Our Lady of Good Counsel is a title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary inspired by a painting said to be miraculous. Housed in the thirteenth century Augustinian Church in Genazzano, near Rome, the fresco is executed on a thin layer of plaster, no thicker than an egg shell.
According to tradition, on the Feast of St. Mark, April 25, 1467, the people in the town heard 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 image was painted on a sheet of plaster so thin that it would have been impossible for any human hand to remove it without damage. It had survived for centuries through several earthquakes. Bombing during World War II caused several altars to be destroyed, walls caved in, and the roof was crushed. The icon, only yards away from the destruction, remained intact.
Over the centuries, devotion to Our Lady of Good Counsel grew among saints and Popes and then spread throughout the world. Her feast day is April 26.
When asked why the name, “Good Counsel” was chosen when he and Father Benedict Groeschel first started their ministry, Chris Bell explained, “ I was working with homeless and runaway kids in Times Square from about 1979 to 1984, with a brief hiatus to study in Rome. I believed God was asking me to start a home for mothers during 1983 and through 1984. I subsequently left to begin and subsequently moved into Our Lady of Good Counsel parish rectory in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. While living there, I felt it would be appropriate to ask Our Lady to help us and at the same time realized how much having her name means what we are trying to do: offer ‘good counsel.’ Counsel is also a Gift from the Holy Spirit we pray to enliven in our lives.”
Through the ministry was originally named after Fr. Groeshel’s home for boys, St. Francis Home while Chris was living in an empty convent at St. Francis Parish in Hoboken, New Jersey, after opening three homes for homeless moms and babies, Our Lady’s inspiration returned to Father and Chris and the name was changed to “Good Counsel Homes.”
It is our hope and prayer that Good Counsel Homes can survive through troubled and uncertain times just as the miraculous image of Our Lady did for centuries, inspiring world wide devotion and, as always, refocusing our gaze toward her Son.