Adorned with the most exquisite graces, Mary was and will always be the object of filial admiration. Indeed, the faithful of all times contemplate the charms of her most holy soul, the unfathomable scope of her virtues and the magnificence with which the Lord has crowned Her, bestowing on Her – truly without measure – every gift.
Among the most beautiful titles that Catholic piety attributes to Our Lady is that of Mother of Good Counsel, which expresses a sublime reality: in addition to having begotten the “Wonderful Counsellor” (Is 9:6), She was filled with the admirable effects wrought by the Holy Spirit through the gift of counsel.
How did this gift operate in Her who was perfect from conception and worthy to be called “full of grace” (Lk 1:28)?
Gifts and virtues on the path of sanctity
Man was created to know, love and serve the Lord on this earth, and to give Him glory in Heaven for all eternity. Called to share in the divine life, he is raised by the Sacrament of Baptism to the supernatural order and admitted as a child of God into the bosom of the Holy Church.
Together with sanctifying grace, Baptism infuses into the Christian’s soul the theological and cardinal virtues, which incline him to perform good works.1 However, considering that after original sin man’s will has become weak and the virtues are not sufficient to achieve sanctity, the Most High also grants him the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: understanding, wisdom, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety and fear of God, which are infused supernatural habits that act upon the virtues, strengthening them and leading them to their full development.
Through the gifts, the soul receives not only a supernatural invitation to do good or avoid evil – as is proper to the virtues – but a special motion of the Holy Spirit that impels it to do God’s will.2 Thus, the gifts call for docility rather than activity, in the manner of a sailor who can use oars, or be carried along by the force of the wind that billows the sails of his ship. The virtues help us to move forward, but with labour and difficulty, while the gifts impel the soul to promptly obey the least inspirations of grace.
Each of the seven gifts, in turn, is related in a special way to the perfection of some virtue. Thus charity is perfected by the gift of wisdom; faith, by the gifts of knowledge and understanding; hope and temperance, by the gift of fear; prudence, by the gift of counsel; justice, by the gift of piety; the virtue of fortitude, by the gift of fortitude.
The gift of counsel
The gift of counsel is a supernatural habit which gives the soul the ability to judge quickly and certainly, by a kind of intuition, what is the right thing to do, especially in difficult situations. Its proper object is “the good guidance of personal actions.”3 It enables us to reconcile simplicity with shrewdness, firmness with gentleness, and helps us on our way towards God.
This gift is, in sum, a discreet light to guide us among the obscurities of faith, and it makes our souls merciful to the extent that they are purified by sufferings, by their own defects and weaknesses, and even by the experience of human malice.
Counsel in Mary
Since they are supernatural habits, the gifts of the Holy Spirit follow in proportion to grace, so that the more elevated a soul is, the more intense is the action of the gifts in it. Consequently, in Mary Most Holy they reached an exalted degree, as Fr. Philipon notes: “After Christ, the Mother of Jesus, Mother of God and of men, Mother of the total Christ, was the soul most docile to the Holy Spirit. […] Each of her conscious acts proceeded from Her and from the Holy Spirit, and displayed the deiform modality of the perfect virtues under the regime of the gifts.”4
By the gift of counsel, Our Lady clothed even the most insignificant actions with perfection, and in everything She acted – under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit – in the manner most conducive to the glory of God and the fulfilment of His salvific designs.5 In short, She transformed into concrete acts the most sublime insights She had received in contemplation.
This is why these words of Scripture can aptly be applied to the Blessed Virgin: “Counsel shall keep thee, and prudence shall preserve thee” (Prv 2:11).
A life ruled by counsel
In analysing Mary’s life, we find several occasions in which the light of counsel illuminated her actions in a striking way. For example, in her presentation in the Temple, it was the gift of counsel that led Her to discern that it was God’s will that She make a vow of virginity from her infancy;6 and at the Annunciation, before giving her consent, it gave her the desire to know the divine dispositions, so as to offer herself completely to the Lord.
At the Wedding at Cana, likewise, it was the gift of counsel that inspired Her to have the humble audacity to contradict the apparent desires of her Son, and to solicitously urge the servants: “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn 2:5). As Fr. Gardeil observes, “She commands the servants to do whatever her Son says, and the miracle takes place. Her counsel prevailed, because it was in essence the counsel of a love inspired by the God of mercy.”7
Mary: wonderful Counsellor!
Finally, the gift of counsel made Mary the perfect Mother of the Incarnate Word, She who fully realized His plans, the new Eve, resplendent with fidelity and virginal purity. Our Lady manifesting herself to the world as “Wonderful Counsellor”, by revealing the divine plans in the Magnificat and showing man the way of salvation: to fulfil the will of her Divine Son. She sustained the Church at the foot of the Cross, permitting it to pass through the agony of the Passion and strengthening it for the coming of the Consoler Spirit.
Encouraged by these considerations, in times of trial, suffering and uncertainty, let us have trusting recourse to this Good Counsel called Mary, and never doubt her powerful intervention! ◊
1 Cf. CCC 1803.
2 Cf. ROYO MARÍN, OP, Antonio. La Virgen María. 2.ed. Madrid: BAC, 1997, p.306.
3 ROSCHINI, OSM, Gabriel. Instruções marianas. São Paulo: Paulinas, 1960, p.176.
4 PHILIPON, OP, Marie-Michel. Los dones del Espíritu Santo. 2.ed. Madrid: Palabra, 1983, p.357-358.
5 Cf. ROYO MARÍN, op. cit., p.319.
6 Cf. ROSCHINI, op. cit., p.176-177.
7 GARDEIL, OP, Ambroise. Les dons du Saint-Esprit dans les Saints dominicains. Paris: Victor Lecoffre, 1905, p.192.