Archive for May, 2021

Solitude

May 29, 2021

Solitude

Feast of the Holy Trinity

Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20

We often think of “solitude” as a time of being alone, meditating, “but that is not the solitude of St. John the Baptist, of St. Anthony or St. Benedict, of Charles de Foucault or the brothers of Taize. For them solitude is not a private therapeutic place. Rather, it is a place of conversion, the place where the old self dies and the new self is born, the place where the emergence of the new man and the new woman occurs (Nouwen).”

Through the past months of the pandemic, as death has been near, on the streets and in the hospital, seeing people suffer, die alone, and homeless, I have become more and more “professional”-[-distant, closing the door of my heart to prevent pain.

And suddenly on March 26, talking to a young man on zoom, his blood covers the screen as he dies, and  the words of Rabindranath Tagore’s describe my response: “Within me there is a great disturbance/that has broken down all bars and doors.”   Suddenly as Neil Douglas-Klotz notes “You thought  you were going in one direction and toward a specific goal, but a mysterious doorway has appeared that seems to lead in a new direction.”

I was startled awake  this morning by a nightmare of being covered in blood, seeing all the ways in which I have hurt people through the years, and of complicity in hurting people:

“The door swings open,

you look in:

It’s dark in there,

most likely spiders,

nothing you want.

You feel scared.

The door swings closed.

(Margaret Atwood).

The door swings shut when I  let “self-pity” enter into my soul–but in opening the door, having the willingness to go within, inviting faith into that solitude, finding inner strength growth will come, finding conversion within.

In the painting above we find a picture of all of us, we are a mixture of grey–good and bad, for as “sinners” we hurt ourselves through the hurting of our community.

I am getting a tattoo tomorrow of a red rose, to remind me of the Crucifixion Christ which cleanses us of our “sin”, by entering into our humanity in his fullness, giving us a new chance every day.

Thomas Merton offers of confidence about the inward journey, on which we can find strength for the days ahead, and a time of seeing the redeeming power of Christ in our lives, and our lives being surrounding by the Creator, Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit:

The Christ we seek is within us, in our inmost self, is our inmost self, and yet infinitely transcends ourselves. This is the very root of our being. Therefore, what are we called to do is to live as habitually and constantly as possible with great simplicity on this level of love which proceeds from the depth of our own being where Christ reigns and loves. This is a dimension of love which no one can take away unless we close the door ourselves and no one can bring it in unless we open the door to Christ, opening our hearts to Christ dwelling there.

Let us stand before the door of our hearts and open them. Remember Revelation 3:21: “Anyone who proves victorious I will allow to share my throne, just as I have myself overcome and have taken my seat with my Father on his throne. Let anyone who can hear, listen to what the Spirit is saving to the churches.” 

In solitude, the Holy One stands at the door we are to open. Do not be afraid. Love in the fullest form accompanies us. Take a deep breath. Unlock the door. Reach slowly for the handle, and swing wide the door of your heart. In opening the door of our heart we find our hearts being converted into love. We move out to love our neighbor. Change only comes when hearts are converted. No law brings lasting change, but only in our hearts changing to love, seeing our neighbor as ourselves. for in the words of Fred Rogers: Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like “struggle.” In the Name of the Creator,
Redeemer,

and Sustainer.

Amen.

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

P.O. Bos 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

415-305-2124

Community Is A Quality of Heart

May 24, 2021

A Book Review of Lovers In the Wilderness

by Stephanie Rutt

Lover’s in the Wilderness, is a guide of creating a rich inner prayer life through mantra prayer. Rutt offers tools from various religions traditions.

    Through mantra prayer community can beceome a reality as we let God speak to us in our hearts.

    Community first of all is a quality of the heart–a quality that touches all with whom we meet in our outer lives–the people we work with, live with, play with, and encouter in all walks of life. Community are the homeless, the disenfranchised,–all people in life, and all creation.

    Suffering trauma the last few week has taken me back through the years, and the coming burial of a childhood teacher whose influence placed me on  my journey in life has brought community around me, both living and dead. I see the hundreds of people who have journeyed with me.  Having lunch with my friend Matt yesterday, laughing about the journey of the last eight years, all brought the meaning of community home.

    Several weeks ago on his birthday Gary, 50, and I celebrated the twenty plus years, we have known each other, and talked of his own journey living on the streets, and of the community that had supported him.

    My seventeen year old friend who recently committed suicide, is very vividly in community with me. He and I are struggling intensely with each other, and will for sometime, but there is community in this struggle.

    Community is a quality of heart of loving without expecting anything in return and that comes from trusting in God, knowing that all those whom you love are hidden in his heart.

    This truth will not solve all of our pains and problems, but it can set us free at times to travel on and to move forward even though our emotions can make us feel very lonely.

    Rutt teaches to keep close to our Sacred Writings, and for me those writings are the Bible and taste them to their fullest. There is a very deep hunger in all of us for life in the Spirit which needs to be continuously nurtured by the Word of God.

    Through our inner prayer, and nurturning by the Word we will be set free to nurture others, we are turned from our own self-centeredness to love of others. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

Peniel, June Newsletter of Temenos Catholic Worker

May 21, 2021

“If They Felt Safe–They Would Not Leave. .

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Peniel, “Where Jacob Wrestled With God. .”

Temenos Catholic Worker

Pentecost, 2021

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

__________________________________

Journal of An Alien Street Priest:

    My first Pentecost out of seminary, I was Associate Pastor in a large church in St. Louis. The pastor was on vacation and I created the service. My two youth groups created colorful banners placed throughout the sanctuary, and a head piece for me to wear with flowing streams of color.

    It was a colorful service, beautiful music, and a time of celebrating the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon the world.

    I ended my sermon with a true story about a couple named Doolittle, whose presence inspired the writing of the well-loved hymn, “His Eye is On the Sparrow, by Civillia D. Martin:

“Early in the spring of 1905 my husband and I (Civillia Martin)  were in Elmira, New York. We developed a deep friendship for a couple by the name of Mr. and Mrs. Doolittle–true saints of God. Mrs. Doolittle had been bedridden for nearly 20 years. Her husband was an incurable cripple who had to propel himself to and from his business in a wheelchair. .Despite their afflictions, they had lived happy lives bringing inspiration and comfort to all the those who knew them. One day while we were visiting with the Doolittles, my husband commented on their bright hopefulness and asked them for the secret of it. Mrs. Doolittle replied simply, “His eye is on on the sparrow, and I know he watches me,” (See Matthew 6:36).

      Surrendering ourselves to the Holy Spirit, we don’t need conditions to be a certain way in order to love God. Our love becomes truly unconditional. We love  because it’s simply the only option, and our tribal boundaries breakaway, and we are set free.

    Fred Rogers shared a story of his boyhood. He tells of reading  all the sad news, the hatred, and divisions reported in the newspaper. He told his mom it depressed him, he felt unhopeful. Roger’s mom replied: Look for the helpers and you will always find people who will help.”

    Pentecost sets us free to be helpers. To be free to let go of the negative that surrounds us and to love others as we have been loved. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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Fourth of July Barbecue

    This year on the Fourth of July we will barbecue vegan hot dogs in Golden Gate Park at Stanyon and Haight.

    We would like to invite volunteers–with vaccination cards, and wearing masks-there are  no exceptions. Come join us and help in cooking the meal and serving. We will begin at Noon. Please call and volunteer: 415-305-2124.

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Congratulations:

    We congratulate our friend Matthew Yeley Frederick on his graduation from the University of Texas Law School, on May 21, 2021.  Matthew is an old friend and supporter.

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With Sadness:

    It is with sadness that we remember Rose Innes, who died on April 6, 2021. Rose was a long time friend,  and supporter of Temenos Catholic Worker.  Always with a smile on her face,and  word of encouragement. Thank you Rose for all you have given to us!

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We are Beggars!

    We are beggars! Your gifts provide food, socks, harm reduction to the those in the Tenderloin and Haight area. We beg for your gifts:

Temenos Catholic Worker

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org–pay pal

415-305-2124

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CARING NOTARY

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

caringnotary2665@yahoo.com

415-305-2124

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The Diplomacy of Charity

May 16, 2021

The Diplomacy of Charity

“Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us and God’s love is brought to full expression in us.I John 4:11-12.

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    Today has I walked down the street, I was stunned, there was tent after tent on every corner; received a phone call yesterday from a woman who had lost her job months ago, and never received unemployment benefits, and was moving into a tent, afraid to death, had never been homeless before. Glanced at the paper this  morning and with our environment coming back to normal arguments are being made about what to do about the increasing number of the homeless, and getting them “out of the way.”

    We are a people of many castes’, and our castes according to her book entitled Caste by Isabel Wilkerson,  have been created throughout history as a means of power.

    As I read the paper, observed people pass by the homeless, and not even looking, I find myself thinking of being homeless as moving into a “caste” one that is like upper, middle, lower classes, black, Asian, and Hispanic ethnic groups.

    The homeless caste is looked down upon, berated, cast down, and seen as mentally ill and drug users, unable to do much better, so we ignore, and call the police to criminalize and move them.

    I am criticized, have stories made up about me, looked down upon because I choose to not stay within the expected boundaries around me, but this is my choice. I choose not to stay in a caste. And I do not apologize, but people on the street have for various reasons have become homeless. In the Bay Area, there is a shortage of housing, sky rocking rents, lack of mental health and drug treatment, all resulting in homelessness.

    In reading this book I found myself depressed because in reading it we can simply excuse ourselves by simply saying we are “homosapiens”. But we have a choice.

    We can look around, look into the face of those in our alleys, our streets, and our parks, and one by one touch their lives with care, quit seeing them as “the homeless”, but as human beings, like each one of us.

    Let us remember the words of Martin Niemoller:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

Endings and Beginnings: Jumping off the Edge

May 12, 2021

Endings and Beginnings: Jumping off the Edge

Sadness Will Be Turned to Joy: John 16:16-20

1“In a little while you won’t see me anymore. But a little while after that, you will see me again.”

17 Some of the disciples asked each other, “What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’? 18 And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.”

19 Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. 20 I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy.

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“Come to the edge,” he said. “We’re afraid!”

they said, “Come to the edge,” he said. “But,

we’re afraid,” they said. And he pushed them and they flew.”

Christopher Logue

    Looking back there are colleagues who have become bishops, CEOs of large non-profits, and me, I am still the street priest, who lives in the moment.

    Looking back when I was young, a hell of a lot more egotistical, and abrasive than  now, there was a night when a photographer and a City Supervisor  was following me around, and one young guy commented, “It seems you only have time for the big wigs, you are looking for a bigger job and really don’t give a damn about us.”     From that moment forward there were no more photographers or “big wigs”. I have worked every day since those moments, to be rid of ego, material ambition, and simply giving my heart away.

    On March 26, of this year, my birthday, in Palm Springs, chatting on zoom with a seventeen-year-old, with his brother sitting next to him, he suddenly pulled a gun quickly to his head and the computer screen was covered with blood. And both his little brother and I were sent off the trail into the wilderness, the landscape of our lives was changed forever.

    And as our inner landscapes were bushwhacked, the words of Anais Nin: “We don’t see the world as it is. We see it as we are.” comes to mine. We know the pain in our inner landscapes will be a mirror of our outer landscapes and will treat ourselves gently.

    In so knowing where before we needed proof and verification worthy of our efforts, now we sense God smiling, ready to seize our unsuspecting hearts with some joy we’ll never be able to fully describe or explain, but which leaves us silent, undone, unhinged, and free.

    And when we come back on the trail, nothing will be the same, we will not be the same, but what I know is the Crucified One will be smiling, surrounding us with care, and our lives will be transfigured.

    I told his little brother we would walk this road together and in doing so we would both carve into our pieces of walnut wood, his new and mine old, a layer of pain, that would shine in love, and serve as a reminder, that Christ transfigures our grief into new beginnings. There is never a quick fix, a pill, but only walking the journey of transformation that brings healing, and understanding of the pain.

    We are going on a five-day, silent retreat, and come back to no surgery, but hard work, sadness, crying, depression, hard-playing, and ultimately much joy. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

P.O. Box642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

415-305-2124

Gazing on the Crucified Jesus

May 10, 2021

The Feast of Damien of Molokai

Gazing on the Crucified Jesus

    Fred Rogers once wrote Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like ‘struggle’, and this is the epiphany of love that Fr. Damien lived out in ministry on the leper colony of Molokai.

    In his “struggle” Damien was one who gazed upon the crucified Jesus (John 19:37) long enough–with contemplative eyes-to find for himself and to lead others to be healed at their deepest levels of pain, unforgiveness, aggression, and victimhood. This demands no theological education at all, just an “inner exchange” by receiving the image within and offering one’s soul back in safe return.

    “The crucified Jesus is no stranger” to any part of human history. as Dom Sebastian Moore so wisely put it, for the Crucified One offers, at a largely unconscious level, a very compassionate meaning in the system for history. The mystery of rejection, suffering, passion, death, and raising up Jesus is the interpretive key for what history means and where it is going. Without such cosmic meaning and soul significance, the agonies and tragedies of humanity feel like Shakespeare’s “sound and fury signifying nothing.” The body can live without food easier than the soul can live without God.

    Through words and his own struggling with trauma, Damien pointed out that both the cross and trauma repels us and draws us near. We don’t fully understand it, but there’s a redeeming reason we are drawn to the image of the Crucified Jesus again and again, for the meaning of the cross brings meaning out of our trauma and makes sense out of the pain and struggles we experience.     Imprinted on our conscious minds, it animates our unconscious compulsions and drives in ways that escape us. We live within the story but are not always sure quite how. We know it and don’t know it. .Grace is grace. It comes.

    In his life, Damien demonstrates that we are invited to gaze upon the image of the Crucified One to soften our hearts toward God, and to know that God’s heart has always been softened towards us, even and most especially in our own suffering. As our hearts are softened toward ourselves and all others who suffer–we find ourselves in one great wave of universal mercy.

     I carry proudly the name of Damien, given to me many years ago, as my second middle name, it reminds me every day to embrace suffering and to know that in the Crucified Jesus, life has eternal meaning, and every human being is worth loving. Deo Gratias! Glory be to God!

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

415-305-2124

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“The big and hidden secret is this: an infinite God seeks and desires intimacy with the human soul. Once we experience such intimacy, only the intimate language of lovers describes the experience for us: mystery, singularity, specialness, changing the rules “for me,” nakedness, risk, ecstasy, incessant longing, and of course also, necessary suffering… Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582).

Clear the Path to Your Heart

May 5, 2021

Clear the Path to Your Heart

    We have heard the word trauma a lot.     Many have suffered trauma during these months of the pandemic; all street youth suffer trauma regularly. Youth who are housed are suffering trauma from lack of seeing their friends, and being tied to the computer for school.

    Much of the human race suffers from what we call Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder (PTSD). 

    In the last year or two as my own trauma has hit me square in the face, and now as I prepare for surgery, I hear the words of Fr. Henri Nouwen:

To be calm and quiet by yourself is not the same as sleeping. In fact, it means being fully awake and following with close attention every move going on inside of you. It requires the discipline to recognize the urge to get up and go as a temptation to look elsewhere for what is really close at hand. It offers the freedom to stroll through your own inner yard and rake up the leaves and clear the path so you can easily find a way to your heart. Perhaps there will be fear and uncertainly when you first come upon this “unfamiliar terrain,” but slowly and surely you will discover an order and a familiarity that deepens your longing to stay home with yourself.

    As I have come to let go of the need to “save the world,” and come to simply “be” the words of  The Mirror Meditation by Fr. Richard Rhor gives me the message that salvation is simply to have the “mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16), which Paul describes as “making the world, life and death, the present and the future–all your servants-because you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God” (I Corinthians 3:22-23). Everything finally belongs, and you are a part of it. This knowing and this enjoying are a good description of salvation.

The goal of this mediation is to rewire us to see all things in God, and God in all things.

     I invite you to read this mediation slowly, in parts or as a whole. Let this mediation enter the  depth of your being and receive the flow of Divine Love:

The Divine Mirror

A mirror receives and reflects back what it sees.

It does not judge, adjust or write commentary.

We are the ones who do that.

A mirror simply reveals.

And invites responsibility.

A mirror, the sun, and God are all the same.

They are all there, fulling shining forth.

Their very nature is light, love, and infinite giving.

You can’t offend them or make them stop shining.

Because we only know ourselves in another’s eyes.

We receive our identity–all of it, good and bad–

From another.

The other both creates us and saves us.

“No man is an island, entire of itself”, says the poet John Donne.

This is what we call the pure gift of holiness!

Or, if you prefer, wholeness.

We are always a giving, a resonance, never a possession of our own.

The universe is relational at every level, and even between levels.

Relationship is the core and foundational shape of Reality,

Mirroring our Trinitarian God (Genesis 1:26-27).

Every object serves as a mirror, another kind of presence.

You can find such mirrors in all of nature, in animals,

In your parents, lovers, children, books, pictures, movies,

And even in what some call “God”.

Remember, “God” is just a word for Reality-with a Face!

And occasionally Interface (which some call “prayer” or “love”).

God is a mirror big enough to receive everything,

And every single part of you,

Just as it is, rejecting nothing, adjusting nothing–

Often,

For the sake of an even deeper love.

We will experience a kind of Universal Forgiveness.

A Divine Sympathy for all of Reality.

Or what some have called the “Divine Pity”.

And it will even fall on us.

Whatever is fully received in this Mirror is

by that very fact “redeemed.”

And all is received whether we believe it or not.

You do not have to see the sun to know it is shining.

If your Divine Mirror cannot fully receive you in this way.

Then it is certainly not God.

Remember that regret profits nobody.

Shame is useless.

Blame is surely a waste of time.

And all hatred is a diversionary tactic, a dead end.

God always sees and loves God in you.

It seems like God has no choice.

This is God’s eternal and unilateral contract with the soul.

If you cannot allow yourself to be fully mirrored in this way,

You will never fully know who you are,

much less enjoy who you are,

Nor will you know the heart of God.

Any loving gaze that we can dare to receive can start the Flow:

Creation itself, animals, humans, all are the divine gaze

If we allow them to be.

“The knowledge that I once had was imperfect,

but then I shall know as fully as I am

known” (I Corinthians 13:12b).

One day the mirror will reflect in both directions,

And we will see over there what was allowed in here.

This is full-access-seeing-and being seen:

Most have named it “heaven”

And it begins now.

Let the Divine Mirror fully receive you.

All of you.

And you will never be lonely again.

    As we find our healing little by little, we find ourselves reaching out to healing the wounds that lead to homelessness, suicide, mental illness, and all destruction. Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!

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

P.O. Box 642655

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

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Healing Takes Place in Vulnerability

May 3, 2021

Healing Takes Place in Vulnerability

I Corinthians 15:1-8

15 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

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    This past weekend I was in Portland to throw a graduation party for my friend Matthew Yeley Frederick. I visited at the same time with Chris, and Josh, knowing each since 1998, beginning when they were 14.

    It was an emotional weekend, looking at Matt, and seeing how much he has grown, moving into the same profession as his parents.

    It was emotional because both Chris and Matthew wrote in my Bible two comments:

“River, thank you for being the judgemental free zone in my mind.” Chris

“River Why else do you think I am here? You got me through some sh. .t and hard times. You’ve helped so many unfortunate people, and you still took time to mentor me. I didn’t know I needed you, but looking back, life wouldn’t be near as rich without you.. Thank you. Love, Matt f.”

    This is why I have chosen the “solitary single” way of life to be able to be open to love all creatures.

    And through these years of walking with many the words of Claude AnShin Thomas comes to mind, suffering from war trauma/PTSD:

Some years after getting sober, I was standing at the kitchen sink in my cottage in Concord, washing dishes. Above the sink was a window through which I could see a row of fifty-foot-tall pine trees that lined the driveway. That day as I did the dishes, I was watching a squirrel busy doing whatever it is that squirrels do, when I had a powerful experience. A voice inside me, the voice of awareness, said to me, “You can’t sleep,so now what?” I began to laugh. It was a moment of complete acceptance. I finally understood that I just was how I was. To resist, to fight, to attempt to alter the essential nature of my life, was in fact making matters worse, and now I understood that I simply needed to learn how to live with the reality of who I was. In this moment I discovered that it was here, in the midst of suffering and confusion, that healing and transformation can take place, if I can stop trying to escape.

    I do not see God as supernatural, but calling us to “work out our own salvation,” and I follow the Jesus, who loves me without judgment, and so my ministry is that of loving others without judgment, and whether there is life after this one, matters not, to follow Jesus into Galilee is enough.

    Matthew, Chris and Josh, and so many others have given me the an understanding of simply “Expecting God’s Secret:”

Deep silence leads us to realize that prayer is, above all, acceptance. When we pray, we are standing with our hands open to the world. We know that God will become known to us in the nature around us, in people we meet, and in situations we run into. We trust that the world holds God’s secret within and we expect that secret to be shown to us. Prayer creates that openness in which God is given to us.  Indeed, God wants to be admitted into the human heart,received with open hands, and  loved with the same love with which we have been created (Fr. Henri Nouwen).

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

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164

http://www.temenos.org

415-305-2124