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!!



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