We are happy to introduce to you another new member of our community! Marisa Joly Butler entered our Carmel as a postulant on September 12, 2019. We are so happy to have her here, joining Lynne Purkey in the Novitiate (who joined in mid-July).
Welcome to the garden of Carmel, Marisa!
Marisa’s Vocation Journey
“… her inheritance, …”
“By faith she obeyed when she was called, and went forth to the place she was to receive as her inheritance, and she went forth, moreover, not knowing where she was going.” Heb 11:8 (paraphrased)
My name is Marisa Butler and I come from Phoenix, Arizona, the eldest of a large and vibrant Catholic family. Never in my wildest imaginations growing up did I ever imagine that I would find myself one day in a Carmelite Monastery in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“My Heart was Carmelite”
I was not very religious growing up or at all interested in religious life. I wanted to pursue a career and get married. By God’s grace I spent a summer in my early twenties working with the Missionaries of Charity in the South Bronx at their youth camp. It was during this time while on retreat that I had a powerful conversion experience which culminated with me hearing the Lord call me by name to be His own. This experience of the Lord’s love for me was so all encompassing that it kept me going even through the difficult road that lay ahead. For I did not know where I was going or how I would live out this call to be consecrated.
I had encountered an active group of sisters from New York City while on this retreat and was attracted by their joy and youthful zeal. Not knowing anything about religious life I began to discern with them. By God’s Providence during my discernment with this community I encountered a Secular Carmelite who helped me understand that my heart was Carmelite. As she explained to me the vocation of a Carmelite, it was as if she read the desires written deep within my soul. I knew I was made to be a Carmelite.
“Had I lost my vocation?”
I began discerning Carmel and eventually entered a Carmelite monastery on the west coast. After a few years I left, realizing it was not the best place for me. Subsequently I tried again with another Carmel and left again finding that I was not a good fit there. Again I kept looking and visited other Carmels but none of them were “home”.
Then the Lord led me into a vocational desert and asked me to wait and trust Him. For several years I waited in silence and not knowing, nearly despairing of my vocation. I was nearly on the point of giving up, believing that I had lost my vocation, when the new revelations of the priest abuse crisis started coming out. Knowing how vitally important praying for priest is to the Carmelite vocation I started to wonder if maybe the Lord wanted me to try once more.
I thought I would try again with a Carmel closer to my large and ever growing family. But I just could not get my heart into it. The desire for Carmel seemed to be dead. Yet I knew I had to keep looking. By His Providence I stumbled upon the website for the Carmel of St. Teresa in Little Rock and my heart fell in love with Carmel all over again. It was a light in the darkness but I still had to go forward in faith.
Going Forwad in Faith
I inquired and made a visit in early April. My experience of the community was positive. Their joy and sisterly love was certainly attractive. But He had still left me in the dark and so I did not know if this was His will for me, or even if I could live the life anymore after all the years away from Carmel. I was resigned to the fact that I had given it my best shot and that it was time to move on, preparing to go back to Phoenix and give up on the idea of being a Carmelite.
He certainly had other plans. While we were saying our goodbyes I had a chance to meet Sister Ann, who had been ill during most of my visit. She looked at me and she said, “I love you!” Immediately light flooded my soul and I could feel my heart expanding inside of me. It was as if He expanded my heart and inside of it He put the Carmel of Little Rock and all the sisters. There was joy and peace and a certainty that this was His will for me, that the Carmel of St. Teresa in Little Rock was my home.
After many years of searching and waiting on the Lord, in the fullness of time I have finally received my inheritance, my dwelling place, the place my heart has always desired. I can only thank God for His great mercy towards me and His faithfulness. To have lost something so dear to me and to regain it again is all the sweeter.
Please pray for Marisa and for other young women to respond to the call to religious life!