THE ICON


 MMGC Icon

Feastday:  April 26 (or Sunday after)

In the medieval town of Genazzano, Italy, one finds the shrine of this Marian painting. A pagan temple dedicated to Venus once stood in this place until the fourth century when a church was built to honor the Virgin Mary under the title Our Lady of Good Counsel. The sanctuary was entrusted by Prince Pietro Colonna to the Augustinian friars in 1356 and fell to disrepair over the years.  The friars set about rebuilding the church. A wealthy widow named Petruccia da Nocera, a tertiary of the Order, came to their support. Living alone, she dedicated most of her time to prayer and services in the church of the Mother of Good Counsel. The work ran into financial difficulty and the villagers mocked the efforts of Petruccia and the friars. Petruccia was undaunted; she prayed hard and knew the church would be completed in time, saying: “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.”

Good Counsel ApparitionDuring Vespers of April 25, 1467, feast of St Mark the Evangelist, the residents of Genazzano heard a beautiful melody coming from heaven. They saw a white, shining cloud that descended on their church. The cloud vanished, revealing a beautiful painting of Our Lady tenderly holding her Divine Son in her arms. The church bells suddenly tolled on their own accord and the people stood in wonder before the painting's beauty! Mostly peasants, they were convinced it had come from paradise ("La Madonna del Paradiso").  Petruccia, who had been praying in another area, rushed to the scene and fell into tears before the miraculous image.

Measuring approximately 15-1/2 inches by 17-1/2 inches, the icon of Our Lady of Good Counsel is a fresco executed on a thin layer of plaster, depicting a mother figure who is half turned toward her son and half toward the viewer. The Christ child rests on Mary's left arm, her head bends toward him, their cheeks touch tenderly. It is a moment of maternal love and tenderness. Art experts suggest that the fresco of the Madonna is likely the work of the early fifteenth century artist Gentile da Fabriano, probably painted around the time of Pope Martin V (1417-1431).
MMGC Icon Explained

Our Lady’s face shows her great satisfaction in having her Child in her arms. She is only thinking of Him.  But she is not looking at him directly; she is looking at you. She receives our prayers and transmits these to God. This is the Catholic doctrine of mediation of graces.

The left hand of the Child gently grasps the rim of her dress, indicating the intimacy of nursing. He has this great intimacy with her, but His eyes do not look straight at her, they are turned upward. While her eyes look downward, His eyes are raised, up toward the Father. We look to her; she looks to Him; and He looks to the two other Persons of the Most Holy Trinity. Mary is shown wearing a veil typical of Jewish women of the period, revealing her humility and piety. Mary wears a blue robe with blue mantle. The veil is blue, the color of humanity.. Mary is a human person with a human nature. The Christ Child is dressed in red, symbol of divinity and is covered with blue mantle.  This is an affirmation of the Christian doctrine that Jesus is true God and true man. Christ does not come to destroy our blue garment of humanity; he comes to perfect our humanity and allows us to “put on” the red garment of divinity.

The mantle is symbolic of a mother's solicitude, loving care and powerful protection. The earliest beneficiary of Mary's protection was Jesus, then his disciples/apostles and now, the Church. The earliest prayer (ca AD 250) addressed to the Blessed Mother is entitled "SUB TUUM PRAESIDIUM"  ("We fly under your protection"). By the 13th century, this universal symbol of protection came to characterize the image of the the Blessed Mother in the Western Church.

The tender image of Mother and Child is at one and the same time, so very human and so illustrative of a deep spiritual truth. Mary, Mother of her infant Son, is also his first and most faithful disciple. He who is her Lord embraces her affectionately as she, his Mother, receives from Him words of wisdom and counsel.

News spread throughout the country. The provincial of the Augustinian order, Ambrogio da Cori, OSA recorded in his book Chronica that "all of Italy came to visit the blessed image, cities and towns came in pilgrimage.  Many wonders occurred, many favors granted..." and that "the fresco had been carried by angels to Genazzano from Scutari in Albania." The faith of the people of Genazzano was regenerated. Indeed, processions of people traveled to venerate the miraculous image. Innumerable cures and consolations were documented by the local church authorities. Generous financial contributions were given for the renovation of the church.The widow who set in motion the restoration of the church lived to see the church restored and a monastery built. After her death, she was buried at the Chapel of the Madonna.

Good Counsel AlbaniansTwo Albanians from Scutari, Albania named Jorges and Sclavis, appeared in Genazzano with a curious tale. They had fled from their homeland to escape the invading Ottoman Turks. Before fleeing, they stopped in the church and had seen how the icon of Our Lady of Scrutari, wrapped in a white cloud, lifted off the wall on which it had hung for two centuries. They followed the picture, crossing over the Adriatic Sea, until they could see the towers of Rome, when it suddenly disappeared. The mysterious icon of Genazzano was identical to the one in the church in Scutari. With the origin of the icon confirmed, the portrait was renamed Our Lady of Good Counsel after the church where it had been relocated.

The amazing news reached Rome. Pope Paul II sent two bishops, Gaucer of Gap in Dauphiny and Nicholas de Crucibus of Lesina, to investigate the story. The prelates reported that 171 miracles were recorded from April 27 to August 14, 1467. The pope’s commission also found that there was an empty space on the church wall at Scutari. An icon that had been venerated there for centuries was, indeed, missing. The image was painted on a sheet of plaster so thin that it would have been impossible for any human hand to remove it without damage. It had survived the subsequent centuries through the tumult of several earthquakes and withstood the bombing during World War II. Several altars were destroyed, walls caved in, and the roof was crushed. The icon, only yards away from the explosion, remained intact.

Many popes had special devotion to the Madonna. Pope Saint Pius V credited victory in the Battle of Lepanto to Her intercession. In 1630 Pope Urban VIII himself went to Genazzano on a pilgrimage to pray for the end of a plague in Italy. So too did Pius IX in 1864. On 17 November, 1682, Pope Innocent XI had the picture crowned with gold. In 1727 Pope 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. In 1753, Pope Benedict XIV approved the Scapular of Our Lady of Good Good Counsel Pope DevoteesCounsel, and was the first to wear it. Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII were both members of the Pious Union of Our Lady of Good Counsel. It was also Pope Leo XIII who included the title "Mater Boni Consilii" into the Litany of Loreto and elevated the church to a minor basilica in March 1903. Pope Pius XII dedicated his entire pontificate to the Madonna of Good Counsel. Pope St John XXIII came to pray at the shrine for guidance before he announced the calling of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. Pope St John Paul II kept her icon in his private chapel. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI installed the icon of Our Lady of GoodGood Counsel Saint Devotees Counsel at the Vatican gardens. Saints who had special devotion to her include Aloysius Gonzaga, Alphonsus Liguori, John Bosco and Blessed Stephen Bellesini. Blessed Stephen became parish priest of Our Lady's Shrine in Genazzano in 1825.  His remains are buried in the same church.

A commission in 1936 reported that, if struck a slight blow, the image reacts as if it were hollow; if set in motion, it oscillates visibly. It is also noted that the colors of the picture change their tone at different seasons of the year, and that Our Lady's cheeks sometimes change from red to pink – this, although the image is enclosed in glass. To honor the Blessed Mary, many institutions worldwide have been entrusted to her care under the title of Lady of Good Counsel.

On April 22, 1993, Pope John Paul II went to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Genazzaro before heading to Scutari (Albania) on April 25th, to bless the foundation stone for the reconstruction of the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Counsel, the "Zoja e Shkodra" Church. On that day, all Albanians were side by side: Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims, giving the good example of peaceful coexistence.

Our Lady’s miraculous intercession reminds us that her love is perfect, her virtue knows no bounds, and her constant heavenly intercession for us is a gift not to be taken for granted. If we have the courage to pray and act with confidence for great things, great things will be given us. God never refuses confident prayers, and bestows his gifts accordingly.

Mary, Mother of Good Counsel, pray for us!

Genazzano Altar

Our Mother's shrine at Genazzano

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