Archive for November, 2020


November 25, 2020

First Sunday in Advent

Keep Watch!

“You, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know when the master of the household will return –in the evening, at midnight, before dawn, or at daybreak. Don’t let him find you sleeping when he arrives without warning. I say to you what I say to everyone. Watch for him!” Mark 13:35-37


    This Thanksgiving let us be thankful for our lives, and for an opportunity to give thanks, and as we do let us remember that a microscopic virus has reminded us of our common humanity and how interdependent we are all of God’s creation. We all can get sick, we all will die, and we at times hang on to hope by a thread. On this storm-tossed sea, we need to depend on one another.

    As we enter Advent let us remember that we “must keep watch!”

  Keep watch in remembering in the words of Jackie Robinson that “A life is not important except in the impact it has on others.”

    We impact the lives of others through forgiveness. Dr. James Cone once said, “forgiveness is a form of ‘deep spiritual resistance.'” Forgiveness lets us be free, free to move on, free to care for others without resentment. During Advent let us “watch” and see where we need to forgive. Let us keep hate from corroding our joy.

    Let us “watch” our words, letting them be free of gossip, criticism, and bitterness. Let us”watch” our words on social media, behind the backs of individuals, and to the faces of others.

    Let us “stay awake” to what is ultimately important and to the truth that God is with us even when most everything in our lives and in the world seems to be going belly up. Advent invites us to be watchful and awake to what ultimately matters in life. Let us pray:

    Lord, help me to hear you saying, “I am your hope” over all other voices. Lord, your word says, you are the hope for the hopeless so I’m running to you with both hands stretched out and grabbing on to you. Fill me up with hope and give me a tangible reminder today that hope is an unbreakable spiritual lifeline (Hebrews 6:19-20). God, you know those things in my heart that I barely dare to hope for, today. I give them to you, I trust them to you and ask that you because I know that you can do more than I could ever guess, imagine, or request in wildest dreams (Eph. 3:20), God, you are my hope and I trust you. Amen. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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

Temenos Catholic Worker

Little by Little

November 22, 2020

Little By Little

Matthew 25:31-46

       Today is Christ the King Sunday, originating around the first of the 20th Century showing the contradiction between the Kingship of the powers of the world, and the Kingship of Jesus, the man of peace, a kingship of non-violence.

    Recently I attended a Catholic Worker Retreat online, and several of the questions revolved around the way humanity looks at projects and the way of Christ the King.

    One Worker was struggling with what would happen to the people they serve if their Catholic Worker House closed or as he said, “died”. Death then became the topic. We humans always fight death. Rather than seeing that death leads to new life.

    When I am asked what will happen when I am gone? Who will do your work etc.? I reflect back to the ’70s when there was a UCC minister with his ministry on Polk, and then in the ’80s, an MCC pastor ministered. From death, there always comes life, and God calls us to simply work little by little. To work in the now.

    Today on this Christ the King Sunday Jesus calls us to be Fools for Christ.

“Sometimes we have to dare to be fools for Christ. That means we have to be willing to give food to people who don’t really need or desire it. And sometimes we have to be willing to work with some people who might even exploit us. Maybe this is as close as we can come to an experience of self-emptying. It is the experience of being useless in the presence of the Lord.

Understand me well, I am not trying to praise impracticality, nor am I trying to suggest that you should not stop doing the things you are doing when they prove counterproductive, but I am saying if you come in touch with the experience of being used or the experience of being useless, you might, in fact, be close to a true Christian experience, or closer than you sought.”

    So on this Christ the King Sunday, in the middle of a Pandemic let us move out doing “little by little,” leaving the future in the hands of God. Be present in the moment!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


A Little Piece of Heaven

November 20, 2020

We Find Heaven In Giving

“Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.” Jack Kerouac

Matthew 25:31-46: “Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; Inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me to your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.. .And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.”


    “Giving Tuesday,” is December 7. It is a day we normally avoid because it smirks of capitalism (see how weird I am). In the evolution of our thinking, we see it as a day in which to emphasize the importance of giving, in bringing us into “heaven”, here and now.

    When I was a pastor in middle-class churches the preaching of the above passage was simply encouraging people to practice charity. To contribute to special offerings, give Christmas gifts to the poor, etc. It was a practice for those who were on the lower plane. I had a nice car, house, and plenty of money. My congregation and I were to do our duty and give to those who were homeless and not “blessed”. It was all theoretical and a “duty” to be done.

    And one day I became one of the “least of these”–without food, shelter, health care, friends, and this passage came alive. My colleagues turned their backs, my “friends” cease to exist, and I found myself on the streets in Hollywood doing prostitution to survive.

    Food and housing were precious, hard to come by, and to this day I find myself overeating at times for fear of not having a meal later. I check my electrical outlets leaving the apartment for fear of it burning down. When I leave town there is a fear I won’t have a home to return to.  Once you have been without, it always haunts and brings one to an understanding of being sure no one goes without or unrecognized. Those fears always haunt you.

    The people who touched my life during that period of time were from all walks of life–movie actors, evangelists, prostitutes, conservatives, liberals, black, white, brown, mixed–teaching that labels, the color of skin, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation meant nothing–only the caring with love, and without judgment is what matters. Real beauty comes only in caring for others.

    So in the days ahead as we prepare for Christmas, and for “Giving Tuesday” let us meditate on the words of Leo Tolstoy:

“Nothing can make our life, or the lives of other people, more beautiful than perpetual kindness.”

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Father River Damien Sims

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

Snapchat: riodamien2


On the Storm-tossed Sea

November 19, 2020

Orlando Hall

To Be Executed at 3 p.m. Today

In A Boat on A Stormy Sea

“We are all in a small lifeboat on the storm-tossed sea of  life and all we have is our fierce loyalty to one another.”

Orlando Cordia Hall
Thursday, November 19 at 6:00 pm ET

The Catholic Mobilizing Network is hosting a Virtual Prayer Vigil.

Virtual Prayer Vigil for Orlando Hall
Thursday, November 19 from 2-3 pm ET

Complete the form on this web page You will receive a custom Zoom link for the vigil.


    Today Orlando Hall will be executed at 3:00 p.m. our time. Two key elements in his trial: convicted by an all-white jury, and he had a poor legal defense. It is also to be noted that the majority on death row are poor people of color. Our legal system is not fair.

    For me, the death penalty is a symbol of non-caring for human beings. All of us are in a small life-boat on the storm-tossed sea of life, and we need to give each other care and support.

    I remember a time in Hollywood, many years ago, as if it was just yesterday when a man forcibly attempted to rape me, and I pulled my knife and held it to his throat, stopping myself before I pushed it in. From that time forth I knew of my capability as a human being, and have turned away from violence. Non-violence is not a glorified concept to me, but a necessity born out of my experienced.

    My son was murdered, and only in forgiving and letting go of hate and desire for revenge did I find wholeness in life; working with a young guy

on death row reminds me of how close each human being is to an act of violence, and that only the grace of Jesus of Nazareth, and his love makes us human, truly whole.

    Often I see violence, I hear of brutal murders, and have seen and known murder victims, and within me, there is a rage that cries out to nail the bastards to the cross, and then I remember the One who was  crucified, in order to make us be- loved children of God, and not bastards, reminding   us in the words of Father Henri Nouwen of what makes us whole:

“Caring, therefore, is being present to people as they fight this ultimate battle, a battle that becomes ever more real and intense as death approaches. Dying and death always call forth, with renewed power, the fear that we are unloved and will, finally be reduced to useless ashes. To care is to stand by a dying person and to be a living reminder that the person is indeed the beloved child of God.”

    Let us stand by Orlando as he drowns in the “storm-tossed sea”, praying for him, and rededicating ourselves to a life of non-violence.

Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

In Memory of Ruth Richardson

November 16, 2020

The Great Cloud of Witnesses

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a hugh crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perpetuates our faith

In  Remembrance of

Alma Ruth Hubbard Richardson

June 16, 1939-November, 2020

    In life, you meet maybe two, three, or four people who live out the words of Fr. Henri Nouwen, and who truly love you without judgment or expectation:

“God’s question is: “Are you reading the signs of your time as signs asking you to repent and be converted?” What really counts is our willingness to let the immense sufferings of our brothers and sisters free us from all arrogance and from all judgments and condemnations and give us a heart as gentle and humble as the heart of Jesus.”

        These words describe Ruth Hubbard Richardson, who grew up on a farm in Southeast Missouri. She became a teacher and married the Reverend David Richardson, and his ministry became her ministry.

    During their time in Southeast Missouri they had a young boy in their church. He felt called to ministry at an early age, and David steered him into what was considered “liberal theology,”,–Ie James Cone and “Liberaton Theology”, and shaped him into being racially tolerant and open and affirming. David and Ruth set this young man on a road freeing him of prejudice, homophobia and judgment.

    Even though they moved on, they never left the young boy behind, as he grew, they journeyed with him. He had a learning disablitlity not recognized at the time and was thinking of dropping out of college, and Ruth looked him straight in the eye and said bluntly: “Are you called to preach or to go plow corn, you turn away from the plow, you will never be happy.” And she pointed him into help for the disability. He received a Masters, and later two Doctorates.

    She stood with him at his ordination, and through the years as he struggled with his sexuality and came to parting ways with his  denomination (as David did years later for their lack of being open and affirming), she reminded him of that call, and as he lived on the streets and was a prositute she stood by his side and gave thanks to God loud and clear when he reentered the ministry.

    Through the years since she has always been a cheer leader.

    Ruth lived out the “signs of the times” to: “Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.” Micah 6:8

    Ruth is now in that Great Cloud of Witnesses cheering us on, calling us to continue to be faithful to Jesus, Amen, Amen, and Amen! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

San Francisco, CA 94164


We now pray the Office of the Dead in Her Honor and Memory.

Being Really, Really Real

November 15, 2020

Being Really, Really, Real!

Parable of the Three Servants-Matthew 25:14-30

14 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. 15 He gave five bags of silver[a] to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip.

16 “The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more. 17 The servant with two bags of silver also went to work and earned two more. 18 But the servant who received the one bag of silver dug a hole in the ground and hid the master’s money.

19 “After a long time their master returned from his trip and called them to give an account of how they had used his money. 20 The servant to whom he had entrusted the five bags of silver came forward with five more and said, ‘Master, you gave me five bags of silver to invest, and I have earned five more.’

21 “The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together![b]

22 “The servant who had received the two bags of silver came forward and said, ‘Master, you gave me two bags of silver to invest, and I have earned two more.’

23 “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’

24 “Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’


    Yesterday there was a van driving by, with loudspeakers, preaching “The end of the world is coming, get saved.”  This theme has been developed through the years to get our minds away from this world–to keep the enslaved calm, and our races prejudiced, to keep women from having rights, and to destroy our environment for money.

    When Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God, he preached it is now, we enter into that reign that seeks to bring equality and love to all. It is “Really Really Will”. He announced a new order of priorities–caring for each other without regard to race, religious understanding, economic background, political views–he calls us to live a life of equality.

    In his prayer Jesus shows us the way:

Father and Mother of Everything,

your presence fills all of creation.

Again today your reign has come.

Again today, I join my will to your will

to make earth as heaven.

Again today you will give us the bread we need for your daily work.

And you will show mercy to us us just as we show

mercy to others.

Again today as we face times of testing,

you’ll be with us in our trials.”

    The parable of the servants reminds us it is how much we put into “showing mercy to others”, that will determine the quality of our lives.

    We can remove our own egoes from such things as wearing masks, social distancing, and practice them out of care for our fellow human beings.

    We can put aside our cultural, and poltical differences and see each other as children of God. For example, there are parts of the country I can go to where I will be rejected, and seen as evil, whereas here I am simply another “odd” person in San Francisco. We need to see each other as human beings, as children of God.

    As this season of trial and difficulty continues, I pray with gratitude for you. And pray for the wisdom of God to be at work in you, your work, and friends.


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

Sloughing Towards Bethlehem

November 13, 2020

Our Life Roads-Sloughing Towards Bethlehem

James 1:18. “In the fulfillment of his own purpose, he gave us birth by the word of truth so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.”

    We all need to discover our lives as a series of roads. Each stage of our life from birth to death is a different road.

    Some of us are first fruits beautiful, refreshing, but most of us are like end of season turnips, worn, dirty,  tough, not so good looking. And if we let him, Jesus will use us and turn our ugliness into beautfy radiating his love for others.

    These roads are filled with losses.  Since March my life has been filled with many losses–holding the hands of several who have died from the coronavirus, seeing others very sick, seeing people on the street suffer, so terribly, I can not walk out my door without taking  food or socks, people are laying in desperation, not knowing what way to turn, they have so little, difficulty into accessing services, pure suffering; myself being injured, and having to take it one day at a time. I am surrounded by suffering, fear, and pain. I feel the Angel of Death fluttering around.

     Personally I have been in the hospital, recovering at home, with warnings, “to be careful”, “you are vulnerable,” I hear her wings fluttering, always a reminder death is near.

    I have struggled with living my losses as roads of anger, blame, hatred, depression, fear and resentment, and simply giving up. Why not just walk away, disappear, no one will miss me? Self pity at its best, that’s me.

    These are symptoms of the  fatal disease of futility, but when we use these symptoms of mortality, of our humanness, we come into a community of the weak, and new hope emerges in the affirmation of resurrection, of new life. Life is no longer futile but continues beyond death, and we in our gifts to others of love proclaim the Kingdom of love, care, and hope.

    Through the years I have come to see and to understand that every moment of life is precious, is good, and that in our worst situations all will be well. 

    God is good. In our Scripture from James, we read of the first fruits of creation, but my guess is if we asked we might find out that the oldest, ugliest, gnarliest turnip in the bunch gives God as much pleasure as the unblemished one.

    Jesus tells us to love our neighbor, and we say, “I can not stand some of my neighbors, in fact, I love only two or three people, so how can I LOVE my neighbor?

    Personally I have learned the meaning of Flannery O’Connor’s words: “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket when of course it is the cross.”

    Caring for others is the cross, it is painful, and Fr. Henri Nouwen describes the best definition of loving others to cross my desk:

“Love among people is not first of all a feeling or an emotion or a sentiment but a decision of the will to be faithful to each other. .There are really no people whom we can love with unlimited feelings of love. We are all imperfect, broken, sinful people, but we are able to will to be faithful and constantly forgive each other’s unfaithfulness.”

    We are “Sloughing Towards Bethlehem, ever so slowly evolving into loving our neighbor as ourselves. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Sitting With the Spirits/The Miracle

November 12, 2020

Sitting With Spirits


Bob Doto

    This is the first book of its kind to examine both spirits and spirit work through the lens of biblical hermeneutics, magical and mindfulness practices, shadow work, and self-inquiry. In doing so, Doto has shown that having a relationship with the spirits of those who have passed is not only possible within the Catholic and Christian traditions, but is inherent to the faith as a whole.

    Doto reminds us that the christian tradition is an “inspired” spirituality overflowing with both holy and not so holy spirits; that is much more complicated and subversive than what is typically presented.

    In our time, especially in the mainline churches, the work of the Holy Spirit is simply a thing of the past. We are guided by logical and academic ways of looking at Christ.

    Doto explores what lives in the margins of the Christian tradition, and brings Christ alive, actively working, and being present.


The Miracle

by Nathan Monk

    Patrick Thackery’s family built their empire as faith healers, creating a large church. At his father’s sudden death Patrick was foreced to take over as lead pastor of the faith healing congregation.

    His wife is miraculously healed of cancer, when in reality a mistake had been made. She died. It sent Patrick into depression and into confronting the demons in his own life–drugs, sex, etc.

    In drug treatment he made three new friends–Michael, a wealthy man, dying; Christian-transgender; and Mary–mentally ill, troubled woman.

    Through these relationships Patrick found his real self. Michael left a fortune to Patrick’s church, and the miracle was in the changed lives of these people.

    The main criticism is that money dominates, and in the end is the miracle and the redemption, rather than looking at Christ working in the margins. This book glorifies wealth and the Church.

A Name for Herself

November 11, 2020

A Book Review of A Name for Herself

A Dutch Immigrant’s Story

K.A. Van Till

Minnie Zwier spent her last years in the Holland Home, a rest-home in neighboring South Holland. While there, she continued to sew, and read. She saw her life like her sewing. In both you only see the outside stiches, the events leave their marks on us. .But the real living happens on the inside between the stitches.” (p.219)

    This book is about Minnie Zwier, a housewife, a mother, who lived from the first of the century until the end. It describes the events in her life, simple day to day events, the joys, the struggles, the pain, victories, and defeats.

    Her name never appeared in a newspaper, she lived her life unnoticeable, and in so doing through her children she passed on a heritage of hard work, loyalty to God, and service to others.

    We live our lives wanting to make names for ourselves, to be remembered, revered, respected. We want to become “famous”. All of our T.V. programs are about people who are famous. Next week the Real Housewives of Salt Lake City is previewing. A group of beautiful, wealthy women, and all of their silliness. We have no series of the “Minnies” of the world on T.V.  because they are ordinary.

    It is these ordinary women like Minnie who have always brought “radical faith for ordinary times,” a faith that shapes lives, and in so doing shapes our future.

    The message of this book is for us to look at those in our midst: our mothers, ministers, teachers, doctors, housekeepers, and homeless, and see each of them as extra ordinary, and show respect and care.


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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

Book Review: In the House of Friends

November 7, 2020

A Book Review of In the House of Friends

By Kenneth J. Garrett

    Our society is very suspicious, with very little trust in institutions, especially the Church. People tend to put every church on a pedastol, above the fray of sin, immorality, and yet the church is a place for the sinner, the unwell. It is a human institution.  Dorothy Day once said: “The Church is both a whore and our holy mother.” We are human beings, all broken, all sinners.

    In the House of Friends, Garret writes about spiritual abuse. Churches that are some times cults.

    The basic characteristics are that churches have pastors who are many times charasmatic, domineering, narcisstic and demanding; the churches demand absolute loyalty of its members, and they are the “only way”, all others inferior, and demand the giving of time and money as signs of loyalty and faith.

    Safe churches, healthy churches are honest, They are open with members, and inclusive.

    Safe churches do not pressure members to give. They do not demand pledges, or how much is pledged, and treat people equally regardless of how much is given. They do not shame people by listing names of givers.

    Safe churches encourage healthy friendships with every one, Christian or non-Christian. Safe churches see and respect the many faces of God.

    Safe churches respect other religious institutions.

    Safe churches encourage self-confidence and independent thinking.

    Safe churches are kind and respectful to members who leave. They do not try to make them feel guilty for leaving but express their care whatever path people take.

    Safe churches are saturated with grace. The most important mark of a safe church is that it exemplifies the forgiving grace of God.

    In summary, spiritual abuse is present when leaders and groups take advantage of the weakness of people. Healthy churches seek to exempfy the Great Commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy mind, strength, soul, and thy neighbor as thy self.” Deo Gratis! Thanks be to God!


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