Fire in the Dark: Updates
KATE ST. MARTIN, SNJM, 1921-2014. Known by many as Sister Kate. By many others simply as Kate. Whatever they called her, whatever their experiences with her, they remember her fondly and with deep admiration and respect. Kate was without doubt the most amazing woman I have ever personally known. Over the course of 30 years our relationship grew and matured, and our affection for and appreciation of each another deepened exponentially, particularly in the last few years of her life. I am very fortunate to have discovered and witnessed so many of the staggeringly large number of good deeds Kate did on behalf of others, but also to have witnessed the “pattern” of an entire life well lived. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Reaching back more than 3,000 years to the Book of Genesis and Cain’s wording of the question when asked to give an accounting after murdering his brother Abel, this question is, I believe firmly, and always has been, the central, day-to-day, practical question confronting the human race regarding its relationships among its members. Whatever my own answer to the question, the long and detailed record of Kate’s activities on Portland Oregon’s Skid Road for 25 years presents a compelling example of what can happen when that answer is a resounding YES!” After all is said and done, perhaps what matters most is the pattern of a person’s existence. It is the pattern of an individual’s life, I believe — the overall global view of it — that matters most, rather than any particular good or bad deed pinpointed here or there along the way of it. The basic direction in which an individual strives to travel. Kate returned to the stars on March 18th after complications from congestive heart failure; she would have been 93 in July. As a tribute to Kate and as a fond remembrance of this most remarkable woman, during the next year I will post weekly on my Facebook page one of 58 statements made by Kate over the course of 20 years. These are brief excerpts lifted verbatim from throughout the book Fire in the Dark -- making a difference in the world which chronicles Kate’s 25 years of direct one-on-one service to the vulnerable and disenfranchised, mainly on Portland Oregon’s then Skid Road but also at Our House of Portland, a residential care facility for individuals with HIV/AIDS. Alcoholics and drug addicts; the homeless and poor; emotionally and spiritually lost souls; gays and men suffering with HIV disease and dying from AIDS; and those alienated and otherwise excluded from the mainstream in any other way. These were Kate’s kind of people. Each excerpt I post will show something of Kate’s amazing, tireless, and staunchly resolute ability to make a difference in the world around her, often in the tiniest ways (as you will read) yet in quite meaningful ways nonetheless to those who received the kindnesses. Kate’s example is a challenge to all of us not to overlook life’s big changes that often lie hiding among the smaller things that we do for others. To listen to 2-1/2 hours of audio excerpts from Fire in the Dark, in Kate’s own voice, over the course of 20 years, click on the book icon for Fire in the Dark, then click the button “Original Audio Excerpts.” These excerpts are taken from the original recording sessions between Kate and me, which served as the basis for the book. Listen carefully for the judgment and condemnation of others in Kate’s words and voice: There is none! Listen for genuine, authentic regard for others, one on one, in the raw: Not even a dam could hold back those waters! Here’s hoping the excerpts I post will communicate much of the best of what it means to be human. And why it matters never to surrender to the darker and dangerously cynical side of life, but rather to stay focused on the light of each new day and walk courageously and intentionally always towards that light, no matter.