Our Lady of Good Counsel
Rev. Matthew R. Mauriello
Mater Boni Consili
The church that enshrines the original painting of Our Lady of Good Counsel is located in the small town of Genazzano , about thirty miles southeast of Rome. As early as the fifth century, the people of Genazzano were greatly devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. When Pope Sixtus III (432- 440) asked for donations to restore the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, the faithful were generous in their support. Shortly thereafter, they built a church dedicated to Our Lady of Good Counsel in Genazzano. The church was entrusted to the care of the Augustinian Fathers in 1356.
With the passage of time, it was necessary to repair the church and it appeared that only a local widow, Petruccia de Geneo, was willing to aid with the financing of the restoration. She was criticized by some of her neighbors but her efforts were rewarded by the miraculous event of April 25, 1467.
According to legend, the entire town was participating in the yearly feast in honor of St. Mark the Evangelist. The church was still unfinished and roofless when the image of the Madonna and Child was transported there from its former location in Scutari, Albania. Around four o'clock that afternoon, the multitude of people saw a mysterious cloud descend upon the church. The church bells rang of their own accord and the cloud parted revealing the portrait. The image, fifteen inches wide by seventeen inches high, came to rest on a narrow ledge in the church and remains in that position to this day. The painting is a fresco, painted on a thin layer of plaster as thin and fragile as an egg shell.
Within weeks, two refugees from Albania
arrived in Genazzano. They testified before the papal delegation that the same
image was in a church in the Albanian town of Scutari only a few weeks earlier.
When the town was on the verge of being invaded, the portrait was miraculously
relocated for its own protection. The commission verified that there was indeed
an empty space in the plaster wall of the church at Scutari, the exact size of
the portrait. The unfinished church was soon completed after the miraculous
event of April 1467 and became a place of pilgrimage. Within the first six
months alone, over 170 healings and miracles were recorded.
The miraculous image, at first called the Madonna of Paradise, has always been regarded with special favor by the Apostolic See. Pope Paul II (1464-1471) called for an investigation and gave initial approval to devotion to Our Lady of Good Counsel. Pope St. Pius V (1565-1572) attributed the victory in the Battle of Lepanto to the help of Our Lady of Good Counsel.
In 1753, Pope Benedict XIV approved the placing of a gold crown over the image and in 1779 Pope Pius VI granted the Augustinian Order the special privilege of celebrating the feast day each year on April 26. Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) had special devotion to Our Lady under this title and made a pilgrimage to Genazzano in 1864.
More than any other pope, Pope Leo XIII (1878- 1903) had a deep love for this devotion. He was born in the town of Carpineto, not far from the Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel, and elevated the shrine to the status of a Minor Basilica. In 1903, he inserted the title "Mater Boni Consilii" into the Litany of Loreto and also had a copy of the image installed in the Pauline Chapel of the Vatican Basilica.
Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) dedicated his entire pontificate to the Madonna of Good Counsel and Pope John XIII (1958-1963) made a visit to the shrine in 1959. The present church was built in 1628. In World War II, a bomb crashed through the roof, destroying the sanctuary and high altar. The fragile image of Our Lady of Good Counsel was only a few yards away but was miraculously undamaged.
In the Alban Hills, not far from the city of Rome, lies the little town of Genazzano, where the miraculous image of Our Lady of Good Counsel is venerated. The story of the picture dates back to 1467. Pilgrims assembled on the feast of St. Mark were startled by a mysterious rustling sound and strains of sweet music. Looking toward the sky, they beheld what seemed a soft cloud. Slowly it descended and rested in front of the unfinished wall of the church dedicated to the Mother of God under the title of Good Counsel. The picture rests suspended in the air without any visible means of support to maintain its stable condition, and this for five centuries! Although painted on a piece of plaster no thicker than an ordinary visiting card, the image has withstood the ravages of time. The artist of the painting is unknown.
It is said that the figures themselves represent Mother and Child after they had returned from the temple where Mary heard the sad prophesies of Simeon. Mary's eyes are half-veiled as though she were lost in contemplation, taking counsel with her God. The little Child does not return the gaze of the beholder, as happens in so many pictures, rather He draws our eyes upward to Mary as if to tell us to look for Counsel there, in the very Seat of Wisdom. It is a picture to be loved, a plain and common picture [hence our unframed treatment], a pious image to be copied and hung in the homes of the poor. That is all the sweet Mother of Good Counsel asks for her picture: a home in our midst, by our firesides, a family to guard and watch over, hearts that will love and venerate her.
Overshadowed by the Holy Ghost, Mary became the Mother of God. His gifts of Wisdom, Understanding, and Counsel belong to her. She is Our Mother of Good Counsel because she is the Spouse of God the Holy Ghost. If to her was granted the wisdom to counsel her Son, surely she has the wisdom to counsel poor humanity. In her there is the wisdom of ages. For 2000 years, she has been watching the children of men upon this earth. Our Lady of Good Counsel knows how to help us. She can help us. She wants to aid and counsel us! Once she sees upon a soul the sign of the Cross of her Son, that soul may count upon all her assistance. She loves with an undying love all those for whom her Son died.
God trusted her with His own Son, Who clung to her till life was done. Through sorrow none can comprehend She mothered Jesus to the end. And if you think her love may fail, You thrust within her heart a nail!
Our Mother of Good Counsel has been called the Madonna of the Popes. Pope Leo XIII deserves to be ranked among the great lovers of this devotion. He established the white scapular worn by her servants, and his motto is like a watchword to the clients of Mary: "Children," he told the faithful, "follow her counsels!" To all she gives what is most needed to help us in this vale of tears; she gives us her Good Counsel.
Pope Pius II, in his papal address to the College of Cardinals on Sept. 23, 1463, stated:
"They say we live for pleasure . . . and there is some truth in their words, many among the Cardinals and other officials do live this kind of life. We must enter new paths --- temperance, chastity, innocence, zeal for the Faith, ardor in the cause of religion, contempt for death, and the desire for Martyrdom have exalted the Roman Church and made her mistress of the world. It is not enough to profess the Faith, to preach to the people, to denounce vice, and to extol virtue. We must make ourselves like those who have sacrificed their very lives for the heritage of the Lord."
"THE FISH STINKS FROM THE HEAD DOWNWARDS"
What an acknowledgment of truth! Thereafter came all the great revolutions that devastated Christendom! Little by little the Cross of Jesus Christ was set aside. Our sins separated us from God. It was not merely some souls that fell away, but decadence became the sin of society as a whole.
"The conflict between the good and the wicked, has seldom, if ever, been so acute as it is today. As we look upon the world, we are overcome with grief and anguish as we perceive the iniquity of the unrighteous reach a degree of impiety that is totally incredible, and without parallel. Proud neglect and disdain of Divine things is the most pernicious of all evils, and at present is spread almost all over the world like a virulent disease. It deprives man of God and thereby robs him of his spiritual dignity, making him the ignoble tool of materialism, and utterly destroys all traces of virtue, love, hope, and beauty within his soul. We speak of atheism, or rather, hatred of God. Whoever is strong in faith and rich in the treasures of a religious life, should share these goods, as far as possible, to defend the name of God."
--- Pope Pius XII, 1949
And what might we not say of our own day! The acceptance of a humanistic, relativistic philosophy prepares the soul well for an explicit PROFESSION OF ATHEISM.
Clearly, "ecumenism" has an excellent
meaning in itself, but used to unite all religions
into a body of relative "truths" makes us wide open for sympathy and union with error. To imagine that we can be one with those whose entire ambition is to destroy all religion --- IMPOSSIBLE! The wiles and stratagems of Communism [its ideas are not dead, but have been resurrected ever more strongly in the one-world religion-government ideology] are developed now to a point of perfection. Ah, how it apes Lucifer himself in its cunning for deceit and lies! We must never forget we are at war. The enemy plays for keeps. Special sacrifices must be made, special duties must be performed, and, for now, graves must be dug for what we feel we simply "cannot do without"--- and a silent funeral held for self-love.
"THE WORLD WILL BE SAVED BY REPARATION!"
--- Blessed Pope Pius IX
"Now; more than ever before; the hour has come for REPARATION!"
--- Pope Pius XII
If love be true, it must labor; where labor is refused, there is no love.
--- St. Thomas Aquinas
Whenever a crisis looms over the horizon, trying, like a black cloud, to darken the Church beneath its shadow, God sends His punishment, tempered with mercy. That mercy without limits has a name: MARY!!!
Pray for us, O Mother of Good Counsel in this century of confusion as atheistic materialism, spreads its tentacles over the entire free world!
Prayer to Our Lady of Good Counsel
Most Glorious Virgin, chosen by the Eternal Counsel to be the Mother of the Eternal Word made flesh, thou who art the treasurer of Divine graces, and the advocate of sinners, I, thy most unworthy servant, have recourse to thee; be thou pleased to be my guide and counselor in this vale of tears.
Obtain for me through the Most Precious Blood of thy Divine Son, the forgiveness of my sins, the salvation of my soul, and the means necessary to obtain it.
In like manner, obtain for Holy Mother the Church victory over her enemies, and the spread of the kingdom of Jesus Christ upon the whole earth. Amen.
Imprimatur: + Patrick A. O'Boyle
Glory be to the Father, Who hath created me. Glory be to the Son, Who hath redeemed me.
Glory be to the Holy Ghost, Who hath sanctified me. Blessed be the holy and undivided Trinity,
now and forever. Amen.
"Remember, Christian soul, that thou hast this day a duty:
God to Glorify, Eternity to Prepare for,
Jesus to Imitate, The Angels and Saints to invoke;
Your Soul to Save, Your Body to Mortify,
Sins to Expiate, Virtues to Acquire,
Hell to avoid, Heaven to Gain,
Time to Profit by, Your neighbors to Edify,
The World to Despise, Devils to Combat,
Passions to Subdue, Death Perhaps to Encounter,
and Judgment to Undergo."
The sacrifice Our Lord asks of you is the Sacrifice of Daily Duty . . .
The Valiant Woman,
and the Image of Our Lady of Genazzano
Marian Therese Horvat, Ph.D.
The story of how the miraculous fresco of Our Lady of Good Counsel left Albania and traveled to Italy is one that is marvelous and true.
There is a little town, about 25 miles outside of Rome, called Genazzano. In pagan times it was a celebrated shrine for the worship of Venus, but in the fourth century a church was built there in honor of Our Lady and called the Church of the Virgin Mother of Good Counsel. Through the course of time the church was abandoned and almost fell into ruins. So it remained until the mid 15th century when a pious woman gave all she had for its restoration.
Our Lady of Good Counsel
This story is about that pious woman, who in many ways is a symbol for our times. Most of the time her name is lost in the marvel of the facts of the story. She is simply recorded as a pious widow, a tertiary of the Order of St. Augustine, and perhaps she would have it that way. But it seems to me that the story and the miracle of image of Our Lady of Good Counsel of Genazzano is in a special way her story, and her name should not be lost to history.
In 1436 Petruccia Noteria had been left a widow with respectable means. Living alone, for she had no children, she dedicated herself to prayer. Her special concern was the deplorable state of the Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel because she had been favored with a vision in which the Virgin Mary entrusted her with the mission of restoring this church. Petruccia invoked the good will of the townspeople to assist in the work, but they proved unwilling. The strong walls of the small fortressed city had not been able to protect its inhabitants from the spirit of the Renaissance, with its love of luxury and comfort, from corrupting the customs and vanquishing the faith of its inhabitants.
Convinced of her mission and confident that Our Lady would provide the means for her to accomplish what had been asked of her, Petruccia donated all her goods to pay for the restoration of the sacred building with the hope that others would join her in the pious undertaking as they saw it being realized. The work began and the rough beam walls of a side chapel were raised. But no noble souls joined in the enterprise. Instead Petruccia met with scorn and ridicule. Even some who formerly had called themselves her friends now reprimanded or laughed at her in public: “What imprudence! And at her age!” “Who does she think she is – another St. Francis?” “She must be mad! Who needs another church? The times have changed. The crazy visionary needs to wake up and see that the past is gone.”
Petruccia’s fidelity to her mission
The most courageous part of her story commences now. Many a person indeed has taken on noble enterprises and has been willing to make great sacrifices, offer their goods and even suffer death for the greater glory of God and the exaltation of the Holy Church. But then, before the laughter of their peers, for fear of meeting a condoning smile or a sarcastic word, the heroic resolution collapses. The sign of cross is abandoned at the important business lunch, the ladies tea, the university or high school lunchroom. The resolute 13-year-old girl who has determined to dress modestly turns 16, and the pressure of her peers is suddenly more than she can bear: she dons blue jeans and tank tops and puts aside her old promises. Young men leave off praying the Rosary, serving Mass, avoiding vulgar conversations and bad companions because they don’t want to seem like “nerds” or “losers”… At certain functions, the scapular is slipped into the pocket…
And why? For fear of a laugh. For fear of the laughter of a serving woman, St. Peter denied Our Lord. How many more denials have been made so that we can adapt to a public opinion that does not censure us — or fall into a life of being “normal” and “fitting in”?
Petruccia faced this laughter and scorn with a supernatural courage and confidence. She smiled at her detractors, continued her pious works and prayers, and replied to their taunts: “My dear children, do not put too much importance on this apparent misfortune. I assure you that before my death the Blessed Virgin and our holy father Augustine will finish the church begun by me.”
The miraculous picture arrives in Genazzano
Every year on April 25, the feast day of St. Mark, Genazzano’s patron, a fair was celebrated in the city square, where the partially restored church of the Mother of Good Counsel stood. But something quite unusual took place in the year 1467 that would mark the day and the little Italian village in History.
The pilgrims walk over the Adriatic Sea without sinking as they follow the miraculous picture As the fair began to draw to a close and the hour of Vespers approached, a white luminous cloud drifted down over the village. From it the chords of a beautiful music seemed to emanate. The cloud descended on the church of the Mother of Good Counsel and poised over the wall of the unfinished chapel of St. Biagio that Petruccia had raised. Suddenly, the bells of the old tower began to ring by themselves, and the other bells of the town rang miraculously in unison. The cloud that enveloped the fresco descended and hovered a short distance away from the wall of Petruccia’s church. The cloud faded, and revealed a beautiful fresco of the Blessed Virgin and Child. A crowd gathered, and people began to cry out: “A miracle! A miracle!” “Long live Maria! Our Mother of Good Counsel!”
Promptly Our Lady began to show her generosity. The innumerable cures and consolations she dispensed have been documented by the local ecclesiastical authorities. Almost overnight, the funds poured in to complete Petruccia’s work and the church was completely restored. The former Chapel of St. Biagio became a very rich shrine to harbor this gift from Heaven, which for five centuries to this day has remained miraculously suspended in the air close to the wall of the chapel.
The fresco became known as Our Lady of Good Counsel of Genazzano, sometimes simply called Our Lady of Genazzano, in honor of the town in which Our Lady herself chose to find refuge. The faith and piety of the people of the whole town was regenerated. Before long, as news of story and the miracles and wonders Our Lady was working spread, pilgrims were coming from throughout the province and beyond. Processions of whole villages traveled to venerate the miraculous image.
The rest of the story
It was not long before Our Lady chose to reveal to the towns people how “Mary from Paradise” had come to rest on the half-built wall of the church Petruccia was determined to restore.
A fresco of the apparition of Our Lady of Good Counsel, by Prospero Piatti, 1883, on a back wall of the Church of Genazzano
This particular fresco, reputed to date to the time of the Apostles, had long been venerated in Albania’s capital city, Scutari. The Turkish army had invaded Albania and was then threatening to take the capital. Our Lady assured two of her devoted and inconsolable servants, Giorgio and de Scalvis, that her picture would not be desecrated and ordered them to prepare for a journey and to accompany the fresco wherever it might go. The picture detached itself from the wall, and the two friends followed the fresco, which was wrapped in a white translucent cloud, to the coast of the Adriatic sea.
Then the faithful Giorgio and de Sclavis continued to follow it across the Adriatic, walking miraculously on the water, until they reached Italy. Having reached Italy, the image suddenly disappeared from their sight. It had gone to find refuge in the half-built church of a woman of faith, Petruccia. It had gone to Genazzano.
Because of Petruccia’s confidence in Our Lady’s promise, much more than a single church was rebuilt and restored. This incident is remindful of Christ’s command to St. Francis to “rebuild his Church,” St. Francis assumed he was referring to the little church of St. Damien, which was in ruins. It was only much later that St. Francis understood that the House he was to rebuild was the Church established by Our Lord upon Peter.
Our Lady’s command to Petruccia was more than to rebuild a single dilapidated church; it was her design to rekindle and revive the faith and piety of a whole province and beyond - at a time when the Faith was under attack by the internal enemies of Humanism and indifferentism.
In the twentieth century, Our Lady appeared at Fatima with a warning of a coming chastisement if mankind did not convert and if the world was not consecrated to her by the Holy Father in union with all the bishops simultaneously in their respective dioceses. She also gave to the faithful a message of hope – an eventual victory. Can we doubt that we are not also invited, like the simple Italian widow, to the task of rebuilding the House of Our Lord?
A lesson for our times
It is not difficult to see in the miracle of Genazzano many similarities to our times.
Then, a world was falling victim to a great moral and religious crisis; the churches were being invaded by a terrible enemy [the Turks entering Albania]; and two faithful soldiers and a brave widow who “against hope believed in hope” (Rom 4:18).
Today, the moral and religious crisis reaches almost incomprehensible depths; an invasion of the Church is coming from within her own walls and appears to have worked almost a total destruction; yet, here and there, there are those faithful souls who build their chapels and combat the moral laxity, confiding in the promise that Our Lady gave at Fatima of a triumph, a restoration. Here and there, there are those courageous souls who do not fear to brave public opinion, openly profess their faith and oppose the Conciliar and post Conciliar abuses inside the Church that have been fostered among the highest echelons of ecclesiastical authority. Here and there, the half-finished walls of the church rise as people gather to assist at the Traditional Latin Mass and keep alive the abandoned pious devotions.
One of great graces one finds at the feet of Our Lady of Genazzano and from the example of the noble Petruccia is that of confidence. If we have the courage to pray and act with confidence for great or impossible things, great and impossible things will be given us. God never refuses confident prayers, and bestows his gifts in proportion to our confidence.
Today, as Our Lady warned at Fatima, we face
an immense crisis that demands a supernatural solution. Yet those who confide in
the great promise Our Lady gave, a promise of triumph and victory, should expect
to see, like Petruccia, the fulfillment of that promise and to live and see at
least the first days of that glorious Marian era predicted by St. Louis Marie
Grignion de Montfort, the great prophet of the Reign of Mary.
Not far from the city of Rome, lies the little town of Genazzano, where the miraculous image of Our Lady of Good Counsel is venerated. The story of the picture dates back to 1467. On the Feast of St. Mark [April 25] pilgrims were startled by a mysterious rustling sound and strains of sweet music. Looking up into the sky, they saw what appeared to be a soft cloud, which slowly descended to the front of the unfinished wall of the church dedicated to the Mother of God under the title of Good Counsel. The picture still rests suspended in the air without any visible means of support to maintain its stable condition! Although painted on a piece of plaster no thicker than an ordinary visiting card, the image has withstood the wear of time. The artist is unknown. The original image has no frame.
O VIRGIN Mother, Lady of Good
Sweetest picture an artist ever drew,
In all my doubts I fly to thee for guidance--
Mother, tell me, what am I to do?
By thy face to Jesus' face inclining,
Sheltered safely in thy mantle blue;
By His little arms around thee twining,
Mother, tell me, what am I to do?
By the light within thy dear
By the tears that dim their lustre too,
By the story that these tears are telling,
Mother, tell me, what am I to do?
Life, alas! is often dark and dreary,
Cheating shadows hide the truth from view;
When my soul is most perplexed and weary, Mother, tell me, what am I to do?
See my hopes in fragile vessel
Be the pilot of that trembling crew;
Guide me safely o'er the dangerous crossing, Mother, tell me, what am I to do?
Should I ever, willfully forgetting,
Fail to pay my God His homage due;
Should I sin, and live without regretting,
Mother, tell me, what am I to do?