Sister Giovanna Maria della Croce of Roveredo – The choir were aware of her approach from the perfume which was wafted before her
Type of Spiritual Experience
Friar Herbert Thurston was a Catholic priest, a member of the Jesuit order and an historian. He wrote extensively on Catholic mysticism and psychic phenomena and was a member of the Society for Psychical Research. He was also widely read on this subject. He is described as ‘an honest skeptic’., and once said ‘the role of Devil’s advocate is a thankless one and does not make for popularity’.
A description of the experience
Friar Herbert Thurston - The Physical Phenomenon of Mysticism
Sister Giovanna Maria della Croce of Roveredo died in 1623. Her biographer, Weber, who seems to have had access to all the official documents and depositions of witnesses, after describing the incident of her mystic espousal to Jesus Christ, continues as follows:
From this time onwards her finger exhaled a delicious fragrance, which she was unable to hide, and which all the community soon became aware of. Consequently they sought every opportunity to touch it and kiss it. The perfume which it gave out was so powerful that it communicated itself to the touch and persisted for a considerable time. Thus it happened that sister Mary Ursula, having touched that finger in the holy nun's first illness, her hand for several days afterwards retained an exquisite fragrance. This scent was particularly perceptible when Giovanna Maria was ill, because she could not then take any precautions to disguise it.
From her finger the perfume extended gradually to the whole hand and then to her body, and communicated itself to all the objects which she touched. It could not be compared to any earthly scent because it was essentially different, and transfused soul and body with an indescribable sweetness. It was more powerful when she came back from Communion. It exuded not only from her body but also from her clothes long after she had ceased to wear them, from her straw mattress and from the objects in her room. It spread through the whole house and betrayed her comings and her goings and her every movement.
The religious who were in choir were aware of her approach from the perfume which was wafted before her before she came into view. This phenomenon, which lasted for many years, was the more remarkable because naturally she could not endure any form of scent. It was necessary to keep all such things as musk and amber out of the house altogether, because they acted upon her from a considerable distance even though they were hidden in the cellar, and produced a most distressing effect, so much so that she would even faint away on the spot.
The only scent which did her no harm was that which breathed from her own person. Often new novices who joined the order came to the convent wearing, according to the fashion of the times, scented necklaces of pearl or coral. She was so painfully affected by these objects that she could not come near the wearers, and it was found necessary to require them to lay them aside at the convent gate in order to save the Mother Abbess from the risk of a swoon or some other indisposition.