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

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 God is good!! All the time!!



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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

Living forward, understanding backwards: Quelling life's fears and worries

Sunset from our home on Singer Island on August 5 (Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn)


"Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
--St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians 4: 6-7


Summertime is usually a season when people focus on warm weather, beach vacations, and a much slower pace.

You know... Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer that Nat King Cole sang about in the 60's.

But times are often not that easy for some families.

Earlier this summer, I was writing upbeat, fun reflections on summertime from our home in South Florida.

As George Gershwin wrote, "Summertime and the livin' is easy..."

As I always say, Life, as we know it, can change in an instant... 

In the middle of our summer, it changed. Stories of families and individuals with devastating troubles were all around me.

And I wrote several times about the enormous worry when Austin and Perry, the 14-year old boys from Tequesta, Florida, went out of the Jupiter, Florida Inlet on a small boat and became lost at sea. This happened just twelve miles north of our home on Singer Island in Palm Beach County.

I joined forces via social media with their families and friends down here in South Florida to get prayers and info out about their plight and possible safe return. For these families, it's now been 14 days missing at sea, with the Coast Guard having ended their search last weekend. 

And, frankly, I fear these families may never have closure as to what happened (and why) to their sons. 

Read more about my reflections and prayers for the boys here:

Part 1: 

Part 2:

Living forward, understanding backwards:

When things get tough, it is easy to become consumed with worry... And to be overcome by the fear. 

For as we know, tragedy and heartache can and do hit without warning. 
Serious illness, death, heartbreak, family disharmony, and so much more... 
The worries of life could consume us. 

God works in mysterious ways and we often don't see the beauty of His Providence until later after a crisis passes by. 

Kierkegaard was right when he said, 
"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."

We usually do not realize the hand of God guiding us through tough times until after we get through the worst. Reflecting back, we are better able to see "the good" that has come out of a bad situation.

The famous "Footprints" prayer comes to mind.

So today I'm praying for all those who are experiencing tough times.
Praying that they will trust in God's Providence and that their worry and fear will be replaced with peace and hope. 

Popular family blogger Rachel Wojnarowski shared a beautiful prayer on her website recently for those who are worried.

Dear God,

My mind can hardly fathom the depth of your love for me.
So when my anxious heart feels suffocated
with the mounds of worry this life can bring,
I only know to come to you.
You who know every hair on my head.
You who flung stars into space.
You who plan every step I take.
When my worry mounds and builds,
escalating to numbers that exceed my expectations,
You ask me to relinquish my cares to Your hand.
The hand that created the hair on my head.
The hand that created the starry night sky.
The hand that holds my future.
Would you give me the courage to trust You wholly?
Would you give me Your peace that calms all fears?
For that is when I am rejuvenated…
From pitiful worrier…
To prayer warrior.
Thank you, Jesus.


May you rest in the assurance of God's loving presence during your times of worry.

In good times and in bad, God is good... All the time. Amen.

August 06, 2015 02:52
By Patti Murphy Dohn

‘Planting seeds’ at the Msgr. O’Dwyer Retreat House: The impact of a retreat letter forty years later

Msgr. O'Dwyer Retreat House in Sparks, Maryland
(Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn)

For over five decades, the Msgr. O’Dwyer Retreat House has served the spiritual needs of the young people of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Affectionately called ‘the House’ by those of us who have ministered there, O’Dwyer hosts thousands of youth and young adults each year. 

Founded in 1963 as the CYO Retreat House, this archdiocesan facility was founded by Msgr. Clare O’Dwyer who envisioned a “spiritual powerhouse” for our youth. Cardinal Lawrence Shehan (the 12th Archbishop of Baltimore from 1961-1974) approved the purchase of an old lodge with twenty acres in the northern Baltimore County town of Sparks. Msgr. O'Dwyer directed the students from Mount St. Joseph High School on the first retreat in September of 1963. The House was renamed for Msgr. O'Dwyer after his death in 1982.

Having led junior retreats there for many years for my students at The John Carroll School, I can personally attest to the fact that lives are changed there. And for some high-risk youth, lives are saved… literally and spiritually.

A great story from the Director of the House:

Michael Downes has served as O'Dwyer's director since 2011. He shared with me this beautiful story about how retreats often impact lives many year later, sometimes in the most amazing ways. Enjoy this heartwarming story and his personal reflections that follow.

“God sending a note from her younger self to her older self”

“Last November, I received a completely unexpected phone call, and had the opportunity to hear another of those wonderful stories about the impact that being at the Msgr. O’Dwyer Retreat House had on someone’s life. It is a great story for all those who work in ministry and work with young people.

“Kathy, who lives in Oregon now, was on the phone. She let me know that she had attended a retreat here at the House as a teenager in 1972, and had greatly enjoyed being here. Kathy also let me know that during the retreat the participants wrote a letter to themselves, which after the retreat was mailed home to them. Kathy got her letter, but never opened it. The letter got put aside and forgotten about.

"Fast forward nearly 30 years later to 2000. Her mom is cleaning out the house and sends a bunch of Kathy’s things to her in a box. One of the things Kathy comes across is the letter from her retreat. This discovery came during a particularly trying time for herself and her husband. She didn’t go into a lot of detail of what was in the letter, but she did tell me a few things. 

“Kathy thought of it as God sending her a note from her younger self to her older self, reminding her of the important lessons from retreat. It contained things such as love yourself as God loves you, take time to be with God in prayer, that God is in the people you meet, and that you have much to offer. 

“…God giving her just what she needed when she needed it.”

“She (Kathy) also said it was God giving her just what she needed when she needed it. The letter was put away for safe keeping, and for a time, forgotten about again.

“Kathy then told me that a few months ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Luckily it has been found early and her treatment is going well. It is also about this time Kathy rediscovered the letter from retreat in a jewelry box. Once again it was just what she needed to hear in a tremendously difficult time in her life. It was yet another, and now a familiar way, that God reached out to her and provided what she needed. 

“This time she felt compelled to call the House and tell someone about her experiences, and it was my good fortune to be that person. Kathy talked about what a special place the House is for young people, how she was so grateful for the experience she had here as a teen, and how grateful she is for the effect her retreat has had on her 30 and 40 years later! She told me she was praying for the young people coming here on retreat, for the staff, and for the work of the House.

“…so much of what we do in ministering to youth is planting seeds…”

“The call was such a blessing and another amazing example of God’s grace. It gave a clear reminder of how so much of what we do in ministering to youth is planting seeds, and that in God’s time it bears fruit. In the busyness and the sometime frustrations of the day, in the grind of the week, we might lose sight of what we’re trying to do in our ministry, of what our mission is, and what it’s really about. The fruits of our labors might be seen that day, or in a week, or a month, or a year; or sometimes 40 years from now! 

“Reminders like Kathy’s help us to know that our work with young people does bear fruit even though we realize many times we’ll never get to see it, or hear about these types of experiences. I am so grateful to Kathy for being God’s messenger in this instance. 

“God wants us all to know that the work we do with youth every day is important and does matter. It helps to provide us the strength and hope we need to continue on in our ministry.

“This is but one of literally hundreds of thousands of stories of young people who have experienced the ministry of the Retreat House. Young people, now adults, who were given the opportunity to come on retreat, and to deepen their relationship with the Living God through activities, games, talks, prayer, reflection, Reconciliation, and Eucharist. Young people who today still continue to deepen that relationship with their Savior, who are this generation’s disciples. We pray they develop what will be a lifetime relationship with Jesus, and spread the Good News to others.
May God continue to bless us all, and continue to bless our ministry to youth!”

—Mike Downes, Director, Msgr. O’Dwyer Retreat House

Read more about the Msgr. O'Dwyer Retreat House here:

1. Read about what the House has meat to John Carroll students since the late 1970s:

4. Welcoming new director Michael Downes in 2011:

February 26, 2015 03:00
By Patti Murphy Dohn

The impact of a Catholic education lasts a lifetime: Part 2

Catholic Schools Week: January 25-31, 2015


On Sunday I kicked off Catholic Schools Week (CSW) with my best memories from years past during my ministry at John Carroll and some reflections by grads of Catholic schools in Harford County.

In Part 2, I'll continue to share more reflections from Catholic school grads on the impact that this education had on their lives.

More reflections on our Catholic schools: 

"...her words come back to me."

 Mrs. Susan Fisher, retired John Carroll English department chair, attended grade school at St. Charles Borromeo in her native Toledo, Ohio.

She reminisced,

"An Ursuline sister, Sister St. Simon, my teacher for fourth, fifth, and sixth grades, held me accountable and didn't allow easy A's.  She treated her students as adults with intelligence instead of as children.  She also boosted my confidence by publishing an essay about me as an example of why students should be trusted and given the freedom of their own ideas."

Susan later attended Mary Manse College in Toledo, a women's college which opened in 1922 and was also operated by the Ursuline Sisters. She reflected,

"Years later, I had the good fortune to attend a women's college where this same sister had transferred; I enrolled in her philosophy course, Metaphysics.  Every time I'm in an existential mood, her words come back to me.  I hope I became a teacher who was like her in that I tried to find the best in my students and to avoid talking down to them."

(Note: Mary Manse College eventually went coed in 1972, but when hard hit by economic times in the 1970s, declared bankruptcy and closed in 1975.)

Mrs. Fisher’s AP English class hosted Holocaust survivor Leo Bretholz in 2011.

Bretholz was the author of “Leap into Darkness: Seven Years on the Run in Wartime Europe.”


Read more about their extraordinary classroom experience here.

Bretholz died in March of 2014 at age 93.

Read more about Leo Bretholz's impact on John Carroll students here.



"...beacons of morality and inspiration."


2014 John Carroll grad Lindsey McCumber is now a freshman at UCLA. She shares about the impact that John Carroll had on her life:

"After attending public schools during elementary and middle school grades, John Carroll was a breath of fresh air. The teachers stood not only as instructors, but as beacons of morality and inspiration.  

"Throughout my four years, I developed a higher moral compass and became a part of a strong community full of love and support... that way in part because of the community's shared faith. I can't believe that it was sheer chance that just about every faculty member and student was happy to come to school.

"I feel that because faith served as our school's foundation, somehow it made the experience more pleasant and enjoyable, and it always made me feel safe. I never realized this in its entirety until I spent time at a non-religious institution (at college now at UCLA)... There is definitely a difference.

"Another thing that really touched me was how whenever I would discuss my career aspirations with my teachers, they would refer to God's purpose/calling for me. That was unbelievably comforting, knowing that I wasn't pursuing a silly job, but rather finding out what I was meant to do.  

"It also made me feel like my teachers actually cared about me... And I can text some of them still today about everyday problems or trials. I don't know if my friends from public schools can do that."


Lindsey (center) performed in “Singing in the Rain” November of her junior year (2012).

Seen here with friends and castmates Karly (left) and Kyleigh (on right).


Lindsey and her classmates enjoy Senior Field Day which was held the week before graduation in May, 2014.


“...truly blessed to have such amazing students over the years”

Marie Prosser, a graduate of St. John the Evangelist School in Hydes, John Carroll in 1998, and then-College of Notre Dame of Maryland for her masters in teaching, shares about the strong impact that she experienced during her Catholic school days which led to her commitment to service and education.

Marie's service include teaching science first with the Capuchin Franciscan Volunteer Corps, then teaching physics and religion at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore in 2002-2003, chemistry at the Institute of Notre Dame, and biology at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. Marie also taught Spoken English as a Salesian Lay Missioner in 2012-2013 at Don Bosco Catholic High School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. ;8

She reflected on teachers who made a difference and on her own years in the classroom:  

"As you know, Catholic education has had a tremendous impact on my life.  All of the teachers who encouraged, inspired (and sometimes even challenged) me certainly gave me something I would not have gotten any other way.  Here are some examples:

"Sr. Ann (SSND) was my English teacher from fifth through eighth grade.  Because of Sister Ann, I have always known more about grammar than most people I interact with.  I think of her when I pedantically correct posts on Facebook. 

"Mr. Ralph Trautwein (Deacon at St. Ignatius, Hickory) taught my AP Bio class at John Carroll the year his wife was undergoing cancer treatment. He had to miss a lot of time to care for her, but he always made a point of being there for our AP class as much as he could.  The first chance I had, I "stole" his genetics lesson about the Blue People of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky 

"I always worry that I will run into an old student, and not know his or her name.  So far, that has not happened, thank goodness!  I have been truly blessed to have such amazing students over the years, and it has been great to watch them grow up. High school goes by very quickly, and the students graduate before you know it.  The students have always been the best part of the job of teaching. 

"I left teaching this year.  I'm not as young as I was when I started, and I didn't have the energy to keep up with teenagers any more.  I now work in an office, where it is much quieter and less stressful.  My second career as an engineer suits me well, and I do not miss the classroom...yet.  But I know the time will come when it is back to school time and I will wistfully think back to my own time as a Catholic school teacher. Should I ever have kids of my own, I'd hope to have the opportunity to send them to a Catholic school."

Read more about Marie's ministry in Ethiopia here. 


“Come, Live Life”

Our National Catholic Schools Week has parallel commemorations in nations all over the world.

Enjoy ‘Come, live life’ was written by Michael Mangan, an Australian Catholic school grad and former Catholic school teacher, for the Australian 2014 Catholic Education Week. Mangan served as co-ambassador for the annual celebration which was held last July 17 to August 2 and themed “Come, live life in all its fullness”.

January 29, 2015 10:34
By Patti Murphy Dohn

The sad impact of suicide: Honoring the memories of those we lost too soon

Part 3 of my series on grief and mourning:

"Suicide does not take away the pain; it passes it on to the person's friends and family."

-Rachel of the John Carroll Class of 2015

Remembering a JC patriot on December 11:

One year ago today is a day that I'll never forget. I learned that one of my junior girls had taken her life and, as John Carroll Campus Minister, I had the difficult task of putting together the response plan for notifying our students and school community, preparing prayers for this beautiful girl and her family, and assisting in any way that I was able to facilitate our students who would attend and participate in her funeral service.

The loss of this sweet girl was devastating in so many ways for so many people. The youngest of six children, she came from a multi-generational John Carroll family. I knew all her alum-siblings from their JC days, and I grew up with her Dad since we were nine years old, as we were both students at St. Margaret School.

Her school friends were just devastated. There were just no words to ease the pain.

This past November 22, on National Survivors of Suicide Day here in US--always held the Saturday before Thanksgiving--one of her friends wrote:

"Suicide does not take away the pain; it passes it on to the person's friends and family."

Though now retired from my ministry at John Carroll, I'm wearing green today in solidarity with her classmates, the Class of 2015. And I've united my prayers for her friends and family as we grieve together a life ended much too soon.

"Once a patriot, always a patriot."

Justin's story:

"I know that Justin is in heaven, and he is safe and happy. 

I know I will see him again one day when it is my time to leave this earth."

-- Kimberly Bennett

Kimberly Bennett of Forest Hill has also been a dear friend since our early years at St. Margaret School. Kim too knows the excruciating pain and anguish that a parent experiences when they lose a child to suicide.

Kim's 27-year old son Justin took his life twenty months ago and the heartache that followed has known no end. Kim shares his story with our "God is in the Clouds" readers both to honor his memory and to give hope to those who experience the same sorrow.

Kim shares the heartbreaking story:

Justin, his girlfriend, and their six-month old daughter were living at his parents' home at the time in order to save money for a home of their own. He had recently started medication for depression, which coupled one evening with alcohol and an argument with the girlfriend, led to Kim hearing what she thought was his bedroom door slamming. Instead, it was the gunshot that led to his final hours.

Justin with two-month old baby Michelle  (Photos: the Bennett Family)

Kim's husband broke down the bedroom door where they found their son with the self-inflicted gunshot wound. Paramedics confirmed a pulse, transporting Justin to Shock Trauma by helicopter, but ensuing tests found no brain activity.

Kim shares, "This is the hardest thing my family and I have ever been through.  If it wasn't for our strong, close-knit family and my Catholic faith, I would not be able to even get out of bed in the morning."

Praying Justin into Heaven:

Kim's family was particularly comforted by the Catholic chaplain at University of Maryland's Shock Trauma unit who prayed the litany of saints as each family member placed their hands on Justin. The litany response to each saint's name was "raise him up." As Kim, Don, their older son Rob, and daughter Sarah prayed together, they were comforted by these prayers and the inclusion of St. Justin in the litany.

Kim shares that the chaplain, Fr. Bill Spacek, "was so caring and kind." He held Kim's hand and reassured her fears and worries about her son's death.

What has been helpful?

Kim responded from the heart: "What helps me is talking about what happened. My daughter and I went to counseling for eight weeks."

As we know, people grieve in different ways; Kim's husband and older son were not as comfortable talking about Justin's death.

Kim and Sarah have become involved with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

"My daughter ran last year's Baltimore Marathon, raising $5,000. in Justin's memory. This year Sarah and I did the Out of the Darkness Walk in Baltimore, raising more money for the cause."

"Suicide claimed 39,518 lives in 2011 in the United States alone, with someone dying by suicide every 13.3 minutes. A suicide attempt is made every minute of every day, resulting in nearly one million attempts made annually.

When you walk in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Walks, you join efforts with thousands of people nationwide to raise money for AFSP’s vital research and education programs to prevent suicide and save lives. The walks raise awareness about depression and suicide, and provide comfort and assistance to those who have lost someone to suicide.


--American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Getting through holidays and birthdays:

Kim told me, "I was really worried about going through the holidays last year, as well as Justin's birthday in January.  For Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, we lit a candle in honor of Justin and read a special prayer before we ate.

"For his birthday, we all went out to eat steamed crabs (his favorite). And then we went to Justin's grave and wrote messages on eco-friendly helium balloons. 'We let our messages float up to heaven' is how we explained it to Rob's sons, our 6-year old and 2-year old grandsons."

What else has been helpful?

Kim recalls, "What was most helpful at the time was the hundreds of friends who came to the viewing and funeral. Afterwards, friends would just stop in to sit with us. We loved hearing stories from Justin's friends."

Was anything not helpful?

Kim shared, "What bothered me after the first few weeks was that people seemed to walk on eggshell around us.  I was so happy when we were able to go to our boat at River Watch in Middle River where everyone finally treated us as 'normal.' 

"Also, I got really tired of hearing how strong I was. I might have appeared "strong," but I was a mess when I was home.  I found that I could not be alone on a Wednesday (the day it happened) at 5:40pm (the time on the police report).  My daughter and I would go out to dinner. My husband found that working long hours was more helpful to his grieving."

Justin with six-month old baby Michelle on Easter Sunday 2013, just three days before his death (Photos: the Bennett Family)


"I have so many wonderful people in my family and my life who depend on me and love me.  I carry on for them and I know that is what Justin would want me to do." --Kim Bennett

Some good that has come about through the sorrow:

Kim shares, "Since our son's passing, I have become so empathetic when a person dies.  I even stood up and spoke at a funeral service for a young man that passed away two months after Justin. I told that young man's mother that my close family and my faith are what allowed me to continue."

Kim and Don are now little Michelle's full-time guardians, raising their precious granddaughter in their son's memory. Kim reflects, "It is bittersweet. Sometimes I hug her so tight. Michelle has her Daddy's eyes and inquisitive nature. I know Justin would want us to take care of her. I ask him for guidance and help all the time."


Read more from my series on grief and mourning:

Part 1: Grief and mourning: Words of comfort and advice: Part 1

Part 2: Remembering Hannah Kriss, John Carroll Class of 2012:

Grieving the loss of a young person: Words of comfort and advice from her Mom

December 11, 2014 05:11
By Patti Murphy Dohn

"I will give you rest" - A meditation on hope and compassion from Matthew's Gospel for this Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
 and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
--Excerpt from the Gospel for the Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time:
 Matthew 11:25-30

The Gospel reading for this Fourteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time offers a message of hope for all of us.

"Do Jesus' words strike a chord within us?", asked the pastor of St. Paul of the Cross Church at the Saturday Vigil Mass. "Have we come here today burdened in any way? Is there something wearing heavy upon our mind, or our heart, or perhaps our body?"

 "What might Jesus be saying to us, as he looks upon us with gentleness and compassion?"

 And so this good priest meditated with all of us:

You with arthritis or cancer or paralysis, come....

You who are bent low with guilt over some past sin....

You who are fast-paced and project-oriented and task-driven and afraid to give yourself some rest....

You who are suffering from an intimate relationship that has grown cold and distant....

You who are uncertain about the future, about death, or about life after death....

You who think you always have to be in control and manage everyone else's affairs....

You who are so preoccupied with yourself: what you eat, the way you look, the way you dress....

You who cannot rest because of intense resentments and bitterness....

You who are addicted to alcohol or drugs or pornography or shopping or gambling or excessive computer use....

Come, no burden is too heavy for me to ease.
I have borne them in my passion and death.
I have overcome them in my resurrection.
I am with you.
I will breathe my Spirit within you, will calm your fears, and strengthen your spirit.
Come to my banquet, receive me in my Body and my Blood,
And I will refresh you and teach you to refresh one another.

Come, you are not a burden.
You are my beloved.
Come, forever you are mine."


July 05, 2014 10:59
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Music Monday: "With You By My Side" and the prayer of St. Francis de Sales for the Class of 2014

The Class of 2014 has been sent forth to let their light shine in the world:

David Haas' beautiful hymn "With You By My Side" is a joyful prayer for all who move on this year into a future filled with newness and perhaps some fear of the unknown. This song is quite moving and will fill you with hope, as no matter what is to come, our loving God is there to guide us through it.

In a similar manner, the prayer of St. Francis de Sales exhorts us to trust in the Lord to care for us and guide us along all the paths of our lives:

Do not look forward in fear to the changes in life;
rather, look to them with full hope that as they arise,
God, whose very own you are,
will lead you safely through all things;
and when you cannot stand it,
God will carry you in His arms.

Do not fear what may happen tomorrow;
the same understanding Father who cares for
you today will take care of you then and every day.

He will either shield you from suffering
or will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
Be at peace,
and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.

--Saint Francis de Sales

God is good... All the time!!

June 02, 2014 07:07
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Thanksgiving prayers, blessings before the big meal, music, and reflections: Day 3



In the nine days leading up to Thanksgiving I will share a novena of prayers, reflections, and music selections that may enhance the celebration of this special day with your family and friends.




Day 3:

Today I will share a prayer-meditation by Rev. James Martin, SJ, Editor of America MagazineFather Martin touches on almost every basic area of gratitude that we Americans have to offer back to God this Thanksgiving. Read when you have time to reflect on each word.

"I'm Grateful, God: A Thanksgiving Prayer for Everyone"
By: Rev. James Martin, SJ

I'm grateful, God, for so many things. Now, I know I'm not the most grateful person you know, God, so let me take some time to tell you what I'm thankful for.

I'm grateful, God, for the gift of life. Without you I wouldn't be here. Without you nothing would be here. Without you nothing would be at all.

I'm grateful for my parents, God. Even if they weren't perfect, or completely functional, they loved me the best they could, and they worked hard to make sure that I had enough to eat, that I was clothed and that I had a place to sleep. I'll never know all that they did for me, like the things they did for me when I was a baby, but I can be grateful for the things that I know. Help me to be a grateful child, and remind me to be grateful in person. If my parents have ended their time on earth and are with you, help me to be thankful for their lives, and fill me with the hope of meeting them again in your company, where I'll be able to say thanks again.

I'm grateful for my friends, God. Even if I have only one good friend in my life right now, I'm so grateful. God, you show your love for me through my friends in ways that I sometimes overlook. They give me advice, sometimes when I need it, sometimes when I don't, which in both situations is a sign of their care for me. They listen to me complain, which I do too much, and they celebrate with me, even if things aren't always going well for them. They help me to laugh. And they help me to laugh at myself. That alone is reason to be thankful. Help me to be a good friend in return.

I'm grateful for my family, God. Yes, I know that all families are a little nutty, and mine is no exception. Even Jesus's family tree had its share of complications. But I'm thankful that, even with the nuttiness, I'm part of a family that has helped to make me the person I am. I know that they try to love me the best that they can. Help me to be a good family member, trying to help out when I can, make the phone call or pay a visit when they're lonely, and keep my mouth shut when I should be listening, or when I don't have anything sensible to add to the conversation.

I'm grateful for my job, God. It's not always a bed of roses, but at least I have a place to work and I am able to make ends meet. That's more than many people have. And I know the people I work with can drive me crazy, but they are doing their best, too. Help me to be a good co-worker, to give people the benefit of the doubt, to care for the people with whom I work, and not to take everything so seriously on the job. And help me remember that all work done freely and with a loving heart is worthy in your site.

I'm grateful, God, for all the things that I know many people in this world don't have. And that's a long list. So I'm grateful for food. And clean water that is easily available. And clothes. And heat in the winter and air conditioning and screens in the summer. I'm grateful that I can go to the doctor and get a check up and even get shots to help me avoid illness. That's a lot more than most people have. Help me to be grateful, and help me remember that I can help those who have less by being generous. That's one way of thanking you.

Did I mention how much I appreciate all the things you created? For the color of orange autumn leaves against the deep blue sky? For the smell of the sidewalk after a thunderstorm on a hot summer afternoon? For the way that the frost makes crazy patterns on windows in the winter? For the amazing smell of daffodils in the springtime? While I'm at it, I'm also grateful for the beach (that's a pretty great thing you created), the mountains (also great) and sunsets (really great). And hamburgers, too.

Most of all, God, I'm grateful for your presence in my life. You're everywhere, and if I remember to pay attention I can see you invitation to meet you in every moment of the day. I know that it is you who turn my mind to thoughts of gratitude. And when I'm tempted to focus only on the problems and worries and fears, I know that I'm being led away from you.

Now, I'm not always as thankful as I should be, but today I am. Today I will try to be grateful all day, since you are generous all day to me, like you are every day.



Music for a Thankful Heart: Day 3:

“All Good Gifts”— from the musical Godspell—Sung by Merrell Jackson



November 22, 2013 03:57
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Remembering President Kennedy: Praying for peace on the 50th anniversary of his death


This was the introduction to our morning prayer here at The John Carroll School to start our day on November 22, 2013:

 As the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Cecelia, patron saint of musicians today, we here at John Carroll join Americans everywhere in remembering President John F. Kennedy, our 35th president, who was assassinated on this date in Dallas in 1963. Today marks the 50th anniversary of his death with prayers and commemorations in all 50 states.

We pray for peace in our land as we honor this good man, our first Catholic president, whose Thanksgiving message—which was not delivered live five days later due to his death—included this statement:

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

May we live each day our own attitude of gratitude for all the good people who make our nation the land of the free and the home of the brave. We will hold a moment of silence this afternoon at the time of President Kennedy's shooting.

Let us pray:

Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth,
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our Father,
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me,
Let this be the moment now.
With every step I take,
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment,
And live each moment,
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.


In good times and in bad, God is good. All the time.

November 22, 2013 08:55
By Patti Murphy Dohn

More About Gossip From Pope Francis

 “Christians must bite their tongues before gossiping. That will do us good because that way the tongue swells up, and you can't talk."

–Pope Francis

Pope Francis greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Sept. 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Last week I wrote about Pope Francis’ warning against gossip and speaking ill of one’s neighbor (“There is no such thing as innocent gossip.”) during his Sept. 13 homily at morning Mass. Read my Sept. 16 post here.

Earlier today at his weekly general audience at St. Peter’s Square Pope Francis continued on the theme of unity reminding that “Backstabbing and gossip hurt people and harm God’s desire for a united human family.” He went on to say that unity is a gift from God, but “often we struggle to live it out.” The Holy Father said that gossip “damages our Church, our parishes, and our communities.”

The crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square smiled and cheered when Pope Francis explained that “Christians must bite their tongues before gossiping. That will do us good because that way the tongue swells up, and you can't talk" badly about others.

Read more about today’s general audience here and from Vatican Radio here

The Holy Father asked us to have the humility to resolve our personal conflicts "with patience and sacrifice" and to use the Prayer of St. Francis to strive to be instruments of God's peace.

Sounds like a wonderful plan to me. May we each pray and meditate regularly on the words of this beautiful prayer as we work toward peace in our world, our communities, our families, and our hearts.

Peace Prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


--Prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi

September 25, 2013 02:23
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Shared Wisdom: Advice for the John Carroll Class of 2013

The John Carroll Class of 2013 is graduating tomorrow. Where does the time go? It seems as if they were just freshmen....

Believe me, there has been excitement in the air all week:

Fourteen of our seniors returned from Roatan, Honduras on Saturday after serving there for a week at the Sandy Bay Children’s Home.  These seniors bonded with the over twenty orphans who live there, served at the area school  and a local clinic, and  and learned more life lessons than they thought possible. Read the blog they kept during their mission trip here.

On Wednesday we had our Senior Awards Assembly, followed by a class breakfast, graduation practice, and music rehearsal for Baccalaureate. Yesterday the seniors set up their capstone senior projects, along with reader run-throughs for Baccalaureate, practices by the Salutatorian and Valedictorian, and the evening Senior Showcase. 

I asked my Facebook network of JC grads to share advice with our newest group of alumni and this is what they had to say:


Dear Class of 2013:

As you begin the next stage of your journey, please know that the education you received at John Carroll will take you where ever your dreams will go!
I wish you all the best!!


Janet Sonneman
Class of 1971
Towson State, BA in Music Education 

For new graduates: whatever you do in college, make sure you take enough practical classes to get a job after school. Art degrees are a lot of fun,  but there are few jobs in the field. Take higher-level computer classes, or work on an accounting something practical with your time.

Laura Miedzianowski
Class of 1999

I hope that the JC class of 2013 always holds tight to the values and life lessons they learned while at JC because they helped make them into who they are today. I also hope that they never forget the memories they had at JC, there's nothing better then coming home from school and meeting up with your JC friends and reminiscing about all the good times we had! Although they are all jumping to get out of JC now, in a year from now they will look back, smile, and say they'd go back and do it all over again! Best of luck class of 2013 you guys did it!

Sara Turks
Class of 2012
Penn State University student
Chemical Engineering major

Keep the relationships that you made at JC strong. Whether that is with teachers or just other peers. The teachers at JC care so much and will always be there to help you, and the friends you make will be some of the best friends you will ever have.

Stephanie Laird
Class of 2011
Campbell University student, Pharmaceutical Studies 

For our graduating seniors: Your parents love you so much. They sacrificed so that you would have the best foundation for your life - the John Carroll experience. Carry on what you have been blessed with. 

You are now forever a Patriot!

Judy Fritz
Class of 1980
Towson University 

Live your life with humility and gratitude--these are the keys to a positive attitude which will take you further than any grade or award. Accept all opportunities, obstacles, people, and situations with an open mind and an open heart and remember: "We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) These few things have led me on a path that has been greater than what I had ever dreamed for myself. 

Best wishes, Class of 2013!

--Ann Ploskonka 
Class of 2008
Goucher 2012
PhD candidate, UDel, Inorganic Chem

I have learned to take a nap after my 8 am class and that plenty of sleep is essential to learning.

Finding friends in college? Quite easy; students can easily find friends in their classes and orientation.

Elaine Jansing-Kaestner,
Class of 2012
Bellarmine University student 

Set the bar high and go after your goals. The opportunity is out there, you just have to envision what it is you want to achieve. Don't ever say, "I can't", because that's not true. Everything is there for the taking if you set your mind to it, and don't ever let anyone else tell you that you can't either. Keep strong, determined, and focused because all of us can do whatever we choose. 

What path will you take? What legacy will you leave? 

How will you help to create a stronger tomorrow for all?

-Andrew Kriss
Class of 2006
BS Business and Communications,
Juniata College

Volunteer somewhere- you will receive more then you give.

-Liz Callahan Markline, Class of 77

In less than 24 hours our Baccalaureate Mass will have ended and the band will strike up the graduation processional while the John Carroll Class of 2013 moves on to their future.

May He hold them in the palm of His hand!!

God is good!! All the time!!

May 31, 2013 10:46
By Patti Murphy Dohn

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