Our Lady of Good Counsel: History of the Devotion

Elizabeth Scalia posted a beautiful picture of Our Lady of Good Counsel on her blog today. The Anchoress asks for our prayers during a particularly busy time—and I hope you’ll join me in praying for her health and wellbeing, her effective completion of ongoing projects, and her peace of mind.

Since this is the feast day of Our Lady of Good Counsel, I thought I’d show you my own photo.

My Tapestry of Our Lady of Good Counsel
My version is from my office wall, and it’s actually a tapestry which I picked up in Rome a few years ago. If you’ve ever been to Rome, perhaps you know about Soprani—that wonderful religious articles store just a few blocks from St. Peter’s. Soprani sells gifts at a fraction of what you might pay somewhere else. I loved this tapestry, it rolled neatly in my luggage, I actually already owned a copper frame which fit it, and I paid something like $6.

Anyway, my tapestry is a representation of a painting of Our Lady of Good Counsel which was painted by Pasquale Sarrulo, a 19th century Franciscan priest, friar and artist from Palermo, Italy.

Elizabeth’s Painting
Elizabeth’s version is a copy of the original painting from the town of Genazzano, also in Italy.

In the fifth century, during the papacy of Pope Sixtus III, the town of Genazzano—about 30 miles south of Rome—had been very generous in their support for the Roman basilica now known as Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major). In appreciation for their generosity, a church was built in Genazzano and was later entrusted to the Augustinian Order.

According to tradition, on the Feast of St. Mark (April 25) in 1467, the townsfolk heard “exquisite music” coming from the area of the church. A mysterious cloud was then said to have descended over an unfinished wall of the parish church. In front of the townsfolk gathered there, the cloud dissipated—and there on the wall appeared a small but beautiful fresco of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus.

The people of the time believed that the work had been miraculously transported from Albania. They attributed to it healing properties, and many miracles were believed to have occurred in its presence.

The holy image had such a reputation that Pope Urban VIII made a pilgrimage there in 1630, invoking the protection of the Queen of Heaven. In 1682, Blessed Pope Innocent XI had the picture solemnly crowned. In 1864, Pope Piux IX visited the fresco; others who have been devoted to Our Lady of Good Counsel include St. Aloysius Gonzaga, St. Alphonsus Liguori, and St. John Bosco.

In 1753, Pope Benedict XIV established the Pious Union of Our Lady of Good Counsel. More than any other pope, Leo XIII, who was himself a member of the pious union, was deeply attached to this devotion.[2] The small Scapular of Our Lady of Good Counsel (the White Scapular) was presented by the Hermits of St. Augustine to Pope Leo XIII, who, in December 1893, approved it and endowed it with indulgences. Leo XIII also added the invocation “Mater boni consilii” in the Litany of Loreto.

In 1939, Venerable Pope Pius XII called on Our Lady of Good Counsel to protect and care for his pontificate. He composed a devotional prayer to Mary under the title of Our Lady of Good Counsel.

Prayer to Our Lady of Good Counsel
Composed by Pope Pius XII

O Holy Virgin, to whose feet we are led by our anxious uncertainty in our search for and attainment of what is true and good, invoking you by the sweet title of Mother of Good Counsel, we beseech you to come to our assistance, when, along the road of this life, the darkness of error and of evil conspires towards our ruin by leading our minds and our hearts astray.

O Seat of Wisdom and Star of the Sea, enlighten the doubtful and the erring, that they be not seduced by the false appearances of good; render them steadfast in the face of the hostile and corrupting influences of passion and of sin.

O Mother of Good Counsel, obtain for us from your Divine Son a great love of virtue, and, in the hour of uncertainty and trial, the strength to embrace the way that leads to our salvation.

If your hand sustains us, we shall walk unmolested along the path indicated to us by the life and words of Jesus, our Redeemer; and having followed freely and securely, even in the midst of this world’s strife, the Sun of Truth and Justice under your maternal Star, we shall come to the enjoyment of full and eternal peace with you in the haven of salvation.


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  • Joycey

    How does one join the Pious Union of Our Lady of Good Counsel?