Friday, May 9, 2008

"The odor of sanctity"

Perhaps most poignant in the remarkable account of [the St. Etienne] apparition -- which spanned from 1664 until 1718 and will become known as "Laus" (pronounced lou, after the valley in which the visions occurred) -- are accounts describing the huge and perhaps unprecedented manifestations of delicious heavenly aromas known to mystical theologians as the "odor of sanctity."

The aroma, often recounted as a cross between lilies and roses -- but yet more delightful -- lasted for weeks at a time and covered large outdoor areas.

Noted one official, a judge named François Grimaud: "During the Easter Season of 1666, I smelled a very sweet fragrance for around seven minutes; I had never smelled anything like it in my life, and it gave me such deep satisfaction that I was enraptured." The odor continued beyond the seer's death and is still in evidence. According to one account, it was so powerful in the spring of 1690 that the Laus church was pervaded with the fragrance and "all the pilgrims attested to it."...

..."Strange as it may seem," noted Walsh, "[Benoîte, who witnessed the apparitions --] her most bitter enemies were priests. Some of these went so far as to cast her in prison; but, after fourteen days spent in fervent prayer and without tasting food, Benoîte was released, her persecutors then declaring their doubts unfounded."

One reason they may have released her: her cell filled with the odor of a heavenly perfume.


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