The valiant woman, Petruccia, and the Image of Our Lady of Genazzano
The story of how the miraculous fresco of Our Lady of God Counsel left Albania in Russia and travelled to Italy is one that is marvellous and true.
There is a little town, about 25 miles outside of Rome, called Genazzano. In pagan times it was a celebrated shrine for the worship of Venus, but in the fourth century a church was built there in honour of Our Lady and called the Church of the Virgin Mother of Good Counsel. Through the course of time, the church was abandoned and almost fell into ruins. So it remained until the mid 15th century when a pious woman gave all she had for its restoration.
This story is about that pious woman, who in many ways is a symbol for our times. Most of the time, her name is lost in the marvel of the facts of the story. She is simply recorded as a pious widow, a tertiary of the Order of St. Augustine and perhaps she would have it that way. But it seems to me that the story and the miracle of image of Our Lady of Good Counsel of Genazzano is in a special way her story and her name should not be lost to history.
In 1436, Petruccia Noteria had been left a widow with respectable means. Living alone, for she had no children, she dedicated herself to prayer. Her special concern was the deplorable state of the Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel because she had been favoured with a vision in which the Virgin Mary entrusted her with the mission of restoring this church. Petruccia invoked to assist in the work, but they proved unwilling. The strong walls of the small fortressed city had not been able to protect its inhabitants from the spirit of the renaissance, with its love of luxury and comfort, from corrupting the customs and vanquishing the faith of its inhabitants.
Convinced of her mission and confident that Our Lady would provide the means for her to accomplish what had been asked of her, Petruccia donated all her goods to pay for the restoration of the sacred building with the hope that others would join her in the pious undertaking as they saw it being realized. The work began and the rough beam walls of a side chapel were raised. But no noble souls joined in the enterprise. Instead Petruccia met with scorn and ridicule. Even some who formerly had called themselves her friends now reprimanded or laughed at her in public: “What imprudence! And at her age!” “Who does she think she is – another St. Francis?” “She must be mad! Who needs another church? The times have changed. The crazy visionary needs to wake up and see that past is gone.”
PETRUCCIA’S FIDELITY TO HER MISSION
The most courageous part of her story commences now. Many, a person indeed has taken on noble enterprises and has been willing to make great sacrifices, offer their goods and even suffer death for the greater glory of God and the exaltation of the Holy Church. But then, before the laughter of their peers, for fear of meeting a cross is abandoned at the important business lunch, the ladies tea, the university or high school lunch room. The resolute 13- year- old girl who has determined to dress modestly turns 16, and the pressure of her peers is suddenly more than she can bear: she dons blue jeans and tank tops and puts a side her old promises. Young men leave off praying the Rosary, serving Mass, avoiding vulgar conversations and bad companions because they don’t want to seem like “nerds” or “Losers”…..At certain functions, the scapular is slipped into the pocket………..
And why? For fear of a laugh. For fear of the laughter of a serving woman, St. Peter denied Our Lord. How many more denials have been made so that we can adapt to a public opinion that does not censure us – or fall into a life of being “normal” and “fitting in”?
Petruccia faced this laughter and scorn with a supernatural courage and confidence. She smiled at her detractors, continued her pious works and prayers, and replied to their taunts: “My dear children do not put too much importance on this apparent misfortune. I assure you that my death the Blessed Virgin and our holy father Augustine will finish the church begun by me.”
THE MIRACULOUS PICTURE ARRIVES IN GENAZZANO.
Every year on April 25, the feast day of St. Mark. Genazzano’s patron, a fair was celebrated in the city square, where the partially restored church of the Mother of Good Counsel stood. But something quite unusual took place in the year 1467 that would mark the day and the little Italian village in History.
As the fair began to draw to a close and the hour of Vespers approached, a white luminous cloud drifted down over the village. From it the chords of a beautiful music seemed to emanate. The cloud descended on the church of the Mother of Good Counsel and poised over the wall of the unfinished chapel of St. Biagio that petruccia had raised. Suddenly, the bells of the old tower began to ring by themselves, and the other bells of the town rang miraculously in unison. The cloud that enveloped the fresco descended and hovered a short distance away from the wall of petruccia’s church. The cloud faded and revealed a beautiful fresco of the Blessed Virgin and child. A crowd gathered and people began to cry out: “A miracle! A miracle!” “Long live Maria!
Our Mother of Good Counsel!’
Promptly Our Lady began to show her generosity. The innumerable cures and consolations she dispensed have been documented by the local ecclesiastical authorities. Almost overnight, the funds poured in to complete Petruccia’s work and the church was completely restored. The former Chapel of St. Biagio became a very rich shrine to harbour this gift from Heaven, which for five centuries to this day has remained miraculously suspended in the air close to the wall of the chapel.
The fresco became known as Our Lady of Good Counsel of Genazzano, sometimes simply called Our Lady of Genazzano, in honour of the town in which Our Lady herself chose to find refuge. The faith and piety of the whole town was regenerated. Before long, as news of story and the miracles and wonders Our Lady was working spread, pilgrims were coming from throughout the province and beyond. Processions of whole villages travelled to venerate the miraculous image.
THE REST OF THE STORY (THAT IS HOW THE PICTURE CAME FROM RUSSIA)
It was not long before Our Lady chose to reveal to the town people how “Mary from paradise” had come to rest on the half-built wall of the church Petruccia was determined to restore.
This particular fresco, reputed to date to the time of the Apostles, had long been venerated in Albania’s capital city, scutari. The Tuekish army had invaded Albania and was then threatening to take the capital. Our Lady assured two of her devoted and inconsolable servants, Giorgio and de Scalvis, that her picture would not be desecrated and ordered them to prepare for a journey and to accompany the fresco where it might go. The picture detached itself from the wall, and the two friends followed the fresco, which was wrapped in a white translucent cloud, to the coast of the Adriatic Sea.
Then the faithful Giorgio and de Sclavis continued to follow it a cross the Adriatic, walking miraculously on the water, until they reached Italy. Having reached Italy, the image suddenly disappeared from their sight. It had gone to find refuge in the half – built church of a woman of faith, Petruccia. It had gone to Genazzano.
Because of Petruccia’s confidence in Our Lady’s promise, much more than a single church was rebuilt and restored. This incident is remindful of Christ’s command to St. Francis to “rebuild his Church,” St. Francis assumed he was referring to the little church of St. Damien, which was in ruins. It was only much later that St. Francis understood that the House he was to rebuild was the Church established by our Lord upon Peter.
Our Lady’s command to petruccia was more than to rebuild a single dilapidated church; it was her design to rekindle and revive the faith and piety of a whole province and beyond – at a time when the Faith was under attack by the internal enemies of Humanism and indifferentism.
In the twentieth century, Our Lady appeared at Fatima with a warning of coming chastisement if mankind did not convert and if the world was not consecrated to her by the Holy Father in Union with all the Bishops simultaneously in their respective dioceses. She also gave to the faithful a message of Hope – an eventual victory. Can we doubt that we are not also invited, like the simple Italian widow, to the task of rebuilding the House of Our Lord?
CONNECTION OF THE MIRACULOUS IMAGE OF OUR LADY OF GOOD COUNSEL OF GENAZZANO WITH OUR FOUNDER AND FOUNDRESS.
(Extracted from mere Marie-Du-Bon-Conseil writings).
While in Rome for study, our Founder Bishop Michael Thomas Labrecque visited Genazzano on pilgrimage. He got devotion to our Lady of Good Counsel. As he had had a desire to begin an
Institute, when he went back to Canada, with the collaboration of our Foundress was able to found the Institute and named it Our Lady of Good Counsel.
The Founder always told our Foundress when she was still discerning her vocation “Pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary and call upon her under the name of Our Lady of Good Counsel, she herself will be your main counsel”. Whenever he would write to her would say; “pray to our Lady of Good Counsel”.
It is amazing that one day an Oblate Father passing at Baie –St. Paul where Françoise Simard (our Foundress) was staying, after she had confided in him the events of her life, her readiness to perform God’s design, as well as her persisting watchfulness to find out about her future, the kind Father gave her a picture of Our Lady of Good Counsel, telling her in such a convincing manner, that she stood astonished “Take it pray to our Lady with confidence. It is she who will guide you “.
All the above came true and after Simard had accepted the will of the MASTER, on 8th December 1894, the first clothing ceremony took place and she received the name of “Marie – du- Bon- Conseil” (Our Lady of Good Counsel)
As willed by Bishop Thomas Labreque a new Institute dedicated to our Lady of Good Counsel was committed to the education of children.
NB – Refer to Golden Jubilee of the Sisters of our Lady of Good Counsel Mbarara – Uganda 1943-1993 about the beginning of the Institute in Uganda.
A LESSON FOR OUR TIMES
It is not a world to see in the miracle of Genazzano many similarities to our times.
Then, a world was falling victim to a great moral and religious crisis; the churches were being invaded by a terrible enemy (the Turks entering Albania); and two faithful soldiers and a brave widow who “against hope believed in hope” (Romans 4:18)
Today, the moral and religious crisis; reaches almost incomprehensible depths; an invasion of the Church is coming from within her own walls and appears to have worked almost a total destruction; yet, here and there, there are those faithful souls who build their chapels and combat the moral laxity, confiding in the promise that Our Lady gave at Fatima of a triumph, a restoration. Here and there, there are those courageous souls who do not fear to brave public opinion, openly profess their faith and oppose the Conciliar and post Conciliar abuses inside the Church that have been fostered among the highest echelons of ecclesiastical authority. Here and there, the half- finished walls of the Church rise as people gather to assist at the Traditional Latin Mass and Keep alive the abandoned pious devotions.
One of great graces one finds at the feet of Our Lady of Genazzano and from the example of the noble Petruccia is that of confidence. If we have courage to pray and act with confidence for great or impossible things, great and impossible things will be given us. God never refuses confident prayers and bestows his gifts in proportion to our confidence.
Today, as Our Lady warned at Fatima, we face an immense crisis that demands a supernatural solution. Yet those who confident in the great promise Our Lady gave, a promise of triumph and victory, should expect to see, like Petruccia, the fulfilment of that promise and to live and see at least the first days of that glorious Marian era predicted by St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, the great prophet of the Reign of Mary.
The title “Mother of Good Counsel”
The title has two meanings, Jesus has realized the (Project plan, or Counsel) of God to save the human race. He is the project of Salvation. He is Salvation, the Saviour. It is a “good” project for only God is good and enriches us with goods. The Madonna the mother of Jesus, the good of God, is the mother of Good Counsel.
Again, she is the mother of Good Counsel because her last words in the Gospel. “Do whatever He tells you!! Spoken to the Servants during the marriage of Cana, are a Counsel offered by her not only to those Servants but to all who wish to find the mercy of God in their own lives. It is a beautiful title, full of hope in these confused times.
Ref: Sanctuary of Our mother of Good counsel, Genezzano pg 12.
The Sacred Image – A presence (Description of the image of O.L.G.C)
On the left is the Madonna, who bends her head close to the cheek of her child, while He embraces the mother’s neck with the right arm and with the left hand holds the edge of her dress.
The child wears a red tunic, the mother a green. The mantle which covers the shoulders of mother and child is blue. Their heads are covered by a yellow – golden aureole. The mother has a beautiful Roman profile and her blonde – chest nut hair has a Roman style. The child has no hair on its head and a little hair on the neck. It could be very charming if it had, according to the Italian artistic tradition of the 15th Century, thick hair. The Madonna is half turned towards her son and half turned towards the faithful. Her divided look reflects her double interest.
The simple beauty of Mary is astounding that is redness of her cheeks seems to grow deeper or lighter as if to reveal or to awaken feelings. It is a recognized fact that the colour acquires various tones in different periods of the year. And then her smile, sweet and melanchology. A slight sadness appears on her beautiful features. When standing before her it seems that she smiles and looks at the Spectator. This Sacred Image of the mother of Good Counsel is living. In this way in a definite way the mother of Jesus is really present.
Ref: Sanctuary of our mother of Good Counsel Genazzano page 9.
It is said that Christians of Genazano in Italy built a church of our Lady. After around 100 years in 1840 the church grew old and was in a bad condition. The Hermites rebuilt it and named it Our Lady of Good Counsel.
Again it is said that there was a widow named Patricia who would spend her life in the church praying and this window had got a lot of wealth and wanted to rebuild the church but the money was not enough.
On the Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist on 25th April after celebrating Mass, the Christians who were gathered there heard nice voices and saw a white cloud which entered into the old church. It is said that when it reached in the church the bells were heard ringing by themselves.
When the clouds disappeared, they saw the picture of our Lady Good Counsel on the wall of the church. When people heard that Miracle, they all gathered played and many got healed they would come with gifts and when collected the church was built and finished.
Bishop Thomas labreque went to Rome for studies and when he reached there he went to visit Genazano and when he saw the picture of Our Lady of Good Counsel he got devotion to it.
Our Foundress Mother Simard had tried different Institutions and failed because of her poor health and so she had gone to work in the parish and the parish priest advised her to always hope in the Intercession of Our Lady of Good Counsel.
She was later asked by the Bishop (Thomas Labreque) to help him begin an Institute, but she first hesitated because she knew about her health, she was later given the Relics of Francis De Sales and was asked to have nine (9) days Novena on the 9th day, she surrendered to God’s Will and accepted to begin with the Bishop. She was given another girl to start with called Bergeron.
As she was going with the Brother in law accompanying her in the boat, it almost capsized in the River and Bishop was a board on the other side of the River watching and praying. On that very day when they reached there, the Bishop gave them penance and they started 30 days retreat. It was the Bishop himself who became their Formator.
On the day of her 1st clothing celemony on 8th December 1894, it was when Simard was given the name Boninconsilli.
Simard was born in 1851 and the convent in 1894 at the age of 86; after 43 years of service as she had asked God for that favour “Lord, please grant me as many years in your service as those lived in the world”
HERITAGE OF THE SISTERS OF OUR LADY OF GOOD COUNSEL
Star: Symbolizes our Mission “if you teach well, you will be like stars shinning in the firmament” (Dan. 12:3)
Shell: Symbolizes the Charism: it is free floating, it is light and easy to take anywhere.