Integrating the Vows

October 16, 2019

By Sister Marissa Butler

What started as an ordinary morning visit to the gym ended as a powerful Mercy moment. While putting away my belongings, another gym member was stuffing a backpack, soiled blanket and half bag of cheerios into the next cubby.

He looked familiar. I assumed our paths must have previously crossed at the gym. Throughout my workout, my eyes kept following him. I started to leave, but instead stood by the door interiorly conflicted. The young man was sitting on the floor against a wall, charging his phone. I felt the need to respond, but how? Being a daughter of Catherine McAuley, I imagined what she would do. I heard her voice tell me to offer something to eat, and also to pray for him so his soul was fed, as well.

I sat on the floor next to him and asked if he needed anything. He explained he had been kicked out of his parents’ house and needed somewhere to stay. Knowing I could not take him home, I began searching for nearby shelters. We continued talking, and he accepted an offer for breakfast.

My intention was to buy him breakfast and go on my way. Instead, I sat down as he was eating. He shared his story, one of struggles with his parents and financial challenges. He wanted to change. I shared my story of broken relationships and need for counseling. He was surprised these experiences were familiar to me.

I told him that at the end of every day, I look back and identify where I saw the face of God and today there was no doubt in my mind I was sitting at the table with Jesus. We remained at the table sharing the gift of our tears before exchanging names and parting ways.

Later, when reflecting on the experience, I saw how it spoke to our vows:

Obedience: Time spent asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit and asking myself, “What would Catherine do?” and “What does my commitment to mercy call me to do?”

Celibacy: The vow of celibacy is more about freedom and less about restrictions. It invites me to an all-inclusive love, a love that gives life to other people.

Poverty: Poverty is not simply funds in a bank account. There is poverty of time. I met this young man’s poverty with an open heart and open ears. My poverty came in sitting on the floor and entering into his story. I chose not to walk by and say, “Get up. Get a job.” More important than a meal, I gave my time.

Service: Catherine McAuley said, “The spiritual and corporal works of mercy constitute the business of our lives.” I may not have given him clothes to wear, but I clothed him in dignity by acknowledging him as another human being created in the image and likeness of God. He may not have been imprisoned behind bars, but he was lacking hope and perhaps imprisoned by his situation.

As a novice, I have learned that the vows we profess as Sisters of Mercy cannot be lived independent of one another. This encounter brought them together and made real for me their true meaning.

Learn more about the vows Sisters of Mercy take and what a life of Mercy is all about:

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  1. Rose Marie Tresp

    Being present; listening; sharing your time – all gifts.

  2. Claudia Ward, RSM

    Marissa, thanks so much for sharing your experience – God Moment!!! It’s a wonderful reminder to be ever present to each moment and allow God to stir within us a desire to be a reflection of God’s love and presence with every encounter – opportunity we have with our fellow sisters and brothers on this journey of life. Blessings my friend …

  3. Sharon Schmitz

    Beautiful, Marissa. Your story touched my heart. Thanks so much for sharing. The Holy One has deeply blessed you- and us – through you (a modern Catherine).
    In mercy,

  4. Fran

    Marissa, thank you for the “Compassionate Catherine” reminder for
    all of us.

  5. Carolyn McDonnell

    Thank you for sharing the story of your your encounter which helped that down & out young man. And that his face was the face of Jesus to you. I like your daily practice of reflecting back on your day and identifying where you saw the face of Jesus.

  6. Claudette Schiratti

    Marissa, thank you for your profound reflection on a Mercy moment.

  7. Claudette Schiratti, RSM

    Thank you for your profound insight on a Mercy moment.

  8. Vicky Arndorfer

    Thanks for sharing your experience Mercying in your daily life.

  9. Michele Schroeck RSM

    Marissa, This is a lovely reflection on an experience of the works of mercy!!

  10. Terese Marie Perry

    Thank you for this. Courage and inspiration.

  11. Patricia Cook, RSM

    Thanks for this sharing….it touched my heart this eve.


    Patty Cook, RSM

  12. Terry Saetta

    Marissa, very proud to know you belong to Mercy! Thank you for your sharing

  13. Guia Jimenez, msc

    Thanks for sharing this, Marissa! I can just see you doing this. You are really Catherine’s daughter.

  14. Ann McGovern

    Great reminders in this beautifully written reflection. Thank you, Marissa.

  15. Suzanne LaVoie

    Oh! What a beautiful start to my day … a reminder to me to keep my eyes open to who may cross my path and have a need I can help with.

  16. Cathleen Cahill

    This is beautiful Marissa. Thank you for sharing. Your reflection on the vows is insightful.

  17. Sister Carren Herring

    You have reminded all of us of our call to Mercy. Thank you

  18. Agnes Brueggen

    Thanks for sharing this Mercy story, Marissa – an inspiration and also a challenge!

  19. Rose Weidenbenner

    Wonderful example of integration of the vows! Thank you!

  20. Richard Mary Burke

    Marissa, what an inspiring and challenging invitation you have witnessed for us all. Your genuineness touched my heart deeply.
    Thank you for being my SISTER and my companion on this journey in Mercy!!
    Love and prayers, Richard Mary

  21. Virginia Tresp

    WOW, what a simple but powerful way to follow the Lord

  22. Ruth

    I love looking at life, the special moments and the ordinary! through your lens. You are such a gift! Thank you for sharing.

  23. Carol Conway

    Way to be, Marissa!

  24. Mary Lou

    Marissa, thank you for sharing this with us, but especially with me in this crossroad in my Mercy life.

  25. Mary Lou Podzimek RSM

    Marissa, thank you for sharing this with us, but especially with me in this crossroad in my Mercy life.

  26. Joan Margret Schwager

    So much like Catherine! Keep it up.

  27. Beth Flannery RSM

    Marissa, thank you for reminding me that just to be present is a mutual blessing!

  28. Priscilla Moreno

    Thank you Marissa for the beautiful reflection of the vows and reminding us how real they are in our daily lives. We need to slow down and be aware of all those moments God presents to us each day. Then do as you did and Catherine would expect of each one of us, to be merciful to all.

  29. Judy Herrmann RSM

    Such a blessed encounter and inspiring reflection on your experience, Marissa. I am touched and grateful.

  30. Patricia Galli

    Marissa, your reflection was helpful to me today. Thanks