Archive for February, 2016


February 29, 2016


I am often asked: “What are your plans for retirement?”  “Do you have money for your retirement?”  I really never know how to answer because I am not exactly sure what I am retiring from.
You see I have never had a “job”.  Each day I am honored to serve people, today for example, I am taking off, but several people have come to the door wanting food and socks, and it was fun giving it to them and chatting with them; I get to read all sorts of books; write newsletters and comments and share about  people, places, and things; I have the privileged of celebrating the Sacraments; I meet and have met all sorts of interesting people like Helen Prejean;  I set my own time; take trips; even in the pain of ministry I find much joy for I feel like I am doing what I am called to do; I surf, I hike, I skateboard.  So retirement–no I have had the privilege of not working, and retirement comes when I die. Life is fun, even in the darkest of places, for that  is where one experiences Christ.  Fun is living life in all of it’s fullness–its pain, its joys, and walking with Jesus.  Fun is the opportunity to find ways of living, surviving.   So if you are one of the one’s who asks me about retirement–always remember I have never worked a day in my life, so what do I retire from.  One of my guys summed it up for me the other night as I sat with him waiting with him as his arm was being plastered because of a skate boarding accident: “Fun is doing your thing, even with the broken bones.”  That is fun.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!Rainbow Cross

Peniel–Lent/Easter Newsletter

February 28, 2016

Newsletter of Temenos Catholic Worker
“Where Jacob Wrestled With God.. .”
P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 94164
March 2016—Lent/Easter Newsletter
Fr. River Damien Sims, Director/Pastor

1 Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
2 Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
3 Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
4 Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Psalter Hymnal (Gray), 1987
The headline in The Examiner for February 26 reads: “Pushed to the Limits—No Resolve In Ongoing Homeless Debate.” This has been the headline for my 22 years in San Francisco. We get tired of seeing this headline and want everything to be resolved. But I believe the question for us is “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”
As we continue through Lent, and approach Good Friday, the words of the old hymn “Were You There?” calls us to be crucified with Christ. To follow Christ is to follow him in suffering. Resurrection comes when we live out the resurrection in our lives.
Terry Tempest Williams wrote:
“The eye of the cormorant is emerald. The eye of the eagle is amber. The eye of the grebe is ruby. The eye of the ibis is sapphire. Four gemstones mirror the minds of birds, birds who mediate between heaven and earth. We miss the eyes of the birds, focusing on feathers.”
Crucifixion comes in looking at ourselves and facing our judgments of others, and resurrection comes as we look into the face of people and see their brokenness, pain, and joys, and love them. Resurrection comes as we see the jewels in the eyes of people, rather than the feathers.
For me, I spent six hours with “Lake” helping him get his new puppy vaccinated and cared for; another two hours at the hospital with “Drake” as he had an infected foot treated. I do not look at their feathers, but I see the jewels in their eyes. That is where resurrection comes—in seeing the jewels in the eyes of people, rather than the feathers.
There is nothing, in all likelihood, that we can do about lack of services, and the headlines we are reading, but what each of us can do is walk the way of the cross, and asked ourselves “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” and in so doing walk the way of crucifixion, seeing the jewels in the eyes of the homeless and the forgotten. We can make a difference in touching the lives of people, each of us. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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 from different walks of life participating.
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 checks to:
Temenos Catholic Worker
P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 9416
Or make donations through PayPal on
All donations are tax deductible

Ending Homelessness

February 21, 2016

Feast of the Transfiguration/ Endless Funding Will Not End Homelessness / “And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.” Luke 9:36

Christians often throw out in their frustration the Scripture, “You will have the poor with you always,” as a justification for their inactivity when it comes to homelessness. For one thing there will always be poor people, but they do not have to be hungry, not have health care, or housing.  We are all called to take care of each other. Jesus never said there was anything wrong with money–it is how one uses the money. John Wesley said basically to give him as much money as you can and he will give it away. The more we give, the more we receive in all sorts of ways.

We can keep silent or we can see that endless funding without our actions, the actions of all of us will not end homelessness, it will increase.

Our challenged to people  has been this Lent to sit down with someone each day who has no housing and feed them. If each of us did that each day no one would go hungry. There was an article this morning in the paper about the increase in hunger in Marin County, the wealthiest county in the state. Hunger is everywhere. If each of us would feed someone we see each day–there would be no hunger.

Secondly advocacy that is not compromised by funding an industry will produce deep changes in how how the economic system creates and responds to poverty, create housing, and health care. Work with small organizations that do not depend on government money who advocate. Advocate with them.

Thirdly, this advocacy begins with each one of us. We suggest you write an email or letter each week–one week to a national leader, the next a state, the next a local, and continue to repeat that advocating for funding and support that meets the housing and health needs of the poorest of the poor.  We were told by a Senator that if a legislator receives five letters they take notice. Do it regularly, and change will come.

None of this is simple, it calls us for us to work hard, and to look to the Transfigured Christ who came down from the mountain and became the Crucified One. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

(Three Suggestions taken in part from article Endless Cycle of funding Won’t End Homelessness in the Chronicle by Tully-MacKay-Tisbert

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


http://www.temenos.orgHomeless Man Sleeping On Street


February 19, 2016


I am reading a book entitled Season of the Witch.  It is a book about the history of San Francisco, in particular the 70’s and 80’s. It is a micron ism of our nation’s history.  It tells of the greed, and the monopoly of money and power on which this City and our nation has been built.

This week I have been reflecting on  The Spiritual Exercise of St. Ignatius dealing with sin. We are instructed to go back to our first remembrance of our sins, and reflect to the present. I have been in grief all week, and as I look at my life I see the communal basis for so many of our sins. We are all sinners in the communal sense, and these sins go back to the beginning of time. We can not judge another without judging ourselves. Rather than judge we should open our understanding to the need around us and realize how we are all dependent upon the grace of God. 

Yesterday I took out food and spent time under one of the over passes. Here  is a whole city of tents, with a hundred or so homeless people.  They were polite and grateful for the food, several talked of their mental health and drug issues; others of their lack of education and lack of ability to obtain jobs; others of their lives in general.  The woman who walked with me and  insisted on pulling my cooler, has been homeless for fifteen years. She lost her job, became ill, and then lost her housing, with no support from anyone. She is a beautiful lady.

We can look across the City and approach life in two ways as presented by  Carol Lee Flinders:

“(The word belonging) prompts us to consider how radically different two states of mind are: one in which we look out across a forest or valley and say to themselves, ‘This is where I belong,’ and the other”. . .in which we hear ourselves say, ‘This belongs to me.'”

To truly belong we must embrace all people, our environment, and love them, cherish them, and provide for them.Belonging means to move into a communal embrace of all living beings.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


We Are All Brothers and Sisters

February 17, 2016


There are people on every street corner who have little food, no where to sleep.   In our passage Jesus lays out clearly our call as individuals:

“When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Than all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out . . Then the King will say to those on his right, “Enter, you who are blessed by my Father. Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

“I was hungry and you fed me,

I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,

I was homeless and you gave me a room,

I was shivering and you gave me clothes,

I was sick and you stopped to visit,

I was in prison and you came to me.”. .

Matthew 25:21-43

No question is raised of God , or what God you believe in, one’s sexuality, race, creed, color. There is only one issue: the person in need;

God is the God of all people. There is only One God, and we see him or her in our different reflections, but God is the One who created us, loves us, and calls us to love each other. Whether we believe or not God loves us unconditionally. And we are called to take care of each other unconditionally.

The sins of homophobia, racism, religious bias, classicism. national self interests have come out of our own self-interests and have been destructive to the human race.

We will be judged on how we treat each other.  And if you do not believe in a later judgment, look around at our environment—one painful reminder is the crab season this year it is postponed because of environmental issues, and thousands of jobs are in jeapardy.  We are judged, by our actions.  Judgment comes every day of our lives, it comes in our own self-hatred, our own destruction of our bodies, and alienation from each other.  But personally I believe in Christ there is hope, in his cross, as he is raised up he draws all people unto him, and from that cross we can find salvation now and later.  Salvation comes as we take care of each other, and in doing so we enter into the fullness of the love of God in Christ. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Today Travis Hilton will be executed in Georgia. Let us keep him in our prayers, let us keep his victims in our prayers.  I will pray the Office of the Dead this evening, I invite you to join me, and pray for the end of the Death Penalty.

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Revolution of the Heart

February 14, 2016


In the temptations Jesus rejected the use of the power of the world in all of its forms and calls us to a revolution of the heart. He demonstrated that revolution as he, one person, went out and healed and taught. He went out without anything, and touched the lives of many.

As we listen to a call for a revolution in this election I laugh at myself,because I remember when I was young that I always wanted a revolution and supported the candidate and the cause–always to be disappointed. For I have found the only revolution that will change society is that of the heart.

I know a family in Chicago, two doctors, one a surgeon. Thirty years ago as they began their practice, they had a conversion experience. Their experience with Christ lead them to buy a small house in a low income neighborhood, one doctor established a  clinic for the poor, the other a surgeon  worked in a major hospital. They have two boys.  They live on a fourth of their income. The rest goes to those who have nothing, providing medical care, needed surgeries, food, and so on. Both boys have gone to good colleges. 

Nelson Mandela was a revolutionary, and in his early life justified violence for his cause; after years in prison. his life was shaped and formed by his suffering, and when he  became President of South Africa he lead a revolution of the heart in the forgiveness of those who tortured him and his people; he did not seek violence, but a peaceful means of reconciliation;  he professed no faith.

Jimmy Carter was a mediocre president, but through the fires of defeat and a transforming faith in Christ he has become our greatest ex-president in his humanitarian efforts. He too lives very simply.

Lent calls us to turn ourselves inward, to reflect upon our own inner selves, to face our demons, and to come out of that reflection with a heart that will ferment revolution, a revolution that will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison, care for the dying. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

415-305-2124Holy Communion and the Streets


February 12, 2016
Isa. 58:1-9
“Is this not the fast 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?”
An old quote whose author’s name I cannot remember says: “There is no formula for success but to accept unconditionally what life brings.”
For me that is the way I live life. I accept that we live in an “Empire”, which like all Empires serves the wealthy and the middle class, and wages wars for its own profit, and thus is death dealing, and from that live out my life serving in ways that bring life. Success is not about money, or how many people that are gotten off the street, it is simply walking with people. Frankly I have never taken any one’s advice, I have always found my way through people walking with me and listening. Giving advice is our need to “succeed,” and feel good about ourselves. When guys want me to tell them what to do, I always bring the question back to them, and ultimately they find the answer. I am still answering my own questions, each day, that is the living.
Fasting is important because when we choose to fast it purifies us, but as a requirement of Lent or other times, it becomes an empty ritual. Real fasting happens when we give of ourselves in order that others might have a fuller life. Real fasting is giving up our need to have a larger home or larger income in order to share with others, to bring others more into equity with everyone. Millions are being spent on homelessness—when the “solution” is found in each of us giving up our need to have more and to share. Thousands are on the streets, because of the needs of people who want more, and more..
Photographers like to walk with me and take photos of the guys, and I think the next time someone wants to do a story on me I am going to suggest they find some of our wealthy citizens and follow them around, and see how they spend their money, treat people on the street, and asked them if they will help someone off the street.
Dorothy Day called for a “revolution of the heart” and what she meant is for our hearts to be transformed the power of God where we share, and when that happens there will be no more need.
Fr. Daniel Egan, “the Junkie Priest” summed it up when he said;
“If we had the vision of faith, we would see beneath every behavior—no matter how repulsive—beneath every bodily appearance—no matter how dirty or deformed—a priceless dignity and value that makes all material faces and scientific technologies fade into insignificance. Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!
Temenos Catholic Worker
P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 94164

Two Lists

February 9, 2016

Today is “Fat Tuesday”, we party, we eat our fill. Today is a day of the celebration of life and tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, and we will hear the words; “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This is a reminder we are called to give thanks for life, and to remember that we shall return to dust. We are fragile, and we are mortal.
In these years as I have buried so many, and held the hands of so many more who have been damaged by violence, drug abuse, and homelessness the question always comes to me how do you look into the face of such brokenness and not burn out, not run away. I am wounded, and in that woundedness comes healing for myself and for others. We have to live in that woundedness, and let those scars heal into a beautiful piece of art. Through our healing we become conduits of healing to others.
I was reading a piece about Fr. Greg Boyle, and he shared how he deals with death, and it is almost the exact advice given to me by a Franciscan many years ago.
You compile two lists: the list of the fates that are worse than death—and there are lots and lots of those; and the things that are more powerful than death. And there are lots of those.
Make your list; Study your list; When death comes you will not be toppled.
I have a list I keep in my wallet. Last year after I was stabbed, lying in the hospital, I read my list—and it brought strength and hope. I am never toppled.
And in burying so many kids through the years—which cuts me to my very bone—those lists have become powerful tools for hope.
This Lent I encourage you to talk to people who are homeless; to feed them; to fast and stand outside a restaurant smell the smells, and feel the feelings those who do not have food smell and feel.
Make your lists—think about them, meditate and pray on them.
Deo Gratis Thanks be to God!

Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!
Temenos Catholic Worker
P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 94164
Fr. Christian River Damien SimsMardi Qua Man

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


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