Titles of Our Lady from the Litany of Loreto

Mother of Good Counsel

The Image of Our Lady Descends on Genezzano

On April 25th, 1467, the people of Genezzano, a small town not very far from Rome, were keeping a festival in honor of St. Mark, Patron Saint of that district. As they were coming to church for the First Vespers on Saturday afternoon, they suddenly heard, pouring down from Heaven, strains of sweet melody. All looked instinctively up towards the sky, where they beheld, to their great astonishment, high above the houses and church spires, a beautiful white cloud, whence issued rays of light. Gradually the cloud descended, until the crowds, who watched in breathless amazement, saw it rest on the edge of the wall of a dilapidated church. But why?

In the 5th century, large parts of the revenue from this town were given by Pope Sixtus III to the shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, in Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. In return Genazzano received a new church dedicated to Our Lady of Good Counsel. For some reason, however, with the passage of time this church fell into disrepair and even the fact of its dedication to Our Lady was almost forgotten.

In 1467 a widow and native of Genazzano named Petruccia de Geneo, inspired by Our Lady and encouraged by some Franciscans, decided to rebuild the decrepit church. The townsfolk, knowing that she had no resources, laughed at her. It is true that they helped so long as she could provide some meager funds. But the moment she ran out of money, they refused their aid. Everything seemed to be lost to her and her cause. But she refused to give up, declaring that Our Lady would come Herself and get the church finished. On April 25, Our Lady came.

When the rays of light had gradually disappeared from the cloud, all the bells of the place began to ring of their own accord. The cloud dispersed, and there stood revealed to the eyes of the astonished people an image of Our Lady with the Christ Child. All through the first hours of the night the devout people remained on their knees praying to Our Lady. The tidings of the miracle soon spread throughout Italy.

The Albanians Follow the Image Across the SeaThese events and subsequent facts and investigations were carefully recorded and are still preserved. Pope Paul II sent a French and a Dalmatian bishop to ascertain the facts. The reports of the bishops state that between the end of April and mid-August, 1467, 171 miracles occurred in Genazzano. It is further related that a few days after the miraculous Madonna, which the people were now calling The Madonna of Paradise, appeared in their midst, two refugees, Albanians from Scutari, arrived in Genazzano. These men, fleeing from the Turks invading Albania, related that Our Lady had told them that She would not allow Herself to be desecrated and that they should prepare for a journey, to follow Her image. They said the image detached itself from the church in Scutari and floated in the air towards the coast. The two men followed the image and even walked across the Adriatic Sea!

Further inquiries commissioned by the Pope established two critical facts of a miraculous nature. One was the picture itself: the painting had been done on a thin layer of porcelain and its thickness was that of an eggshell. No human hand, however skillful, could have removed, unhurt, such a texture from anywhere. And this thin sheet of porcelain or plaster stood and still stands upright, without any support, having only a narrow ledge to rest on. The second evidence was the following: the picture of Our Lady of Good Counsel that had been venerated for centuries at Scutari had indeed disappeared from its church of origin; the commission of inquiry found an empty space of exact dimensions where the picture previously stood, thus confirming the statements of the Albanian refugees. Albanians began to visit the image and constantly referred to it as their Madonna.

Imagine trying to balance a large but thin pane of glass on its edge. Perhaps you could succeed for a few seconds. But for more than 500 years? Yet this image is much thinner than a pane of glass.

Another 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.

The church was indeed rebuilt and the veneration of Our Lady of Good Counsel spread all over the world. The people of Genazzano commemorate the day of the appearance of the Madonna with a magnificent procession; and the day following, April 26, has been designated as the feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel.

Pope Pius IX said his first Mass before this image. Pope Leo XIII had the title Mother of Good Counsel added to the Litany of Loreto.

During World War II, an Allied bomb fell on the Basilica housing the miraculous image. It crushed the roof and exploded on the floor of the sanctuary. Many altars, including the main altar, literally disappeared. The walls of the church fell in amid plaster and dust; ancient paintings were destroyed. But the paper-thin image of Our Lady of Good Counsel, which stood within a few yards of the explosion, remained intact.

We may not be able to visit in person the shrine at Genazzano, but every one of us is at all times able to invoke Our Lady under this title, and obtain from Her that precious gift, good counsel as how to act in the various difficulties of life. No one who goes to the Mother of Good Counsel to obtain light can ever go wrong. She is the best of all counselors and is ever ready to give us good advice and direct us in the right path. Let us form the habit of consulting Her in all our difficulties, and begging Her blessing on all our plans. Then when some very important decision has to be made, which may seriously affect our lives, we shall know what to do, we shall not be thrown off our guard, we shall not feel lonely or forsaken; the Mother of Good Counsel will stand by us and be our friend, as we have chosen Her for our guide. Whatever decision we are called upon to make, let us never forget first of all to ask her counsel.

Motto: "Blessed is the man that heareth me...blessed are they that keep my ways."

Practice: Ask counsel of Our Lady in all you do or undertake.


There was once a criminal sentenced to death in Siena, Italy. On the eve of the fatal day, his confessor, a Franciscan Father, tired out by the prisoner's entreaties to save him from death, and unable to reconcile him to his doom, exclaimed: "If the miraculous Madonna who has just appeared at Genazzano does not deliver you from death, you will most certainly die tomorrow."

After the priest had gone, the prisoner, whose name was John, threw himself on the ground, weeping and calling on Our Lady. He cried out: "Holy Virgin, if thou wilt deliver me from death on the scaffold, I will cast myself at thy feet, and offer thee my life in thanksgiving for so great a miracle."

Immediately he perceived that the chains with which he had been loaded were broken, and he was free. He tried to escape from his cell, but the window was so high he feared to jump from it. He made the Sign of the Cross, and trusting to Our Lady, called out, "Holy Mary, help me," and cast himself into the air. He felt himself upheld by something resembling a cloud, and fell to the ground uninjured. In presence of so manifest a miracle, human justice relented, and he was granted his pardon by the government.

He at once set out for Genazzano, and there, on the 11th of July, 1467, he gave thanks to his heavenly Deliverer, and deposed an oath on the Holy Gospels, in the presence of numerous witnesses, to the truth of the great miracle Our Lady had worked for him.

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