April 26 is the feast day of Mary, Mother of Good Counsel. It has its roots in a miraculous fresco that can still be visited today in Genezzano, Italy. An excerpt from the book A Sky Full of Stars gives us a glimpse of the miraculous story:
In the small town of Genazzano, Italy, there was a small church dedicated to Our Lady of Good Counsel. Over time, the church fell into disrepair, and in 1467, a widow claimed to have been inspired by the Blessed Mother to rebuild it. She started the project but couldn’t complete it with the very meager funds at her disposal. The townsfolk ridiculed her, but that didn’t stop the elderly woman because she was buoyed by the confidence that the Blessed Virgin would finish the work herself.
In the meantime, Ottoman Turks invaded Albania across the sea. Since they devastated almost everything that was Christian, a well-known ancient icon of Our Lady of Shkodra was in danger of being destroyed in a church there. During the attack on the city, two local men stopped at the church praying for safety as they escaped the incoming Turks. Our Lady promised them the icon would not be desecrated and told them to go wherever the fresco would go. Then the image miraculously detached itself from the wall, was enveloped by a white translucent cloud, and hovered across the Adriatic Sea. The two men followed it by walking on the sea until they reached Italy where it disappeared from their sight.
On that same day, April 25, to celebrate the feast of St. Mark, the residents of Genezanno gathered in the town square where the church of Our Lady of Good Counsel was built. The luminous white cloud descended on them and played beautiful music until it stopped over the unfinished church. Then the bells of the tower began to ring on their own where it was later accompanied by other bells in the town. The cloud then dissipated and revealed that the fresco, it had been carrying, was now “transferred” to a wall in the church. The town rejoiced with the words, “A miracle! Long Live Mary, Our Mother of Good Counsel.”
When the two men from Albania heard of the miracle, they went to the church to see the icon of Shkodra in its new home. Soon after, there were numerous reports of miraculous healings, people converting, and prayers answered. This naturally attracted tourists that improved the economy of the town. That, in turn, provided funds to complete the endeavor of refurbishing the church. We should derive a lesson from this: the widow who listened to Mary’s advice was not disappointed.
The image still baffles investigators today. A fresco is a watercolor mixed with wet plaster painted on a wall or ceiling, so it isn’t like a painting you can take off a wall. Authority figures who scrutinized the image confirm that the icon is made of pigment on a porcelain layer whose thickness is as thin as an eggshell. How the image was transferred from one wall to another is impossible to comprehend. Furthermore, investigators also examined the church in Albania to find that the image that had been venerated for centuries was indeed missing – and in its place is an empty space with the exact dimensions of the icon now in Genazanno.
Altar in the Church where the image affixed itself.
The actual fresco.
Painting that retells how the image came to Genazzano.
Mary is our Mother of Good Counsel because she is the personification of Lady Wisdom of the wisdom books in the Bible. The indwelling of the Holy Spirit filled her with gifts – foremost of which is wisdom. Therefore, when we ask Mary for guidance in anything grave or trivial, we can expect the wisest counsel we can get from any human.
The chosen Gospel reading to celebrate this feast comes from the Miracle in Cana. There we hear her counsel to the waiters, that is also meant for all of us her children, when she says of Christ, “do whatever he tells you.”
To know more about Mary and her other titles in the Litany, you can check out the website for A Sky Full of Stars at http://www.ourcatholicfaith.net/aSkyFullOfStars.
Joby finished Theology courses from the University of Notre Dame. He is a contributing writer at www.catholic365.com, and teaches in the De La Salle College of St. Benilde where he engages students in conversations about religion, pop-culture, and food.