We honor Mary in the Church under many titles. Today's celebration is one particularly dear to Augustinians throughout the world. The tender image of mother and child is at one and the same time so very human and so illustrative of a deep spiritual truth. Mary, mother of her infant son, is also his first and most faithful disciple. He who is her Lord embraces her affectionately as she, his mother, receives from him words of wisdom and counsel.
Augustinian devotion to Mary under the title of Our Mother of Good Counsel has its origin in the hill-town church of Genazzano, Italy, where the Augustinians have been located since the 13th Century. Originally, their monastery was situated outside the town, but a century they later were invited to take charge of the parish church of Our Mother of Good Counsel in the town-center. When the friars decided to renovate and enlarge the church there occurred an event that came to be considered miraculous, and which drew the attention of great crowds of people. On April 25, 1467, as a side wall was being repaired and a marble figure of the Madonna was removed, there appeared, where the figure had hung, an image of Mary and the Child Jesus. From that moment the title of the church was applied also to the image. According to an old tradition, this very icon, venerated in Albania under the name Our Lady of Scutari or Our Lady of the Albanians, is said to have suddenly disappeared from a church as Albania was being invaded by infidels. Legend says that it floated from the church and was followed by two Albanian men until they reached Genazzano and recognized the image as their own. The news of the "appearance" of the image, coupled with the story of the Albanians, has caused the church, from that time, to be the destination of many pilgrims, including several popes, saints and blesseds. Pope John XXIII was a pilgrim to the shrine on the eve of the Second Vatican Council, and Pope John Paul II visited it before going to Albania to re-establish the hierarchy there following the collapse of communism. Leo XIII had declared the church a Minor Basilica in 1903 and in April of that year introduced the invocation 'Mother of Good Counsel' to the Litany of Loreto. Blessed Stephen Bellesini was pastor of this church for nine years until his death in 1840. His venerated remains are preserved in a side chapel of the basilica.
We note the 'good counsel' of Mary in several scenes of the Gospel, especially that of Cana, when the mother of Jesus says, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn. 2, 5). Saint Augustine reminds us that while Mary is blessed for being the mother of Jesus, she is even more blessed for being his disciple. In fact, as the first disciple of her son she presents him to us as our teacher, our way, our truth and our life - even as he was for her.