The image of the icon that you see is of Our Mother of Good Counsel, which is honored in the Augustinian Church of the same name some thirty miles south of Rome in Genazzano, Italy. An ancient legend says that this fresco was miraculously transported to Genazzano from its former home in Albania. According to this legend, the fresco came to rest on a narrow ledge inside the then unfinished church, and it remains in the same place today. Its unexpected appearance was considered by some to be a miracle, and thus the legend grew. Our Mother of Good Counsel Church became a popular place of pilgrimage and numerous miracles took place there. The Augustinian Friars were invited to minister to the spiritual needs of the pilgrims who came and now continue to serve there promoting her intercession to this day. Several Saints have had personal devotions to Mary under this special title, and most Popes, shortly after their election, visit the shrine of Our Mother of Good Counsel to pray for wisdom.
This fresco portrays Mary holding the child Jesus in a most intimate way. Her veil is wrapped around Jesus’ shoulders, and the Christ Child looks lovingly to her as He rests on her left arm, with her head tenderly bent toward Him. Jesus’ right arm clings to the back of His Mother’s neck and His left hand gently grasps her inside the neckline of her dress. The image speaks volumes about the great love and tenderness shared by Mary with her son, Jesus, in simple, yet profound gestures. Unlike many other forms of religious work, Mary’s eyes are focused in thought directly toward her son, and not heavenward. Jesus’ eyes are wide open and stare into hers eager to show His love and to receive hers, trusting fully in her all of her good counsel.
Jesus learned so much from His mother’s pure love and brought that love fully to His public ministry. He was not afraid of the healing power of touch and did not shy away from healthy and holy affection in any of His encounters we read in scripture.
The importance of this healing power of positive touch is something we can be afraid of because of the fear of being falsely accused of abusing others. Many individuals working in ministry have withheld their own healing touch since learning about the sexual abuse crisis in our Church some ten years ago. Some refuse to be touched or touch anyone. This is not what the Protecting God’s Children®programs are all about.
Appropriate, loving, healthy, and holy affection is desperately needed in our world to allow children to grown into healthy, holistic persons who are affirmed and strengthened in their knowledge of what is good and what is bad by those who love them and offer them good counsel. Sometimes parents, teachers, and others model inappropriate approaches to love, care, and touch. Fear of what could happen regarding false allegations is often the strongest motivator.
In the 1950’s Dutch psychiatrist Dr. Anna A. Terruwe was the first to promote the theory of Emotional Deprivation Disorder and her work was translated into the English language and continued to be developed by her colleague, Dr. Conrad W. Baars.
“Emotional Deprivation Disorder is a syndrome which results from a lack of authentic affirmation and emotional strengthening in one’s life. Unaffirmed persons are incapable of developing into emotionally mature adults until they receive authentic affirmation from another person. Maturity is reached when there is a harmonious relationship between a person’s body, mind, emotions, and spiritual soul under the guidance of their reason and will.”
The image of Our Mother of Good Counsel greatly depicts the theories of Drs. Terruwe and Baars. The history of this sacred image is intriguing and is worth researching to discover the fascinating miracles surrounding the full story. What is most important, however, in honoring Mary this month, is that we not lose sight of her genuine love for her son, Jesus, and how she was fearless in showing it to Him and to the world. Still today, she teaches us through her silent image, about the importance of sharing the healing and mighty power of intimacy so greatly needed in our world today.
O Mary of Good Counsel, inflame the hearts of all who are devoted to you, so that all of them have shelter in you, O great Mother of God. O most worthy Mother, let everyone choose you as teacher and wise counselor of their souls, since you are, as Saint Augustine says, the counsel of the Apostles and counsel of all peoples. Amen. (Prayer from 1796)
Our Mother of Good Counsel, ora pro nobis!