Visit no. 5: Our Lady of Good Counsel

Visit no. 5: Our Lady of Good Counsel

Michael’s choice this week, as he had lived for a time in Vienna some years ago and knows the area well and has friends who had attended Good Counsel High School. Mass with Father Kumar was brilliant, and he kindly shared his inspiring personal story, while taking us a special tour of the main church, which was closed for the day.

Visit date: Saturday, July 29, 2023

Mass: 8:30 am Saturday

Address: 8601 Wolftrap Road Vienna, VA 22182

Website: Our Lady of Good Counsel Catholic Church

Memorial of Saints Martha, Mary and Lazarus Lectionary: 400/607

Jn 11:19-27

Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother [Lazarus, who had died].
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

Lk 10:38-42

Jesus entered a village
where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary
who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,
“Lord, do you not care
that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving?
Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply,
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing.
Mary has chosen the better part
and it will not be taken from her.”


by Michael

We’ll start with part of Terry’s story: she entered the Mass before me, while I stood in the Narthex (which I learned about last week at Our Lady of Sorrows) — or the lobby, speaking loudly, she tells me. I’m sure I’m guilty as charged, for, perhaps too loud for a Narthex, I was having great fun speaking with a catechist, priest and sacristan, here pictured in that order below.

The triumvirate! Hank (left) and Father Kumar and Chiqui.

We arrived a good 30 minutes before Mass, so we had plenty of time to wander around. As our first visit to a Mary-named church that has a high school, we expected a large campus. The church lies amidst suburban Vienna, VA, with separate entrances, so it cannot be seen from a road. Our GPS guided us in along Niblick Dr., which ends at the church entrance. From inside the church, we could see that people came from the other side, entering from Wolftrap Rd, which is the church street address.

We parked by the rectory to see a Mary statue there, which is done right: bricked walkway with messages of faith, love and memorials from parishioners and families, garden and benches for contemplation.

We then parked over by the church and walked under the bell tower up to the front doors at the back of the church, which is appropriately labeled, “Church.” We liked these signs indicating the buildings, actually, as it helps to orient new, like us, or infrequent visitors, such as student families.

The bell tower is cool. Standing beneath the bells, the brick pillars create a marvelous echo, which must truly resound if standing there at noon!

We got in our obligatory entrance-way selfie and took in the sweeping, wide entrance. The building rises from there to the top of the back of the sanctuary. I do like the way the building serves as a funnel, with the semi-circular entrance and matching nave, which narrows before the alter; in other words, it shepherds us towards the Crucifix.

We entered the building to a spacious entranceway, not technically a “narthex,” I suppose. I was impressed by the reception desk right there — thoughtful! We were disappointed to find that the main church was closed, so I took a photo through the darkened windows, thinking that was to be our view of it for the day:

I asked around, and we were told by Hank that daily mass is held in the Chapel (a rounded structure, helpfully labeled “Chapel”). Chiqui and Father Kumar joined us, and we chatted outside the Chapel. I asked Father if he greeted parishioners before and after every Mass, to which he replied that he does. I told him how wonderful that is.

On reflection, I realize that, whether or not that is the standard practice at Our Lady of Good Council, with only one entrance to the chapel, priests necessarily come and go through the same entrance as parishioners. Our home parish is not this way, so priests who wish to greet parishioners after Mass must place themselves strategically to accommodate the multiple entranceways. Indeed, we are learning how the architecture both reflects and shapes a parish.

Chiqui quietly announced to us that Mass was to start in one minute, so I scampered in to take my seat next to Terry. In good Marian form, the congregation had been chanting the Angelus before Mass. The reader opened with the entrance antiphon, something that I really liked. Priests don’t always read the antiphons, so as a matter of procedure it’s great to have it read as a matter of course. If the antiphon is designed to engage the congregation, then having the reader lead it makes good sense.

Father Kumar greeted us with a huge smile and graceful and deliberate open arms, a gesture he repeated throughout the Mass. Father Kumar would tell us to be best friends with Jesus, as were Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and his own comportment demonstrated that same love.

We heard the optional reading from 1 John instead of Exodus, and Father Kumar read the first of the Gospel readings, on Martha greeting Jesus a declaring her belief in him. Father explained that Pope Francis added the optional reading on Martha and Mary’s distinct interactions with Jesus. He told us that Jesus must have been a frequent guest, and that both sisters represents distinct roles in our faith.

Father closed Mass with wide arms generously instructing us to go forth in peace. Those who remained soon after sang the Salve Regina. Terry went out before me and met Father Kumar, who then realized that we were together. We chatted about our Marian journey, and thanked him for the wonderful welcome and Mass.

As we turned to leave, we ran into Don, who asked if we knew anything about the daily missal he was using. He couldn’t figure out which readings to follow, explaining that he is in RCIA and it’s all new to him. I congratulated him on RCIA and told him I, too, am new to the Faith, and we discussed how invigorating it is to learn (“A free theology course,” I told him). He is on an accelerated path, and, it turns out, Hank is his catechist.

I showed him my well-worn July Magnificat and Terry insisted he keep it in order to compare the two and to use the Magnificat as a guide to follow the missal his church provides (yes!). We discussed his work in education (public policy side) and Terry’s work in promoting the rule of law around the world. None of us could find a business card, so I asked Don to try to remember “Rejoice in Mary dot org”. We hope he finds us here.

While we were speaking with Don, Chiqui waived us over to take a look inside the main church. So thoughtful and kindly of here to take the time to let us in! Father Kumar had finished confessions, and followed us in, saying that Chiqui’s the boss, so anything she says. She laughed off the joke and complemented him on the homily, to which I enthusiastically agreed. Father Kumar followed us inside and the boss bade us goodbye.

Here, now, we got a real treat.

There’s a special atmosphere to a darkened church, as it highlights the altar and Crucifix and makes the rest of the darkened space like a frame. I walked around while Terry spoke with Father Kumar. As gorgeous as is the church, the real treat of the day came from learning from Father Kumar.

Terry she asked how long he had served at Our Lady of Good Counsel, and where he had been before. He replied that in this country he was six years in Cape May, New Jersey and was not three or four (I think) years here. Terry is fascinated by how priests are moved around within and between dioceses, and Father Kumar enlightened the topic pointing out that his assignments are from his Order and not the Dioceses. He is with the Society of Saint Francis de Sales, which has supported Our Lady of Good Counsel for sixty years, he told us.

“Oh,” Terry, exclaimed, “That’s why you asked St. Francis de Sales to pray for us! But which was the Teresa?” “Saint Teresa of Calcutta, of course,” he said and smiled broadly. Terry told him she is named for Saint Teresa of Avila. He explained that the stained glass behind us is of water and baptism, and, to Terry’s delight, that a relic in the altar is of St. Francis de Sales.

I got to thinking about Christianity in India, so, without much thought, I declared that Faher Kumar is a spiritual descendent of Saint Thomas. He patiently explained that St. Thomas Christians are further to the north, whereas his homeland is further south, where Francis Xavier had evangelized in the 1500s. He said that his family have been Catholics for four generations. What I didn’t consider — ignorantly — is that the larger story of Christianity’s Journey in the subcontinent, St. Thomas Christians, of course, were not connected to Rome, so it was only after the Portuguese arrived that Catholicism formally entered India. (St. Thomas Christians were most closely affiliated with the East Syriac Church, and since that Church had never formally broken with Rome, the Roman Church considers them still affiliated, if with distinct structures; the St. Thomas Christians may not fully agree.)

It was most kindly of Father Kumar to take the time to speak with us so much. If you go to the parish website and click on his portrait on this page, you will see how his self-description matches all of our experiences with him today:

I strongly believe that my prayer life is no use if I don’t reach out to people who are in need. I am always open to the needs of the people whom I come in contact with. My prayers, my devotions help me to be cordial, humble, down to earth with the people. I always give time to the people to listen to them. I may not do great things but my simple and loving approach to the people in need is always the best thing I can give to the other.*

Clergy/Staff & Councils (

* I edited out a comma from the first line

Hear, hear, and God bless you, Father Kumar!

We thank everyone at Our Lady of Good Counsel, and we hope to see you at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More, especially at Christmas when the renovation is to be completed, and when Chiqui can show us the Filipino Saints shrine that she has helped make.

– Michael

Additional photographs from our visit


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