Roses for the Final Time
“Robert Hopcke was a Lutheran seminarian in September, 1978 when he attended Mass at a Catholic Church near the campus of the University of Pennsylvania with his friend Vincent Mandato. He recounted: ‘At Mass, just before the homily, I remember smelling very distinctly the odor of roses … I didn’t think much of it, and it seemed to go away only to come back again, just as sweet and just as strong during the Creed. At that time, I recall looking around to see who the woman was nearby who had doused herself with so much scent, but there was no woman near us. I tried to locate a flower arrangement in the church that could be giving off such a perfume, but again, there was no arrangement nearby, and no roses in the church at all. I thought perhaps it could be the scented candles, but the strength of the odor was such that the faraway candles would have had to fill the church with their scent, and surely I would have smelled such a powerful fragrance immediately upon entering the church and not halfway through the Mass. The odor seemed to fade again, and came back for the third and final time during the consecration of the Host.‘”
After the Mass, his friend Vincent asked him if he had smelled something strange during the Mass. When Hopcke confirmed having the same experience, Mandato suggested that Hopcke talk to Mandato’s parents back in Plainfield, New Jersey. Hopcke was on his way there the next day. Upon arriving, he followed Mandato’s suggestion.
Mandato’s father had known a certain Capuchin priest back in Italy, Padre Pio. Mandato’s mother had a further connection, she was his cousin. Many wondrous stories had circulated about the man for years, miraculous healings, bilocations, the ability to tell people about sins they had even forgotten during their confessions, and other inexplicable happenings. In speaking of these later, “Hopcke concluded: ‘Not having known Padre Pio personally, as have the Mandatos, and having, I like to think, a very rational, logical mind, I neither totally believe nor disbelieve the stories of Padre Pio. The sheer volume of them tends to make me believe that something totally miraculous took place in the presence of that holy, devout Capuchin.‘”
During his visit to Vincent’s parents, as Hopcke began to explain the events that had taken place at church, “the elder Mandato finished the description: ‘It was very sweet and very strong, like the scent of roses, a garden of roses in decline, and it came and went a number of times, three or four times.’” Hopcke then stated that this was exactly like the experience he had. Mrs. Mandato told him that he had received a grace from Padre Pio. She had no doubt. Many people had experienced such a smell in connection with Padre Pio. It was something for which he was well-known.
Hopcke himself was not convinced. He remained skeptical, but still cannot explain the sweet smell, the fact that his friend separately knew of it, the fact that it came and went and the fact that there was no other observable cause.
It is also something to cause wonder that it ended with the consecration of the Host, as if that was a moment of culmination, as if there was nothing that could follow it. Someone known by the writer of this post experienced just such a smell once. It was in the presence of the Eucharist, at Marytown in Illinois. It was an experience shared by the person he was with and mutually related later, just as happened in the story above. There may not have been any connection with Padre Pio, but there was a connection, in both of these episodes, with the Eucharist.
(Quoted parts taken from Padre Pio: The True Story, by C. Bernard Ruffin (Huntington, Indiana, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., 1991) p. 321-22.)