Our Lady of Good Counsel is one of the many titles of the Virgin Mary, one which dates back indirectly to the 5th century, when Pope Sixtus III provided material and spiritual aid to a church dedicated to Our Lady in the Italian town of Genazzano, whose citizens had contributed significantly to the recently-finished magnificent basilica Santa Maria Maggiore church in Rome.
So far, so good, for a millennium or so. But it seems that by the year 1467, the local church in Genazzano had fallen into disrepair. A widow tried to raise funds for renovation, but to no avail, when, on the feast of Saint Mark, April 25th, exquisite music was heard, the bells of the church began to ring on their own, and all the other bells in the town, and a cloud descended on the dilapidated building. After it disappeared, there was on one of the walls a paper-thin, and it turns out miraculous, fresco of the Virgin and the Christ child. There is a legend that the image whose origins no one knew or ever discovered. had been transported miraculously from Albania, where it had been in danger of being desecrated by the invading Turkish Muslims.
Wherever it derived, the beautiful image of the Madonna and Child was christened Madonna del Buon Consiglio, ‘Our Lady of Good Counsel’, becoming a famous place of pilgrimage and intercession, with Popes and saints, Urban VIII, Pius IX, Innocent XI, Saints Alphonsus Ligouri, Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, Saint John Bosco, making their way to the site over the centuries.
Counsel here is the gift of the Holy Spirit, making us amenable to His guidance in the spiritual life, perfecting and elevating the virtue of prudence, allowing us to know the true good in every circumstance, and the right means of attaining it. By Our Lady’s guidance, we can discern properly, in the great, and the small, and will never be led astray or deceived by the Evil One, and his machinations and perversions.
Pope Leo XIII added ‘Our Lady of Good Counsel’ to Mary’s official Litany of Loreto, and now churches and schools throughout the world are dedicated to this very a propos title of the Mother of God, whose primary vocation now is to guide her spiritual children to heaven. We perhaps need the good counsel of Our Lady more than ever – And what better place to turn to Our heavenly mother, whose mission is to lead us to her Son, the Truth Himself?