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Smell of Roses
Question from Jack on 11/9/2005:

Yesterday (11/8), during Mass, I smelled the celestial smell of sewwt roses and felt a slight breeze in front of me. Prior to mass, I had knelt in prayer in front of the Blessed Sacrament in prayer. ( I have a big eucharistic devotion. I help to plan and set up for our Thursday Holy Hour. Now, I smelled these sweet roses. This once happened back on the Mass of the Easter Vigil. My family and I were in the front row and smelled it real sharply. Little did I know, my father had made the novena to St. therese the Little Flower. I just had this experience myself again. There were no roses in the church, no rose smelling rosaries, and it wasn't perfume or cologne. What do you think. I had also said a prayer to Our lady of the Blessed Sacrament that morning as well. Thanks. God bless.

-Jack

Answer by EWTN, VP for Theology on 11/10/2005:

The odor of roses and other smells have indeed been associated with certain saints. The hisotries of the saints shows that despite the lack of a natural explanation some saints give off a pleasant odor during life, in death and even after death.

The earliest account is that of St. Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna and disciple of St. John the Apostle, who when the Roman authorities incinerated him by fire in 155 AD, gave off a beautiful fragrance, like that of frankencense, instead of the odor of charred flesh (cf. 2 Cor. 2:15). Other stories of martyrdom from the first centuries give similar accounts, the olfactory equivalent of the martyrs singing as they burned. In life, in death, and after death, this phenomenon has been reported throughout Church history, up to our own time (e.g. Padre Pio, died 1968). It has given rise to the expression "the odor of sanctity," which can be both actual and metaphorical (a reputation for holiness).

One expression of the phenomenon is the experience of a fragrance associated with a saint in the context of prayer to that saint. St. Theresa of Lisieux (roses) and St. Pio (a pipe tobacco-like odor) are well known for this. Having eliminated all natural explanations (a person, flowers, rose-pedal rosaries and the like), some credit can be given that this is an authentic sign. Sometimes, it will be very strong and yet some will smell it and others will not (I myself experienced this in San Giovanni Rotondo). This would seem to be a strong authentication of something unnatural.

The final question, after determining that it has credibility, is what does it mean? It probably means that one's prayer has been heard, rather than that the answer is necessarily yes. We are called to dispose ourselves to the will of God, and so we can be comforted by such a sign to know that the prayer has been heard and that it will be answered, either by grace to endure a "no," the grace to endure a longer wait, or the grace to dispose us more perfectly for what we have asked.

- Colin Donovan

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