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

Wrapping up the Christmas Season: Looking back at holiday magic, a surprise "Ave Maria," a joyful engagement, and a new grandbaby



"Mankind is a great, an immense family... This is proved by what we feel in our hearts at Christmas."  —Pope John XXIII


The Close of the Christmas Season: 

The weeks leading up to Christmas are usually busy, sometimes stressful and overwhelming, and often sentimental for families. Those with growing children can find their days and nights filled with holiday activities and special school events.

But in the true sense of the liturgical calendar, the actual Christmas Season is less than three weeks: Starting with the first Vigil Mass on Christmas Eve, continuing through the 12 days of Christmas, including the Solemnity of the Epiphany of our Lord, and ending today on the Feast of the Baptism of The Lord.

Usually the fast-pace of the weeks leading up to Christmas Day then slows down and families spend some quiet time together after the 25th. My students at John Carroll came back to school this past Monday, January 6, and shared a lot about how they spent their time off. We had semester exams on December 17, 18, and 19, so we were blessed with a 18-day respite from classes and academia.

Many students shared with me about holiday parties and get-togethers with relatives and friends. Some of them travelled for vacation fun, while others travelled to visit grandparents and extended family. There are always a few young people who speak about being bored... I wish I could help them realize how important it is to make every minute, every day count. Never waste your time being bored!!

Christmas Eve: 

"God walked down the stairs of heaven with a Baby in His arms."
—Paul Scherer (1892-1969)

Probably my most favorite day of the year, this past Christmas Eve was especially filled with many magical moments.

For the past fourteen years, my Campus Ministry Office has hosted Christmas Eve Mass in the John Carroll gym. I wrote about the evolution of this celebration back in December in my Countdown to Christmas



Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn

I spent the evening of December 23 at school setting up the altar area and getting everything ready for our 4:30 Vigil Mass the next day.

Once again, as in each of the past years, we had a packed house. As I shared last month, going to Christmas Eve Mass in a gym is definitely not the same as being in a church with all the liturgical adornments of the season. It is truly the gathering of people  that matters most. And we again this year had a beautiful celebration of the Nativity. Father Steve Sutton, associate pastor of St. Ignatius Church, Hickory, and my colleague in the JC Religion Department, was the celebrant.

One of the my personal magical moments came after Holy Communion when my son Joseph, 27, a member of the JC Class of 2005, surprised me by singing the "Ave Maria." He had made arrangements with our dear friend and JC alumni parent Cathy Seufert who conducts the Children's Choir for St. Ignatius. Cathy's choir children sang before Mass as the crowds were gathering. Joseph had met up with her to practice the day before. A longtime actor, singer, and dancer in community theatre, Joseph has a degree in performing arts and has classical training in voice. His "Ave Maria" was a highlight for me and brought tears to the eyes of many of us gathered in the gym.


Enjoy Joseph's "Ave Maria"


Christmas Eve Dinner at Scotto's Cafe:

After Mass we always go to dinner each year as a family to Scotto's Cafe,  a delightful, favorite Italian restaurant near our home in Bel Air. We have enjoyed our special Christmas Eve dinners out each year since George and I were married in 2003. Whomever is available joins us. This year we had our very expectant daughter Meighan--whose baby girl is due on January 15--and her husband Jeff, Joseph, Katie and her boyfriend Karl, and Karl's Mom, Cecelia. It was crowded, as usual, and we stopped at their bar for wine and festive conversations with some of our friends who were gathered there.

After we were seated and placed our orders, guess who walked in?

None other than Santa Claus!! Making his way through the dining room, Santa happily jingled his bells and smiled for photos, including one with our daughter Katie, before he got on his way for his busiest night of the year!!


Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn

 Soon our dinners arrived and everyone got their meals except our daughter Katie. After our server told us to enjoy our dinners and that she would be back shortly to see if we needed anything else, Karl expressed concern that Katie's dinner had not yet arrived. She assured him that she was fine, certain that her food was on its way, just as I was telling her to grab her fork and dive into mine with me.

Karl was insistent that he would find out what was the delay, and quickly got up and left to check in. Did he go to the kitchen? We were all wondering... Katie was a little flustered by his departure. Within three minutes, George said, "Here comes Karl." Looking over toward the middle dining area, here comes Karl carrying Katie's dinner. Placing her plate on the table in front of Katie, Karl smiled broadly as we all saw the open box on the side of the plate prominently displaying the most beautiful diamond ring!!


Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn


Katie was crying, we were all cheering and clapping. Joseph jumped up and started videoing on his iPhone, and the silence that overcame the rest of the restaurant as everyone else looked over to see what the fuss was about erupted into more clapping, cheering, and much pinging on water glasses with utensils for the newly engaged couple to kiss.

It was the most magical moment. Looking back, I am so overwhelmed with gratitude that Karl allowed this most special moment to take place right there before our family and his Mom. Katie was weeping with joy and could hardly speak as he slipped the ring on her finger and she admired its beauty through her tears. Our dinner was filled with lots of wedding talk and afterwards, when we were leaving, many people came over to wish Katie and Karl their very best for much future happiness. It was truly magical.

We went back to our house for gift exchanges and dessert. I found out later at home that Karl had called George the day before and gotten his blessing for this Christmas Eve dinner proposal. I was again thrilled that Karl had included us in this special moment, and also that George had not told me. I was truly overjoyed by the surprise as it unfolded there at Scotto's.



The Happy Engaged Couple   (Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn)


"The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other."
~ Burton Hillis


The end of a joyfilled night   (Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn)


A Floridian Christmas:

George and I left on Christmas morning to fly down to our home in South Florida on Singer Island to enjoy some down time and see our Florida family. We had dinner at my brother's home in Palm Beach Gardens with his wife, sons, in-laws, and my Dad who was also in town for the holiday. Everyone was excited to hear firsthand the details of Katie and Karl's engagement and to see the photos and Joseph's video on my iPad. After dinner we enjoyed dessert and conversation South Florida-style out back by their pool.

Mother manatee and her calf come up together for a synchronized breath off our seawall on Singer Island   (Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn)


George and I enjoyed time with family and our Florida neighbors during the rest of that week. The weather was lovely and we were able to get to the pool, the beach, and some of our favorite local restaurants.


Holy Family Sunday Mass at St. Paul of the Cross Church, Singer Island


Each year we give a pre-New Year's cocktail party for our neighbors and local friends on December 30. It is always a festive event filled with lots of laughter and chatter as everyone catches up with each other's news and holiday updates.

After the last guests left that night, we cleaned up and I had just pressed Start on the dishwasher when my phone rang. As soon as I saw Meighan's name on the screen, I just knew in my heart... Quickly answering her call, I heard Meighan say, "Mom, I think my water broke."

Well, you never saw a suitcase get packed and airline reservations get changed as fast as I did that night.

Meighan was not due to deliver baby McKenna until January 15, and with her being their first child, it felt pretty safe to go to Florida for Christmas. I had assured Meighan that if things developed early, that at the first sign of labor I would get home. Getting her confirmation text 30 minutes later with the update that she was being admitted at GBMC, we realized that this was indeed the real deal!!

George got me to the airport at West Palm Beach, and Katie was at BWI to pick me up when I landed. Off we went straight to the hospital.

Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn

A New Granddaughter: 

“A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on.”
― Carl Sandburg (1878 - 1967)  



Photo by Patti Murphy Dohn

Baby McKenna Rose was born on New Year's Eve at 3:32 a.m. Weighing in at the dainty little lady size of 5 pounds, 9 ounces and measuring 19 inches long, she was perfect in every way. I don't think Meighan and Jeff have stopped smiling yet!! And I assure you, neither has this happy, proud Grandma!!

Proud Grandma!!   (Photo by Katie Murphy)


Little McKenna was already a cherished part of our hearts before her birth, but meeting her in person was an exhilarating experience for all of us. Her birth was the source of profound joy and the humbling realization of how very blessed we are.

For our family, there was much joy on the Eves in 2013 with a Christmas Eve engagement and a New Year's Eve baby:

Gloria in excelsis Deo!!

Prayer for New Beginnings:

God of new beginnings, we are walking into mystery.
We face the future, not knowing what the days and months will bring us or how we will respond.
Be love in us as we journey.
May we welcome all who come our way.
Deepen our faith
to see all life through your eyes.
Fill us with hope and an abiding trust
that You dwell in us amidst all our joys and sorrows.
Thank You for the treasure of our faith life.
Thank You for the gift of being able to rise each day with the assurance of Your walking through the day with us.
God of our past and future, we praise you.

God is good: All the time!!


Another proud Grandma photo!!   (Photo by Katie Murphy)


January 12, 2014 01:13
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Countdown to Christmas: It’s Christmas Eve: Waiting for baby, Christmas with two popes, Santa’s prayer poem, prayers for Christmas Eve, and more great Christmas music


“Today you will know the Lord is coming, and in the morning you will see his glory.”

— Invitatory to Morning Prayer, Christmas Eve



In the last Advent days leading up to Christmas, I will share some reflections, prayers, and music for you to enjoy during this very hectic holiday season.

Our baby countdown: 

Pope Francis compared the Church to an expectant mother in his homily on Monday morning at the Casa Santa Marta. "Like the Virgin Mary, the Church this week is expecting a birth… Is there space for the Lord or is there space only for parties, shopping and making noise?"

My family is literally expecting a birth as my daughter Meighan is a little more than three weeks away from delivering her baby girl McKenna. I was delighted to again take her to for her routine check-up this afternoon at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. It was a thrill to hear my granddaughter’s heart beating strong in utero as the nurse-practitioner ran the doppler over Meighan’s “baby belly” and counted her heart rate. 

The last days are filled with joy and excitement for our family, but we know that Meighan is experiencing back aches, fatigue, and the normal first-time parent anticipation. This beloved baby is already part of our hearts. And as we wait, we know that next Christmas she will be delighted with the sounds and wonders of the season s only a nine-month old can experience. Bring it on, says this proud Grandma!!


"Santa’s Prayer on Christmas Eve:" By Warren D. Jennings

The sleigh was all packed, the reindeer were fed,
But Santa still knelt by the side of the bed.

"Dear Father," he prayed "Be with me tonight.
There's much work to do and my schedule is tight.

I must jump in my sleigh and streak through the sky,
Knowing full well that a reindeer can't fly.

I will visit each household before the first light,
I'll cover the world and all in one night.

With sleigh bells a-ringing, I'll land on each roof,
Amid the soft clatter of each little hoof.

To get in the house is the difficult part,
So I'll slide down the chimney of each child's heart.

My sack will hold toys to grant all their wishes.
The supply will be endless like the loaves and the fishes.

I will fill all the stockings and not leave a track.
I'll eat every cookie that is left for my snack.

I can do all these things Lord, only through You,
I just need your blessing, then it's easy to do.

All this is to honor the birth of the One,
That was sent to redeem us, Your most Holy Son.

So to all of my friends, least Your glory I rob,
Please Lord, remind them who gave me this job."


Christmas visit of Pope Francis to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI:

I just love the photos taken yesterday when the Holy Father joined Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for a pre-Christmas visit to his residence, the Mater Ecclesiae monastery. As the four candles of the Advent wreath burned brightly on the coffee table, the two Holy Fathers enjoyed conversation after stopping for prayer in the small chapel. The Vatican statement said that Pope Francis came to "give his best wishes for the Christmas celebrations."

Osservatore Romano / Reuters


Music for your Enjoyment:

“Hallelujah” chorus from Handel’s Messiah

Breathtaking: Sir Colin Davis conducts the Tenebrae Choir with the London Symphony Orchestra, December, 2006:

Traditional for the audience to stand for the “Hallelujah” chorus, it has long been held that this custom started when King George II was so moved that he stood at the London premier performance.


“O Holy Night” sung by Josh Groban

 Enjoy my all-time favorite Christmas hymn “O Holy Night,” sung by Josh Groban and set to scenes from film “The Nativity Story.”


 Prayers for Christmas Eve and Christmas:

Christmas Eve Prayer:

Loving God, Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and worship of the wise men.
Close the door of hate
and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children,
and Christmas evening bring us to our beds with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake.



Nativity Prayer of St. Augustine:

Let the just rejoice, for their justifier is born.

 Let the sick and infirm rejoice, For their saviour is born.

 Let the captives rejoice, For their Redeemer is born.

 Let slaves rejoice, for their Master is born.

 Let free men rejoice, For their Liberator is born.

 Let All Christians rejoice, For Jesus Christ is born.



Prayer for Christmas Morning:

The day of joy returns, Father in Heaven,
and crowns another year with peace and good will.
Help us rightly to remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels, the gladness of the shepherds,
and the worship of the wise men.
Close the doors of hate and open the doors of love all over the world…
Let kindness come with every gift and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil, by the blessing that Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clean hearts.
May the Christmas morning make us happy to be thy children,
And the Christmas evening bring us to our bed
with grateful thoughts, forgiving and forgiven, for Jesus’ sake.



Christmas Prayer of Blessed (Soon-to-be-Saint) Pope John XXIII:

O sweet Child of Bethlehem,
grant that we may share with all our hearts
in this profound mystery of Christmas.
Put into the hearts of men and women this peace
for which they sometimes seek so desperately
and which you alone can give to them.
Help them to know one another better,
and to live as brothers and sisters,
children of the same Father.
Reveal to them also your beauty, holiness and purity.
Awaken in their hearts
love and gratitude for your infinite goodness.
Join them all together in your love.
And give us your heavenly peace.



December 24, 2013 12:12
By Patti Murphy Dohn

Countdown to Christmas: Six days left: Last day of exams, Christmas Eve Mass at John Carroll, family fun, dogs react to holiday hurries, today’s O Antiphon, and more classic Christmas hymns



Seniors Travis and Lindsey strike a fun pose with Pope Francis by the John Carroll Campus Ministry Office after their exams.



In the last Advent days leading up to Christmas, I will share some reflections, prayers, and music for you to enjoy during this very hectic holiday season.


Excitement in the air:

The level of excitement is building here at John Carroll as our students are finishing their last two exams this morning: Christmas Break begins at 11:30 a.m. Our students have been through a lot in recent weeks with the sad loss of one of our beloved juniors. Time off for rest and renewal with family and friends is definitely in order!!

I spent some quiet time this morning during the first exam period getting everything ready for our annual Christmas Eve Mass here in the gym. Candles, ciboria, hosts to be consecrated, vestments… I even remembered all the necessaries for incensing!! (Can you tell that I have sometimes forgotten to unpack those items in the past?)

Christmas Eve Mass at John Carroll:

My John Carroll Campus Ministry Office started hosting the 4:30 Christmas Eve Mass about fourteen years ago as the overflow for the 4 p.m. Masses at nearby St. Margaret and St. Ignatius Churches. (My colleague Father Steve Sutton, who also serves as Associate Pastor at St. Ignatius, Hickory, celebrates this Mass each year.)

The first year we set up our Auditorium which seats almost 700 people. It was completely full with standing room only by 3:45. We had to turn people away at the door!! We made a decision to start at 4 p.m. since everyone was there and in their seats. Why wait until 4:30?

It was clear as more and more people showed up at the front doors to be turned away that day— since we were at full capacity—that we needed to move our liturgy to the gym for the next year. This has worked out so well and we now have plenty of parking and seating for over 1200.

Each year we have a full house. Going to Mass in a gym is definitely not the same as being in a church with all the liturgical adornments of the season. But it is the people there that matter: What has transpired is that most families now come to my school as their Christmas Eve Mass location-of-choice, not as an overflow from a neighboring parish.

We are always delighted to see so many multi-generational John Carroll families here, including lots of our graduates. It has become a bit of a reunion Mass, if you will, for our school community. It is a particular special blessing for me each year to celebrate this first Mass of the Nativity with so many people who have touched my life and my heart over the years.

What are your Christmas Eve plans?



Pope Francis got into the holiday spirit when I wasn't looking.... How festive is this?


Family fun in the days to come:

Everyone in my family is looking forward to all the festivities during this week leading up to Christmas. We are having our annual family dinner this Sunday with all our children, their spouses and significant others, and my parents. We will relax and enjoy each other’s company with what promises to be a great dinner.

Our almost-seven year old grandson Tyler is so excited for Christmas and Santa. Watching the holidays through the eyes of children is what warms our hearts the most.

We are particularly blessed this year as we anticipate the birth of Meighan and Jeff’s baby girl, due on January 15. Baby McKenna is a loved and cherished member of our family already. I know there are a few gifts under the tree with her name on them too!!

Daisy gets crazy:

How is your dog holding up with all the holiday preparations? I have heard some crazy stories over the years about dogs tearing into the wrapped presents and diving into the holiday cookies and candies when no one is looking.

When Daisy, our seven-year old pug, was a puppy she loved to crawl under the Christmas tree and nap on the tree skirt. It was so adorable. She outgrew the space under the tree and she doesn’t bother the gifts. But what Daisy definitely does not like is the commotion outside caused by the frequent stops on our cul-de-sac by the mailman, and the UPS and Fed-Ex trucks. It makes her crazy!!

Daisy likes the quiet, usually snoring nearby while my husband works from his home office. But when those trucks make their way down our court, watch out: Daisy is up and staring out the window, barking and letting us know that someone is disturbing her tranquility. What happened to the peace and quiet?



Today’s “O Antiphon”

“O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!”

—Today’s Antiphon for December 19



Music for your Enjoyment:

“Angels We Have Heard on High” (w/ 32 fingers and 8 thumbs) Performed by the Piano Guys: Paul Anderson, Jon Schmidt, Al van der Beek & Steven Sharp Nelson, with numerous appearances by their Elf-on-the-Shelf Simone.

With almost 6 million hits on Youtube, this classic hymn is delightfully arranged and set in a beautifully decorated set complete with gift-wrapped grand piano and train garden with mini-cams.   



“What Child is This?” by violinist, composer, and dancer Lindsey Stirling.

Highlighting another classic performance with almost 5 million hits on Youtube, this talented young woman plays and dances to this favorite hymn outdoors in the snow.


Prayer for December 19:

Oh, Jesus who descended from Jesse,
you are a sign of God's love.
I feel hopeful and expectant,
filled with a rebirth of joy and love.

I depend you so much.
You are a rock for my belief
and a sign of God's love.

Fill me with your praise!
I want to sing your glory,
filled with joy
for the message of hope you send.

I don't always understand
when you are acting on my behalf.
Thank you for the message of hope you send me.
Give me true faith and love
as I celebrate the mystery
of how you came to be with us.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel





December 19, 2013 11:15
By Patti Murphy Dohn