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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.