Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Good Counsel.
Records dating from the reign of Paul II (1464-71) relate that the picture of Our Lady, at first called “La Madonna del Paradiso” and now better known as “Madonna del Buon Consiglio”, appeared at Genazzano, a town about twenty-five miles southeast of Rome, on St. Mark’s Day, 25 April, 1467, in the old church of Santa Maria, which had been under the care of Augustinians since 1356. The venerated icon itself, which is drawn on a thin scale of wall-plaster little thicker than a visiting-card, was observed to hang suspended in the air without the slightest apparent support; thus early tradition, which furthermore tells how one might have passed a thread around the image without touching it. At once devotion to Our Lady in Santa Maria sprang up; pilgrim-bands began to resort thither; while miracles in ever-increasing numbers, of which a register was opened two days after the event, were wrought, as they still continue to be, at the shrine. In July following, Pope Paul deputed two bishops to investigate the alleged wonder-working image. (5)
Their report, however, is not known to be extant. The cult of Our Lady increased. In 1630 Urban VIII himself went to Genazzano on a pilgrimage, as did Pius IX in 1864. On 17 November, 1682, Innocent XI had the picture crowned with gold by the Vatican Basilica. In 1727 Benedict XIII granted the clergy of Genazzano an Office and Mass of Our Lady for 25 April, anniversary of the apparition, elsewhere the feast being kept a day later so as not to conflict with that of St. Mark the Evangelist. On 2 July, 1753, Benedict XIV approved of the Pious Union of Our Lady of Good Counsel for the faithful at large, and was himself enrolled therein as its pioneer member; Pius IX was a member, and also Leo XIII. On 18 December, 1779, Pius VI, while re-approving the cult of Our Lady, granted all Augustinians an Office with hymns, lessons, prayer and Mass proper of double-major rite; with a plenary indulgence also for the faithful, to which Pius VIII added another for visitors to the shrine. On 18 December, 1884, Leo XIII approved of a new Office and Mass of second-class rite for all Augustinians, while on 17 March, 1903, he elevated the church of Santa Maria — one of the four parish churches at Genazzano — to the rank of minor basilica; and, on 22 April following, authorized the insertion in the Litany of Loreto of the invocation “Mater Boni Consillii” to follow that of “Mater Admirabilis”. The same pontiff, ten years earlier (21 December, 1893) had sanctioned the use of the White Scapular of Our Lady of Good Counsel for the faithful. In the United States there are many churches and institutions in honour of Our Lady of Good Counsel. (5)
The apparition of Our Lady of Good Counsel is so celebrated, Her picture so well known and so honored in the Church, that it is very fitting to allot a place to this devotion. The little city of Gennazano, situated on the mountains of the former Sabina province, about ten leagues from Rome, for a thousand years already had honored the Blessed Virgin as Our Lady of Good Counsel. In the 15th century, the church of that city was dilapidated and about to collapse. A pious woman of advanced age named Petruccia desired to provide for its reconstruction, but the gift of her entire fortune, which she made for this purpose, proved insufficient. Petruccia foretold that the Blessed Virgin would Herself finish the work.
Then on April 25, 1467, at the hour of Vespers, a celestial harmony was heard in the air, and the crowd saw a brilliant cloud coming down through the air, which came to rest over the altar in the Chapel of Saint Blaise in the Gennazano Church, where the restoration had begun. At the same time, all the church bells began to ring joyously. The cloud disappeared, and the marveling crowd saw a picture of Mary holding the Child Jesus, painted on a prepared surface, suspended in the air over the altar near the wall, without any natural support. It was duly verified that this picture had been miraculously transported from a church of Scutari, a city of Albania. Providence, wishing to preserve it from profanation by the Turks who were controlling that land, sent it as a reward for the faith of Petruccia and her fellow citizens of Gennazano.
A history of the marvels of all kinds which have been wrought since that time near this miraculous picture, suspended in the air, would require volumes. Often the picture has been seen to change its expression, the eyes of the Blessed Virgin taking on an appearance of joy or sorrow. How many illnesses and infirmities have been cured! How many spiritual graces have been obtained! Gennazano in Italy is still a venerated pilgrimage site, much frequented by the people of that land, and many pious pilgrims from other nations, when time permits it for them, arrange to visit this blessed sanctuary. The Sovereign Pontiffs have granted many indulgences to devotion to Our Lady of Good Counsel, and the title Mother of Good Counsel was included in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin by Pope Leo XIII. (4)
Novena to Our Lady of Good Counsel
by St. Francis De Sales
Mary, Virgin Immaculate and my Mother, who art the Mother of Good Counsel and Mother all-powerful, take me under your guidance, because ignorant and blind as I am, I am scarcely able to discern the truly good from that which is evil, on account of the seductions of the devil, my own passions and the false maxims of the world, which draw me from the ways of grace to the paths of perdition. Unless you direct me with the light of your heavenly wisdom I shall not certainly be able to escape eternal misfortune. You, who had the privilege of being on earth the counselor of the Apostles in the establishment of the Church, assist me also by your wise counsels to the end, that I may faithfully discharge all the duties I owe my God and my neighbor. I firmly promise to follow always your counsels, and in my doubts to have recourse to you with confidence. I also promise to cherish a tender devotion to you, as Mother of Good Counsel, so that being guided by your assistance I hope, after the grace of a good life and a happy death, I may be permitted to share in the incomparable glory with which God has crowned you, by praising, blessing and rendering thanks to you for all eternity. Amen.
V. Pray for us, Mother of Good Counsel.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Most Blessed Virgin, worthy to be made mother of God, faithful dispenser of the graces which thy Son deigns to bestow on us in this life, I beseech thee by the love of thy divine Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ, to obtain for me of the Holy Spirit, thy heavenly Spouse, celestial light and good Counsel by which I may know all I ought to do and how I ought to conform myself for the glory of God and the furtherance of my own salvation.
Most sacred Virgin, I hope to receive this favor of heaven through thy intercession; for next to God Himself in thee I place my trust. (2)
Image: Our Lady of Good Counsel, artist: Pasquale Sarullo (11)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff