Embracing Our Thorns

February 7, 2016

Embracing Our Thorns

Ash Wednesday Prayer Service of Repentance at the City Hall

“Therefore to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

This Lent we would do well to remember that grace alone is the source of human freedom in every way true sense of the word.
This passage hit home to me in the last year when I was given the diagnosis for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Because it is a “thorn”. There are nights I wake after dreaming of my own experience of violence and, the violence I have seen and see each day and I sweat, I shake. I have days I get through moment by moment. Therapy helps, but one must simply persevere. For me it has become the cross I bear, one I did not choose, and in bearing that cross I find the Christ ever near, and ministry ever so blessed. For through this thorn I have been able to truly see grace as the source of freedom. What am I learning from this “thorn”?

1. Listen, listen without judgment, and to listen without putting my own expectations on others.

2. To see the foolishness in wanting material items. All is flesh, all will be gone. All we have is Christ and being Christ to others. To see the insanity of people sleeping in the park, without health care, without warmth, without a bath room. All material possessions should be shared so that all might have their portion.

3. To enter into compassion. I recently took an on line course on “how to be compassionate,” frankly it was comedy hour. Compassion cannot be taught. Compassion is something you enter into, experience, and embrace.

Finally I am learning to embrace the grace of God, for God’s grace ultimately is our only source of human freedom—it frees us to love, to love in fullness.

This Lent embrace the cross given to you, and find in it the source of grace and the true fountain of freedom.

Come join us for our
Ash Wednesday Prayer Service of Repentance at the City Hall—and for your Lenten fast spend time each day with a homeless person, a mentally ill person, someone with far less than you. Listen, simply listen.
Go without food for a day, and stand outside your favorite restaurant, smell the smells, feel your belly groan and meditate on how this is a daily experience for millions in the world and on the our streets.

When: Ash Wednesday, February 10, 2016 from 11:00 A.M.-12 NOON

Polk Street/McAllister

“The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mk.1:15)

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Lent is a time for personal
and societal repentance, a time for radical conversion, renewal and
transformation. Living under the brutal occupation of the Roman
empire, Jesus declared: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and
believe in the Gospel.” (Mk.1:15)

On Ash Wednesday we will hold a prayer service in front of the
San Francisco City Hall to call for repentance and conversion of ourselves, our
society and our churches to the Gospel way of justice, nonviolence and
a reverence for all life and creation.
Seeking to eradicate what
Martin Luther King, Jr. called the triple evils of poverty, racism and
militarism, we commit ourselves to ending all forms of racial hatred and
profiling, and homelessness and demand accountability for those responsible for acts of
violence, especially with respect to the killing of so many blacks by
white police.
Ashes will be imputed on our foreheads with the to reminder “Repent and Believe the Gospel.”

Temenos Catholic Worker

Fr. C. River Damien Sims

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

www. temenos.org

415-305-2124Ash Wednesday Image

The Living Word of God

February 5, 2016


Last night I stood at the bed of young guy who had overdosed on drugs and read to him Psalm 23; last week as a woman was taken in an ambulance from the Haight to the hospital I read her the same psalm; and tonight a woman who had met me months ago called suffering major depression and I read to her the same Psalm.  I have prayed the Liturgy of the Hours six times a day for years now, the Psalms center me.  For me the Scripture becomes the living Word when it brings comfort and hope.  People can argue with me about the validity of Scripture, but my experience is seeing it bring comfort, hope, endurance, and strength in the lives thousands and in my life.  To me it is the Living Word.

I find comfort in the accusations of Hilary Clinton being called a liar lately, because it means I am in the best of company; because I am always being accused of not “telling the truth.”   People expect black and whiteness. For me I deal with people’s lives, and I can not reveal what I talk about.  And nothing is black and white, in reality. I serve food, socks,, but what I really do is listen to people, and that to me is sacred. I had a father at my door questioning about his son being in the Haight, and I would not answer him, he called me a liar, and more.  For me it is about sacred trust between me and the person that God has entrusted to my care.  There is no black and whiteness.

The reality since I was sixteen years old and started ministry, is  that this has been a way of life.  On  Face book and other sites  people throw accusations, and not realize the pain that is caused.  St. Ignatius developed in his rule and spirituality a way of living ministry and it is summed up here:

“I do not suffer; at least I suffer without suffering by a sacrifice of not being concerned whether I receive esteem or disesteem, approval or disapproval, contempt or praise.”
– Peter Julian Eymard –
(Detachment is the key to unconditional love. As long as we desire anything enough to be significantly disappointed if we don’t get it, we are not completely free within.)

When you detach you can love unconditionally because you hold no judgment. I invite others to join me as we enter Lent into detaching–being open, and respecting and loving other people.

Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164




Fr. River Damien Sims
Temenos Catholic Worker
Society of Franciscan Workers, Inc
Po. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 94164

Being Shocked

February 3, 2016

BEING SHOCKED  Mark 6:1-6 St. Blaise

The blog I wrote yesterday was of my own personal experience, and I was simply sharing that we need be aware of the discrimination within ourselves and our society–laws change rights and privilege but not the inner persons. Words and attitude have wounded me far more than any physical wounds. We must change in our hearts, and within ourselves, and that is the hardest work of all, for it means being open to the differences of others and showing people respect for those differences.

We come from places of different experiences.  For example I was not criticizing the police downtown, when I said I felt uncomfortable. They were respectful, and polite and for me apart of the scene these days,  but if I came from a different neighborhood, with a different color of skin that experience would be frightening; if I was in a different City as an out gay male, it would be frightening.

I was in a different state last year, which had recently legalized same sex weddings.  The florists all advertised they supported same sex weddings. My couple could not get flowers, they were told they would need four weeks. So I went to a flower shop and ordered the flowers for the groom and bride–they were suddenly available.  Homophobia? from our point of view it is, from the owners it was not. They were following the letter of the law. Hearts have to change.

We are called by our humanity, and for those of us who are believers by our God, to open our hearts and remove our own blinders–for we all have our biases.  The articles on homelessness have been narrowly focused, not taking into account the immensity of the issues.  Those issues are immense, and doing research for a week or so does not get to them. We need to listen to Henri Nouwen and becomes living signs of love–and that is painful, it is living the way of the cross.

“In a world so torn apart by rivalry, anger, and hatred, we have the privileged vocation to be living signs of a love that can bridge all divisions and heal all wounds.”
– Henri Nouwen
(“. . . to be a living sign of love:” how might you do so today?)

Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

Fr. Christian River Damien Sims

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



A Simple Queer Liturgy

February 2, 2016

Presentation of the Lord  “A Simple Queer Liturgy” Blessed Benedict DaswaLuke 2:22-40   “Alight of revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people.”

Benedict Daswa was murdered because his people thought he believed the storms in his area were a natural cause, and refused to contribute for the payment to  a traditional healer. This was in 1990.

As a boy when the lights were out because of storms we lit oil lamps, and as they flickered we felt warm and snug. It is that light that shines now.

Ignorance lingers into eternity, despite our thoughts of modernity. There is a story I want to tell. It is a young boy raised in the mid west. Awesome parents. But he was always different.  He did not understand his feelings about liking boys. His freshman year in college he was invited to a professors home, who raped him, and than told him he would flunk him if he told any one; he was torn by depression; he went off the grad school where one professor, Walt Brueggerman, gave him a twig of hope. In an Old Testament class Walt taught that God loved everyone, and that our Bible must be read through the eyes of men, and that homosexuality was not known as we know it, and how Christ in his law of love says we should love our neighbor without reference to the labels we give people. It was that twig that sustained him as a pastor in a homophobic church, when he was a whore and in his coming out process. I is that twig that has blossomed into ministry, as I have come to see myself for who I am, and to see that I am created by God as gay.

I work with youth and older people who hare homeless because of their sexuality. Their religious groups have inserted knives into their consciences. losing sight of their humanity.

Our sexuality is a gift of God, which shapes our lives.  As a celibate priest my sexuality shapes my life, the way I relate to all. In San Francisco, we think the problem is solved, but look at our commercials, our T.V. shows–they are all straight–and white. You see boys and girls falling in love, kissing. You see white boys and girls falling in love and kissing.  Minorities of all kinds are ignored. This shapes all of our lives. 

 Luke writes today: “Alight of revelation to the Gentiles and glory for your people.”  Who are the gentiles? We are and God came to us.

So I am gay, I am queer, and I am God’s creation. I am a priest, called by God.  Those are the characteristics that human beings label me–but in the eyes of God I am his child, and we are all one in Christ where nothing separates us from the love of God.  When we recognized that and pull away from our judgment God’s Spirit will truly move in our lives. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

(This is being written because I have been receiving homophobic, painful, hateful replies–and  I know the people–and they are good, gracious, and loving when you talk to them. So think about what you write.)

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Peniel==-Newsletter of Temenos Catholic Worker

February 2, 2016


“Is this not the fast that I choose:

to loose the bonds of injustice,

to undo the thongs of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked to cover them,

and not to hide from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,

and your healing shall spring up quickly;

your vindication shall go before you, and the

glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. …

if you offer your food to the hungry and

satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your

light shall rise in the darkness and your

gloom be like noonday.” Isa. 58:1-12

I have been working on my will, and deciding where items will go when I die. It has been difficult because in the past year I have come close to death three times, and I am getting older, and so time is limited, and I realize that all I have is only temporary. Nothing any of us have is permanent. We die and our lives as we know them are gone and our possessions are no more. Life is transient, and this is the message of Lent: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Book of Common Prayer.

This Lent we are not planning a special Bible study, we are not giving up an article of food or entertainment. We are not asking people to do anything like that.

What we are asking is that you look at your Ash Wednesday reading from the Book of Isaiah and put it into practice as a part of your life. Choose fast of Isaiah. Mother Teresa said: “Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”

Shut out the voices that say to you: “It is just too much”; “It is too overwhelming”; “We need to see what our church is going to do”; “I can’t do anything alone”; “I am just one person and I don’t have enough”; and you can add the rest of the excuses we all use, and get out there and show one person you care. Feed them, listen to them. Each day I talk to many people, and I simply give them a time of listening. Remember we are a transient people—nothing we have we will be taking with us.

In conclusion, I leave you with these words of Oscar Romero and with the question: “How will we practice Christ Jesus’ way of love, justice, and truth this day?”

“We live in a time of struggle between truth and lies, between sincerity, which almost no one believes in still, and hypocrisy and intrigue. Let’s not be afraid, brothers and sisters; let’s try to be sincere, to love truth; let’s try to model ourselves on Christ Jesus. It is time for us to have a great sense of selection, of discernment.” Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!



Ash Wednesday is February 10. We will walk the Polk Street neighborhood and Haight Street at 7:00 p.m. If you are interested please call Fr. River.


The fifteenth Annual Tenderloin Stations of the Cross will begin at City Hall, the Polk Street side, at noon and we will progress through the Tenderloin. This year we will be having people without housing participating in the stations. The date is March 25, 2016..



First and Third Wednesdays of each month at noon we vigil

In front of the Earl Warren Court House on McAllister, against the death penalty.

Second and Fourth Wednesdays at noon we vigil

In front of City Hall, reminding people that “Homeless Lives Matter”



We asked your help in providing food, harm reduction supplies, pastoral care, and socks to nearly 1500 people each month. We live simply, we beg, and we trust in your God! You may send a checks to:

Temenos Catholic Worker

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

Or make donations through PayPal on www.temenos.org

All donations are tax deductible


There are demonstrations for the Homeless this Super Bowl Week.

Temenos Catholic Worker Invites You to “Super Bowl Brunch”

Haight Street on Tuesday, February 2, 4: 00 p.m.

Serving Hot Meal to Homeless Youth

Thursday, 10 p.m.–Serving Food to Homeless on Polk Street

Fr. River will begin serving Tuesday  at Stanyan and Haight at 4:00 p.m. and than move down the street. If you want volunteer call him at 415-305-2124

The Jihad of Jesus

February 1, 2016


Dave Andrews writes an excellent book on what the Muslim concept of Jihad is truly about. He compares it to the way of Jesus, and we as Christians share the same concept of “Jihad”.

Andrews reviews the violent history of both faiths. Both have been and are equally violent towards people. We see the violence presence across the globe in the violence people use in the name of their faith.

We see it in our own country in the violence that people inflict in the name of  both faiths; and while the author does not talk about it, for his focus is elsewhere, the one aspect that needs to be focused on is violence towards LGBTQ people. Recently we experienced that  on two separate days with two homeless young men, one a Muslim, the other a Christian. The Christian had been kicked out of his home, disowned by his parents, and friends because he is gay;  this young man had been  in conversion therapy, and when he could not become straight was kicked out of his home in the “name of Jesus.” The story of the Muslim young man was basically the same, and he can not find a gay friendly mosque to attend. They both have been wounded emotionally in the name of their respective faiths. Violence is a part of our heritage, given to us by human beings. Violence takes many forms–physical and emotional. We need to disown that violence and practice non-violence.

Andrews points out our true heritage can be summed up by saying that we as Muslims and Christians have truly received the gift of redeeming love from our faiths.  It is a  counter cultural gift of God/Allah to a world that is glamorized by self-centered human fulfillment, extravagance, and soft living, a world that cherishes power, fame, and self sufficiency.  In such a way we are called  to preach a God who loves humanity regardless of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, and    expect all to have economic security. And to in preaching  we  expect humiliation, persecution, and even death.  We have seen this happen  to our brothers and sisters through out history.  It is a  deep, personal devotion to our faith that characterizes the way we live our lives.

Andrews call for us to look for smaller communities that lives counter culturally, and without hierarchy.  His call is for us to study our Books’ of faith, and see that God speaks  the word of peace, and non-violence summed up in Jesus of Nazareth, who based his faith in the prophets.  We too are called to “The JIHAD OF JESUS”–the way of peace and non-violence. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!


SUPER BOWL BRUNCH-“The Jihad of Non-Violence”

There are demonstrations for the Homeless this Super Bowl Week.

Temenos Catholic Worker Invites You to “Super Bowl Brunch” a form of the Jihad of Non-Violence”

Haight Street on Tuesday, February 2, 4: 00 p.m.

Serving Hot Meal to Homeless Youth

Thursday, 10 p.m.–Serving Food to Homeless on Polk Street

Fr. River will begin serving Tuesday  at Stanyan and Haight at 4:00 p.m. and than move down the street. If you want volunteer call him at 415-305-2124


Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

www. temenos.org

415-305-2124Jesus the Homeless

Call Me

January 30, 2016


Mark 4:25-41  “Call Me” Mohandas Gandi

Last night it was raining, and there was a young guy in the door on the Haight. I gave him some food, a blanket, socks, and I could tell he was not feeling well. He told me he was sick, and was going to a friend’s. I handed him my card and told him to “call me”, night or day if he needed help, or needed to go to the hospital. He reached out and hugged me and started crying, and said, “River no one ever tells me to call them if I am sick.”

This is what it means to be human to reach out and be present to people. In the book of Exodus we read after the death of Joseph and a new King came to power: “The Egyptians go so they couldn’t stand the Israelite ‘s and treated them worse than ever,. . . .”  I see that in the way we are treating homeless people. They are being treated worse than ever. And we are as responsible as those who do it when we turn our eyes away.

As Christians, and people of all faith traditions, and as non-believers we are called to look a person in the eye and say “call me”, show them we care. The two times I had to go to the emergency room this past year two friends went out of their way and took me–and that meant more to me than anything in the world,–they cared enough to be with me.  Reach out and say to people, “CALL ME!” Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



“Beware What You Are Planting.”

January 29, 2016

Beware What You Are Planting

Dominique Pire 2 Sam. 11:1-4; 5-10, 13-17; Mark 4: 26-34

I received an email early this morning from someone criticizing me for not attending a reception for along time colleague in Oakland last night, ripping me up one side and down the other.  Frankly the reason I did not go was because with the Super Bowl preparations and shut down of certain areas,   it would have taken me four to five hours to go and come; I will take Louie out for lunch after the Super Bowl and congratulate him on his book. That was all. Another wanting to know “Are you participating in the demonstrations for the  homeless, or are  you going to be a loner and do you own thing?”
And I suppose I am simply going to be a “loner”, “doing my own thing”–I will feed people, hang out with them, and  do the vigils at City Hall and the Federal Building.  What I have discovered is that my energy and time is best spent working with the individuals who are being hurt by all that is going on. One person is angry because we are doing the Tenderloin Stations of the Cross differently–this year we are  using students and homeless people as the participants. I am just doing it differently, nothing more, nothing less. No one has time to talk on the phone or in person–always by email or Facebook.  It is easy to say things when you do not have to look at the pain in the person’s eyes, here the pain in his voice, it is so easy. Email and
Facebook are excellent tools–but they can be destructive and  painful.

Fr. Pire wrote: “There is perhaps no surer road to peace than the one that starts from little islands and oases of genuine kindness, islands  and oases constantly growing in number and being continually joined together until eventually they ring the world.”

Fr. Pire hits the nail on the head of what we are called to do. Like David, we are screw ups, all of us. Each finger we point at another there are four pointing back at us.  But in Christ we can get up off our feet, dust the dust off our knees and give some genuine kindness. Kindness comes in the words we write, it comes in the way we treat people personally, it comes in not putting our own expectations on them, but letting them grow and move on their own. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!


Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Fr. River Damien Sims


“Moving People Like Furniture”

January 27, 2016
“Moving People Like they Are Furniture.”
There have been several articles on moving the homeless out of the area during the Super Bowl. One Supervisor suggested moving the tents and people off 13th Street, because it is unsightly.
Rather than stand back and look at people from a distance we need to see them as human beings–just like us–with the same feelings, ability to feel pain, and fears that we have. People living in the tents, on the streets are not objects to be moved around, because some of us have the power of money and office. They are fragile human beings who hurt and suffer.
They are people with no place to live–and in all likelihood no hope of finding a place, all across this country this is happening–and not one candidate mentions it. They suffer from trauma, mental illness, and PTSD from the street–and I personally know PTSD is not something one just fixes.
They have no money to buy food and eat. Imagine living in a City with thousands of restaurants, and not being able to eat. Imagine standing outside of restaurant on the Haight or on Polk and smelling the food, and not being able to eat; imagine needing to go to the bath room, and unless you spend two or three dollars can not enter a place. And there are no bath rooms on the street.
I live in a building where I can not cook, but I have a place where I can fix food, and money to go to restaurants. None of the SRO’s allow cooking–and people who have the opportunity to live in one have to pay for their food on 2-300 dollars a month.
We are all responsible. Every last one of us has a responsibility here. We can confront our leaders over and over again. I was told by one of our Congressperson’s that if they received seventy five letters and emails, they start looking at the problem. We need to start writing, and we need to start taking food, socks, and blankets out on the street each and everyone of us, and believe me our leaders will hear, and they will do something. We need to turn our eyes to people and look with eyes of compassion. It is time we stop putting our hope in the government–our leaders basically ignore the problem–and the reality is there is not enough money to solve the problems==we need to be a part of meeting those needs on a personal level.
Fast for a day–stand outside a restaurant–smell the food–and do not eat, fast and pray for those who live this way. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!
Temenos Catholic Worker
P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 94164

Creating A New House

January 23, 2016

“Creating a New House”

Mark 3: 21-23

“He has gone out of his mind.”

Venerable Satoko Kitahara

“The Mary of Ant Town”

“I feel my path to Heaven will be a long and painful one.  I do not intend to work just for my own salvation, closing my eyes to the people around me.”

Ursula Le Guin tells us  that “Love doesn’t just sit there like a stone, it has to be made, like bread: remade all the time, made new.”

  Several days ago this quote ran through my mind as I encountered four homeless people on the corner of Haight and Masonic.  Judy was having difficulty breathing, she has been in and out of the hospital with a damaged heart the last few months. There were several well dressed people around telling the group to get off the street, they did not belong there. I called an ambulance, and was told she was having a heart attack.

What went through my mind was seeing people standing around simply jeering, making fun, while someone was suffering. Where is our humanity? Our humanity is about loving one another, that is what makes us human.

We have stopped remaking love, we have become about looking out for ourselves.  Thirteenth Street is filled with tents, Golden Gate Park is filled with people sleeping; at night in the alleys are filled. This is the way it is across our nation. The Governor very seldom if ever mentions homelessness.  I have not heard our presidential candidates utter a word.

The family of Jesus thought he was out of his mind because he dared to seek to live out a new creation. It is this “mad” Jesus who calls us to not sit where we are like a stone, but to remake the bread of love, and to continue remaking that bread until all are cared for. We need to knead that bread, become bruised by it, and make it into live giving bread.

Yesterday one of my young guys showed me some of his new graffiti work. He had painted over a restaurant advertisement the words: “If I come in,  you will eat me.”     There are forty or so restaurants on Polk, and just as many on the Haight. I see people standing outside all the time their mouths watering from hunger, they dare not go in the door, to even use the rest room. The challenge I am issuing any one who will listen now and through Lent is to fast one day a week, and stand outside a restaurant for an hour, smelling the food, wanting something to eat.  Think about what it means not having the opportunity, and being hungry around all that food.

So let us remember, “Love doesn’t just sit there, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.” Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164




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