonides said: 

“It should not be believed that all beings exist for the sake of the existence of man. On the contrary, all the other beings too have been intended for their own sakes and not for the sake of anything else.”

By looking at life from that perspective through faith in Jesus I have found that I see people and animals as God’s creatures and the labels of religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and economic success becomes irrelevant.  They are the children of the God of many faces, and we are called to love one another.

So this Thanksgiving remember the words of Jesus: “Love one another, as I have loved you.” 

“May the grace of Almighty God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, bless, preserve, and keep y0u always–even until the end of the world. Amen.”

Temenos Catholic Worker

Fr. River Damien Sims

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



The Tie That Blinds

November 16, 2015

I Maccabees 1:10-15; 41-43; 54-57; 62-63 Luke 18:35-43 “The Ties That Blind Us”   Blessed Mary of the Passion

The Gospel presents us with the inner vision of Jesus and humanity’s struggle with it’s own inner darkness.  A blind man wants to see, but around him are others who are blind: Herod by his ambitions; the rich man by his money; and the Sadducee’s by their theology; the disciples by their need for title and status. These are attachments that blind all of us. The challenge of Jesus is for us to see the world through his eyes.  There are three quotes for me that sum up today’s Gospel and that of I Maccabees where the Jews who stick to their beliefs die:

“Our personal identities can often seem in flux, and yet as Christians we have a place to come back to. We’re called back to a sense of being grounded in Christ’s own being.”

-Br. Mark Brown

“Com­passion means suffering with and suffering for another. Compassion is a melding of passionate love and tender mercy.”

-Br. Curtis Almquist

The Pythagorean Principle
“As long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”
~ Pythagoras

To see the world through God’s eyes we look through the lens of the cross and follow him in acts of compassion. Love is not a feeling- it is caring for people, even when we fear and do not like  them. I dressed the wound of a young man the other night whom I really do not like, he has been abusive to me for years, but he had been stabbed; I suffered with him–I moved aside my prejudices; it  is in  standing back and seeing people for who they are–not labeled by race, creed, sexuality or religion–that we truly see them as human beings who are broken, fearful, and in need.  When we sling out words and actions of dislike, hate, they return to us in the same manner.  We need to find power in self-giving love that helps heal a broken world. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

The Kingdom of God Is Within U

November 12, 2015

Venerable Catherine McAuley “The Kingdom of God is Among You.”

Wisdom 7:22-8:1; Luke 17:20-25

“The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed, nor will they say, “Look here it is!  or “There it is!”  For in fact, The Kingdom of God is among you!”

As I pick up the newspaper I see people being evicted, refugees trying to find a place to live, country’s ravaged by war; people of different beliefs fighting each other destructively. Yesterday I was at the Wharf and I noticed  many Muslims in the mix of the crowd. It was a beautiful sight seeing the women in their religious wear, taking care of their children.  We are a pluralistic world, and yet many Muslims in San Francisco are fearful.

The Kingdom of God is within each of us. I talk about feeling the “Angel of Death” flutter around me, and lately I have felt that presence. I have been with individuals who have died, I have been warned by my physician with the change in weather to be careful because if I get an infection she is not sure if the antibiotics available will be effective;  And when I feel that presence, as I have for sometime, all passes away–race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, gender–we become one in Christ where the common denominator is love.  “The Kingdom of God is within us,”–the ability to love our neighbor as ourselves, to live in peace, to share of our physical goods so that all will be taken care of, to do so without judgment. We can see our differences as a part of a great kaleidoscope. reflecting the the beautiful colors of the God of many faces. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Love and Relationship

November 11, 2015

Fr. Michael Rodrigo  Love and Relationship Luke 17:11-19

Just before he was murdered Fr. Rodrigo said: “After all, the lasting things are love and relationship with people. These things will last even in eternity. Don’t be afraid, we will commit ourselves to God.”

It is love and relationship that is the important element in life–not what you believe, for Christ is made manifest in how we treat people. This week a young man died and as I talked to his conservative parents, they were concerned with him being saved, and with the fact he was gay. There questions were sad, because those issues had separated him from them for many years, had tormented, and scared him, and them as well.  All three had lived in hell on earth.  And I looked into their eyes and said as gracefully as possible, “What I know is that your son is in that Great Cloud of Witnesses, and that as I gave him the Sacrament of Reconciliation there was peace in his face. Jesus loved him while he was in your womb, loved him through life, and loves him now in eternity.” 

God cares about one thing–how we love one another, how we treat each other. In the Gospel this morning one came back after being healed–all of us should be grateful for life, and share of what we have so that others might have, and let go of our greed, resentments–for in the end it is about love and relationship. Jesus came to bring us into relationship with God and with each other.

Someone wrote me and told me to thank God for my great gift of courage. Courage is not a gift–

We can’t get courage by running, hiding or gritting our teeth. It won’t come from waiting for yourself or the situation to change. Courage is acting, leaning into the situation as you are. Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s stepping into the fearful place.

-Br. Luke Ditewig

Courage is stepping into the fearful place of relationship with others–outside of our “tribe”, our socioeconomic status, our race, our creed, our religion, our gender, our sexual orientation–and loving each other and respecting each for our various gifts. It is loving each other as God loves us.  And yes you can be hurt, but personally I have found in the pain that  resurrection-follows-for only through  death comes resurrection, and death comes in many forms–and the more we embrace death, the more we live more fully. We die a thousand deaths each day–and when we embrace those deaths–we find resurrection. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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