Behold, your mother: Our Lady of Good Counsel
This is part of our 2023 “Behold, your mother” series, which will feature a different personage of Mary each month. Search the “Mary” filter on the blog to find the whole series.
This time last year I was praying for a miracle. We had stopped all infertility treatments and made the decision to give our “fiat” to adoption. I had no idea that 12 months later we would have welcomed not one, but two sons into our home through two different adoption journeys. Our oldest son is 6 years old and we welcomed him into our home last May, and our youngest son is 1 month old so we are living on sleep deprivation. Motherhood has been so complex and different to how I had envisioned it. I was not prepared. Our oldest son has special needs so all of the ideas that I had regarding what motherhood would be like were completely thrown out of the window as I learned how to parent, support and love him. The whirlwind we’ve experienced in becoming a family of 4 has led to a lot of prayer sessions and questioning of God. “Why did you pick me to parent him? I’m lacking in so many areas.”
Pride has been the biggest hurdle in my motherhood journey from the start. Infertility and my inability to ovulate or conceive made me face my own pride head-on and acknowledge there is a limit to what I can control. I’m incapable of what I know the Lord is fully capable of. This acknowledgement was meant to come before our adoption journey, of this I am most certain. Through motherhood, I’ve been humbled and brought to my knees more than ever before. My prayer life has shifted significantly as I’ve had to pray for guidance, for immediate grace to get through the day, and for peace. “Lord, not mine but Your will be done. Mary, counsel me and fill me with your grace as I parent today.”
In writing this blog post, I have had the opportunity to learn about a version of Mary whose intercession I’ve been seeking but whose title I didn’t know; Our Lady of Good Counsel, whose feast falls on 26 April.
There are many versions of the origin story for Our Lady of Good Counsel. I’ve read through many of them and although they all have subtle differences in the stories, there is a common thread that reads true. The story dates back to 1457 in the little town of Genazzano, Italy. Pilgrims who had assembled on the feast of St. Mark (25 April) were startled by the sounds of “exquisite music” and by a vision of what seemed to be a cloud descending from above. The cloud was said to have rested in front of an unfinished wall of the church, and when it dissipated an image had appeared of Our Lady and Child. The image is a beautiful fresco on an eggshell-thin layer of plaster, no more than 18 inches square. The image was supernaturally transported from its original location in Scutari, Albania from a church that was being threatened by Ottoman Turkish invaders. Due to its fragile nature, it would have been virtually impossible for it to be transported by human means at that time. Despite earthquakes and World War II; the image has remained intact and in place. Hundreds of miracles have been linked to Our Lady of Good Counsel.
The image is interesting and worth reflecting on during your prayer time. Several websites offer art interpretations for this piece, but CatholicTradition.org had one that really spoke to me. You can read their article here. “It is said that the figures themselves represent Mother and Child after they had returned from the temple where Mary heard the sad prophesies of Simeon. Mary's eyes are half-veiled as though she were lost in contemplation, taking counsel with her God. The little Child does not return the gaze of the beholder, as happens in so many pictures, rather He draws our eyes upward to Mary as if to tell us to look for Counsel there, in the very Seat of Wisdom.”
Pope Pius XII composed a powerful prayer to Our Lady of Good Counsel:
Holy Virgin, moved by the painful uncertainty we experience in seeking and acquiring the true and the good, we cast ourselves at thy feet and invoke thee under the sweet title of Mother of Good Counsel. We beseech thee: come to our aid at this moment in our worldly sojourn when the double darkness of error and of evil plot our ruin by leading minds and hearts astray.
Seat of Wisdom and Star of the Sea, enlighten the victims of doubt and of error so that they may not be seduced by evil masquerading as good; strengthen them against the hostile and corrupting forces of passion and of sin.
Mother of Good Counsel, obtain for us our most urgent need….. (here mention your request) and secure for us from thy Divine Son the love of virtue and the strength to choose, in doubtful and difficult situations, the course agreeable to our salvation.
Supported by thy hand we shall thus journey without harm along the paths taught us by the word and example of Jesus our Savior, following the Sun of Truth and Justice in freedom and safety across the battlefield of life under the guidance of thy maternal Star, until we come at length to the harbor of salvation to enjoy with thee unalloyed and everlasting peace. Amen.
Our Lady of Good Counsel, pray for us.