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, exquisite music was heard, a cloud descended on the dilapidated building, and when it disappeared, there was a paper-thin, and it turns out miraculous, fresco of the Virgin and the Christ child. There is a legend that the image had been transported miraculously from Albania, where the image – whose origins no one knew – was 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.
Pope Leo XIII added ‘Our Lady of Good Counsel’ to her official Litany, 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, who will never lead us astray?