Mother of Good Counsel of Genazzano
|The Story of the Mother of Good Counsel of Genazzano
The story of our Mother of Good Counsel begins near the northwestern border of the small country of Albania. Current news stories speak of ethnic Albanians (primarily Mohammedans) and ethnic Serbians (primarily Christian) fighting each other and killing each other in much the same way as they have done for many centuries. But what are they really fighting about? Well, the history of the fighting in that region and the story of the miraculous image of the Mother of Good Counsel of Genazzano ran amazingly close together for centuries.
Albania is a country slightly smaller than the state of Maryland, strategically located on the Strait of Otranto. It is bordered by the Adriatic and Ionian seas to the West, by Greece on the South, by the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on the West, and by Serbia and Montenegro on the North. In the northwestern corner of Albania lies the small city of Scutari (which is now called Shkoder), which takes its name from the lake upon which it was built. It was from out of this city that the image of Our Lady, that would be venerated under the invocation of Mater Boni Consilii, was first made known.
Pious legend proposes that the image of Our Lady and the Child Jesus, which came to be known as the Mother of Good Counsel, appeared in Scutari at about the same time the Holy House was transported by angels from Nazareth, first to Dalmatia (1294 A.D.), and subsequently to Loreto Hill in Italy. The image of Our Lady, it is claimed came miraculously to Scutari by way of the angels as well.
Certainly the Catholic Faith was not new to Albania when Our Lady decided that her image of the Mother of Good Counsel would take up residence in Scutari. In the first century A.D., Saints Paul and Andrew evangelized these shores of the Adriatic, and the faith flourished there for centuries despite the constant threat of attacks from both sea and land. At one time or another, Albania was attacked from the sea by the Goths, the Bulgars and the Normans and from the land by the Slavic tribes from the East and Moslem hoards from the South.
As the 13th century drew to a close, the country was divided up by Naples, Greece and Serbia, and the governance of the people left in the hands of powerful families of nobility whose allegiance went to whichever power held sway over them at the moment and allegiances were all too often bought and sold like chattel.
By 1361, the miasma of Mohammedanism had spread over nearly the whole of the Balkan Peninsula, and they invaded Albania, capturing the city of Kroia. 71 years later, after making several successive forceful forays deep into the country, in 1432, the Turks were overrunning the small and divided nation.
The Four Princes
The Mohammedan leaders knew from experience that their own religious beliefs and depraved customs were not capable of producing warriors as brave and courageous as the Christians. Believing they could pervert the Christian boys by raising them as Mohammedans, and teaching them to hate their families and the Catholic Faith, they took many thousands of such captives and raised them in an atmosphere of strict discipline far from the Turkish court. As they grew older they were taught the skills of warriors and became part of an elite military unit, the janizaries, made up of Christian boys who had been turned to Mohammedanism.
The young Albanian princes were thought to be exceptional by their captors, and they were chosen to be members of the elite praetorian guard. So convinced were the Turks that the youths could be perverted in their faith by threats and allurements that they were taken to Adrianapolis, to the court of Sultan Amurath II, who ruled the Ottoman Empire.
The Sultan Amurath
When the four sons of John Castriota were brought before the sultan, the three older boys made it clear they were not interested in furthering Islam. They were placed in chains, sent to prison, and slowly poisoned to death.
George, the youngest, at age 9, was thought to be young enough to be molded to suit the purposes of the sultan. As it was the intent of his captors to integrate him into the Mohammedan faith, he was circumcised and placed among the intended janizaries to be trained and educated.
So much did the young Prince George stand out from those around him that he found great favor with Amurath II. The sultan decided to provide him with the best possible education and had him trained alongside his own sons. He was thoroughly educated in the art of war and learned to speak Italian, Turkish, Arabic, and Slavic. As he grew into manhood and displayed uncommon courage and talent, he won the total confidence of Amurath II. Because of this trust of the sultan, and because of his princely birth, George received the title of Alexander the Prince in Turkish, Iskender Bey. Among the Albanians he thus became known as Scanderbeg.
Our Lady of Services
For over 140 years the onslaught of the Mohammedans had proceeded without any major setback until the Battle of Nish, when Scanderbeg returned to his Catholic compatriots and soundly defeated the infidels as he fought alongside Janos Hunyadi.
When word of his army’s defeat and Scanderbeg’s betrayal reached Amurath II, he was enraged. He immediately dispatched an army of 40,000 cavalry to re-capture Scanderbeg and destroy the Albanians. The Albanian prince, hero now that he was among his own people, was unable to raise an army of even half that number to meet the invaders on the field of battle. They met on the border of Dibra. We return to João S. Clá Dias’ book for an account of that battle (Ibid. p. 52.):
Iskender Bey Scanderbeg
The Sword and Shield of Christendom
The Defender of Christendom
For the next 24 years, Prince Scanderbeg would pour out his life in defense of his native Albania and of Christendom. Recognized as a true hero by his own people and as a defender of the Faith by the pope, Scanderbeg remained always, first and foremost, a dedicated son of Our Lady of Scutari, who became known as the Mother of Good Counsel. Monsignor George Dillon, in his book, The Virgin Mother of Good Counsel, (Propaganda Fide, Rome, Italy: 1884; p. 106), writes in regard to Scanderbeg:
In January 1467, exhausted from over two decades of almost constant war, Scanderbeg retired to the city of Lesh. On the 17th of that month, he received the Last Sacraments and prepared himself for death. We pick up this final chapter in the life of the Sword and Shield of Christendom in Dias’ book (Ibid. p. 63):
The glacial air of a January morning was pierced by terrible cries, cries not of mourning from the palace where the prince was agonizing but cries of warning from the walls: “The Turks! The Turks! The Turks are here!”
Hearing the shouts, the dying man’s eyes opened. Color returned to his cheeks. The perspiration of agony disappeared. Scanderbeg pushed death aside and carried it instead to the enemies of Christendom. He ordered his horse and weapons brought to him. Then, a great battle ensued at the gates of Lesh.
The clash was as bloody as the first battle, which he won under Mary’s protection. The Moslems, seeing Scander-beg’s eyes blazing with holy wrath, fled in terror. After the battle, the brave warrior had sufficient strength to return to the palace.
Scanderbeg, as in all victories, again gave thanks to the Blessed Virgin for her protection. On that same day, January 17, 1467, before sunset, he slept the sleep of the just.
There is a very interesting anecdote of history that is written about by St. Peter Julian Eymard that has a parallel here. The Saint, who is known as the Apostle of the Eucharist, recalls that in St. Augustine’s day the True Faith had spread so broadly that the whole of North Africa was solidly Catholic. When the effluvium of Mohammedanism began to cover that same ground, beginning in the late 7th century, the Faith was lost in town after town, country after country until there was no one left to worship Almighty God in His Eucharistic Presence. It was then, St. Eymard says, that Our Lord abandoned the Tabernacles in those areas where the people had apostatized, and that when He leaves such a place, He will never return.
When news of the death of Scanderbeg, at the age of 53, reached the sultan, it is reported that he exclaimed, “Woe to Christendom! It has lost its sword and shield!”
The reign of the kingdom fell to Scanderbeg’s son, Giovanni Castriota, who in 1474 sold the principality to the Venetians, who, four years later sold it to the Turks.
Thus, the Faith and the nation for which Scanderbeg had poured out his life in defense, was finally captured at the bargaining table reminiscent of another betrayal of the Faith that was purchased for 30 pieces of silver!
And so it was that with the death of Scanderbeg fresh in their thoughts as well as a great fear of what was about to happen with the great leader gone two of his faithful soldiers, De Sclavis, and Georgio, came frequently to the Shrine of Our Lady of Scutari to pray. They knew, as did the whole nation, that the Patroness of Albania was the real cause of Scanderbeg’s successes, and prayed that she would work a miracle to prevent the country from falling into the hands of the Mohammedans. They recognized as well that the Faith was quickly waning among their countrymen and were unsure of whether to stay and continue to fight, or to leave the country.
One night, Georgio who was the younger of the two soldiers had a dream in which Our Lady told him that he and De Sclavis must prepare to leave the country forever. She told him that she too, in her image of Our Lady of Scutari, would leave the country as well.
The Incredible Journey
De Sclavis and Georgio knelt before the image of Our Lady and prayed for direction. In an instant, right before their eyes, the fresco detached itself from the wall and was enveloped by a luminous white cloud. But even that did not prevent the smiling image of Our Lady and the Infant Jesus from being seen. Through the door and into the open the cloud-covered icon moved along, westward toward the sea, the two soldiers steadfastly following. When the image and the two followers reached the Adriatic, Our Lady did not stop, but proceeded west over the breaking waves. Before they had even realized it, the two zealous chaperones of Our Lady’s image discovered that they, like St. Peter on the lake of Genesareth, were walking on the water beneath their feet. They walked throughout the whole of the day without stopping or feeling the pangs of hunger or the torment of weariness.
It is not known with any certainty how long the 190 mile journey across the sea actually took the two soldiers and the miraculous image, but in their written recollections, the two followers of Our Lady admitted that they were aware of no temporal necessities, the image before them being the sole focus of their contemplation.
When the trio arrived at the gates of the city of Rome, the cloud-covered icon disappeared from the sight of the two soldiers much to their consternation.
The Arrival At Genazzano
At the same time, in the midst of the Castelli some 30 kilometers east of Rome, the small village of Genazzano sits atop a rocky peak. At a most prominent spot in the village was a local church in ruins. It was given to the Augustinians by Prince Colonna in the 15th century, and with the aid of a wealthy local woman, Petgruccia De Geneo, the Augustinians and the town had set about to rebuild the ruined church, but had run out of funds.
On April 25th, 1467, in the vicinity of the church, the townspeople of Genazzano were celebrating St. Mark's Day. Around four o’clock in the afternoon, they suddenly heard the strains of some very exquisite music which drew their attention upward. As they gazed into an otherwise clear sky, they saw a cloud descend and come to rest upon a small ledge above an unfinished wall of the church, seemingly suspended in air with no support other than the small ledge.
537 years later, this image, which has come to be known as the Mother of Good Counsel, remains miraculously suspended on the little ledge, having survived earthquakes and even aerial bombing during World War II, which destroyed much of the church.
The Rest Of The Story
The church, which could not be completed because of lack of funding, was quickly finished once the image of the Mother of Good Counsel miraculously appeared. And after many wars, and much repair and rebuilding, the beautiful shrine remains available for all who wish to visit.
Then there are the miracles countless really, that testify to the love of Our Lord and His Mother for their children. In one stretch of 110 days, that began two days after the miraculous image arrived in Genazzano, 161 miracles were recorded.
A century after the death of Scanderbeg, the forces of Christendom dealt a death-blow to the Moslem fleet at Lepanto, and it was learned after the terrible battle that a radiant Lady appeared in the sky, terrifying the Mohammedans with her majestic and threatening countenance. Those who heroically fought for Christ and His Kingdom were Don John, Supreme commander of the Catholic Fleet, and Prince Marc Antonio Colonna. It was the latter who, at a critical point in the battle, took the “good counsel” of Our Lady and attacked the galley of Ali Pasha, turning likely defeat into an overwhelming victory.
And while the threat from attack by sea was effectively minimized following Lepanto, the Turks continued for the next century to harrass the faithful in Hungary, Austria and Poland, often desecrating Catholic churches and turning them into mosques.
As the future of Christendom had been seriously threatened by attacks from the seas prior to Lepanto, so was it being threatened by land after that battle.
On November 17, 1682, desperate for Heaven’s help in getting the Catholic princes to quit squabbling with each other and face the Mohammedan enemy at the gate, Pope Innocent XI crowned the image of the Mother of Good Counsel with gold and precious stones and implored her to bring the princes together in common cause against the enemy. Only a few months after the crowning, many of the problems that had plagued the effort to unite the Catholic princes dissipated. On March 31, 1683, the Austrian Empire and King John Sobieski of Poland agreed to unite their forces.
On Sunday, September 12, the King served Holy Mass with thirty-two princes and thousands of nobles assisting. They all received Holy Communion and prepared to meet the enemy forces of the Turks at Vienna. The Catholic forces were outnumbered 84,000 to 300,000! By six o’clock that evening, John Sobieski was in the Augustinian church of Sts. Sebastain and Roch singing the Te Deum in thanksgiving for victory. This victory marked the end of the rise of Ottoman power in Europe.
In addition to the many wonders worked by Our Lady through the intercession of the original image of the Mother of Good Counsel, countless miracles are attributed to copies of the image which had been disseminated throughout the world.
The history of the Mother of Good Counsel across the centuries centers on Our Lady’s assistance in overcoming enemies whose intent is the destruction of Catholicism. It is more than an historical anecdote that when the Holy House in Nazareth was about to be desecrated by the Mohammedans it was translated to Europe. The same is likely true of the image of the Mother of Good Counsel seeing that it arrived in Scutari about the same time. And the image moved on to Genazzano when the Moslem hoards overran Albania. For almost 700 years the miraculous image of the Mother of Good Counsel figures into the history of the defense of the Church against the infidels.
Another Day, Another Approach?
The picture shown here is a picture of a mosque the largest in Europe. It is located in Rome, and construction was begun in 1984 with the approval of the Holy See. For over a millennium great men and many saints were raised up by God to ensure that the sign of the crescent would not fly freely in Christian lands. Hundreds of thousands of Catholic warriors sacrificed their lifes for the same end. As happened in Albania upon the death of Scanderbeg, so did it happen in Rome itself. There was no conquering hoard planting the emblem of Mohammedanism on Roman soil no, that was done with the permission of the Holy See.
There is little doubt that Scanderbeg, Janos Hunyadi, Don John, Prince Colonna or Pope St. Pius V could ever have imagined such an end. Still, here it is.
There are those who claim that we are living in different times, and that these times require different means; dialog and negotiation, not holy wars. Well, how do the Mohammedans feel about the generosity of their Roman benefactors? The following is an invocation given as part of a sermon delivered by the imam of the Rome mosque, Abdel-Samie Mahmoud Ibrahim Moussa, on June 6, 2003:
"O Allah, grant victory to the Islamic fighters in Palestine, Chechnya, and elsewhere in the world! O Allah, destroy the homes of the enemies of Islam! O Allah, help us to annihilate the enemies of Islam! O Allah, make firm everywhere the voice of the nation of Islam!"
The Passion Of THE CHRIST & The Mother of Good Counsel
There is little doubt in my mind that every one who reads this account of Our Mother of Good Counsel has also read the views of others views too numerous to count about Mel Gibson and his movie The Passion of the Christ. There are those, such as Dr. David Allen White who unabashedly proclaim that the work is inspired by God. On the other side are those who simply reject the film for any number of reasons.
We can but suppose that by now most of our readers have taken the opportunity to see the film and to decide for themselves as to its merits or shortcomings. It seems only reasonable then, with that thought in mind, that about the last thing you might wish to read would be another viewpoint especially mine! Let me, then refrain from throwing another opinion into the mix as to the quality of the art or the intent of the artist.
There is one observation and I will limit myself to that, which I would be remiss were I not to mention. While clearly evident to me, rarely has it been given any ink in the almost countless reviews it has to do with the title of the film, “The Passion of THE CHRIST.”
It is apparent that the introduction of the title set in motion the movement amongst the Jews to condemn the film even while it was being filmed. It was clearly the title of the film and not the film itself that struck a chord among those who have gone to no small efforts to discredit the value of the work. They have done so in much the same way, and for the same reason, that the chief priests complained bitterly about the title Pilate placed on the cross at Calvary Jesus Nazarenus Rex Judaeorum Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.
Why are so many people upset with Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of The Christ?
Jesus is THE CHRIST the ONLY CHRIST not just another prophet, not just a man. This is what it means:
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by Me.” (St. John 14:6)
“And He said to them, Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” (St. Luke 16:15-16)
“Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” (St. John 3:5)
“Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, it shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” (St. Matthew 16:18-19)
“… He said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” (St. John 20:21-22)
What you won’t see: A Catholic Cathedral in Mecca!
A final thought: when the forces of Mohammed overran the Holy Land, Our Lady moved the Holy House and her miraculous image to a place where the Faith was being held and defended. When they overran that place, she moved again. Where will she or can she go now?†
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