Archive for June, 2020

The Long Lonelines

June 30, 2020

The Long Loneliness

“A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “:Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered,  “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went.”

“But Jesus. . .did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people, and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” John 2:24.


    A question “What do you see in the photo above? A priest, a guy named River, or an abuser because I wear a collar, and am proud of my priesthood, a sexist, a violent person,  a lover of evil ? Ask yourself and hold your answer. All of you will have different answers. Saint, sinner, or don’t give a damn? You see all I am is a sinful person, trying to live out the Gospel of love.

    Last night riding a bus to the hospital, a young man pulled a knife on me, I blocked it, and looked him in the eyes, and he screamed, “Abuser,” and as he screamed I continued seeing the pain, hurt and fear in his eyes, I continued to look him straight in the eyes,  and suddenly this  young guy calmed down and started crying, he saw my humanity, and my care, and we talked. Sean hugged me as we got off the bus.

    Several years a go a woman priest started cussing me as I came into a meeting wearing  clerical s because women priests were discriminated against by men wearing the same; I sat with a family last night of a young man who had died, and the the collar brought comfort and hope. 

    In times like last night I sit with the Book of Common Prayer, and in my wavering faith,  join together with the Church universal, and let those prayers cover me. Some have been written by segregationists,  homophobes, racists, killers, and patriarchs,  yet  all are  written by the Spirit of God, operating with in the sinful structure of our humanity. Those prayers are transformational.

    Faithfulness means practicing what is not always in our heart, so that it will become a part of us. Showing up, even when our lives, reputations, and relationships are threatened, and even when we don’t have the best intentions, for it is still a reasonable and God blessed start. We meet people where they are. We are not in a “tribe” or on a “team”. We are not “team players”.

    Tomorrow is the Feast of St. Junipero Serra, and so will I have his tattoo cut from my shoulder, or will we remember he was a  man of his time, and in that time did the best he could in showing love, a love that the majority of people did not show to Native Americans, he operated within a different cultural context; do we cut out Abraham Lincoln from books, or do we remember he is the President who freed the slaves, maybe not for totally pure reasons, yet he freed them; the same with President Grant, he owned slaves at one time, but he did not in his later years, and as  President lead a compassionate reconstruction.  Do we ban “To Kill A Mockingbird”, and Huckleberry Fin,” because of some racist words, common in their time and culture, or do we see them for what they are, and also see the great literature?

    Should I tear up  the photos of my parents who used the “N” word often, or do I see them as the compassionate people they were, and love them in their ignorance and a part of their times and culture?

    All of us are a mixture–I look back on my life and cringe; I act now in moments of pain and fear, like when I was sick or feel threatened, and I am humiliated, but continue on the journey. I have used words like the “N” word, “fag” in my past, but have been transformed.  I have friends who use both words, and I love them for their goodness. I do not walk away from them, nor do I judge them, but live a life that shows them a new way of thinking and believing. I have friends who have been abused by “white” people, and yet they do not see the “color” in me.

    I trust no one, because I am judged by my actions and where I stand–friends have walked a way because I minister to death row inmates; friends have walked a way because I do not agree with them; close friends. I watch what I say to “friends” because we know they will be offended, and I have people walk away when I tell them I am a priest, and when I stand firm in my faith. I trust no one.

    The Gospel of John summed it up: “But Jesus. . .did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people, and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” John 2:24.

    Will I stop wearing a collar because it represents  shadows of pains; Will I stop wearing my cross or wearing the rainbow ring? No, I will not throw out the diamonds with the bath water?     The good over all shines true, and my prayer is that one day people can see me for who I am, my intentions, without judgment and forgive me when I make mistakes. My prayer is people will learn to meet in the middle.

    This is what Dorothy Day meant when she referred to the “long loneliness.” We need to meet in the middle.

    The only time there is any hope of trust is when we meet in the middle and try to live out the words of Jesus, “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” This is the foundation of trust. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Father River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min, D.S.T.

P.O.Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


The Good Book of Mental Hygiene by Gary Bell

June 28, 2020

The Good Book of Mental Hygiene

by Gary Bell

    In this book Gary Bell gives insight, humor, healing and a human perspective on all thought based disorders. Borrowing from the Apostle Paul’s letters to various cities, Dr. Bell writes letters to various cities and followers. Dr.Bell writes letters to individuals with various mental disorders, common diagnoses, and typical life problems.

    At the center of Dr. Bell’s thoughts is that Christ or the Divine as we experience God, can guide us into the healing of our mental health. He very much echoes AAA philosophy. We have to have the One outside of ourselves be our guide and focus.

    Dr. Bell emphasizes that to obtain good mental health we have to put together both the spiritual and the psychological practice.

    In my own life  I think of only five therapists with whom I could work. Simply because they understand the spiritual aspects of the journey.

    Healing comes only when we work with both the spiritual and the psychological and take responsibility for our own healing.

    Dr. Bell points  psychology for the most part tries to get us into the square hole of society, where many of us live in the round whole, and only through the spiritual aspect can the Holy Spirit work to transform us into the whole beings. Only when we understand that those who live in the round hole are as healthy as those who live in the square, can we have true good mental health. Deo Gratias!Thanks be to God!


Father River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min.,D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

Vision of God

June 28, 2020

Numbers 20:28: “Moses stripped Aaron of his vestments and put them on his son Eleazer and Aaron died on top of the mountain. .Moses and Aaron came down from the mountain.”

2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16a: “I know that Elisha is a holy man of God. Since he visits us, let us arrange a little room on the roof.”

    In our first scripture, Aaron is dying, and Eleazar receives his vestments. An era has ended.

    My time is coming to an end. I feel it in my bones, I feel it in the air. I have been in ministry over three fourths of my life, it is all that I have ever known.

    Last night a friend, who is Hispanic commented as she was preparing dinner, “River you are the ony “white person” I know who treats us as equals, you are one of us.”

    And so as our time moves to its closure that is the highest complement that has ever been paid to me. Paul tells us that we should be “All things to all men,” and that is what we strive for–to enter into people’s lives, without judgment, accepting them for who they are. And the very essence of what we believe and have so inadequately tried to practice is that Jesus is love, and his love is given through our actions. That love sees no race, creed, color or religion–but simply care and concern.

    In the second passage the woman of Shuem calls us  to hospitality, to what our mission in life is all about. She creates housing for the prophet Elisha, a woman who has so very little. 

     Today on the Feast of St. Irenaeus, we hear his words, “Now the glory of God is humanity, full alive, for humanity’s true life is the vision of God.

    The conservative estimates are that upwardly, 70 million people have been forced to leave their homes today due to war, poverty, threat of starvation, lack of housing, etc.

    Jesus calls us into solidarity with those outside the bonds of family, culture, race, religion. He calls us to see no color, religion, culture, race, but as “the glory of God” in their humanity.

    On our streets alone in San Francisco there are several thousand people who are homeless, and it is estimated that in San Francisco alone a fourth of the population struggles with the lack of food, always on the edge of starving. I have seen so many die, so many suffer, and see that every day.

    Gary is turning 50, he wants me to take him out to a nice restaurant on his birthday, which we will.  He sleeps on the corner of the street, and has for twenty years, I cry over the Gary’s of San Francisco, I sometimes go home and throw up because of not being able to provide for the Gary’s on our street each day,  for in this country there is no need for people to be hungry or homeless.

    The woman from Shuem, can show us the way. Going beyond the bounds of normal hospitality she creates a dwelling for the prophetic word, allowing it to transform her every day life. The result is a blessing beyond her expectation. So let us allow the Word to transform our lives

    We are called to see that “the glory of God is humanity,” and to love each person, to care for each person. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Fr. River Damien Sims,sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Holding On to Hope

June 26, 2020

Holding On to Hope

“A leper approached him, and said: .  . .”Lord if you wish, you can make me clean.”.  . . Matthew 8:1-4

Acknowledging Our Own Mortality

    “I fled Him down the nights and down the days;

I fled Him down the arches of the years;

I fled Him,down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mine and in the mist of tears … .

I am He whom thou you seekest!

Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”

    The words of Francis Thompson, from The Hound of Heaven, have followed us through our  adolescence, ministry in a  former denomination which kicked us  out over our struggle with  sexual identity, on the streets as a prostitute, and continues to hound us –to bring us  back to the center, Jesus of Nazareth. We can not run away from Christ, our  call to ministry, our aging, and the pains and sorrows of life. He is the friends who never disappoints in the best of times nor in the worst of times.

    Jesus has become a friend, who sustains us  in the  deepest drags of life: illness, surgery, abandonment, and and  fear of death, and being handicap. We try to run away, oh we try, but the Hound of Heaven never lets up. And we are  always asking the question: “Lord if you wish, you can make me clean.”

    Christ has never been an opiate, but calls us into action,  and as our  life is surrounded by  the gold, red, and auburn leaves of the fall trees, hear the whistling wind, and feel the coolness of the night, as winter nears, we know that we are  in the Autumn of life, and that until the dead of Winter enshrouds us  the words of Henri Nouwen is a reminder to all of us, of our calling, and of what makes life meaningful even in the worst of times:

“To care for the elderly(homeless, the sick, the destitute, the poor, the disabled, our friends, our enemies)  means then that we allow the elderly (homeless, the sick, the destitute, the poor, the disabled, our friends, and our enemies) to make us poor by inviting us to give up the illusion that we created our own life and that nothing or nobody can take it away from us. This poverty, which is an inner detachment, can make us free to receive the  stranger into our lives and make that person into a most intimate friend.

When care has made us poor by detaching us from the illusion of immortality, we can really become present to the elderly (homeless, the sick, the destitute, the poor, the disabled, our friends, our enemies)  . We can then listen to what they say without worrying about how we can answer. We can pay attention to what they have to offer without being concerned about what we can give. We can see what they are in themselves without wondering what we can be for them. When we have emptied ourselves of false occupations and preoccupations, we can offer free space to  strangers, where not only bread and wine but also the story of life can be shared. Fr. Henri Nouwen”


Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


The Grace of John the Baptist

June 24, 2020

The Grace of John’s Name

The Nativity of John the Baptist

Luke 1:76-77

“And, you child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of sins.”

Description: Image may contain: one or more people and people sitting
Description: Image may contain: one or more people and people sitting

Ken Sharp-Knott

May 25 at 11:23 AM

Posted by a nurse who works with ventilators:

“For people who don’t understand what it means to be on a ventilator but want to take the chance to go out or back to work….

For starters, it is NOT an oxygen mask that is put over the mouth while the patient comfortably lies down and reads journals.

Ventilation for Covid-19 is a painful intubation that goes down your throat and stays there until you live or you die.

It is done during anesthesia for 2 to 3 weeks without moving, often upside down, with a tube deposited from your mouth up to the air pipe and allows you to breathe to the rhythm of the lung machine.

Patient can’t talk or eat or do anything natural – the machine keeps you alive. Discomfort and pain they feel from this means that medical experts must administer sedatives and pain meds to ensure pipe tolerance as long as the machine is needed.

It’s like being in an artificial coma. After 20 days from this treatment, a young patient loses 40% muscle mass and gets trauma in the mouth or voice cords, as well as possible lung or heart complications.

It is for this reason that old or already weak people can’t stand treatment and die. Many of us are in this boat…so stay safe if you don’t want to take the chance to end up here. This is NOT the flu!

They put a tube in your stomach, either through your nose or skin for liquid food, a sticky bag around your butt to collect diarrhea, one to collect urine, an IV for liquids and meds…
…an A-line to monitor your BP it is completely dependent on finely calculated with doses, teams of nurses, CRNA and MA to move your limbs every two hours and lie on a carpet circulating ice cold liquid to help reduce your 104° degree temp.

All of this while your loved ones cannot even come to visit. You will be alone in a room with your machine. Or your mother will. Or your father. Or your son or daughter. Or wife or husband.

But…you think wearing a mask is uncomfortable and humiliating.



“You will know your vocation by the joy that it brings you. :You will know, you will know when it is right.”


Today we celebrate the “Nativity of John the Baptist,” the last prophet, who pointed to Jesus. He did not dress as a priest, eat the same foods, or  act like one or have the appearance of  the majority of the people–he appeared wired and crazy, and unkempt.

    We have a priest friend, Father Greg,  who lives in South Carolina, he works as a chaplain in the hospital, and in recent days  has shared his feelings of depression and anger, at those who  simply ignore the dangers of the Pandemic, and the apathy of uncaring of the vast majority of  people, “after all they are just homo sapiens, so what more can you expect.”(from an article we read.) This is a reality of many, many people but God brings hope.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. was right when he said, in a paraphrase, that “the arch of change moves slowly, and sometimes goes back before it goes forward.”

     Change is taking place, but ever so slowly, and whether it brings the positive or brings the  negative, that is always in question. and depends upon our humanity. Personally my guess is it is always in  the grey areas, that we find change.

    In the above we have photos of what it  is like have have the virus and be on ventilators, personally I do not want to snuggle with a ventilator. 

    So I invite you to look at the photos, read the article, and ask:  “What have I done, what am I doing, and what will I do?” in this pandemic to protect myself, my loved ones, my brothers and sisters, and what will I do in the future?”

    Seeing people on the street who have suffered the disease, seeing them back in their corner  of the street, with tattered blanks, giving a young man or woman, food, blankets, a mask, is difficult as you hear their story of fear, , loneliness, little food, and difficulty in finding a place to sleep is hearth wrenching. It  is difficult to hear of the isolation and difficulty of getting food of those who live in SRO’s, the majority of which are  Senior Citizens, no family, no one to talk to.

    All of this tears at one’s heart. Especially when you have everything–a place to call home, plenty of food, health insurance, and friends to hang and have fun with.

    Depression, doubt, and fear come with the job. It is  depression that a quick talk with a therapist or a pill will fix. It is a depression we live with, work through, and love our work. 

    Dorothy Day tells me every day:

“You will know your vocation by the joy that it brings you. :You will know, you will know when it is right.”

    Both Greg, I, and so many others, know the  joy, even in the midst of death, persecution, and doubt. It is that joy which ultimately lifts us up.

    “Giving knowledge of salvation,” is John’s prayer, we pray each morning in the Benedictus, Luke 1:68-79, and it is also ours, and in praying it each morning we feel convicted  by it.

    God has called us to tell the Good News of Jesus. We are called to tell the stories of faith and transformation and that our sins have been forgiven. We are free to love and be loved, to be joyful and to spread joy. To walk with our brothers and sisters in their pain.

“The dawn from on high (has broken) upon us, to give light, to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

    Through the years, the ever so many) primarily )young men who have passed before us, the many who have died so young; each one we cared for,  it brings me personally to the brink of despair, but the message that John proclaims reminds me “The dawn from on high has broken up on us”, and that gives me hope.

    And so Greg know I am with you, and look around and you too will feel that “Great Cloud of Witnesses”, cheering us to  keep on keeping on until we hear the words, “Well done my good and faithful servant, and we join our forbears in “the Great Cloud of Witnesses.” Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!


Father River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Standing In Faith

June 23, 2020

Standing In Faith!

“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace, which God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.” Romans 5:1-3


    Today I listened to a pastor friend in South Carolina, as he described the words of abuse, and hate, thrown at him much of the time, and the apathy of his friends and supporters. He is a chaplain in a hospital and has an inclusive Church.

    It brought me back to a presentation made in Minneapolis a few years ago. I entered the room, with about 80 counselors and social workers, and as I looked around I sensed they were loaded for bear.

    And so for two hours I said nothing, and took notes as they in a mob mentality screamed at me about what they had “read” about my work. As I waded through their barrage, what frightened them were two things: The Catholic Worker tenant of “Personal ism”-you treat every one as equals, as your brother and sister, and that I work on the street, late at night, and alone, that was very sinister in their thinking.

    In the ten minutes I finally got out of them, they were told that we work with the same boundaries as they do, but that we relate not from a rule book but from our presence, that personal ism was a way of working with every one, in which we meet them from their level. We have  the same boundaries, etc, but work differently. And as they began to rave again, I said “how nice” which is a polite term a southern lady uses to tell someone where to go, politely, and thank them for a fun time.

    And finally, people have many times through the years said “you act like Peter Pan,” you have never grown up. A friend’s father, on a lazy warm spring  afternoon recently, observed me with his son and friends. Later he asked to take a walk with me, and he said, “River, at first I thought you were just immature, but as I observed your interactions it hit me, that you were able to let them enter your lives, and you theirs in a way in which they learn a mature way of acting, without knowing it. You are their friend.”

    I wrote a paper in the doctoral program entitled  the “The Peter Pan Approach to Pastoral Counseling.”  I am probably immature, who knows and who cares–I am who I am, for  this has been a gift that has allowed me through the years to support and care for young people–and that paper is now given out in a seminary’s pastoral counseling course. God uses our scars and spots to justify our faith.

    So I may act like Peter Pan, but it sure has been a lot of fun, and very painful.

    The hard reality is that as you get older, most people don’t think of you much. This goes for children, family, friends, spouses, and even parents. Once we realize this our relationship with Jesus or with any other revelations of God, can bloom into a testimony of compassion.

    Our only job is to be responsive and resilient. We are not in charge of our lives any more-God is. Follow the model of Jesus and treat everyone with empathy and love(no matter how horrible they are). Work at not judging, but understand the finger we are pointing at that person means four are pointing at us. To the anxious, the fearful, the apathetic, that sounds insane, but to the Christian, that sounds like an incredible journey.

    Our journey of “justification by faith,” brings us into a relationship with God, and in so doing frees us to live and serve. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Father River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164



A Note: I will no longer be responding to comments on Facebook. They have become very toxic. Facebook allows us to say things without facing a person and it brings our worse out–it can lead to broken relationship.

    I invite any one to phone, and I will listen, discuss, respectfully. If the conversation goes toxic, I reserve the right to say, like a beautiful southern lady taught me: “How nice”. and hang up.

    We all come from different backgrounds, cultures, education levels, and so there will be differences–but we can come together in listening to one another.

Be Perfect!

June 22, 2020

Be Perfect!

Matthew 19:22

“He told the rich young man, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, than come, follow me”

    Each morning our first actions on getting up are to make our bed, for that is the one task  that can be accomplished well, and when I come home and see the bed no matter how badly the day has gone, there is my one success  and I can be proud of the  beautiful bed–and success! 

    The second task of the day is to pray  the Daily Office, meditate on the Ex amen, and celebrate the Eucharist, to center my day in Christ.

    The Eucharist reminds us that our bodies will be broken in service to Christ, rejection will be a large part of life, which is the cost of following Jesus.

    St Alban  was the first English martyr killed for harboring a priest fleeing the Romans. There is a cost to following Jesus.

    The one thing about Alban is he gave everything gladly, not one ounce of dread, but joy. He sets the example for us of living a life of joy and simplicity–regardless of the cost.

    I have been having trouble with my hearing, lately, from being stopped up from a cold or so I am telling myself. I will be getting a hearing test soon.

    But if we had a hearing test for the soul how would we fare. The Ex men is one of my methods, but even then I have a severe hearing loss, as I believe we all would. If only temporary caused by our sin, “in our thoughts and in our words, in what we have done, and what we have failed to do.”

    Let’s not be judgmental about the weaknesses and actions of others, while being unwilling to accept our own weaknesses, as Jesus tells us “Remove the wooden beam from your eye first.”

    So each day I make my bed, the one thing I can do well, and move through the day not judging people, but  caring for them–and it is surprising how people change when  we love them one by one, and like St. Alban trying my damn-est to live a life of joy.  And come home–and see my one success–the well made bed!

    STOP SHOUTING! YOU NEED TO GET A SOUL TEST! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Father River Damien Sims,sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164




If anyone would like to have the Eucharist I will gladly bring it and stand six feet a part; or will provide the liturgy for you to bless your own elements (“the priesthood of all believers,”) or we can celebrate on the phone or zoom.)

The Success of Failure

June 20, 2020

The Success of Failure

“Life and Death Consists in Loving  You O God

Osanna Andreasi

“Lord you have been our refuge from one generation to another.” Psalm 90

    My friend Larry Purcell wrote an article some 44 years ago with the name The Success of Failure, a name which we are borrowing. Thank you Larry.

    Last Spring we  were picking up  a friend at his private school in Marin, and received a phone call from a gentleman telling us  his church would not  be giving a   Christmas donation  to Temenos because we did not have a “good success rate”.

    We pulled over and started laughing. For I was on Butter field Road where he lives, one of the wealthiest areas in the country, and understood why we must be total failures in his eyes.   And as we looked around we asked ourselves the question “What is failure?” “Are we a failure?”

    Elizabeth Gilbert gives us a definition of our worth: You can measure your worth by your dedication to your path, not by your success or failures.

      Our ministry has been commitment to the path of Word and Sacrament, and to the ministry of presence. At times we  have wavered and fallen,   we get up, lift our  head high, bandage our wounds, and remain dedicated to that path. People hurl many hurtful words and judgments at us but–we never give up; we never surrender!

    Last night a statue of Saint Juniper Serra was toppled from its stand and broken  in Golden Gate Park, in other areas statues vandalized. The reason stated is his treatment of Native Americans. Also of note it was reported the vandals were mostly white–no Native Americans.

    On our arm we have a tattoo of Saint  Juan Serra. One of our projects in seminary was to study a missionary, and we chose Saint Junipero Serra. We spent three months researching his life, ministry, and legacy. We read last year a recent biography.

    Saint Junipero Serra was a man of his times, and yet he treated the Native Americans with more kindness, and acceptance than others. He was compassionate in his caring. He was far more advance than others in his culture.

    Dorthy Day is being promoted for sainthood. What is ignored is she lived with a man out of marriage, had a daughter illegitimately, slept around, and had an abortion. She believed what the Church taught about homosexuality yet she was kind and loving to each person she met.

    Her life was one of service setting an example of voluntary poverty and providing for the poorest of the poor.

    Personally we have felt the homophobia of many Catholic Workers through the years, for they carry out the legacy of their Church.

    Our parents, and all of our relatives were segregationists, and would not tolerate homosexuality, yet I have moved out of that realm of living and thinking. Many have  rejected us today. But my parents were the kindest and most loving people I have ever known to everyone. They were formed by their culture.

    We can not judge people by our values and thinking now, because we live in a different time, promoting an evolution of freedom and openness.

   Saint  Junipero Serra and Dorothy Day distinguished themselves by their compassion, caring, and witness in their times. Both were broken human beings, and yet the face of God radiated through their witness. The same way with my parents.

    We have tattoos of both Dorothy and Junipero on our arm, we wear them proudly remembering their witness through their  brokenness.

    “Life and death consists in loving God. .”that love is summed up in the Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, and strength and your neighbor as yourself.”

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

Fr. River Damien Sims, D.Min., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Free to Be Compassionate

June 19, 2020

Free to Be Compassionate

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

I John 4:7-17

Romans 8:35-39

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of  heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Matthew 11:34-36


Free to Be Compassionate by Henri Nouwen

“If you would ask the Desert Fathers why solitude gives birth to compassion, they would say, “Because it makes us die to our neighbor.” At first this answer seems quite disturbing to a modern mind. But when we give it a closer look we can see that in order to be of service to others we have to die to them; that is, we have to give up measuring our meaning and value with the yardstick of others. To die to our neighbors means to stop judging them, to stop evaluating them, and thus to become free to be compassionate. Compassion can never coexist with judgment because judgment creates the distance, the distinction, that prevents us from really being with the other.”

    On this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus I see a heart that is broken in his listening and walking with us. For Jesus does not judge us, but loves us despite ourselves.

    Franklin Roosevelt during his first inaugural address, said”The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

    It is fear that prevents us from caring for others without judgment. Fear of losing control, fear of being hurt, fear of rejection,   fear of what others think of us, and fear of the differences of others. We are afraid of people out side of our own tribe, and in doing so we simply do not listen–we judge–and we hurt others.

    I spend ninety nine percent of my time simply listening, just listening. And one of the reasons I do not share much with others is rather than listening an opinion or advice is given, and judgment is brought. Our fears prevent us from truly listening and separate us from others.

    Jesus opens himself to us, we can enter into his  being, and in so doing he enters our hearts and simply listens, and we are loved; in the same way we to can open ourselves, let others come in, and we into their hearts, and be present with out judgment.

    Yes, we will be hurt, we will  receive scars, but in that pain come redemption, we are made into new creatures in Christ. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Father River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min.,D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Peniel Newsletter of Temenos Catholic Worker

June 19, 2020

Peniel–Where Jacob Wrestled With God

Newsletter of Temenos. Catholic Worker

July/August 2010
Fr. River Sims, Director



Journal of An Alien Street Priest: The First Pandemic

    It took John of Ephesus three years to get over the trauma he experienced, before being able to tell the story of the first pandemic beginning in 544 C.E. The pandemic that spread across the trade routes of the Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

    “Like the two edges of the reaper, it successively passed across the earth, and progressed without stopping.” He wrote of the cities stinking with unburied corpses and continued, “The mercy of God showed itself everywhere toward the poor, for they died first while everyone was still healthy enough–to .carry them away and bury them.”

    And then it all happened again 14 times throughout north Africa–because pandemics recur in waves, sometimes for as long as two hundred years.

    Today, we don’t know the full extent of the coronavirus pandemic or its future impact on our lives. But we do know that things we believed impossible became possible overnight.

        We may wonder what the role of believers of all faiths  is in this “cruel scourge.”

    It is still to feed the hungry, heal the sick, bury the dead,  and comfort those who mourn. Our role is to show compassion:

Compassionate Solidarity

When we think about the people who have given us hope and have increased the strength of our soul, we might discover that they were not advice givers, warners, or moralists, but the few who were able to articulate in words and actions the human condition in which we participate and who encouraged us to face the realities of life. . . . Those who do not run away from our pains but touch them with compassion bring healing and new strength. The paradox indeed is that the beginning of healing is in the solidarity with the pain. In our solution-oriented society it is more important than ever to realize that wanting to alleviate pain without sharing it is like wanting to save a child from a burning house without the risk of being hurt. It is in solitude that this compassionate solidarity takes its shape.

    And like John we are to tell the story of God’s mercy and goodness even amid unbearable grief.



As always we come to you begging. There are more people homeless, more people on the edge in need, and we are on the front lines. We provide food, clean needles, referrals, pastoral care and Sacramental ministry to 500 plus a month.  Our funds are down, so please pray, and reflect, and open your hearts and pocket books and give.

On our website: or pay

Through the Mail:

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656
San Francisco, CA 94164

All Checks must be made out to
Temenos Catholic Worker.


Life is short.

We do not have too much time to gladden the hearts

of those who travel the way with us.

So be swift to love.

Make haste to be kind.

And the peace of God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–will bless you and be with you always.