Our Lady of Good News, Sicily
On the spot where today stand in Palermo the church of Holy Mary, there was once an inn for pilgrims. It is related that a pilgrim wishing to make a fire to warm himself, picked up a piece of old board that was encrusted with dirt. It appeared it had once been used to cover a wall.
The man attacked the board with an axe but could not break it or even chip off a single splinter. He struck it repeatedly at one angle and then another, but it was of no use – he could not even make a mark in the board; it seemed to be held together with invisible bonds.
Astonished, everyone presumed the board must conceal some divine secret, so they cleaned the dirt from it and discovered a painting – an image of Our Lady with the Infant Jesus nestled on her right arm! She was being crowned by two graceful little angels.
The pilgrims lost no time in getting the story of this strange happening to the Archbishop, and he ordered a procession of the clergy to bring the image to his palace. The Archbishop himself cleaned the board further and as he worked, the features of the Mother and Child became clearer and more distinct. The image was placed on the altar of the archbishop’s palace and venerated with deep affection by all the people. This marked the beginning of miracles; the fame of which flowed out not only through Sicily, but through all of Italy. A confraternity was instituted and with the gifts of the faithful, a church was erected for the Queen of Heaven.
One time while Pignatelli, the Viceroy of Sicily early in the 16th century, was going to the church, a messenger who had traveled far, come to him. Pignatelli called out, “Do you bring good news?”
“The very best,” answered the messenger. Hearing this, Pignatelli dismounted and took the letters from the messenger, and entered the church to read them.
The Viceroy and the whole court had been in great anxiety because the Emperor of the Saracens – their principal enemy – had moved many troops from Africa against the Christian army and naval forces. The news that the letters contained was that the Saracens had withdrawn and peace negotiations had been successful.
So, the Viceroy having received such happy news about the Saracens’ threat, paid thanks to the Queen of Heaven; then the Viceroy said to all present, “This church that has the name of Holy Mary, will in the future be known as Holy Mary of Good News, because within it such good news has been received.” Thus he ordered and thus the church was named, and the image became Our Lady of Good News.