THE DEVOTION OF OUR LADY OF GOOD COUNSEL originated at Genazzano in Italy in 1467. A fresco of Our Lady, originally painted at Scutari in Albania, was miraculously transferred to the Augustinian church then in the course of construction. This church, in which is enshrined the miraculous picture, became a place of popular pilgrimage.
The picture which is painted on plaster thinner than a business card or eggshell seems to be suspended in air - rather than in any way attached to the wall. More attention seems to be given to the image's miraculous origins than to the wondrous title, Our Lady of Good Counsel. I've thought for our needy times the icon's title might be better phrased, Our Lady of Good Advice.
We're surrounded by advice. There's no getting away from the advice advertisers offer round the clock. Friends, family and even people we don't know, offer loads of free advice. Some of the advice we receive is foolish, un-wanted, costly, immoral or illegal. But here it's an icon which proposes to offer us advice in dark days. The priest is not the one to tell us what the advice is that's offered in the image. We each discern that in the Word, our prayer and sustained gazing. But do we notice there is a kind of rainbow behind the Mother and Child? And rainbows are always symbolic of new beginnings.
Secondly as we ponder the image, we might consider this advice found in a 15th century icon painter's instruction book:
Expel from your heart all earthly thoughts, malice, wrath, hatred and desires of the flesh. Direct your eyes to tears and your whole being to heaven.