Reflections by Patti Murphy Dohn on the Church, family, grief, saints, and hope amidst the storms in our lives... May you always find that God is in the clouds! 

Patti Murphy Dohn retired in 2014 after 33 years of service as Campus Minister, retreat director, and Religion teacher at The John Carroll School in Bel Air, Maryland. Committed to making a difference in the lives of our youth and their families, she has served the school community since 1981. Presently, she continues her ministry through bereavement outreach, coordinating the school's alumni prayer chain, while archiving the school's history.  

Patti was awarded the Medal of Honor in Youth and Young Adult Ministry by the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 2012. She served the Archdiocese on the Screening Board for the Office of Vocations under Cardinal Keeler, Cardinal O'Brien, and Archbishop Lori. She is also a past-board member for the Msgr. O'Dwyer Retreat House in Sparks, MD. and Saint Margaret School in Bel Air.

Along with writing for "The Catholic Review," Patti is a member of the Catholic Press Association, as well as the Catholic Writers Guild and the Associated Church Press. She is available for speaking engagements, consulting, and retreat work.

Patti and her husband George split their time between their homes in Bel Air, Maryland and Singer Island, Palm Beach, Florida.


Twitter: @JCSMinistry

Facebook: Patti Murphy Dohn

Instagram: @PattiMurphyDohn

 God is good!! All the time!!



September 2016
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Recent Comments

Beautiful story! thank you for continuing to inspire us Patti.


And your BFF didn't know this story? Great article to read. I,can envision it! What an amazing intuition you followed. Someday soon we will talk more!

God is in the clouds

Prayers to the patron saint of the hurricane season: Seeking the intercession of Saint Medard during Hurricane Matthew

Saint Medard, patron saint of bad storms, pray for us! 

Preparing for Hurricane Matthew:

Hurricane season runs annually from June 1 to November 30.

Since we retired in 2014, my husband and I spend a great deal of time at our home on Singer Island in South Florida. Today, all eyes are on Hurricane Matthew, which formed quickly and was just upgraded this morning to a Category 3 hurricane, currently with 120 mph winds. 

The National Hurricane Center classifies as "major hurricanes" all those in Categories 3 (111-130 mph), 4 (131-155 mph) and 5 (156+ mph) on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Matthew is now off Aruba, moving toward Jamaica and Cuba early next week, then it’s likely headed toward the Bahamas by Wednesday. The storm continues to evolve, and it is really too soon to know where its exact track will go

All news media outlets and weather are urging families to review their emergency plans and be prepared in the event that the hurricane comes our way. It has been twelve years since a hurricane has directly impacted Palm Beach County, and most families in the area have become rather complacent. Florida is vulnerable geographically to tropical storms and hurricanes that might make landfall here. And no matter where the tracking for Matthew goes, we will at the very least be on the outer bands and get lots of wind and rain.

Back in September of 2004, Hurricanes Frances (105 mph winds) and Jeanne (120 mph winds) hit our area just twenty days apart. The next year, Wilma (105 mph winds) hit South Florida, causing 25 deaths and again leaving a number of counties without power. 

Prayers for hurricane protection at Mass:

Parishes here in Florida often incorporate a prayer for protection from hurricanes and tropical storms during the general intercessions at Mass each week. Our parish, Saint Paul of the Cross in North Palm Beach uses the following intention

That we would receive the grace of physical protection from
all storms, disaster and calamity this hurricane season, we pray… 
Lord, hear our prayer.

Offering prayers for safekeeping is comforting, even if Mother Nature has other ideas.

Saint  Medard, patron of bad storms:

I first wrote about Saint Medard in February of 2014 in anticipation of the winter snowstorm Pax: "Praying to Saint Medard, the patron saint of bad storms."

Saint Medard is the perfect patron saint for the hurricane season. He was a sixth-century bishop, preacher, and missionary, who, as a child, according to legend, was once sheltered from the rain by an eagle hovering over him. His feast day is observed each year on June 8. 

An old French folktale refers to the June 8 feast day:

“Should Saint Médard's day be wet, 
It will rain for forty yet; 
At least until Saint Barnabas, 
The summer sun won't favor us.” 

In a similar manner, Cajun folklore, which refers to June 8 as “Samida" (for Saint Médard), holds that if it rains on this day, it will rain at least once a day for the next forty days.

Pray for us:

This week, we again call upon the intercession of Saint Medard to keep us safe and to protect all those who are vulnerable to the rage of Hurricane Matthew.

Saint Medard, patron saint for protection against bad storms, 
we ask you to intercede for us during the storms of our lives as well as the storms in nature.
Protect our families and our homes.
We pray for assistance for the victims of snowstorms, hurricanes,
tornadoes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters,
especially now with the impact from Hurricane Matthew.
Loving God, send in more helpers, 
and multiply resources and supplies for the aid of those in need.
You calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee;
Deliver us from the storms that are raging around us now.
Saint Medard, pray for us.

September 30, 2016 04:42
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Celebrating the little way of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: Prayers and simple spirituality from the Little Flower

“Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden to me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”
— Saint Thérèse of Lisieux/ Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus (1873–1897)

Seen here in a photograph taken by her sister, Celine Martin (Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face) on Easter Monday, 1894.
(Archives of Carmel of Lisieux)


The beautiful Carmelite nun Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is often referred to as one of the most venerated saints in modern history. Today, September 30, the Church observes the 119th anniversary of her death. We celebrate with her feast day tomorrow, October 1

Thérèse was born in 1873 in France and given the baptismal name Marie Françoise Thérèse Martin. The youngest Martin daughter, she had a childhood marked by illness, great familial affection, very devout Catholic parents, four close sisters, the untimely death of her mother when Marie was just four years old, followed by several years of depression and self-isolation, before realizing a childlike faith, hope, and a strong desire to do God’s will. This paved the way for her deeply spiritual life journey. 

The Little Flower:

When Marie Françoise Thérèse was 14, her father told her a story while they were sitting in their garden. After she had asked her father if she could follow her two eldest sisters and enter the nearby cloistered Discalced Carmelite community, he gave her a small white flower and described to her how God loved and cared for her just as He had brought that perfect little flower in being and cared for it.

Young Marie Françoise Thérèse saw that flower as symbolic to her own life, and would later write, as Thérèse: "while I listened, I believed I was hearing my own story.” This story not only shaped part of her spiritual journey, but also explains the back story of how Thérèse would eventually become known as "The Little Flower of Jesus" or simply as "The Little Flower.”

The next year, at age 15, Marie Françoise Thérèse entered the Carmel in Lisieux. She was given the religious name of Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, O.C.D.

Her spiritual journey has been preserved through her letters and her writings, most importantly, her memoir Story of a Soul.  Therese’s spirituality, called her “little way,” is based on seeing herself as a child of God and simply trusting in Him.

There is much to meditate on as we read about the experiences which shaped the Little Flower and molded her into a model of holiness for all of us, most especially as a spiritual role model for women.

Thérèse’s death:

Thérèse died on September 30, 1897, at the age of 24 after suffering greatly from the effects of tuberculosis, which was not properly diagnosed at first. She looked ahead, “After my death, I will let fall a shower of roses. I will spend my heaven doing good upon earth. I will raise up a mighty host of little saints. My mission is to make God loved…”

Pope Pius X called Thérèse "the greatest saint of modern times.” Later, after miracles were attributed to her intercession, Pope Pius XI dispensed the waiting period and beatified her in 1923, and then canonized her two years later, only twenty-eight years after her death. In that era, the usual waiting period for beatification was fifty years.

Later, Pope Pius XII named Thérèse a co-patron saint of France in 1944 with Joan of Arc, one of her longtime heroines. Then in 1997, Pope John Paul II declared Thérèse to be a Doctor of the Church, only the fourth woman to be given this status.


Ten fun facts about Thérèse:

Did you know?

1. Thérèse always carried the Gospels and the Epistles of Saint Paul close to her heart. She noted,

“But it is especially the Gospels which sustain me during my hours of prayer, for in them I find what is necessary for my poor little soul. I am constantly discovering in them new lights, hidden and mysterious meanings.”     

2. Thérèse’s parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, had nine children, four of whom would  die in early childhood. 

3. Louis and Zelie became saints of the Church on October 18, 2015. Notably, they were the first married couple to be considered together for sainthood, and then were the first to actually be canonized together. 

4. Each of the five remaining children of Louis and Zelie, all girls, would enter religious life:

--Thérèse’s two oldest sisters were the first to enter the local cloistered Carmelite monastery in Lisieux:

--Marie Louise, the eldest, would became Sister Marie of the Sacred Heart;

--Marie Pauline, the second sister, who would eventually be elected as the mother prioress of Carmel, would be known as Mother Agnes of Jesus;

--Marie Françoise Thérèse, the youngest daughter, would enter in 1788 at the age of 15, taking the name Sister Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, O.C.D.;

--The fourth sister, Céline, who cared for their father until his death in 1894, entered Carmel that same year and became Sister Genevieve of the Holy Face.

--Their first cousin, Marie Guérin, followed them to Carmel in 1895 and became Sister Marie of the Eucharist.

--Finally, the third sister, Léonie followed a different path and entered the Monastery of the Visitation of Holy Mary, taking the name Sister Françoise-Thérèse, and becoming the only Martin sister to not enter Carmel. 

5. In 2012, Léonie Martin was declared “Venerable” and her cause for canonization was opened. 

6. Archival photos: Céline Martin was given permission by her eldest sister, Mother Agnes, to bring her camera and the necessary supplies to process photographs to Carmel. The photos she took of Thérèse over the years have been a treasure to the Church and to all those who have devotion to the Little Flower.  

7. Thérèse’s childhood heroine was Joan of Arc. Later, while at Carmel, she would write two plays about Joan for the Carmelite nuns to perform on feast days to honor of the Catholic woman who would become the patron saint of France.

8. Two years after her canonization, Pope Pius XI named Thérèse the Patroness of the Vatican Gardens in 1927.     

9. Thérèse’s relics have traveled on religious pilgrimage and been venerated all over the world. Also, her writing desk from Carmel was on display throughout the United States in 2013. 

10. The Basilica of Saint Thérèse in Lisieux is one of the most visited shrines in France


“For me, prayer is a movement of the heart; it is a simple glance toward Heaven; it is a cry of gratitude and love in times of trial as well as in times of joy; finally, it is something great, supernatural, which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus...I have not the courage to look through books for beautiful prayers...I do like a child who does not know how to read; I say very simply to God what I want to say, and He always understands me.”

—Saint Thérèse of Lisieux on prayer


Bring your special intentions to Saint Thérèse in prayer:

Miraculous Invocation to St. Thérèse:

O Glorious St. Thérèse,
whom Almighty God has raised up to aid
and inspire the human family,
I implore your Miraculous Intercession.
You are so powerful in obtaining every need
of body and spirit from the Heart of God.
Holy Mother Church proclaims you "Prodigy of Miracles…
the greatest saint of Modern Times.”
Now I fervently beseech you to answer my petition
(mention in silence here) 
and to carry out your promises of
spending heaven doing good on earth…
of letting fall from Heaven a Shower of Roses.
Little Flower, give me your childlike faith,
to see the Face of God
in the people and experiences of my life,
and to love God with full confidence.
Saint Thérèse, my Carmelite Sister,
I will fulfill your plea "to be made known everywhere”
and I will continue to lead others to Jesus through you.


To learn more about Saint Thérèse of Lisieux:

The Society of the Little Flower:

Spreading Devotion to Saint Thérèse of Lisieux: The Greatest Saint of Modern Times 

September 30, 2016 03:45
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Take a mini-retreat at The Abbey: Best-seller by Father James Martin, SJ offers hope and spiritual insight

Grab a chair and your copy of The Abbey for your own personal mini-retreat

Popular speaker, bestselling author, and editor at large of America magazine, Father James Martin, SJ, has long delighted us with his commentaries on life and faith through his books, videos, and social media posts.

Last Christmas, I put Father Martin’s newest book (released October 2015), his first work of fiction entitled The Abbey: A Story of Discovery, on my wish list. Our daughter Tracy and her family had it wrapped up and under the tree for me at our holiday gift exchange.  

But sadly, my new hardback copy of The Abbey was placed on my nightstand for a future time, as I had just started reading the Mitford-Father Tim series of Christian fiction by Jan Karon… I would read all 13 of Karon’s books consecutively over the next eight months. 

God’s time is always best, isn't it? 

After slowly reading and savoring the lovely characters and many faith-based storylines in the Mitford books, I was left feeling empty without another one to read. That’s when I found The Abbey patiently waiting in the stack of books on my nightstand.

Indeed, the timing was perfect:

Just released last Tuesday (September 13) in paperback, The Abbey tells the tale of… 

—Mark, a young architect who finds himself working as a handyman and carpenter at a Trappist monastery in a Philadelphia suburb, while trying to figure out where his life is going both personally and professionally; 

—Anne, Mark’s landlord and neighbor, a divorced woman who still rawly grieves the loss of her only child, a young teenage son, three years after his sudden death; 

—Father Paul, the monastery’s abbot, who offers wisdom and insight to those who seek it, even as he sometimes second-guesses himself and his own ability to offer spiritual insight and direction in this changing world; 
—And the delightful elderly priest, Father Edward, a former novice director, who adds to the beauty of the characters, while holding the key to unlocking family information unknown to Anne about her past…  

As I read this beautiful story which portrayed the joys and sorrows and mundane events in the lives of these characters, I realized that the spiritual wisdom shared by both Father Paul and Father Edward was akin to taking me on a virtual mini-retreat of sorts.

Through the discernment and efforts made to overcome the struggles that these characters face, we too are also encouraged to find hope in our individual circumstances of life, no matter what we may find ourselves facing.

The wisdom of The Abbey can be applied to all of us:

There is something here for everyone… 

—If you have ever wondered why your life has taken a particular course that you never imagined and do not understand;

—If you wish to make sense of where you are on your life journey and why you are not on a different path;

—If you are uncertain of God’s presence in your life and are not sure whether you should seek Him or where you should turn for guidance;

—If you ever experience anger at God and question Him and what He has allowed in your life;

—If you grieve and are trying to make sense of your loss and the changes you are forced to accept;

—If you are the strong one, and are looked upon for insight and assurance, and are not sure you have anything meaningful to impart;

—If you are highly regarded in your community, parish, or ministry, and feel unworthy of the esteem in which others hold you;

—If you are aging and wonder if God’s grace will see you through the challenges;

—If you need assurance that God meets us where we are in life and speaks to us through our individual experiences;

Do you see yourself in any of these descriptions?
I encourage you to treat yourself to a break in your normal reading material and go to The Abbey

Life lessons waiting for you: 
Here are a few examples of spiritual wisdom that you will find at The Abbey

On spiritual dryness:

“He also knew that the spiritual life had its dry patches—sometimes long dry patches—when God didn't feel close at all….
It was like any relationship: things couldn't be exciting all the time.
Perhaps the human heart couldn't take it if God were always so close."

—Musings by Father Paul the abbot


On the image of God as a gardener:

Quoting Saint Thérèse of Lisieux:
“I understood how all the flowers God has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wildflowers. And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden… He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when He looks down at His feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.”  

—Father Paul the abbot, quoting from The Story of a Soul, the autobiography of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux


On listening to God:

“God can work through your imagination. How else would God come to you in prayer? After all, he made your imagination.”

—Father Paul the abbot


On prayer:

“All sorts of things happen in prayer. The kinds of images you experienced are just one way that God comes to us. For some people, it’s mainly emotions that come up—like joy or contentment when they're thinking about God. Other people have memories that bubble up, maybe from childhood, and they feel it heals them in some way. Or it reminds them how much God loved them even when they were young. Sometimes it’s just an insight—like figuring something out about a problem that’s been bugging you. All those things can happen. Then sometimes it seems like nothing is coming up. That can be pretty frustrating. But in those times we have to trust that God is doing some work deep within us. Because any time spent in God’s presence is transformative. But really our main work in prayer is simply to be present to God and open ourselves up. ‘Show up and shut up,’ as one of the monks here likes to say.”

—Father Paul the abbot  


On grace and the spiritual life:

“Spirituality is like spaghetti. When my mother, may she rest in peace, cooked spaghetti, she used to throw a few strands against the kitchen wall. When it stuck, she said it was done. It’s the same in the spiritual life. Not every homily you preach or insight you offer will stick. A lot depends on where the person is, whether they're open to hearing what you have to say, and whether it’s the right time for them to hear it. One day you say something that you think is profound, and they just shrug. A few months later, you say the same thing, and they start crying. Who knows? In other words, a lot of it depends on grace. Maybe all of it.”

—Father Edward, speaking to his abbot, who was formerly one of his novices in formation years back


More info on The Abbey: A Story of Discovery:

To read an excerpt, listen to a sample of the audio book, or check out Father James Martin’s page at Harper Collins Publishers.

Other books by Father James Martin, SJ:

Follow Father Martin on social media:

Facebook: @FrJamesMartin 

Instagram: @jamesmartinsj

Twitter: @JamesMartinSJ


Read my review of the Mitford-Father Tim series by Jan Karon:

“The best of summer reading: Christian fiction with Father Tim and Mitford by Jan Karon” 

September 20, 2016 01:00
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Countdown to the canonization of Mother Teresa: Our encounter with the saint

Blessed Mother Teresa (1910-1997)

Tomorrow (August 26) is the 106th anniversary of the birth of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning founder of the Missionaries of Charity. 

This tiny nun, who died at age 87, has inspired countless generations of people all over the world, both Christians and non-Christians alike, who are motivated by her unconditional love and service to the poorest of the poor. 

When Mother’s death was announced on September 5, 1997, less than six months after she had stepped down as head of the religious order she founded in 1950, the world mourned.

Countdown to sainthood:

Fast-forward nineteen years:

In less than two weeks, on September 4, 2016 at the Vatican, Pope Francis will canonize Mother Teresa as a saint of the Church in Saint Peter's Square. The next day, the nineteenth anniversary of her death, will be observed each year as the feast day of Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

It’s no coincidence that the Holy Father is canonizing Mother during this Jubilee Year of Mercy.
For mercy indeed was her mission. 

Not only did Mother serve the needs of the poor and the dying, but she often travelled around the world, speaking at religious gatherings and overseeing the ministry of those who also served as Missionaries of Charity.

My children and I were lucky enough to have our own encounter with Mother Teresa in 1996 in Baltimore.

Our encounter with a saint:

I remember the day so clearly:

I had an unsettled feeling all morning as I taught my religion classes at John Carroll. It was May 30, 1996 and Mother Teresa of Calcutta was going to be in Baltimore later that afternoon. And I wasn't going to be there....

Mother was scheduled to attend a 3 pm Mass that day at Baltimore’s Basilica of the Assumption, our nation's first cathedral, where 35 of her Missionaries of Charity would renew their vows in her presence. This was the top story on all the local news stations, which included announcements of the closure of Cathedral Street after lunch, along with warnings about possible rush hour traffic delays later that day.

As the day progressed and the unsettled feeling persisted, I came to an abrupt realization that I simply had to stop everything I was doing and make it happen. And I came to this conclusion just 90 minutes before the Mass would start in downtown Baltimore, while I was thirty miles north of the city, in Bel Air in Harford County.

Long story short, I called the nearby Catholic grade school and asked if the secretary would have my children packed up and in the main office for an early sign-out in ten minutes. Having a free final period that day, I quickly packed up my books and made my way over to St. Margaret's, realizing with dismay that I needed to stop for gas before I got on the I-95 highway toward Baltimore City. Obstacles galore met us along the way, including every red light possible… 

By the time I got to the packed parking lot located around the corner from the basilica, it was 2:50 p.m. It was actually a miracle that we made it there and found a parking spot before 3 o’clock. The kids and I jogged through the garage and around the corner to find the street closed to car traffic in order to accommodate the numerous media vans and TV satellites on location, along with dozens of reporters. 

Just as we slowed our footsteps in front of the basilica, the most amazing thing happened. The doors opened and out onto the portico stepped Cardinal William Keeler, the Archbishop of Baltimore, accompanied by the diminutive 85-year old Mother Teresa. And we were there!

My children, dressed in their Catholic school uniforms — ages 7, 9, and 11 — and I were right at the bottom of the steps in direct view of a press conference with these two incredibly inspiring people. I remember being so thrilled that my old camera had been in my car, hence, I was able to take some great photos.

After the press conference, the children and I made our way in the side portico door of the basilica to an at-capacity crowd, where the very long liturgical procession was ready to begin. I told the kids to follow me closely, and we made our way down a side aisle where we found a place to stand near the front with a perfect view of the Mass.

It was amazing to be in the presence of this saintly woman, whom I had first seen in person in 1976 at the International Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia. She had gained much notoriety over the twenty years that followed for her work for the poorest of the poor. I was so overcome with gratitude to be there.

We watched as Mother Teresa led the vow renewal ceremony, after which she addressed the congregation, asking all of us to pray for her Sisters and their apostolate. She asked those in attendance to "give us some of your daughters" so that her Sisters can continue to serve the poor and disenfranchised.

After Mass was over, and as we waited to leave our standing-room location, I looked over my shoulder and couldn't believe my eyes... Mother Teresa, who had recessed out with her Sisters in the liturgical line, was coming back down the side aisle toward us. Escorted by a very tall security guard, Mother walked right next to us with her hands folded as if in prayer, while making eye contact and smiling, bowing her head down gracefully toward each of my three children.

It was such a humbling experience to be so close to this holy and inspiring woman. My children were so moved. As we joyfully made our way out of the basilica to walk to our car, we saw why Mother Teresa had walked past us on that side aisle.... There in the little alleyway next to the basilica was the large motor coach bus that her Sisters were boarding. Mother was able to slip out the side door through the sacristy and then onto the bus without being overwhelmed by the massive crowd gathered out front.

I will never forget this last-minute, Holy Spirit-inspired experience as long as I live. And neither will my now-adult children! 

God is good.... All the time!

Read more:

Read more and see other photos from this 1996 historic visit of Mother Teresa to Catholic Charities and to Baltimore’s Basilica of the Assumption: 

August 25, 2016 12:15
By Patti Murphy Dohn

A World Youth Day Prayer for parents, parishes, and friends

By Patti Murphy Dohn

Their bags are packed, boarding passes are printed, and all those passports are ready to be stamped as our young pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Baltimore and other dioceses around our nation head to the airport.

The occasion?
World Youth Day 2016 in Kraków, Poland, the homeland of Pope Saint John Paul II.

Praying for our WYD pilgrims:

Let us join together each day and offer up this prayer for all those attending this year’s WYD celebration with Pope Francis.

Fashioned on the official prayer from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, this version can be used each day by the parishes and families of our pilgrims. 

A World Youth Day Prayer for parents, parishes, and friends: 
(Based on the World Youth Day Prayer for the United States from USCCB)

God our Father,
Be with our young people on their pilgrim journey of faith.
Give them the grace and courage to step forward
in faith and hope on the road ahead. 

Lord Jesus,
Open their eyes to see Your face in all those they encounter. 
Open their ears to hear Your voice in those who are often ignored. 
Open their hearts that they might be faithful disciples of mercy and truth. 

Holy Spirit,
Transform them. Empower them to give of themselves to the poor;
to welcome the lost; to forgive those who hurt them; 
to comfort those who suffer and are marginalized. 
Bless all those who travel on mission from the United States of America
to Krakow in Poland, Land of Divine Mercy, 
to join the universal Church for World Youth Day.
Bless, too, those who celebrate stateside, united in faith and joy. 
Like the disciples who journeyed up the mountain
to witness the Transfiguration, 
May this experience be an encounter
that strengthens them for their work in the world. 
Through the intercession of Mary, the Immaculate Conception,
patroness of our nation,
May they be worthy witnesses of their faith,
humble representatives of our country,
and inspired missionaries
bringing peace, hope, and mercy into our communities. Amen.

Saint James the Apostle, 
patron of pilgrim travelers, 
pray for them.

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, 
young faithful witness from our native land, 
pray for them. 

Saint Therese of Lisieux, 
patroness of missionaries and advocate for youth, 
pray for them. 

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, 
man of the beatitudes and patron of young adults, 
pray for them. 

Saint John Paul II, 
son of Poland and patron of World Youth Day, 
pray for them.  



Read more of my reminiscences on World Youth Day:

For more information on World Youth Day: 

1. Visit the World Youth Day page on the website of the U.S. Catholic Bishops;

2. The Catholic Review will provide daily coverage about their experiences in “Pilgrims in Krakow” 


July 21, 2016 09:18
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Catholic Throwback Thursday: A brief history of World Youth Day

The logo for the 2016 WYD in Kraków was designed by Monika Rybczyńska: Read about the symbolism in her design here.


"You are the future of the world, you are the hope of the Church, you are my hope.”
—The greeting of Pope John Paul II to youth during his papal inauguration Mass on October 22, 1978


In less than two weeks, hundreds of thousands of young people and youth ministers from all over the world will descend upon Kraków, Poland for World Youth Day 2016

The Archdiocese of Baltimore will be represented among the huge crowds. A delegation of 40 young adults, led by Father Matt Buening, Catholic chaplain at Towson University, as well as seminarians Matt Himes and Tyler Kline, will be in attendance. Local teen groups from Mount de Sales Academy and St. Mary’s Church, Annapolis are traveling to Poland as well. 

The Catholic Review will have up-to-date coverage each day from Maureen Cromer, who will blog about her experiences in “Pilgrims in Krakow.”  

Why Kraków?

The homeland of Pope Saint John Paul II is the perfect location for a celebration for World Youth Day (WYD) during this Jubilee Year of Mercy. This year’s theme, which was one of three Beatitude-inspired WYD themes announced by Pope Francis in 2013, is “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy." (Mt 5:7) 

During the 1983-1984 Holy Year of the Redemption (which marked 1950 years after Jesus’s crucifixion, death, and resurrection), as well as the 1985 United Nation’s International Youth Year, Pope John Paul II invited young people to come to Rome to pray with him each year on Palm (Passion) Sunday. Though organizers initially expected about 60,000 to attend, crowds ranged from 250,000 in 1984 to 300,000 in 1985. These youth from many nations, who gathered with the Holy Father at the Vatican, affirmed their desire to be actively connected to Christ and their Catholic faith.  

The next year, in December of 1985, Pope John Paul II announced the institution of local events, which he called “World Youth Days,” to be held on the diocesan level every Palm Sunday, commencing in 1986. The Holy Father would also attend international gatherings for WYD, to be held every two or three years in different countries which he would select. 

Pope John Paul II reflected on these early youth events in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994):

“No one invented the World Youth Days. It was the young people themselves who created them.  Those days, those encounters, then became something desired by young people throughout the world. Most of the time these Days were something of a surprise for priests, and even bishops, in that they surpassed all their expectations."

International celebrations: 

The first international World Youth Day was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1987. Pope John Paul II also presided over seven more before his death in 2005. They were held in the following locations: 

  • Santiago de Compostela, Spain, 1989;
  • Częstochowa, Poland, 1991;
  • Denver, Colorado, 1993;  
  • Manila, Philippines, 1995;
  • Paris, France, 1997;
  • Rome, 2000 for the Jubilee Year;
  • Toronto, Canada, 2002;

Above: Then-Archbishop of Baltimore William H. Keeler took this photo in the helicopter with Pope John Paul II, who was praying his rosary when he sees the enormous crowd gathered in Cherry Creek State Park for the WYD-Denver closing Mass on Aug. 15, 1993.
He later told the youth there:
“Place your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion and your fortitude at the service of life.”
(Photo by Archbishop W. H. Keeler)


To the 800,000 youth gathered at the closing vigil in Toronto in 2002, which would be the last international WYD for Pope John Paul II:

“When, back in 1985, I wanted to start the World Youth Days… I imagined a powerful moment in which the young people of the world could meet Christ, who is eternally young, and could learn from him how to be bearers of the Gospel to other young people. This evening, together with you, I praise God and give thanks to him for the gift bestowed on the Church through the World Youth Days. Millions of young people have taken part, and as a result have become better and more committed Christian witnesses.” 

—Pope John Paul II, July 28, 2002, Toronto


Pope Benedict and Pope Francis continue the legacy of WYD:

Four months after the death of Pope John Paul II in April 2, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI presided over World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany (August, 2005), followed by Sydney, Australia (2008), and Madrid, Spain (2011).

Pope Benedict greets the crowds after arriving at WYD in Madrid (AP photo).


Pope Francis, who was elected in March of 2013 after the resignation of Pope Benedict, traveled to Rio de Janeiro just four months later for WYD (July, 2013). At the closing Mass at Copacabana beach, he joyfully announced that he would meet again with youth from all over the world for WYD 2016 in Kraków, Poland, the homeland of now-Saint John Paul II. 

Three million people gathered on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro for the closing Mass of WYD 2013 with Pope Francis.
(Photo: AP/ Felipe Dana)

WYD 2016 in Kraków:

According to Rome Reports, registrations for this upcoming WYD have been received from thousands of youth representing 107 countries, along with more than 10,000 priests, over 800 bishops and almost 50 cardinals. Poland, Italy, France, Spain, and the United States are the five countries with the most registrations. 

As Pope Francis prepares to join our young people in Kraków, organizers are expecting as many as 2 million to attend the overnight vigil and closing Mass on July 31.

These young people who gather in Kraków next week are in for one of the most exhilarating spiritual experiences of their lifetime. Not only will they meet people from around the world, attend catechetical sessions and Mass each day, but they will have countless opportunities to open their hearts to hear God’s call to live a life of mercy as they experience His love in new and profound ways. 

Let’s keep all the youth in our prayers.
God is good!


Read more of my reminisces on World Youth Day here in:

July 14, 2016 01:59
By Patti Murphy Dohn

The best of summer reading: Christian fiction with Father Tim and Mitford by Jan Karon

Jan Karon, author of the Mitford series and the Father Tim books (Photo by her daughter, Candace Freeland)


"Everywhere I have sought rest and not found it, except sitting in a corner by myself with a book." 
-Saint Thomas à Kempis


Summertime is the best time to get lost in a book. Whether you are curled up on your favorite chair at home or on the beach, a good book can make all the difference in the quality of your relaxation. When coupled with inspiring thoughts and good characters, reading can lift your mind and heart, and even change the way you think and act.

Last September, one of my Florida neighbors gave me a much-loved, tattered paperback and told me that I was in for a treat. Bill and his wife Chris sang the praises of the author, Jan Karon, and her many books. This particular copy of At Home in Mitford was obviously read, reread, and shared many times. I was intrigued and soon after I started chapter one, I was hooked.

Published in 1994 by Christian fiction author Jan Karon, At Home in Mitford is the first in a series of nine books set in the small town of Mitford in the western hills of North Carolina. Father Tim Kavanagh, the main character, is a 60-plus year old Episcopal priest who had been never married and who has devoted all his time, energy, and prayers to his small parish and all the people of their village and its surrounding environs. 

The first book is a delightful, easy read, as we learn about this sweet town, its people, their families and gardens, the businesses of Main Street where their day to day interactions take place, and the great big dog who showed up and “adopted” their favorite rector.

You will surely love their adventures… from the villagers who share easy camaraderie (for the most part) with their neighbors, to the terribly tragic plight of their mountain poor and homeless. 

Interspersed with some joke-telling from one of their favorite seniors, garden tips for growing the best flowers in the region, and home-cooked favorites, as well as Esther’s famous orange marmalade cake, At Home in Mitford will keep you alternately smiling, then wiping away a few poignant tears, and then smiling again as the lives of Father Tim and his neighbors grow on your heart.

"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good
poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few 
reasonable words.”
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 
(Quoted in In the Company of Others)

When I finished reading this first Mitford book, I reflected on the beautiful manner in which prayer and Scripture were easily used throughout daily interactions, and how natural it was for Father Tim and his neighbors to talk about God’s presence in their lives. A huge emphasis was placed on relying on God's help, as promised in Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Yes, it truly inspired me.

And I surely loved the way this gentle rector, a voracious reader of poetry and quality nonfiction, was always recording his favorite quotes in a notebook. In fact, the many beautifully cited and well-placed quotes gave me much food for thought as well, and I often found myself tweeting them out or posting them on Facebook. 

I was hooked and read the next eight books in the Mitford series in rapid succession.

Among the topics that were addressed so eloquently were:
  • “the beauty of ordinary people living ordinary lives;”
  • trusting in "the prayer that never fails" (Do you know which one?);
  • falling in love and the difficulties involved in making a commitment;
  • discerning marriage later in life;
  • the evolving role of pets in one’s life and home;
  • living with a chronic illness;
  • the reluctant adopting of changing forms of technology, including cell phones and email, to keep up with the times;
  • fostering good ecumenical relationships with the other church communities in Mitford; 
  • providing foster care for an abused mountain child;
  • to retire or not to retire?
  • the politics involved when big business wants to move into a small town;
  • being forced to do things differently when you dislike any kind of change;
  • battling depression, alcoholism, and other at-risk issues;
  • seeing clergy as real people with real struggles and an equal need for God’s mercy;
  • bringing people into relationship with God after they come to know Him;
  • and much, much more. 

"There are three stages in the work of God: impossible, difficult, done."
-James Hudson Taylor 
(Quoted in Light from Heaven)
The Father Tim books:

After writing the nine Mitford books, Jan Karon decided to take the now-retired Father Tim away from Mitford, as she started to write about his adventures in other places. Interviews with Mrs. Karon find her reflecting on the decision to move away from the mountain town and its residents, taking Father Tim back to his Mississippi hometown after more than 30 years away in Home to Holly Springs. There he recalled the transformational moments of his childhood and those who most influenced him in his early years, as well as uncovering family secrets that would change his life forever.

Next, Karon writes about Father Tim traveling across the Pond to introduce his wife, a famous children’s author and illustrator, to his ancestral roots in County Sligo, Ireland in In the Company of Others.

Candidly, these first two volumes of the Father Tim books were especially intense for me to read. As we know, life is not always easy and Jan Karon did not shy away from the tough topics. Both books included detailed accounts of family trials, including the back story of what led to the cold, abusive personality of his father in Home to Holly Springs, and later in Ireland, the discovery in the fishing lodge’s library of a century-old family journal that gave insight into the complex relationships of the multi-generational innkeepers’ family (In the Company of Others).

Never give up… 

I was so glad that I did not give up reading these volumes—tough as some of the tales were—especially Home to Holly Springs, which was so difficult for me to read. In retrospect, I found that both volumes taught so much about the consequences of uncovering of family secrets, as well as the sacred power of both interpersonal and divine reconciliation.

I am now happily reading the third of the Father Tim books, Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, which takes us “back home” again to Mitford and its neighbors, with their new adventures. The delicate circle of life goes on, acknowledging that over the years some of our most beloved characters have died, leaving their marks on the town and its people. 

I look forward to reading the fourth book in this Father Tim series, Come Rain or Come Shine, just released in paperback in May, which promises to take us to the blessed joining of two lives in matrimony, characters whom we have seen grow up through the course of these beautiful novels. 

Hopefully, Jan Karon will continue writing for a long, long time!

“Lord, make me a blessing to someone today.” 
― Father Tim,  At Home in Mitford

Does your reading make you want to be better and do better?

It is my hope that the books you are reading leave you inspired and refreshed as all the beautiful books by Jan Karon have left me. If your reading makes you want to be a better person and keep your relationship with God centered forefront in your life, then you have found a great gift indeed.

What are you reading this summer?

Have you read any of Jan Karon’s books?
Tell me about your favorite characters and how you were inspired.

Or recommend something for me to read next.

Drop me a line on Facebook or email me at:


A Guide to the Books of Jan Karon:

The Mitford Years: 
At Home in Mitford (1994)  
A Light in the Window (1995)  
Out to Canaan (1997)  
A New Song (1999)  
In This Mountain (2002)  
Shepherds Abiding (2003)  
Light from Heaven (2005)  

Father Tim books:
Home to Holly Springs (2007)  

Children's books:
Miss Fannie's Hat (1998) 

Christmas books: 
The Mitford Snowmen (2001)  

Patches of Godlight: Father Tim's Favorite Quotes (2001) - religious quotes used in the Mitford series  


Follow Jan Karon on Facebook.

July 08, 2016 01:45
By Patti Murphy Dohn

With gratitude for the work of this evangelist: Birthday blessings to Cardinal William Henry Keeler

Happy 85th birthday, Cardinal Keeler!

March 4 marks the 85th birthday of our much-loved retired Archbishop. Cardinal Keeler served as the fourteenth Archbishop of Baltimore from 1989 to 2007. His episcopal motto is "Opus Fac Evangelistae" (Do The Work of an Evangelist).

Born in 1931 in San Antonio, Texas, William Henry Keeler was ordained to the priesthood at age 24 at the Church of the Holy Apostles (Santi Apostoli) in Rome in 1955. 

Father Keeler was named Auxiliary Bishop of Harrisburg by Pope John Paul II in July of 1979, with his episcopal ordination on September 21, 1979 at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Harrisburg.

Following the death of Bishop Joseph T. Daley in late 1983, he was appointed Bishop of Harrisburg. His Installation Mass was celebrated by Cardinal John Joseph Krol, then-Archbishop of Philadelphia, on the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, January 4, 1984.

Five years later, Pope John Paul II named him the fourteenth Archbishop of Baltimore, following the retirement of Archbishop William Donald Borders. The installation liturgy was held on May 23, 1989 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen to a standing room only crowd.

Archbishop Keeler was elevated to the College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II on November 28, 1994. A large contingency from the Archdiocese went to Rome for the consistory that included his elevation and the reception of the “red hat.”


A look back at a few highlights from Cardinal Keeler's years as Archbishop of Baltimore:

1. Cardinal William Keeler named Marylander of the Year in 1994 by the Baltimore Sun: 

The Baltimore Sun named newly-elevated Cardinal Keeler "Marylander of the Year" when he was named to the College of Cardinals by Pope John Paul II, "a position that reaffirmed Baltimore's importance as the seat of American Catholicism.”

"For leadership in interfaith dialogue, for strengthening the Archdiocese of Baltimore and for restoring Baltimore's prominence in the Church to what history (but no longer size) requires, Cardinal William H. Keeler is The Baltimore Sun's Marylander of the Year. He has been a preeminent force for good will and understanding since becoming a Marylander five years ago."


Sharing a welcoming embrace with Cardinal Keeler before Mass at Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Photo: Baltimore Sun)

2. The 1995 Papal visit:

One of Baltimore's proudest moments:  The October 8, 1995 visit of Pope John Paul II to our city.

See more photos and read more about that glorious day in "Catholic Throwback Thursday: The 1995 visit of Pope John Paul II to Baltimore."


(White House photo: Eric Draper)

3. Representing the American Church in Rome at the Funeral of Pope John Paul II:

President George W. Bush greets the U.S.-based Cardinals on Thursday, April 7, 2005, in Rome at Villa Taverna, the residence of Mel Sembler, U.S. Ambassador to Italy.

From left are: Roger Cardinal Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles; President Bush; Francis Cardinal George, archbishop of Chicago; Justin Cardinal Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, and William Cardinal Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore.


(Photo: Archdiocese of Baltimore)

4. The re-opening of the Baltimore Basilica after the historic renovation:

At the Rededication Mass for the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on November 5, 2006:
Cardinal Keeler, seen here wearing the pectoral cross of Archbishop John Carroll, delivered the homily at this historic Mass. He had invited Cardinal James Francis Stafford, former Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore, then serving in Rome, to be principal celebrant of this first public liturgy after the $34 million project to restore the basilica to its original design.

With His Eminence at left is Msgr. James Vincent Hobbs, the late rector of the Basilica who oversaw restoration project and who passed away in 2012.


Cardinal Keeler retired from administrative episcopal ministry in the Fall of 2007.

(Photo: Archdiocese of Baltimore)

With love and prayers of gratitude for your service to our Archdiocese and to the Universal Church:

Happy Birthday, Cardinal Keeler! 
Thank you on behalf of your grateful flock.

Read more of my reflections on the great legacy of Cardinal Keeler to Baltimore:

1. Opus Fac Evangelistae: Celebrating 35 years as a bishop with Cardinal William H. Keeler

2. Catholic Throwback Thursday: The 1995 visit of Pope John Paul II to Baltimore

3. Catholic Throwback Thursday: Remembering the 1996 visit of Blessed Mother Teresa to Baltimore

March 03, 2016 02:48
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Putting it in God’s hands: A prayer while serving on jury duty

I received my first summons for jury duty in Palm Beach County last November. It was to be my first experience with the legal system in South Florida since becoming a Florida resident eight months earlier. You see, my husband and I split our time between our homes down here on Singer Island and up north in our quiet neighborhood in Bel Air.

I had previously served on a jury about five years ago in Harford County, Maryland at the Bel Air courthouse. That presiding judge had asked me to be the foreperson, so I received the full legal experience in what turned out to be a rather difficult trial. 

This time in Florida, though, I had to request a delay of service as we were set to go home to Maryland for holiday celebrations with our family and friends. The first date that I submitted for rescheduling my jury service was selected. 

So last Monday morning found me among a pool of 340 persons reporting to the main courthouse in downtown West Palm Beach. And late that afternoon I was selected to serve on a jury for a trial. We were told to report back for duty the next morning ready to hear opening statements. 

I did not sleep well that night. On my mind was the young person who would be on trial the next day. I was anxious about the difficult decisions that would be made by those of us on the jury. As the attorneys were fast to remind us during the selection process, a person’s liberty was at stake. 

I was led the next morning to search for a suitable prayer that might help me put into words all that was on my heart. The blog, “Mr. Gobley: Seeking the Divine in the mundane -- and celebrating it” provided exactly what I sought. 

And though the references to bad food and grimy windows did not apply to my situation, the words of this prayer put my mind and heart at peace each morning before I left for the courthouse.

Perhaps the next time you are called to serve on a jury this prayer might bring peace to your mind as well.

O Just and Righteous Maker:

Today, as we begin the process
Of deciding the future course
Of a troubled life,
Be with us:

Be with us in the tedious hours
Of testimony,
The breaks for bad food;
Let us sense Your presence
Beyond the grimy courtroom windows
And hovering above:

As there is judge and jury,
Prosecutor and defense,
So is there
Your patient Providence,
Which encompasses all of these,
And more.

Whatever the actions of the accused,
Whatever our decision,
Let not shattered lives
Be lived for naught.

And let those of us
Who have been brought together
To determine one person's fate

Be to each other
As counselors,
As companions

On a journey
Toward the justice
You have always sought
To make.


March 01, 2016 01:37
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Think outside the box: Creative suggestions for a more spiritual Lent

As always, time is flying by. The circle of the liturgical calendar, like the circle of life, keeps moving forward. No sooner than the Christmas decorations have been put away, the green of Ordinary Time made a brief appearance, only to be replaced tomorrow by purple. 

Yes, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday and the start to the Lenten season of prayer and repentance. We are called anew to put our faith first and focus on making right all that holds us back from a life of God’s grace. And this Jubilee Year of Mercy is the perfect time to consider taking a deeper look at our spiritual lives.

Make a personal plan for Lent:

Three years ago, before I retired as the Campus Minister at John Carroll, I challenged my students and faculty to think outside the box in planning for a more spiritual Lent. You too can have a more spiritual 40-day journey if you observe this sacred season with a heart committed to renewal.

Today I’m offering another look at the 25 suggestions I gave the John Carroll community for a more spiritual Lent.

Some of my suggestions come from Lifeteen, while others are traditional or from my own reflections. Maybe you will find something in this list of ideas to adopt to make your observance of Lent richer this year. Many involve some level of sacrifice from comfort or luxury to an experience of solidarity with those who have far less than we have. 

25 Suggestions for a more spiritual Lent: 
Part I: Give it up!

1. For generations, Catholics and other Christians have given up desserts, snacks, and soft drinks for the 40-days of Lent. If you do this, donate the money you save from abstaining from these items and from avoiding snack-stops at places like Wawa, Dunkin Donuts, and Starbucks to the poor box at your parish or send a donation to Catholic Relief Services.  

2. Give up all drinks, except for water, in solidarity with those who cannot afford coffee and specialty drinks. There are many people in the world who do not have clean water. Catholic Relief Services teaches how we can make a difference. Click on this link to learn more.  

3. The Church teaches us that fasting should be as a big part of our Lenten practice, especially on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Perhaps you might consider fasting more often. Limiting the number of meals, eating only basic food items, and staying away from alcohol might be part of your considerations. 

Coupled with prayer, fasting is an amazing spiritual experience. Saint Francis De Sales taught, "If you are able to fast, you will do well to observe some days beyond what are ordered by the Church."

And Saint Alphonsus Liguori said,  "God has given us the goods of the earth, not only that we may enjoy them, but also that we may have the means of ... showing Him our love by the voluntary renunciation of His gifts, and by the oblation of them to His glory. To abandon, for God’s sake, all worldly enjoyments, has always been the practice of holy souls."

4. We know that the Church also teaches us to abstain from eating meat on the Fridays of Lent and on Ash Wednesday. Many of us remember when all Fridays were meatless days before 1966. One of my daughters gave up meat for the entire 40 days of Lent when she was in college and found that it not only made her more health-conscious, since she is not a vegetarian, but it also gave her a better understanding of what the poor go through when there is not enough money to spend on burgers, chicken breasts, and steaks for their families. Meal planning is a constant reminder of what you are doing for Lent and why. 

Do you think you could you give up meat for all the days of Lent? 

5. Don't wear shoes, except for work and school, in honor of those who have no shoes from poor countries.  A John Carroll grad from the Class of 2011 did her Senior Project on the Toms program "One Day Without Shoes." It made such an impact that Ellen took her efforts with her to college and sponsored this program at High Point University. 

6. Give up Facebook and other social media in order to nurture relationships through more personal face-to-face communications. Some young people agree that they waste a lot of time on Facebook and Instagram that could be better spent on their studies. Their teachers and parents would support this effort, I am confident.

7. Give up listening to music in the car in order to be more in tune with God's presence in the silence and to appreciate His creation while driving. (See number 22.) 

8. Though not for everyone, consider giving up the use of hot water in the shower to live in solidarity with those who have little to no water and have not ever had the luxury of a relaxing hot shower.

9. Again not for everyone, could you give up the use of your bed? I have read about some who have chosen to sleep on the floor in sleeping bags, while others close to sleep on the sofa each night instead. 

I also read about a young person from wintery Canada who not only gave up his bed for the 40 days of Lent, but he slept outside in a tent in solidarity with the homeless and wrote about it in his daily blog.

10. Can’t give up your bed? Maybe you might consider giving up your pillow for Lent to experience discomfort in solidarity with those who have no pillows in so many places in our world.

11. Could you give up the complete use of your cell phone and its apps and text-messaging? Just use your cell in case of emergency? No checking email, Facebook, playing games, taking photos, and so on? This would definitely be a challenge for those of us with smart phones.

12. How about giving up video games? Our young people especially might find this challenging. Replace the time spent on games in other productive ways: studying, quality family time, working on a project around the house, and so on.

13. Not a morning person? Try giving up the snooze button on your alarm clock to be better-disciplined. Practice makes perfect.

14.  Ladies, could you give up using make-up? Let your natural beauty, both internal and external, shine out!

15. How about giving up watching television and movies for this sacred season? Replace that viewing with activities that are more meaningful.

16. Music is such a big part of the culture in which we live, consider giving up your favorite playlists on your iPod and listen only to Christian music. There are lots of varieties available, including Christian rock. 

When we allow spiritual music to become an “earworm,” running continually through your mind, it becomes a time of prayer.

Part II: Go for it!

Most of my suggestions above have involved some level of sacrifice. 
Below, I will give some ideas for proactive ways to spend Lent:

17. Improve your spirit of giving by doing random acts of kindness. I noticed this trend after the tragic deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary.  

People did random acts of kindness in honor of those who were killed. (Some of the ideas listed on this blog brought tears to my eyes.)

If you have ever had someone pay your toll at a bridge or pick up your lunch tab at a restaurant, you know that it was unexpected and made you smile. Pass on the goodness with which you have been blessed by doing spontaneous random acts of kindness.  

18. In the same manner, schedule some volunteer hours at your local soup kitchen, food pantry, and other hands-on charitable organizations. Consider serving the daily hot meal at Catholic Charities' Our Daily Bread

19. Give thanks: 
Make a list of 40 persons who have touched your life in a meaningful way and write a note of thanks to one of them each day of Lent. Let them know the impact they have made on your life. 

People of all ages could do this and enjoy this reflection on good memories and gratitude for all the people on their list. The recipients will be overjoyed with the results. Just ask any teacher who has ever had a grateful note from a former student. Priceless.

20. Do you talk a lot? Maybe for Lent, you will try to be a better listener and tune into the thoughts, ideas, and concerns of those around you instead. 
Can't stop talking? Make a few visits to elderly at the local assisted living facility or nursing home. So many of our elderly yearn for companionship.

21. Examine your gifts and talents… Then pass it on. 
I often challenged my students in this manner: If you do well in Math, help tutor someone who is having a tough time. Play a musical instrument? Then encourage another person who is interested in learning and give them lessons. Talented in your sport? Show another person how to better their athletic skills. Are you super-organized? Help another person straighten out their locker and binder, and get them on a better path for academic success. 

There are a multitude of ways to pass on your God-given gifts and talents to those around you.

Prayer, Mass, and Reconciliation:

22. Saint Louis De Monfort said, "The Rosary is a priceless treasure inspired by God." Pray the rosary for the special intentions of a different friend or family member each day of Lent. Some say that it takes thirty days to form a habit. What better habit to form than praying the rosary? Think you don't have enough time? Try praying the rosary while you drive. (See number 7.)
Think of the wisdom of Pope Saint Pius X: "Of all prayers, the rosary is the most beautiful and the richest in graces.... Therefore, love the Rosary and recite it every day with devotion: This is the testament which I leave unto you so that you may remember me by it." 

Print out this rosary guide to help you with the mysteries and prayers, if needed.  

23. Consider going to Mass more often during Lent. Our parishes see a greater number of people attending daily morning (or lunch hour, where available) Masses during both Advent and Lent. 

The Mass aids that are available are a wonderful way to enter more deeply into the liturgical celebration during all seasons of the Church Year. Many of us carried our personal missals or breviaries with us to Mass. Now there are many other options available to enhance your experience of worship. 

I have subscribed to "Magnificat" since it first came out almost fifteen years ago. It not only includes the readings and prayers for daily Mass, but also has morning and evening prayer, writings of the saints, and information on each holy day or patron saint. 

Five years ago, another similar Mass aid, "Give Us This Day," was offered by Liturgical Press. My husband gave me a two-year subscription for Christmas a few years ago. I used both prayer books  for personal and school use. Each softbound volume is filled with excellent helps to assist us during both prayer time and Mass. 

And both companies offer a free sample, as well as online options and apps for your smart phones and iPads. 

24.  Participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation during this sacred season. The Archdiocese of Baltimore started a wonderful program in 2011 called “The Light is on for You” to encourage Catholics to reconnect with the sacrament during Lent. 

This link from the U.S. Catholic Bishops has some great resources and guides for preparing to celebrate this wonderful sacrament of spiritual healing and renewal. 

25. Let’s leave this last idea open-ended and unspoken:
You know yourself better than anyone else. You know what you need to do to put God first and to honor and help those around you. You know what you could do to better the condition of those who are less-fortunate. And only you know best if you need to re-prioritize your life.

Take some time to think and make an age-appropriate personal plan and put that plan into action on Ash Wednesday. 

In the end:

You will be a better person for making the time and effort to get closer to God through your sacrifices and works of mercy.

Always remember, if you don’t succeed in sticking to your plan each day, don’t give up as one might abandon a New Year’s resolution. Just put your best foot forward the next day and try again. 

I have had some students and colleagues tell me over the years that they forgot about no-meat on Friday. I tell them not to panic, rather try to stay away from meat on Saturday that week and try to remember the following Friday.

The Church advocates all Fridays as special days of sacrifice in union with our Lord's ultimate sacrifice for us on Good Friday. We are taught that all Fridays should be days of prayer and sacrifice year-round. The U.S. Bishops Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence is a great read. 

God loves our efforts to be better and holier people. I am certain that He will give us the grace we need to be more faithful to Him in all areas of our lives during Lent and all the sacred seasons of the Church Year.
Never forget: God is good… All the Time!

February 09, 2016 11:16
By Patti Murphy Dohn

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