Genazzano is a little town, about 25 miles outside of Rome. In the 1430’s a widow, Petruccia Noteria lived there alone. She was childless and dedicated herself to prayer. In a vision the Virgin Mary entrusted her with the mission of restoring a local, much neglected church dedicated to The Mother of Good Counsel. Convinced of her mission Petruccia donated all her wealth to pay for the restoration of the church. Work began but nobody else came forward to assist. Petruccia endured the scorn of townsfolk dismissing her as a ‘crazy visionary’.
Petruccia continued to believe that the church could and would be restored in her life time through the intercession of Our Lady.
Each year on April 25, the feast day of St. Mark Genazzano’s patron Saint, a fair took place near the church of the Mother of Good Counsel. On that day in 1467 towards the evening as the fair was beginning to end a white luminous cloud appeared over the village. The cloud descended on the church of the Mother of Good Counsel. The bells of the old tower began to ring by themselves. The cloud hovered a short distance away from the church wall. It faded and the miraculous image of Our Lady holding the Christ Child appeared. There followed many miracles. So great was the number of healings that a notary was appointed to make a register of the more important cases. This record, which is still preserved notes that from April 27 until August 14, 1467, 171 miracles occurred. Many financial contributions flowed in meaning that Petruccia’s work of restoring the church could be completed. The fresco became known as 'The Mother of Good Counsel of Genazzano'.
The story becomes even more fascinating when looked at in the light of miraculous happenings in Albania. A fresco of Our Lady with the infant Jesus believed to date back to apostolic times had long been venerated in Scutari in Albania. Following an invasion Our Lady appeared to two devotees, Giorgio and de Scalvis. Assuring them that her picture would not be desecrated she instructed them to accompany the fresco wherever it went. The picture detached itself from the wall, and the two friends followed the fresco as it traveled through the air, wrapped in a white cloud, to the coast of the Adriatic. Giorgio and de Sclavis continued to follow it across the Adriatic. When they reached Italy the image suddenly disappeared from their sight. Later they heard rumours that a miraculous image had appeared in Genazzano. They ran to the nearby town and there discovered the painting of their beloved Mother of Good Counsel and made Genazzano their home.
The painting of Our Mother of Good Counsel is an Eleousa, (The Mother of Tenderness). The Christ Child nestles close to His mother. He rests on Mary's left arm, her head bends toward Him, their cheeks touch tenderly. The left hand of the child gently grasps the rim of her dress, indicating the intimacy of mother and child.
It is presently located in a side chapel, built between 1621 and 1629, in the church of The Mother of Good Counsel, Genazzano. The painting is a fresco executed on a thin layer of plaster or porcelain not much thicker than paper. One writer describes it as a fresco painted on a material resembling egg shell. It appears suspended in mid-air in its frame, with approximately an inch of space between it and the wall behind it. The only support is on the lower edge where it "rests on a small base on one of its sides, i.e. from the centre to the extreme right"
In a thorough, detailed study, Joao S. Cla Dias writes, "...the fresco has unexplainably remained suspended in the air close to the wall of the chapel in the church of The Mother of Good Counsel for over five hundred years." Cla Dias' work contains several documents about the miraculous character of the image itself, including the amazing fact that the painting is not mounted or attached at the back.
During the Counterreformation, the Augustinians placed the entire order under the protection of this image of Mother of Good Counsel, and promised to honour this image of her wherever they became established.
The image received its formal papal approval on November 17, 1682. A canon was sent to view the icon on behalf of Pope Innocent XI. His report described the image as touching the wall only at one edge and not supported by other means. On July 2, 1753 Benedict XIV approved of the 'Pious Union of Our Lady of Good Counsel' for the faithful at large, and himself enrolled as its pioneer member. As can be seen from the register at the icon's shrine in Genazzano, Pius VIII, Pius IX, and Leo XIII were also enrolled as members of the 'Pious Union'. Pope Pius XII placed his pontificate under the maternal care of Our Lady of Good Counsel.
In the newly revised Collection of Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary, (1988) there is o a special votive Mass in honour of The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Good Counsel. The following prayers are found in the liturgy for this Mass.
you know that our thoughts on earth
are full of fear and uncertainty;
through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
from whom your Son took flesh and blood,
send us the Spirit of counsel
to teach us how to know your will,
and to guide us in all we do. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
we have shared in your mysteries
on this memorial of Our Lady, Mother of Good Counsel. Grant that we may learn what is pleasing to you,
and receive salvation from your Son,
whom you gave to us as our wonderful Counsellor
through the cooperation of his Blessed Mother.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.