Healing Line

Healing Line

The Fragrance of the Holy Spirit

by Francis MacNutt
Jul/Aug/Sep 2011

As many of you already know, one of our longtime colleagues in the healing ministry, Barbara Shlemon Ryan, passed on to the next life on Good Friday. We were with her a short time before in San Diego at the meeting of the Association of Christian Therapists, an organization she was instrumental in founding in 1974. Barbara was one of the first people to pray for healing in the Catholic Church in the early 1960’s and she was especially gifted in praying for inner healing. I met Barbara and Sister Jeanne Hill, O.P. in 1969, at a retreat I led in Racine, Wisconsin. As soon as we met I realized they were both very gifted speakers and I added them to the team; after that they became members of many teams that we took around to many countries. Some historians date the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Latin America to the teams we put together beginning in 1970, at a time when I lived at Merton House in St. Louis, MO. Among the many places we spoke were Mexico, Colombia, and Peru.

Shortly before her death — largely incurred by the resurgence of MRSA, which had twice incapacitated her and nearly killed her last year — Barbara came to CHM to record her recollections of how we brought Charismatic Renewal to Latin America. While she was with us, we experienced a fascinating phenomenon which I want to pass on to you.

After our meetings, both Barbara and one of our staff members, Lauren Corley, smelled a fragrance in our office that seemed like lavender and it lingered for quite a while. This kind of aromatic event seems to happen from time to time. My first experience with an unusual floral scent was back in the late 1960s when, during a School of Pastoral Care in Whitinsville, Mass., the participants reported the scent of roses permeating the chapel, although there were no flowers there. What’s the meaning behind it? What’s the point to it all?

As I see it, there is no profound meaning we need to look for, except that experiences like this are meant to encourage us on our journey. People report all kinds of different, unusual manifestations that are not as important as powerful “signs and wonders;” their simple purpose is to encourage us to keep on going in the ministry — which is hard work and sometimes discouraging. We often hear about other fascinating phenomena — one of the more common is seeing golden flakes drifting down from the rafters; at other times glittering metallic flakes appear on the clothing of preachers.

In seeing all of these fascinating happenings I think our attitude should not be to emphasize them, but, rather, to simply notice them and thank God that he has seen fit to bless us with his encouragement. It certainly doesn’t prove that the people to whom it happens are holy. Our best response is simply to be grateful and not to become puffed up with self–importance. I remember once when Judith and I were at a John Wimber conference at Steubenville University and gold colored flakes were found sprinkled on the ground. As for special fragrances, the Christian tradition has included the “odor of sanctity;” people have noticed these remarkable occurrences for centuries but have not devoted much study to them.

And so, if you find gold–dust on your jacket after you have given your testimony, be glad and thank God, but don’t get carried away by it all. Just rejoice that Jesus is showing how much he loves you!

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Jul/Aug/Sep 2011