Scents, Mother’s Day, & Fatima: Thoughts on Faith

I am not one to wear lotions consistently, and I choose hair shampoo based on the hair dresser’s recommendation, rather than smell. As well-scented as I was pre-kids, gone are the days where I spritz perfume on a consistent basis. My excuse? Nobody has got time for all the “extra work” it takes to pamper one’s self. Yesterday, like many recent days, I spent Mother’s Day contemplating the power of scent.

As a massage therapist once remarked, “Our memories are triggered by the scents of our past.” And, there are certainly some times in my life where I feel transported back in time – especially when I smell the sweet smell of mint extract, calling to mind the homemade green frosting mint brownies of my childhood. Certain perfumes or lotions call to mind influential women of my life. Usually, most of the smells are a positive memory for me, but as a former clinician, I am acutely aware that some smells are extremely traumatic to other people.

As I contemplated scents yesterday, considering just how much an impact scent can have on long-term psyche, I decided to treat myself to some lotions from Bed, Bath, & Beyond. By the time I left, I was also carrying antibacterial hand sanitizer in various scents, and hand soap – since we had run out over a week ago, but had failed to remember at all cheaper grocery runs.

My goal as of yesterday is to develop a “scent” for my kids to remember – something that will trigger them to think of me, and hopefully pray for me, even long after they have grown and gone, and hopefully even long after I have gone. I also briefly spent time trying to determine why I was becoming increasingly focused on providing a scent to my kids.

This morning, I was working on projects for the Military Council of Catholic Women, focusing on today’s Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. And, I realized the root of my current obsession with scents.

I have often heard that when Mary appears to people, they experience a strong (but not overwhelming) scent of roses in the air. Like the memories of my childhood being triggered by scents, Mary – as the mother of us all – uses her perfume to draw us into her embrace. I didn’t have time to drag out saint quotes about the scent of Mary, but suffice it to say, several saints who have revealed private revelations of Mary have noted how the scent she leaves lingers behind… and, I am certain one or two have described the desire to always smell the sweet scent of our Lady.

Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, has written an amazing book entitled Champions of the Rosary. As he explained the history of the “Hail Mary,” and the background of the Holy Rosary, he shared about a vision of Henry of Kalkar, who was shown that every time a Hail Mary was prayed, a rose was placed on Mary’s head.

Bouquet of pink roses being held, with a quote written by Fr. Donald H. Calloway, MIC from his book Champion of the Rosaries. The quote reads,

When our Lady appeared to the three shepherd children in Fátima, Portugal monthly for six months, every apparition contained a reminder for the children to, “Pray the Rosary every day.” If this vision of Henry of Kalkar is to be believed, no wonder Mary has a sweet, vivid scent of roses – because many, many Catholics throughout the centuries have prayed many a “Hail Mary.” They have literally, through the simple action of praying a “Hail Mary,” have added another rose to her crown. And, it must be a sweet, sweet smell.

In Mary’s arms, we find an unwavering advocate – a mother who champions for us, but also to us.

She laments at the poor choices we make, but as a good mother, allows us the free will to make poor decisions. She cheers the good choices we make, and as a good mother, allows us to reap the rewards of good decisions.

The shepherd children of Fatima once explained a concept not unique to them, but rather, in terms more advanced than their tender ages: “Just as the moon reflects the sun, so too does the Mother reflect her Son.”

The Military Council of Catholic Women image from FB page #connectuniteinspire #mccw #beautifulcamouflage Image of statue of Our Lady of Fatima, surrounded by a decade of fresh flower roses and the quote,

First thing this morning, as I avoided getting ready for the day, I started watching a brief video posted on FB by EWTN about the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima. It drew my oldest in, and I found him starting to pay close attention. Watching him reminded me of the times where I read all I could about the lives of the saints, how passionately I prayed and desired for Heaven, and how I longed for private revelations that would let me know my prayers were not in vain.

And, as I watched my eldest, and then answered his questions, I realized I longed for his wide-eyed innocence. The innocence I once possessed was replaced by skepticism as I grew older. The naivety I once held was replaced by suspicion that all is not as it seems in the world. The doubtless belief I held in God, and the power of His Presence, gave way to doubt in Him, entirely.

Somewhere along the road of life, I lost faith – in myself, in humanity, and in God. I fell into the trap of lies that He could not exist. I lost the desire to read the saints, or to read about the saints.

These epiphanies have created a desire to regain that faith so long ago lost. While I have slowly regained my faith in God and His infinite goodness and power, I still hold on to the doubt of humanity, and more disappointingly, doubt of myself.

Learning more about the childlike innocence, and the faith of the little shepherd children, I call to mind the reminder in Matthew 18:3, “…to turn and become like children…”

Children don’t doubt. Watching my exuberant three year old’s zest for life is a stark reminder that children jump into situations feet first.

Answering my six year old’s questions are a firm reminder that, while thinking big thoughts, they also readily accept the Truth found in faith.

Cheering on the one year old’s little toddling attempts as he tries out his first pair of shoes is a clear reminder that, while we are going to fall, our job is to get back up and try again. And again. And, even more times, again.

Once upon a time, I wrote about not praying the Rosary as I should – or, even as I advocate. With the thoughts swirling of scents, of today’s feast day, and faith, I am brought back to a desire to pray the Rosary. I want to shower Mary, the Mother of Jesus, with all the roses I am able. As she shines brightly for so many, ultimately she points those of us who believe in Christ back to her Son.

Ultimately, belief in Christ brings belief in one’s self. If I doubt myself, then I am doubting in His belief in me.

And, doubting God’s belief in me is tantamount to doubting God.

Seeds of doubt creep into the crevices of life, and take root. Without proper diligence of frequent weeding through the sacrament of Confession, we experience the growth of pride. From that growth, we see the blooms of the deadly sins, and our relationship with God is placed in jeopardy.

At the end of the day, my fervent prayer is that everyone will stop allowing Satan to plant the seeds of doubt. Rather, each of us must ask God to plant seeds of faith. Then, we must do the work to grow the blooms of faith, hope, and love.

We must be willing to do the hard work to build up and “become like children.” We must be willing to play our part in order to smell the sweet aroma of the crown of Mary, as we join her at the everlasting, eternal banquet, seated with her Son and the Father.

As Our Lady of Fatima reminds those listening, “If men knew what eternity is, they would do everything they could to change their lives.”

Dear reader, I invite you to spend time contemplating eternity, and what you must do as an individual person of faith, to change your lives today. What difficulty can you tolerate today, in exchange for the sweet, aromatic reward of Heaven?

As always, I am praying for you, and ask that you pray for me.

Until next time, dear reader…

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