Archive for November, 2014

Advent Retreat

November 30, 2014

The grace of God is found everywhere—in nature, in love, in hate, in laughter, in tears, in joy, in sorrow, in pain, in death-in all aspects of life.
Grace is living with a grateful heart arising from the inward journey. Grace embraces the wisdom found in all faith traditions. It is more comfortable with mystery than with certainty. Grace allows us to live in the places—where one is surprised by grace, beauty, and goodness in all creatures. It reminds us of the preciousness of the present moment.
Br. Robert Esperance reminds us that “Advent is a time to look for “desert places” the places of solitude, the place of true silence in which we can become fully awake to our sin and God’s forgiving grace which alone can heal it.

Lighting of the Advent Wreath—Week One-December 30
Form 4 candles in a wreath or in a circle and each day light it as you begin your time of prayer as a time of centering.
Incarnation of North, ignite in us refining fire.
Enliven us with your regenerative flame.
Incarnation of East, shape us with water.
Increase our surrender to your loving flow.
Incarnation of South, root us in earth.
Reveal to us your embodied presence.
Incarnation of West, breathe in us air.
Animate us by the inspiration of your Spirit.
First Week of Advent: Fire
Our Advent candle honors fire.
Fires gives us light.
Fire provides warmth.
Fire clears space for new life.
With our first Advent candle we remember the Star of Bethlehem.
We remember the fire of love in the hearts of those who follow the star, even now.
With Mary, who said yes to the spark of life in her body, and with the shepherds and magi, who followed the fire sign in the sky, we light this candle to represent incarnation through fire.
Prayer of Dedication:
Spark of Life and Fire of our bones,
Bring us to life through our gifts and service.
Stoke the most hesitant flame into an inferno of love,
and encourage even our cooling embers to combust into flames of justice. Amen.
(Maren C. Tirabaem

Advent Examen
by Laurie Marshanke
Begin by taking in a deep breath, taking in God’s love, the light of Christ, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Exhale all your worries, your challenges, and your fears. During this time of Advent let us reflect on what we can do to prepare for the Lord. 1. Invite the Holy Spirit to help you see the day as the newborn baby Jesus sees it. What joy have you found today? Where have you felt God’s love? What have you done today to prepare the way for Jesus being born into this world for you? 2. Now think about your day as if looking at it through the eyes of a child; what do you see? Did something surprise you? Was it something someone said to you or something you are grateful for? What did you recognize as gifts (thinking about the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh brought to Jesus)? Thank God for the gifts he has given to you today. 3. Take a moment to reflect on the times today when God was especially present to you. Recognize your feelings in those moments. How did you prepare your heart for God’s presence in the coming of Jesus? Where did you feel God’s loving arms wrapped around you the way Jesus felt Mary’s arms? How did you prepare yourself to experience God’s love, forgiveness, and hope? 4. Now take a moment to think about the times when God seemed to be hidden. Where did you struggle to see the Messiah in your life—the way some failed to recognize the birth of the Messiah when Jesus was born? When may you have seen the need for love and didn’t respond (maybe like the innkeeper), or the opportunity for forgiveness and you walked away? How was your heart prepared? Ask God to forgive you for anything that moved your heart away from God’s love and recognizing the birth of Jesus in you. And ask God to help you to open your heart and become the person that God created you to be. 5. Finally, prepare for the hope of Jesus Christ in your life. Think about what you are hopeful for, what you are looking forward to during Advent and the Christmas season. Is your hope like that of a child on Christmas morning? What gifts will you share to be hope for someone else? Ask God to bless all in your life as you prepare the way of the Lord, and ask God to be with you today and every day. –

Contemplation on the Incarnation Part One: The Trinity Looks Down from Heaven-First Two Weeks of Advent
By Daniel Ruff, SJ
The lion’s share of the Spiritual Exercises, perhaps two-thirds, is given over to imaginative contemplation of Gospel episodes from the life of Jesus. The retreatant prays to “see Jesus more clearly, love Him more dearly, and follow him more nearly” as a disciple. (St. Ignatius found the prayer where the authors of Godspell found it; it was written by Richard of Chichester in the 1200s.) The Exercises begin at the beginning of the life of Jesus; the first contemplation is of the moment of Jesus’ conception (yes, St. Ignatius was pro-life). The prayer, as Ignatius envisions it, is a diptych. The first “panel” is God’s decision and offer; the second “panel” is Mary’s human response.
The first part of the meditation emerges not from the Gospels, but from Ignatius’s imagination. After collecting him- or herself, becoming aware of God’s presence, and asking for “what he or she desires” (to see more clearly, etc.), the retreatant is invited to enter into God’s viewpoint. Allowing the Spirit to guide, the person praying is asked to imagine the triune God, before the moment of Jesus’ conception:
looking upon our world: men and women being born and being laid to rest, some getting married and others getting divorced, the old and the young, the rich and the poor, the happy and the sad, so many people aimless, despairing, hateful, and killing, so many undernourished, sick, and dying, so many struggling with life and blind to any meaning. With God, I can hear people laughing and crying, some shouting and screaming, some praying, others cursing.
(All quotations of the text of the meditation used here are from David L. Fleming, SJ, Draw Me Into Your Friendship: A Literal Translation and a Contemporary Reading of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1996.)
If you try this at home―and I heartily encourage it during this Advent season―try to pay attention to the Trinity’s affective responses to this complicated, messy mass of humanity. Pay attention to your own feelings as well. If you pretend in your imagination to be back in the time before Jesus’ coming, how do you feel looking down “from where God sits” at the mixed, complicated messiness of the unredeemed human condition? Would you respond as the Trinity did?
Then, let the miracle of divine love unfold in your mind’s eye.
The leap of divine joy: God knows that the time has come when the mystery of salvation, hidden from the beginning of the world, will shine into human darkness and confusion. It is as if I can hear the Divine Persons saying, “Let us work the redemption of the whole human race; let us respond to the groaning of all creation.”
The Trinity’s response―O, wonder of wonders!―is to incarnate the Divine Word, the second Person. God the Son will take human flesh as Jesus of Nazareth and become Emmanuel, “God with us.” The Trinity’s plan is the mystery of the Incarnation―the very reason for the Advent and Christmas seasons.
Grab 15 or 20 minutes this week and give this prayer exercise a whirl; walk imaginatively in God’s shoes for a while. See what it does for your heart and your spirit. Fall in love with God and Jesus. Feel free to discuss what you are seeing and feeling in prayer with God―with any or all of the three Persons. Maybe thank Jesus Christ for his willingness to become human. In the next article I’ll look at the other “panel” of the diptych―Mary’s response to God’s initiative in the Lucan scene of the Annunciation.
Originally appeared in the bulletin of Old St. Joseph’s Church in Philadelphia ©2008 Fr. Daniel Ruff, SJ. Used with permission
During Advent take a picture a day with your I phone or Smart Phone and share on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Email of something that speaks to you of the theme of Advent this week.
Set aside time each day, sit in silence and reflect during this Advent. You may email me at or call me at 415-305-2124 if you want to talk, share, and reflect upon your time. Call any time. Fr. River

Dulling Our Senses

November 29, 2014

November 29, Dorothy Day, “Dulling Our Expectations” Luke 21:34-36

“Be on your guard. Don’t let the sharp edge of expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping.” (34) The Message

We are overwhelmed by materialism, and yesterday the shopping day of all shopping days, highlight the dulling of our expectations. People were sleeping out in front of stores on Thanksgiving night–seeking to save money. Materialism is an addiction that grabs all of us–from the poorest to the richest. In embracing the materialism we lose sight of the One that brings wholeness.

I spent the day hanging out with two sixteen year old friends because their parents were too busy shopping, the newspaper is full of the materialism embracing the area–and in that embrace we lose our souls. For the heart of life is in relationships, and relationships take second place to the money that we seek. The “Black Fridays” of our society are like the circuses of Rome–they take us away from the pain, the hurt, that is around us, and that is being done in our name by those who elected us. Our leaders seem so unaware of the suffering under their noses.

Yesterday I intentionally stayed out of the stores in protest, and during Advent I am going to eat one meal a day in a fast to keep my eyes focused in the coming Christ. We need to let go of our insecurities, our materialism and turn our eyes to the Center of life and reorganized our priorities–so that we might have wholeness and others might have wholeness. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

A basic reason that billions of animals suffer confinement and slaughter is our cultural belief that we need to eat animal-derived foods to be healthy, yet one of the most common motivations many of us have to reduce or eliminate animal food consumption is improving our health!

Illuminating this paradox requires us to investigate our human physiology and the animal foods we eat, and to reconnect with the perennial understanding that cultivating kindness and awareness improves physical and mental health, while harmfulness and unconsciousness lead ultimately to physical and mental disease. Dr. Will Tuttle

Pray for the Dead, Fight Like Hell

November 28, 2014

November 28, “Pray for the Dead, Fight Like Hell for the Living”,. Mother Jones, Rev. 20:1-212:2, Luke 21:29-33

Mother Jones was in her fifties when she began her fight for the workman, and she had it right when she said “Pray for the dead, Fight like hell for the living”, for the call of the Gospel is not to look to the future–but to the present.

People are always saying to me, “you should take a holiday off,” and the reality is I do not know exactly what they are talking about. For feeding people is in my DNA. My grandmother fed “hoboes” as they came in from the railroad tracks, and my parents fed the “travelers” who also passed through on the railroads. As long as I can remember we had the “hoboes”, and than the “travelers” at our table for meals at all times of the year and during the holidays. My dad’s last Thanksgiving as he lay dying of cancer he invited a ‘traveler” who stopped by to beg for money to a meal at our home.. One of his last requests of me was to dispose of the charge accounts sitting on his desk before we sold the business. There were thousands of dollars of debts of low income people who had no money but pride, that he fed over the years from his store. They would pay a little, but never enough. He often reminded me that Jesus says to us to “give a cup of cold water in his name.” Money was always secondary to my parents–and people would warn them they would go broke, but I was educated in one of the best universities in the state for my undergrad, and for my graduate degree, one of the top seminaries–I owed nothing when I was finished. In the churches I served I always opened the church up during the holidays for dinner for those who had no where to go–so feeding people is in my DNA, giving to others is in my DNA, it was transmitted to me through the example of my parents and for that I am forever grateful. The second coming to my dad was in the moment, as he lay dying he commented to me, “I have done my best, I have no regrets” and I pray I can say the same with as nearly as much fervor.

I received an email from a friend who shared with me her own journey, and in that journey she is about serving the person who is before her, and if each one of us would serve one person who is alone, homeless, broke, in need, depressed–there would be much to be grateful for:

Dear River,
I am grateful for many things this day, especially that you are in my life. Reading your journal each month and now these emails you write, helps me to move slowly towards at least thinking of how I can begin to help others. It is small and slow for me. I wrote you once, in total despair — “what if all I can do in this lifetime is only help one person — myself.” I don’t remember your exact words but whatever you wrote, helped me a great deal to hang in there and at least stay alive and try to help myself.

This Thanksgiving I was able to do one small thing for one other person. I recently started going to a support group for mental ill people like me. A woman said she would be alone this year on Thanksgiving. I got up the courage to tell her I would be alone, too, and ask her if she would like to meet at a diner for Thanksgiving dinner with me. She said yes.
Both she and I are bipolar and are also struggling very hard with wintertime (S.A.D.) depression. After a hard night and morning, I have pulled myself together to get ready to go meet her.

It is one person. I wish I could do more. But it’s better than none.

It is far more than one can ever do, for each person we give a cup of cold water to we give to Christ.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Thank You

November 27, 2014

November 27, “Thank You” Luke 17:11-17

In the story of the ten lepers only one came back to thank Jesus. Last night I was serving a special muffin I had made for Thanksgiving on Polk. Out of over sixty people not one said thank you. They complained about me not having meat, they complained about this or that. And that is the way it goes sometimes–and I was asked if it makes me angry or burns me out when appreciation is not shown and s the answer is no, for I am not here for myself, but for them. There is a quote from Buddhist Wisdom I have learned through the years that brings me support: “You should be a lantern for yourself. Draw close to the light within you and seek no other shelter.” All the appreciation I need is the knowledge that I have provided for someone who is in need, and in so doing I draw near to my shelter, Jesus. For when we make it about us, we set ourselves up for pain and failure, but when we give ” a cup of cold water” in his name–we find all the meaning and praise we need. . Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Like all animals, we are essentially spiritual beings, manifestations of a universal, loving intelligence that has given us bodies designed to thrive on the abundant foods that we can peacefully nourish and gather in orchards, fields, and gardens. Dr. Will Tuttle


November 27, 2014

On Pilgrimage
As I have journeyed through the past years in San Francisco, I have come to see my life as a pilgrimage. For me I am following Jesus into Galilee. Each day as I walk the streets I am on pilgrimage with the 20-year-old “Joker,” who is a drug user, a sex worker, and he was kicked out of his home because he was gay; I am on pilgrimage with the transgenders who work Polk to make money to survive and to pay for their hormones; and I am on pilgrimage with those who are very comfortable materially, but are so empty spiritually.

Each year I meet five or six hundred new people and walk with them for part of their journey, and, in the words of Michael Ondaatje:
“There is the hidden presence of others in us, even those we have known briefly. We contain them for the rest of our lives, at every border that we cross.”

Each one leaves some of their presence with me, and they remain with me all of my life. I see their faces each day, and in each face I see the broken body of Jesus, and I am honored to have walked with them.

Being on pilgrimage means for us to let people enter our lives, to become a part of us, and in so doing we provide a safe place for them to meet the Divine One.
As we enter Advent, we are preparing for the coming of Christ into our world, the One who became flesh in order that we might leave our presence with him. He calls us to journey with him in the lives of people we know and to be his flesh, to be his body in their lives. There is pain, there is brokenness, and there is much joy.
Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Week I and 2: The Contemplation on the Incarnation begins with imagining the Trinity looking down from heaven and responding with the Incarnation.
Week 3: Mary’s Human Response: The second part of the Contemplation on the Incarnation explores the Annunciation and Mary’s response.
Week 4: Mary at Her Annunciation as a Model for Growing in the Virtue of Faith. In contemplating the Annunciation, we see Mary as a model of faith and are called to trust and openness ourselves.
If you would like to join us in this Advent Retreat, then please email Fr. River at
This year, Freedom in Christ Evangelical Church has donated our Christmas gifts which are stocking hats; and Juan and Evangelina Montenegro have donated clothing from a late friend.
The law firm of Carr/Yeley/and Associates donated the money for our Thanksgiving meal this year.
Ricky’s Revolution, website: http://www.rickysrevolution, has donated stuffed monkeys as gifts.
Thank you for your generosity and loving hearts.

Christmas Activities
Eucharist on Christmas Eve
At 6:00 p.m. at Stanyan and Haight on Christmas Eve we will celebrate the Eucharist and provide sandwiches and Christmas gifts in the Haight.
7:00 p.m. Christmas Day we will serve our meal in Hemlock Alley and celebrate the Eucharist, followed by passing out food and gifts in the Haight.

People often wonder how we raise money, for we have no fund raisers, we do not constantly send out requests—the way we raise money is simply to do the work, and to trust that those who read this newsletter, and who walk with us on the Way will generously give. For over 20 years now we have not gone hungry, we have fed, and provided pastoral care to thousands. This past month alone we provided food to over 750 people, two thousand pair of socks, harm-reduction supplies, and pastoral care to many. So please feel free to give generously and from your heart. Thank you so much for all you have done for us, and we mean that from the bottom of our heart. Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.S.T.
On this Thanksgiving I wish you well, and wish you many blessings. As we move on the streets tomorrow serving food, I asked you to join with me in the following prayer. On this Thanksgiving let us be thankful for life and each one of those we love.

Blessing Prayer from National Farm Worker Ministry
Bless the hands of the people of the earth, The hands that plant the seed, The hands that bind the harvest, The hands that carry the burden of life.
Soften the hands of the oppressor and Strengthen the hands of the oppressed.
Bless the hands of the workers, Bless the hands of those in power above them That the measure they deal will be tempered With justice and compassion. Amen.

She Gave Her All

November 24, 2014

November 24 “She Gave her all” St. Columbanus Luke 21:1-5

“All these others made offerings that they will never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford–she gave her all!”

Late last night, Sollie, a fifteen year old from the Haight showed up at my door and was hungry. I found some soup, bread, and a candy bar and he was thrilled. I think with humor of people who have criticized me through the years for giving out “cheap meals,” and frankly I am giving of what I have.

We place so much emphasis upon the “quality” that we lose sight of the person, and fail to give our all. The T.V., internet, and newspapers are full of “Black Friday” deals, people will be lined up the day before to skip their meals to get a “deal”. To me the materialism that we fall play to reminds me of the “games’ in ancient Rome that were used to distract the populace from the reality of life.

Kathy Kelley in our article below writes of the innocent people being killed in the Middle Eastern wars–people we hear little about, and it reminds me of how leaders of both parties use every means possible to distract us from the pain and blood shed our tax dollars are causing, and how we turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the suffering going on in our name. I urge you to read her letter and respond to your leaders-=all are guilty, we are guilty and as we enter Thanksgiving week to give of what we have, no matter how little to one another:

Obama Extends War in Afghanistan
by Kathy Kelly

November 23, 2014

News agencies reported Saturday morning that weeks ago President Obama
signed an order, kept secret until now, to authorize continuation of
the Afghan war for at least another year. The order authorizes U.S.
airstrikes “to support Afghan military operations in the country” and
U.S. ground troops to continue normal operations, which is to say, to
“occasionally accompany Afghan troops” on operations against the

The administration, in its leak to the New York Times, affirmed that
there had been “heated debate” between Pentagon advisers and others in
Obama’s cabinet chiefly concerned not to lose soldiers in combat. Oil
strategy isn’t mentioned as having been debated and neither is further
encirclement of China, but the most notable absence in the reporting
was any mention of cabinet members’ concern for Afghan civilians
affected by air strikes and ground troop operations, in a country
already afflicted by nightmares of poverty and social breakdown.

Here are just three events, excerpted from an August 2014 Amnesty
International report, which President Obama and his advisors should
have considered (and allowed into a public debate) before once more
expanding the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan:

1) In September, 2012 a group of women from an impoverished
village in mountainous Laghman province were collecting firewood when
a U.S. plane dropped at least two bombs on them, killing seven and
injuring seven others, four of them seriously. One villager, Mullah
Bashir, told Amnesty, “…I started searching for my daughter. Finally I
found her. Her face was covered with blood and her body was

2) A U.S. Special Operations Forces unit was responsible for
extrajudicial killing, torture and enforced disappearances during the
period of December, 2012 to February, 2013. Included among those
tortured was 51 year old Qandi Agha, “a petty employee of the Ministry
of Culture,” who described in detail the various torture techniques he
suffered. He was told that he would be tortured using “14 different
types of torture”. These included: Beatings with cables, electric
shock, prolonged, painful stress positions, repeated head first
dunking in a barrel of water, and burial in a hole full of cold water
for entire nights. He said that both US Special Forces and Afghans
participated in the torture and often smoked hashish while doing so.

3) On March 26, 2013 the village of Sajawand was attacked by
joint Afghan—ISAF (International Special Assistance Forces). Between
20-30 people were killed including children. After the attack, a
cousin of one of the villagers visited the scene and stated, ”The
first thing I saw as I entered the compound was a little child of
maybe three years old whose chest was torn apart; you could see inside
her body. The house was turned into a pile of mud and poles and there
was nothing left. When we were taking out the bodies we didn’t see any
Taliban among the dead, and we didn’t know why they were hit or

NYT coverage of the leaked debate mentions Obama’s promise, made
earlier this year and now broken, to withdraw troops. The article
doesn’t make any other mention of U.S. public opposition to a
continuation of the war.

Attempts to remake Afghanistan by military force have resulted in
warlordism, ever more widespread and desperate poverty, and
bereavement for hundreds of thousands whose loved ones are among the
tens of thousands of casualties. Area hospitals report seeing fewer
IED injuries and many more bullet wounds from pitched battles between
rival armed militias whose allegiances, Taliban, government, or other,
are hard to determine. With 40% of U.S. weapon supplies to Afghan
security forces now unaccounted for, many of the weapons employed on
all sides may have been supplied by the U.S.

Meanwhile the implications for U.S. democracy aren’t reassuring. Was
this decision really made weeks ago but only announced now that
congressional elections are safely over? Was a Friday night cabinet
leak, buried between official Administration announcements on
immigration and Iran sanctions, really the President’s solution to the
unpopularity of a decision affecting the lives of so many? With
concern for the wishes of U.S. citizens given so little weight, it is
doubtful that much thought was given to the terrible costs of these
military interventions for ordinary people trying to live, raise
families and survive in Afghanistan.

But for those whose “heated debates” focus solely on what is best for
U.S. national interests, here are a few suggestions:

1) The U.S. should end its current provocative drive toward
military alliances and encirclement of Russia and China with missiles.
It should accept pluralism of economic and political power in the
contemporary world. Present U.S. policies are provoking a return to
Cold War with Russia and possibly beginning one with China. This is a
lose/lose proposition for all countries involved.

2) By a resetting of policy focused on cooperation with Russia,
China and other influential countries within the framework of the
United Nations, the United States could foster international

3) The U.S. should offer generous medical and economic aid and
technical expertise wherever it may be helpful in other countries and
thus build a reservoir of international goodwill and positive

That’s something that nobody would have to keep secret

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

This Is Personal

November 23, 2014

November 23, “This Is Personal” Matt. 25-31-46 “Miguel Pro” “Christ the King”

I ran across a quote in A Calendar of Wisdom by Leo Tolstoy, which says: “There is only one way, if you want to live without understanding the meaning of your life: to become addicted to tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, and to live in the world of permanent entertainment.” Our leaders throw at us entertainment–to keep our minds away from reality. It is easier to go to bars, to route for the World Series, to get the Olympic Games in the City than to face the reality of the pain and suffering around us.

We divide ourselves into segments–social boundaries–and lose sight of others. Thursday, I will spend the day cooking and serving food to 800 plus people. I will be doing it alone this year. Someone commented “Don’t you want to spend Thanksgiving with your friends or family?” “Don’t you wish you had a partner to share this with?” And I am reminded of how we simply put boundaries around our family and friends. For me I am the “mother” on Thanksgiving, spending Wednesday and Thursday cooking and serving the great meal–to “my family”. For to me these guys on the street are my family, they are as real to me as my own flesh and blood, and in some ways are far closer. I remember a long time ago when a friend, my boss at the time, told me when I was dating someone, “You have a choice, you can have the one or you can have the thousands,” and for me it was the thousands and in that choice I found freedom from living my life in constant entertainment and living it in its reality–the ugly, the awesomeness, and most importantly seeing Christ in each element of life.

As we enter this Thanksgiving week my prayer for all people is that they find the meaning of family in all of God’s creatures, and yes I will be serving “tofu turkey”, so you are welcome to come to my dinner at 2:00 1755 Clay Street, and than help me take meals to people working in businesses in the area before I go out on Thursday night–that is my prayer–see all of God’s creatures as your family and friends–not because of blood line, color of skin, social status. 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 Tutle

Seeing Jesus

November 22, 2014

November 21 “Seeing Jesus”

I came in after 8 hours of being on the street, and I feel in a daze. Going up and down Haight Street I gave food, socks, and other items to over 300 people, mostly in their young twenties or younger. All of them are homeless. People often say to me, “I don’t see homeless people around, there must be fewer of them,’, the truth there are more. We do not see them because we do not really look, we prefer to over look the obvious. I have basically stopped taking people out with me because they do not understand why I am totally focused on the street–and not on them, and that is because I am focused on looking for Jesus, and I find Jesus in every nook of the street. And it is hard sometimes for me to look them in the eye for I find myself in much pain. One young man commented the other night that “you must come from money because your teeth and hair look so awesome,” and it hurts because the majority of people in our country do not have access to dental care. It is hard to see the face of Jesus, but for me in seeing that broken face I find my own salvation–for in loving Jesus I too am loved. Below is article I found today which speaks to me:


Greetings from Fr. Bob …
Many years ago, Morris West wrote a successful novel called The Devil’s Advocate. The main character is an English Monsignor, Blase Meredith, a Vatican Official in the Congregation of Rites, a lifeless and dry person whose only passion is books and work. He preferred paper to people. His prayer life was not very deep. He loved God, but at a distance.

Msgr. Meredith learns he has terminal cancer, and now discovers that his faith is weak and has never been tested. Now it is too thin a staff to lean on. Faith should assure us that we are never alone or abandoned even in the loneliest act of our life, which is dying. Msgr. Meredith needed to learn all this and not from a book. He sought an assignment, as he was prone to do in difficult times. He goes to a village in southern Italy to investigate the cause of a man killed by the Nazis. The man had been a Christ-like figure in the village serving the needs of the people. He cajoled and compelled them to be more humane with each other, to share their scarce food and to bear each other’s burdens. He led them in prayer and gave them hope. The villagers were convinced they had a genuine saint and a martyr and asked the Vatican to start an investigation. The monsignor must determine if this was just a ploy to get a famous shrine that would attract people to this tiny village.

He starts to get to know the people living in the village. There is a Jewish doctor who has lost his Jewish faith. There is a frightened old parish priest living a lie, a bad priest who is scared to have an official from Rome living in the village. There are others: an English painter, a local Countess and the young son and wife of the alleged saint. Something begins to happen to Msgr. Meredith. It is called “Ministry” or “Response to Need”–the principal way holiness comes.

He does something that he has never done before. He gets involved not with books and the report, but with people’s lives. He wrestles with the problems of the living and not the dead. As his health worsens, he sends to Rome his report on the candidate for sainthood. He adds that he is more concerned about the welfare of certain souls in the village. In his last days, he concludes his report for Rome to adjudicate, then he disposes of his worldly goods.

He confers a stipend on the parish and helps the parish priest turn his life around. He helps the English painter die peacefully and reconciles him to God. He helps the Countess redirect her life, and she starts taking care of the poor in the village. He makes sure that the saint’s wife and son have enough to live on and that the boy can go to school. The Jewish doctor sees his faith in humanity rekindled because of Msgr. Meredith. The Monsignor, the dry cleric from Rome, is now so closely involved with these people that his last request is to be buried there – a place that someone in Rome called that “stinking, little village”.

What happened to Msgr. Meredith? What changed him? You could say he became a saint, but not a canonized saint with a capital “S”. He had become holy which is what saint means. He had become more like Christ which is God’s will for all of us. He had learned to love his neighbor, not by prayer alone, but by sharing his worldly goods, patience, time, love and compassion. How do you and I become holy? The same way. Simply respond to other’s needs. It is by doing so that we all become more holy, conforming ourselves to the image of the Loving God who made us.


November 20, 2014

November 20, “Weeping” Luke 19:41-44 St. Roque Gonzalez

“When the city came into full view, Jesus wept over it.”.. . .Lk. 19:41. .”Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag>’

I weep over San Francisco every day. I weep over the attitude of people. Last night a young man, dripping wet was crying. He had gone to one of our agencies and when he told them he was “traveling” and did not want to get off the street, he was turned away. The other night a person commented, “Well the homeless should move to the Midwest–they can not afford to live here.” I weep over the misguided and frankly plain ignorant attitudes.

I weep when people whom I love and respect, who mean so well, are so insulting. I am told a lot on birthdays, and Christmas, when I give them gifts, “You are supposed to be poor, I can not take from you.” I actually have far more than most people because I am willing to share. Two weeks ago a young man gave me a necklace he had made, and was trying to sell on Haight. I accepted it., like I accept all the gifts the guys give me–small trinkets, and sometimes they hand me a dollar, a quarter. Yes, they need the money–but they also need to express their appreciation far more, in the same way we all do. Our humanity is best expressed in our giving, and caring. I wear the necklace with pride, and he cries when he sees me with it on–more than money can buy.

I weep over people shutting their eyes to what is going on around them. From Thanksgiving through Christmas I very seldom have a meal with my housed friends because it is too difficult for me to move from one world to the next. The world of extreme poverty and the world of the “haves”. It is simply plain difficult, and especially when I can not share the pain, and the suffering that I see, can not share the number of suicidal calls I get in the wee hours of the morning.

And so I weep, and yet I rejoice in all that people do, and the love I see given. It is never black and white, always there is grey. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

“Most of us resist being told we’ve been indoctrinated. After all, we live in the land of the free, and we like to think we’ve arrived freely at the belief that we need to eat animal products and that it’s natural and right to do so.

In fact, we have inherited this belief. We’ve been indoctrinated in the most deeply rooted and potent way possible, as vulnerable infants, yet because our culture denies the existence of indoctrination, the reality of the process is invisible, making it difficult for most of us to realize or admit the truth.” Dr. Will Tuttle

“I Give Away Half My Income”

November 18, 2014

November 17 “I Give Away Over Half My Income” Luke 19:1-10 St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

“Master, I give away half my income to the poor–and if I am caught cheating I pay four times the damages.” Luke 19: 9. Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus and his response was to share his wealth. I have been told that I am an idealist, but the reality is if each of us would share half of what we have–there would be no hunger. In San Francisco, if each person would share half their wealth–the physical needs of all would be taken care. of. We are like children asking our political parents to take care of us and to provide for our needs, but the reality is we need to grow up and take care of ourselves and in so doing all are provided for. Maturity is being willing to give, to share, to love others.

James Alison says, “The One who is coming will not preside over us, but will teach us to want peace from within, and to learn habits that make it possible. The One who loves us will come as one we despise and crucify: The definitive puncturing of our god fantasies, and yet the Presence of one who is powerfully determined not to let us remain wedded to our self destruction.” Christ does not want us wedded in our habits of self-destruction, and like our parents, he gives us the choice to grow up and mature into his sons and daughters. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

In our churches, ministers often speak about the tragedy of loving things and using people, when we must instead love people and use things. After the services, people eat meals in which animals have become things to be used, not loved. This action, ritually repeated, propels us into using people just as we use animals—as things.