A tribute to Blessed Alexandrina - a living miracle of the Eucharist.
“ I desire that, after your death, your life may be known, and that will happen; I shall see to it. It will reach the ends of the earth .”
Our Lord speaking to Blessed Alexandrina, 22 nd November 1937.
Although she was never able to visit the site of the apparitions of Our Blessed Lady at Fatima, Alexandrina's extraordinary story has many connections to the Fatima events, and her message is essentially the same: “ Do penance, sin no more, pray the Rosary, receive the Eucharist ”. Because of this, she has been described as the ‘fourth seer of Fatima'. One can point to miraculous occurrences in the lives of all the saints, but Alexandrina herself became a living miracle , for in the last thirteen years of her life, she ate and drank absolutely nothing, existing on the Holy Eucharist alone.
Pope John Paul II said the following about Alexandrina in his homily at her beatification ceremony in 2004:-
“ ‘Do you love me?', Jesus asks Simon Peter, who replies: ‘Yes Lord, you know that I love you'. The life of Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa can be summarized in this dialogue of love. Permeated and burning with this anxiety of love, she wished to deny nothing to her Saviour. With a strong will, she accepted everything to demonstrate her love for him. A ‘spouse of blood', she mystically relived Christ's passion and offered herself as a victim for sinners, receiving strength from the Eucharist: this became her only source of nourishment for the final 13 years of her life. With the example of Blessed Alexandrina, expressed in the trilogy ‘suffer, love, make reparation', Christians are able to discover the stimulus and motivation to make ‘noble' all that is painful and sad in life through the greatest evidence of love: sacrificing one's life for the beloved. Secret of holiness: love for Christ.”
Balasar, the birthplace of Alexandrina, is a small rural village about 40 miles north of Porto, in the Archdiocese of Braga. It was already a place of pilgrimage in the century prior to Alexandrina's birth, due to the appearance of a mysterious cross of raised earth, lighter in colour than the surrounding area. The cross appeared in June 1832, in the main square of the village in front of the parish church of St Eulalia. The parish priest of Balasar at that time, Don A.G. de Azevedo, tried to eradicate the cross but was unable. He wrote about this inexplicable occurrence:-
“Last Corpus Christi, while the people coming to the morning Mass were passing the road which crosses the little hill of Calvary they noticed a cross laid out on the ground. The earth which formed this cross was of a lighter colour than the surrounding soil. Dew had fallen all around, except on the cross. I myself went to brush away the dust and loose earth that formed the cross, but the design reappeared in the same place. I then ordered a considerable quantity of water to be poured over it and on the surrounding ground. But after this had drained away, the cross reappeared once more and has remained there since. The staff of the cross measures 15 hands and the transverse measures 8 hands…”
Donations left by the pilgrims who came to see and honour the holy cross, funded a little chapel which was built to house the cross in 1832, and both the cross and chapel remain to this day. But what was the reason for this phenomenon? The writings of Alexandrina show that the cross of earth was inextricably linked to her mission in Balasar, as Our Lord told her the following during an ecstasy:-
“ . . . a century ago I ordained that this parish be privileged with a cross as a sign of the crucifixion. The cross was ready, it only wanted a victim. But now I have chosen one to fulfil my divine plans; it is you”
Alexandrina was born on the 30 th March 1904 in a part of the village of Balasar called Gresufes, and baptised three days later on the 2 nd April, Holy Saturday, at the parish church of St Eulalia. Her uncle, Joaquim da Costa, was a godparent, along with a family friend also named Alexandrina from the nearby village of Gondifelos. Those attending her baptism would have walked past the chapel of the mysterious holy cross, completely unaware that the child about to be baptised was the reason for the existence of it, but God would manifest this connection in His own good time.
Alexandrina's mother, Maria Ana da Costa, was a devout woman who knew that love of God can never be separated from love of neighbour. She spent hours praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament each morning before Mass, and was also known among the villagers for practising the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Though poor herself, she shared what little she had with those most in need. Sadly, Alexandrina's father, António, abandoned the family while Alexandrina was very young, so Maria Ana was left on her own to raise Alexandrina and her other daughter Deolinda, who was born three years before Alexandrina on 21 st October 1901. Maria Ana dedicated herself to this task, providing their primary education in the Faith.
Alexandrina's earliest memory was of an incident that occurred when she was three years old. Her mother was asleep and she was lying alongside her. She saw a glass jar of pomade and stretched out to take hold of it. As she was doing this, Maria Ana awoke and startled Alexandrina, who dropped the jar, which fell to the floor and smashed. Alexandrina fell on top of the broken glass and injured the corner of her mouth, which gave her a scar that she had for the rest of her life. Maria Ana rushed her to a pharmacist who put three stitches in her face. In her autobiography, Alexandrina said that she misbehaved towards the pharmacist, “ refusing to eat the biscuits dipped in wine which he offered me to calm me down ”. She described this as her “ first misdemeanour ”. This incident was certainly uncharacteristic, as she grew to be a happy child. She was very playful and active and was often called a “ tomboy ”. Alexandrina also loved to sing and by all accounts had a fine voice, which she put to good use in the parish church. Even at an early age, she had a great love of nature, the contemplation of which helped to raise her mind and heart to the Creator of all things. She wrote:-
“I loved to contemplate nature: the dawn, the rising of the sun, the song of the birds, the gurgling of the waters entered into me and transported me to such a deep contemplation that soon I'd forget that I was living in this world. I would remain there, absorbed by this thought: how great is the power of God! . . .”
Whereas her older sister Deolinda was more reserved, Alexandrina was known for her laughter and wit. She was also known for mischievous childhood pranks, such as the time when she pretended that her hand was crushed in a large trunk, only to burst out laughing when Deolinda rushed to help her. She also used to sit behind women in church and tie their shawls together without them realising, so upon parting they would find themselves connected! Despite a penchant for mischief, the young Alexandrina exhibited a strong faith. She had a great love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, visiting the church frequently and making spiritual Communions. She also attended the parish catechism classes and developed a deep prayer life. Like her mother, her love of God did not stop at pious practices, but was expressed in acts of charity towards the poor, the disabled and the aged, for whom she showed great compassion and tenderness. Like the little shepherds of Fatima, she often used to make sacrifices by offering her food to those less fortunate than herself.
Alexandrina and Deolinda were unable to receive schooling in Balasar, as the school only accepted boys. Being unable to read and write herself, Maria Ana did not want her daughters to be similarly disadvantaged, so she sent them to a school in the coastal resort of Póvoa de Varzim, several miles from Balasar. Alexandrina was seven years old when she left for Póvoa de Varzim, and the separation from her mother caused her great suffering. The sisters stayed in the family home of a local carpenter, Pedro Teixeira Novo, and they attended the Mónica Cardia school where they were taught by Mrs Emilia de Freitas Alvares. Alexandrina learned to read and write and also continued to attend catechism classes. She made her First Confession and First Holy Communion in Póvoa de Varzim in 1911. Later she recounted the effect this had on her:-
“Father Alvaro Matos tested me on the catechism, heard my confession and gave me Holy Communion for the first time. I was seven years old. As a prize I received a lovely rosary and a holy picture. I communicated on my knees and, despite my small size, I was able to fix my gaze on the Sacred Host in such a way that it was imprinted on my soul. I believed that I was uniting myself to Jesus never to be separated from Him. He took possession of my soul, it seems to me. The joy that I felt was inexpressible. I told the good news to everyone. From then on my teacher took me every day to Holy Communion.”
Alexandrina stayed at Póvoa de Varzim for 18 months and during her stay was confirmed by the Bishop of Porto, Mgr Antonio Barbosa Leão, in spite of her young age. About her Confirmation, she said:-
“It was in Vila do Condo that I received, from the hands of His Excellency the Bishop of Porto, the Sacrament of Confirmation. I remember the ceremony very well and the joy that it brought me. At the moment when I received this sacrament, I don't know how to explain what I felt; it seemed to be a supernatural grace which transformed me and united me more deeply to Our Lord . . .”
After 18 months she returned with Deolinda, to her mother at Balasar. About four months after their return, the family moved to another house in Balasar, which Maria Ana had inherited from an aunt. The house was situated on a hill providentially called ‘Calvario', and it is where Alexandrina lived until her death, and was truly to become the site of her Calvary.
Alexandrina started to work in the fields around Balasar. She enjoyed a robust constitution, and was known for working as hard as the men . She was vivacious and gifted with a cheerful disposition, and much loved by her companions. At the age of twelve she was placed by her mother in service to a neighbour, who was a farmer, although her mother attached some conditions to Alexandrina's employment:- that she be allowed to attend Confession once a month; that she be able to spend Sunday afternoons at home in order to attend the devotions at church, and that she never be allowed to go out at night. Alexandrina's employer didn't keep to these conditions and she was made to do far more work than had been agreed. He was also cruel to Alexandrina and frequently humiliated her. When she related these problems to her mother, Maria Ana withdrew her from the arrangement, but unfortunately for Alexandrina, this was not the last that she was to hear of her ex-employer.
Soon after this, Alexandrina fell ill with a serious infection, which was believed to be an intestinal typhoid fever. The illness brought her close to death, but she recovered sufficiently to be moved to a sanatorium in Póvoa de Varzim for a period of convalescence. Although the danger of death passed, her health was never the same again and she eventually took up sewing for a living, as this was less arduous than working in the fields. However ill she felt, she never neglected her spiritual life, and as well as nourishing her own faith, she also desired to help others to come to the knowledge and love of God. One way she did this was by collaborating with the local catechist to help instruct the younger children. Candido Manuel dos Santos, a contemporary of Alexandrina, gave the following testimony during the diocesan process for her beatification: “ Alexandrina was so at ease with the youngest ones and had such a manner of speaking to them about God, that they often left the other catechists to be with her. ”
An attempt on Alexandrina's virtue was to have devastating consequences for her and her family. On Holy Saturday of 1918, Alexandrina and a friend Rosalina were receiving sewing lessons from Deolinda in one of the upper rooms of the house. Alexandrina was 14 at the time. She heard noises from below and looking out the window, her heart sank when she saw her ex-employer with two other men. Obviously under the influence of alcohol, it seemed they had come to try to assault the women. Panic stricken, they locked themselves in and called out to the men to go away, but they were not in the mood for rejection. They broke into the house and levered open a trapdoor in the floor of the room in which the women were working. After getting into the room, the other two men pursued Deolinda and Rosalina, while Alexandrina's ex-employer cornered her. She lashed out at him with her rosary, crying “ Jesus, help me! ”. Rather than submit to his assault, Alexandrina took the only way out and jumped from a window, falling 12 feet on to hard ground. The pain she experienced from this fall was extreme, but not content with having escaped with her own virtue intact, she went back into the house armed with a piece of wood to defend the virtue of her sister and her friend – and like David and Goliath, against all the odds, she triumphed. Her counter-attack was successful and the men fled. The similarities between Alexandrina's heroic defence of her purity and the life of St Maria Goretti are obvious, but whereas St Maria Goretti died defending her virtue, Alexandrina lived, but was to pay a heavy price for the rest of her life.
When Alexandrina was 18, her ex-employer turned up at her home again, but she was alone on this occasion, as Maria Ana and Deolinda had gone to church for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The house at Calvario has a courtyard garden to one side, with an outer door that opens onto the road. Alexandrina heard the outer door open, and recognised the voice of her ex-employer, demanding that she open the inner door to the house. She was unable to fully close the inner door as the winter rain had swelled the wood, so she gripped her rosary and waited in a state of terror. He stood thumping on the inner door, trying the handle and demanding to be let in, but the door didn't open. After a while of trying to get in, he gave up and left. Alexandrina believed that Jesus and Our Lady had miraculously stopped the door from opening in order to protect her virtue.
As a result of the fall from the window, Alexandrina's spine was irreversibly damaged. Various visits to the doctor confirmed that her condition was deteriorating. She was told that the spinal defect afflicting her had no known cure, and would eventually cause complete paralysis. She tried to lead a relatively normal life but this became increasingly difficult. Around the age of 19, she still struggled to get to church, much to the amazement of other parishioners, but eventually this became impossible. Complete paralysis set in and Alexandrina became bedridden on the 14 th April 1924, aged twenty.
Deolinda looked after Alexandrina while their mother worked to provide for all three of them. Alexandrina bore her sufferings without complaint, but she was anxious about the effect that her condition was having on her mother and Deolinda. Even though she was suffering terribly, her concern was always for the welfare of others. She began to ask God through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for a cure. She prayed continuously and fervently, joined by her relatives and friends, but instead of the hoped for cure, her condition worsened until even the least movement caused her indescribable pain. It was feared that she was close to death, and she was given the last rites on several occasions, but she pulled through this critical period. Far from being the end, her mission was only just beginning.
In 1928, devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, who had appeared in the Cova da Iria 11 years earlier, was sweeping through Portugal, and people from the diocese of Braga responded to the call of Fatima by arranging a pilgrimage. Alexandrina, like many others of her time, would have been caught up in the fervour and awe of those relatively recent events. Alexandrina's parish priest had already lent her a statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary during the month of May, and she saved hard until she could afford a similar one. The parishioners of Balasar arranged to join the Braga pilgrimage, and when Alexandrina learnt of this, she dearly wanted to go with them, and begged Our Lady to obtain this grace for her. Reports of numerous miracle cures occurring at the Fatima shrine gave Alexandrina cause for hope, but this hope was very short lived as her doctor and the parish priest were in complete opposition to the idea. They argued that it would be impossible to carry her nearly 200 miles, when the least movement caused her intense pain. Alexandrina, bitterly disappointed, offered this sacrifice to God and she redoubled her efforts to pray for a cure, even promising that if she were healed, she would become a missionary. Although she was never healed, she did become a most effective missionary for the Fatima message – without ever leaving her bed. She constantly exhorted those she came into contact with to live the Fatima message – and of course, the best way to inspire is by example, and few can claim to have lived the message of Fatima more faithfully than Alexandrina. She kept a picture of Jacinta Marto, one of the Fatima seers, over her bed where it remains to this day. She also requested that a little altar be set up beside her bed, on which she kept the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which Deolinda decorated with candles and flowers. During Our Lady's month of May, she used to offer what she called “spiritual flowers” to Our Blessed Lady. These “flowers” consisted of offering in a spirit of reparation the various sufferings she underwent throughout the day.
It was at this time that Alexandrina began to realise that suffering was going to be her vocation, and instead of praying incessantly for a cure, she began to think only of loving God and suffering for Him. She wrote the following after her fellow parishioners had returned from Fatima:-
“Before he went to Fatima the Parish Priest asked me what I wanted from there. I asked him to bring me a medal but he brought a rosary, a medal, a Pilgrim's Manual and some Fatima water. His reverence suggested that I make a novena to Our Lady and drink the Fatima water, and that when I finished it I would be cured. I did this not just once, but many times . . .
Nothing has happened, but my desire to be cured has died. Each time I feel a more ardent desire for the love of suffering and I think only of Jesus. Without knowing quite how, I offered myself to Our Lord as a victim, and from this I went on to ask for a love of suffering. Our Lord granted me everything, that is, all the graces, so that today I wouldn't exchange my illness for the whole world. It was the consolation of Jesus and the salvation of souls that consumed me.”
Alexandrina made an important connection between her own circumstances and those of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. During prayer, she thought of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, present nearby in the parish church of St. Eulalia, and it suddenly dawned on her that He was a prisoner in the tabernacle, just as she was a prisoner in her bed of pain.
This connection with Jesus prompted her to remain before Him in spirit, offering Him constant love and reparation, and imploring Him to convert sinners. Through this union with Jesus, she was given insights into the terrible consequences of the many grave sins occurring throughout the world at that time. In turn, she became more convinced of her mission to offer her sufferings in union with those of Jesus, as a victim soul for the conversion and salvation of sinners. She begged Jesus to accept her as a victim, and agreed to suffer as much as she could endure if only sinners could be saved.
Having made this offering sincerely, she was taken at her word, and her pain increased greatly. In a desperate state, and wracked with fever, Alexandrina would continually make the offering of her agonising suffering, using the prayer given by Our Lady to the three shepherd children at Fatima:- “O Jesus, this is for love of You, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the offences committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary”. Her extreme pain continued with only brief periods of respite. In 1931, she entered into a state of ecstasy and heard Jesus confirming her vocation as victim soul, when He said to her “Love, suffer and make reparation.” Alexandrina gave her full consent to Jesus' request and asked Him for the necessary grace to fulfil her mission of suffering for humanity. This was the first of many ecstasies.
Alexandrina's condition made it increasingly difficult for her to write, so all her correspondence, many of her thoughts, and the messages she received from Jesus and Our Lady were dictated to Deolinda, who wrote them down. In this way, thousands of pages of writings were accrued over Alexandrina's lifetime. Deolinda was assisted in this task by a local schoolteacher and family friend, Maria Da Conceição Leite Reis Proença, who was known as Sãozinha. Alexandrina grew up with Sãozinha and they attended the same catechism class. As a child, she visited Alexandrina whenever she could and their close friendship continued into adulthood. Sãozinha said:-
“I wrote Alexandrina's autobiography which she dictated to me little by little, for she didn't have the strength to speak for very long at a time. Apart from the autobiography she dictated to me, I know that she wrote other things: thoughts in notebooks, which are archived, and many letters, which are also archived.”
In August 1933 a Jesuit priest, Fr Mariano Pinho, was in Balasar preaching at a triduum around the feast of the Assumption. When Alexandrina came to hear of this, she told Deolinda of her great desire, secretly harboured for a long time, that Mass might be celebrated in her room, and she requested Deolinda to ask Fr Pinho if this would be possible. Fr Pinho eventually met Alexandrina and realised he was in the presence of a genuine mystic, and he became spiritual director to both Alexandrina and Deolinda. Alexandrina's great desire was eventually realised when Fr Pinho offered Mass in her room for the first time on 20 th November 1933. She was overwhelmed with joy and gratitude, and later said:-
“With that first Mass Our Lord began to increase his tenderness towards me, and at the same time the weight of my cross. Blessed be the grace which, in his goodness, is never lacking to me”.
Soon after this Mass Jesus appeared to Alexandrina, and this was recorded in her diary. She maintained that this vision had affected her so profoundly that it was always in some way present to her for many years to come:-
“One night Jesus appeared to me in natural dimensions, as if he had just been taken down from the cross. I could see deep, open wounds in his hands, his feet and his side. The Blood streamed from these wounds, and from the breast it came with such force that, after having drenched the garment around his waist, it flooded onto the floor. Jesus drew near to the edge of my bed. With great love I was able to kiss the wounds in his hands and I longed to kiss those in his feet. But due to my paralysis, I was unable to do so. Though I said nothing of this desire to Jesus, he knew what was in my mind and with his hands he held up one foot and then the other and offered them to me to kiss .... Enraptured, I contemplated the wound in his side and the Blood that was gushing from it until, filled with compassion, I threw myself into his arms and cried out, "O my Jesus, how much you have suffered for me!" I remained in his arms for some moments and he finally disappeared.”
Alexandrina didn't tell Fr Pinho straight away about the mystical experiences that she was undergoing, but her reticence with him caused her concern. She believed that if she revealed these experiences, he would stop being her spiritual director. This problem was eventually resolved during an ecstasy when Our Lord told her “Obey your spiritual father in everything. You have not chosen him; it was I who sent him to you.”
Around this time a problem occurred which caused Alexandrina further suffering. This new trial came about as a result of the generosity of Alexandrina's mother, Maria Ana, who had given away much to help her poorer neighbours and had also mortgaged the house to raise money to help one of her brothers. The brother was unable to repay her, and there was a real possibility that the family could lose their home. Alexandrina prayed fervently for a solution to this problem, crying out to Our Lord:- “Jesus, assist us or we perish. Carry this petition afar to someone who can help us”. Initially, a local woman took pity and helped the family to meet the mortgage repayments so they would not be made homeless, but this still left them with very little money for anything else. Alexandrina said:- “The sole thought that gave me resignation and joy was that Jesus wanted us to live in poverty in order to be more like him . . .” This dire situation continued for about six years. Eventually, through Fr Pinho, a benefactress from Lisbon, a Senhora Fernando Santos, generously donated a sum of money that ensured they would never have to sell the house or live in such poverty again. Alexandrina wept with relief and gratitude when she heard of this kindness and said “I did not know how to thank Our Lord for so much grace.”
On 6 th September 1934, when she was thirty years old, Jesus gave Alexandrina a message during an ecstasy, which she didn't immediately understand, but which was the first sign that He was calling her to suffer His Passion in a mystical way. Jesus said to her:-
“Give me your hands, because I want to nail them with mine. Give me your feet, because I want to nail them to my feet. Give me your head, because I want to crown it with thorns as they did to me. Give me your heart, because I want to pierce it with a lance as they pierced mine. Consecrate your body to me; offer yourself wholly to me ... Help me in the redemption of mankind.”
She consented to this request, and so began a period of even more intense suffering, which would make her previous sufferings seem light in comparison.
Alexandrina's mission to suffer for the conversion and salvation of sinners was clearly bearing fruit, because the enemy of humanity, Satan, began to intervene at this time, launching a series of attacks on her which were to continue for about ten years, and which even included physical assaults on her person. Similar satanic episodes have been well documented in the lives of other great saints such as St Pio of Pietrelcina, and St John Vianney - ‘the Cure of Ars'. Alexandrina's satanic torments began in 1934, when she started to see terrifying visions and hear blasphemous cries. Satan told her that her prayers and sufferings were useless, as God had abandoned her, so there was no chance of salvation for her. He frequently urged her to commit suicide to end her suffering, and even offered to give her the means to take her own life. Satan continues this diabolical work to this day in the campaign for the legalisation of euthanasia.
Only a short time into his pontificate, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has given a clear moral lead on this grave matter. On 7th May 2005 , in a sermon given at the basilica of St John Lateran in Rome, the Holy Father said, that like his predecessor Pope John Paul II, he would remain “ unequivocal ” about the “ inviolability of human life from conception to natural death ”. He confirmed that Catholic teaching on euthanasia and abortion cannot be changed, and said:- “ Freedom to kill is not a true freedom, but a tyranny that reduces the human being into slavery .”
The pro-life groups that do such great work are continually alerting us to the fact that the pro-euthanasia lobby is gathering momentum with alarming speed. In view of her resistance to Satan's temptations to suicide, it seems particularly appropriate to ask Alexandrina to intercede for those who are tempted to end their sufferings in this way, and also for those who campaign to have this great evil legalised. Perhaps Alexandrina could become a future patron saint for those campaigning against the legalisation of euthanasia?
Through all these trials, Alexandrina placed her full trust in her spiritual director, knowing that Our Lord had especially sent him to guide and assist her. Satan obviously realised the future value that Alexandrina's writings would have for souls, as he seemed particularly anxious for her to stop writing and issued her with all sorts of threats if she continued. On one occasion he said to her:-
“Excommunication, a thousand excommunications if you continue to write to your spiritual director! Already you are burning in Hell. Be converted, unhappy one! Be converted, miserable wretch! It is the affection I have for you that makes me speak in this way. I come now from your Christ who told me to take you, because he can no longer save you. He was distressed … by your writings.”
As well as alerting us to the future value of Alexandrina's writings, Satan also indirectly revealed the effective role of sacramentals in helping to protect against evil. He deplored Alexandrina's use of sacramentals such as the Crucifix, the Rosary, the Brown Scapular, medals and holy water, and frequently ordered her to stop using these things, which shows us that when used with the correct dispositions, they are valuable aids in the struggle to overcome evil. Sadly, the role of sacramentals has been downplayed by some in the Church since the Second Vatican Council, but Alexandrina's experiences simply confirm how unwise it is to reject such spiritual helps. In 1935 she wrote:-
“The demon wanted me to remove the sacred objects which I wore and the crucifix which I held in my hand. He told me that he had secrets to confide to me, but first I must take off those objects which he hates.”
Her refusal to remove her sacramentals enraged Satan, and he manifested his anger by ordering her to do things which were so terrible that she couldn't bring herself to repeat them to anyone. He even threatened to destroy her, but Alexandrina remained firm. There is surely a lesson for us here.
Later, Satan began his physical assaults on Alexandrina. Below are some examples of these incidents in excerpts from her writings:-
“ . . . the devil, finding he was making no headway by tormenting my conscience and making vile suggestions, began to hurl me from the bed, sometimes at night and sometimes during the day. In the beginning I concealed these attacks from my family with the exception of Deolinda. But as the violence of the evil one increased, I felt obliged to tell my mother and the girl we had at home. Those who saw my bruises after the falls were distressed, but they had no idea of the true cause. As the days passed, things went from bad to worse. Deolinda was compelled to sleep on a mattress near my bed, and one night the devil hurled me against the wall so that I fell onto my sister's couch . . .”
“ . . .This tribulation was repeated many times in an even more violent manner. My body became covered with purple bruises from the blows I received ... My one consolation was that the many people who came to assist me in these attacks were given such dramatic proof of the existence of Hell that they would surely not offend Our Lord any more.”
Although Alexandrina pleaded with Jesus to end these diabolic assaults, He explained that they were necessary in order to help save more souls. Jesus said to her:-
“My daughter, suffering is the key to Heaven. I have endured so much to open Heaven to all mankind, but for many it was in vain. They say "I want to enjoy life, I have come into the world only for enjoyment." They say "Hell does not exist." I have died for them, and they say they did not ask me to do so. They have formed heresies against me. In order to save them, I select certain souls and lay the cross on their shoulders. Happy the soul who understands the value of suffering! My cross is sweet if carried for love of me ... I chose you from your mother's womb. I watch over you in your great difficulties. It was I who chose them for you, that I might have a victim to offer me much reparation. Lean on my Sacred Heart and find therein strength to suffer everything.”
As in all things, Alexandrina humbly accepted this particular trial, even though it distressed her greatly. On one occasion Fr Pinho asked her if she would rather undergo some other sort of suffering than have to face the diabolical attacks, to which she replied “No Father. Pray rather that I do the Will of God in everything”.
Around 1935 Alexandrina received a series of messages from Jesus, warning that a second world war would take place as a punishment for the sins of humanity, and that this could only be averted by the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Jesus urged Alexandrina, through her spiritual director, to petition the Holy Father to perform this consecration. Alexandrina was also requested to pray and offer her sufferings so that the consecration might be achieved. From then on, she offered everything for this intention. Fr Pinho was initially hesitant about carrying out this request, but Our Lord's insistence, relayed through Alexandrina and accompanied by her pleas, finally convinced him to act. In September 1936 he wrote to Cardinal Pacelli, who was then Secretary of State of the Vatican, later to become Pope Pius XII, passing on the request of Jesus given through Alexandrina to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In 1937 and again in 1939 the Holy See sent a prominent theologian to Balasar, Fr Paul Durao, to investigate the claims being made by Alexandrina and her spiritual director.
In 1938, Fr Pinho had providentially been assigned to preach the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius to all the bishops of Portugal who were gathered together in Fatima. Alexandrina prayed and offered many sufferings that the bishops would ask the Holy Father for the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her prayers and sacrifices, and Fr Pinho's powers of persuasion had the desired effect, as the bishops made the following petition to the Holy Father:-
“Humbly prostrate at the feet of your Holiness, we earnestly implore you to consecrate the entire world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as soon as you judge the moment opportune, so that through her mediation, the world can be liberated from the dangers that threaten it on every side.”
Alexandrina was overjoyed to hear of the bishops' petition, but there was still a heavy price to be paid for the consecration, and she was the one who had been divinely chosen to pay it. Our Lord made this clear when He said to her:-
“As a sign that it is my Will that the world be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of my Mother, I will make you suffer my Passion until the Holy Father has decided to implement this consecration.”
War was soon to break out in Europe and Jesus lamented this fact to Alexandrina, but told her that he had no choice but to punish humanity in this way, because of the innumerable and terrible sins being committed throughout the world. This confirms part of Our Lady's message given at Fatima, when She revealed that God was going to punish the world for its crimes by means of “ war, famine, persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father ”. Alexandrina once again offered herself as a victim of atonement for the sins of humanity.
Pope Pius XI died and in March 1939 Cardinal Pacelli was elected to the papacy, taking the name of Pope Pius XII. Jesus told Alexandrina that he would be the Pope who would perform the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. So now the stage was set. Jesus had made his desire for the consecration known, and the Holy Father had been made aware of this. The only thing needed to hasten the consecration was Alexandrina's suffering of the Passion.
After having consented to undergo Christ's Passion to help bring about the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Alexandrina received a series of alarming revelations from Jesus, in which she saw the perilous state of souls and the enormity of sin in the world. She was also shown horrific visions of World War II. Jesus said to Alexandrina:-
“Every moment countless sinners are provoking the wrath of God on the world - the most tremendous wrath. Unhappy ones if they are not converted! Poor world, whatever will become of it! Penitence, penitence throughout the world! Penitence! Oh world, acknowledge your crimes or you will be destroyed! Woe to the world! Divine Justice cannot support it any more.”
Alexandrina valiantly responded to Jesus' request for reparation on behalf of sinners, crying out:- “O my Jesus, I want to suffer all! I want to be crushed by you! I am your victim . . . but do not punish the world. I wish to be the lightning conductor of your wrath.”
The day before Alexandrina's mystical suffering of the Passion was to start, the tension in her home was palpable as no one knew what to expect. She wrote of her anxieties:-
“On the morning of 2 October 1938, Our Lord told me that I would have to pass through all of his Passion from Gethsemane to Calvary . . . He confirmed that I would begin on the following day and that I would repeat these sufferings every Friday immediately after midday, until three o'clock in the afternoon. I did not say no to the Lord. I warned my spiritual director of everything and waited anxiously for the morrow because neither of us could imagine what was going to happen. During the night of 2-3 October, my agony of soul was intense, but the suffering of my body was even greater. I began to lose blood and felt fearful pains. And it was in this suffering that I entered into my first crucifixion. That horror I felt deep inside. Oh, how unspeakable were my afflictions!”
On the 3 rd October 1938, the Passion ecstasies started. Jesus said to Alexandrina:- “See my daughter, Calvary is ready. Do you accept?” She willingly accepted and then went into ecstasy. All those present in the room were astounded by what happened next. This woman, who had lain in her bed completely paralysed for over 14 years, suddenly got up and was able to move around the room. In this way, the Passion of Christ was re-enacted through her. A local woman, present at one of the Passion ecstasies, wrote the following account:-
“At the hour fixed by Jesus, our ‘seraph of love' began to suffer for us and for many sinners whom she wanted to save. I was present at that agony, but I do not know how to describe it. She suffered from the Garden to the Cross. Oh how everything was reproduced in that frail body of Alexandrina! When Jesus told her that the hour was drawing near that everything was prepared for her via dolorosa, step by step, as far as Calvary, she replied very courageously, "Yes Jesus, for you and to save sinners, I will do everything." It was then that she suffered the agony, the scourging, the crowning with thorns, the prison and the meeting with Our Lady at whom she gazed with a sorrow such as my eyes have never before seen. The falls under the cross were so visible that they left no room for any doubt ... In my opinion, her agony intensified when she presented her little white hands and then her feet to be nailed. Then the cross was fixed in the earth… what a heart-rending scene! What sadness flooded our souls! There followed the agony on the cross with her sad and penetrating groans. And her gaze! It was indescribable! She sighed repeatedly and in the end, closed her hollow eyes in the violet sockets, bent her head and died. What a faithful replication of the death of Jesus!”
Alexandrina's falls during the Passion ecstasies often caused quite severe bruising on her body, but these were the only signs of what had taken place, as for reasons of humility, she had begged Jesus not to give her the stigmata or any other visible sign of the Passion. Alexandrina underwent these ecstasies each Friday from midday to 3pm around 180 times. During them she did not see or hear anything around her, and even when vigorous efforts were made to disturb her she did not react in any way. She did, however, respond to verbal commands from Fr Pinho, her spiritual director, and miraculously, even responded to mental commands made by him. Prior to undergoing the Passion each week, Alexandrina suffered a mounting sense of terrifying fear as the hour for the ecstasy drew nearer.
Alexandrina's physician, Dr Azevedo, tended her from 1941 until her death in 1955. He became a close friend and was present at many of the Passion ecstasies, and wrote down much of what occurred during them. Other doctors were sent by the Church authorities to determine the cause of this phenomenon, but none who came were able to explain these mysterious events. An interesting phenomenon occurred during the Passion ecstasies which is worth mentioning. When Alexandrina was undergoing the carrying of the cross to Calvary, it was found to be completely impossible to lift her up from the floor – even one inch. At other times during the ecstasies she could be lifted with the greatest of ease, as she did not weigh very much. Fr Pinho asked Alexandrina about the weight of the cross, and she replied that it had “the weight of the whole world” .
Fr Pinho and the family had felt it best not to tell too many people about the Passion ecstasies, and for some years only a few outside the family were aware they were taking place, until a priest who had been present at one of the ecstasies had an article published about them in a widely read journal. The inevitable surge of interest in Alexandrina caused her great suffering. She had wished to remain hidden, but now thousands descended on the small home, each wishing to see this extraordinary woman and ask her prayers for their various intentions.
In Holy Week of 1942, Alexandrina's pain greatly increased and once again she appeared to be on the verge of death. On the evening of Maundy Thursday, she felt slightly better, and noted that she wasn't experiencing her customary mounting fear of the Friday Passion ecstasy. She didn't know the reason for this, but felt sure that she wouldn't undergo the Passion the next day. The reason was made known to her the following morning. On Good Friday, Jesus told her that the Holy Father had decided to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Pope Pius XII actually performed the consecration on 31 st October 1942. Although Alexandrina was overwhelmed with joy that the consecration had been done, her mission of suffering was not yet over. In fact, it was to enter a new and even more astounding phase – a thirteen year fast in which she would miraculously live on the Holy Eucharist alone.
Jesus gave Alexandrina the following message to prepare her for the new phase of her mission:-
“You will not take food again on earth. Your food will be my Flesh; your blood will be my Divine Blood, your life will be my Life. You receive it from me when I unite my Heart to your heart. Do not fear, my daughter. You will not be crucified any more as in the past ... And now a new trial awaits you, which will be the most painful of all. But in the end I will carry you to Heaven and the Holy Mother will accompany you.”
On Good Friday 1942 Alexandrina started the total fast which continued for thirteen years until her death. During all this time she took no food or drink whatsoever, but received Holy Communion with great devotion each day. This phenomenon is not unique, as a few saints have received this special calling from God, but such occurrences are extremely rare in the life of the Church.
People came in increasing numbers to visit Alexandrina, which added greatly to her sufferings, but she always maintained a cheerful disposition and received everyone most courteously. Her constant silent prayer was:- “O Jesus, place on my lips a deceiving smile in which I can hide all the martyrdom of my soul. It is enough that only you know of my endurance.” While many thousands came to see Alexandrina and implore her intercession, she was not without her detractors. Some disbelieved that she lived on the Holy Eucharist alone, and rumours were circulated that she was fraudulent, which caused her and her family further suffering.
A medical examination of Alexandrina took place, which she accepted in a spirit of obedience and resignation. One of the doctors performing the examination asked her:- “ Why do you not eat? ” She replied, “I do not eat because I cannot. I feel full. I do not need it. However, I have a longing for food.” The results of this examination were inconclusive, and so it was suggested that Alexandrina go to a hospital in Porto to have the fast medically certified. She agreed to the proposal on three conditions; that she would be able to receive the Holy Eucharist each day, that Deolinda could accompany her, and that she be there only for observational purposes and not have to undergo any more medical examinations. These conditions were agreed and Alexandrina went to the hospital in Porto by ambulance, offering up all the sufferings that this journey would inevitably bring. She said:-
"I embraced my family and friends and only Jesus knew the sorrow it cost me to separate myself from them. I looked only into his Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and implored them to give me courage and strength to bear this new affliction. As they levered my stretcher downstairs I murmured to my weeping family, 'Courage! All for Jesus and for souls!' I was unable to say more. There was such a tightening of my heart that I felt it would be impossible to keep back the tears.”
After a very difficult journey Alexandrina arrived at the hospital on 10 th June 1943 and was put under the strictest supervision. Two people kept her under intense scrutiny around the clock, all the time she was in hospital. Alexandrina said that she found Dr Enrico Gomes de Araujo, the doctor in charge of conducting the observation, to be strict “even to the point of harshness”. Dr Araujo visited Alexandrina several times each day and interrogated her, and she underwent many other trials and indignities during her stay in hospital. Alexandrina's own physician, Dr Azevedo, visited her on occasions, and his support and company afforded her some relief. After thirty days of being constantly monitored, another physician, disbelieving the genuineness of Alexandrina's fast, insisted that she remain for a further ten days. On 19 th July 1943, the day before she left hospital, all the children of the hospital gathered around Alexandrina's bed and she prayed with them. Later, over 1,500 people arrived to catch a glimpse of the ‘Victim of Balasar' and the police had to be brought in to control the crowd. Dr Araujo told Alexandrina that the observation was concluded and said “ In October, I will come to visit you at Balasar, not as a doctor-spy, but as a friend who respects you.” Dr Araujo's official report confirmed Alexandrina's fast as scientifically inexplicable. It stated:-
“It is absolutely certain that during forty days of being bedridden in hospital, the sick woman did not eat or drink . . . and we believe such phenomenon could have happened during the past months, perhaps the past 13 months . . . leaving us perplexed.”
A further report by Drs Lima and Azevedo confirmed the above:-
“We the undersigned, Dr C. A. di Lima, Professor of the Faculty of Medicine of Oporto and Dr E. A. D. de Azevedo, doctor graduate of the same Faculty, testify that, having examined Alexandrina Maria da Costa, aged 39, born and resident at Balasar, of the district of Póvoa de Varzim ... have confirmed her paralysis ... And we also testify that the bedridden woman, from 10 June to 20 July 1943 remained in the sector for infantile paralysis at the Hospital of Foce del Duro, under the direction of Dr Araujo and under day and night surveillance by impartial persons desirous of discovering the truth of her fast. Her abstinence from solids and liquids was absolute during all that time. We testify also that she retained her weight, and her temperature, breathing, blood pressure, pulse and blood were normal while her mental faculties were constant and lucid and during these forty days, she did not have any natural bodily functions”
While this phenomenon was inexplicable to everyone else, Alexandrina knew the cause of it, for Jesus had already told her:- “You are living by the Eucharist alone because I want to prove to the world the power of the Eucharist and the power of my life in souls.”
Alexandrina returned home to yet another trial. It appeared that her detractors had been busy again, and as a result of their interference, Fr Pinho had been ordered to stop being her spiritual director and was sent to Brazil where he remained until his death in 1963. After Alexandrina lost Fr Pinho as her spiritual director, a woman from Póvoa de Varzim, Irene Gomes, went to Tuy in Spain to visit the Fatima seer Sister Lucia, and told her about Alexandrina's trial. Sister Lucia wrote a note of comfort to Alexandrina on a holy picture, assuring her of prayers that she might obtain a new spiritual director.
Alexandrina's physical condition greatly worsened at this time, and again she received the last sacraments. As in the case of the man who killed St Maria Goretti, Alexandrina's assailant also repented of his sin, and joined the crowd of people waiting to visit her. Upon seeing her he cried and said “She is a saint – and to think she is crucified on that bed of pain through my fault!”
In 1944 help arrived for Alexandrina in the form of Fr Umberto Pasquale, a renowned priest of the Salesian Order. Shortly after meeting her he became her spiritual director and encouraged Alexandrina to continue to dictate her diary. Thoroughly imbued with the Salesian charism of service to youth, he asked if she would offer some of her sufferings and prayers for the salvation of youth. She consented and on 26 th February 1945 became a Salesian Cooperator, offering her sufferings and prayers in union with Salesians all over the world, for the salvation of all, but especially for youth. Alexandrina had her certificate of enrolment as a Salesian Cooperator hung on the wall of her room, and she said “How many times I look at my certificate and offer my sufferings united to all of you for the salvation of the young”. Fr Pasquale was also a close friend of Sister Lucia of Fatima.
In her final years Alexandrina increasingly prayed for the Church, as Jesus told her that it was facing a “great crisis”. He said:- “Tell my ministers to be vigilant, for the devil is preparing a massive assault on the Church . . .” She also underwent an astounding array of profound mystical experiences, such as a mystical marriage with Jesus, a coronation by Our Lady, and a piercing by darts of unspeakable love from a flight of angels. An incredibly beautiful fragrance emanated from her that was even noticed in other parts of the village. Alexandrina was unaware of this, but Jesus told her that it was the perfume of her virtue.
Thousands of people continued to visit Alexandrina on a daily basis, and she constantly exhorted them to live the message of Fatima, crying out:-
“Make reparation to Our Lord in the Adorable Eucharist! Penitence! Penitence! Penitence! Pray the Rosary devoutly every day. Practise the First Saturday devotion. Consecrate yourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary through the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.”
Alexandrina pleaded with people to practise the First Saturday devotion and to consecrate themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary through the Brown Scapular for very good reason, as Our Lady Herself has promised to assist with the eternal salvation of those who practise these devotions. Our Lady revealed the First Five Saturday devotion on December 10 th 1925 to Sister Lucia of Fatima, saying:-
“ . . . I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturday of five consecutive months, shall confess, receive Holy Communion, recite five decades of the Rosary, and keep me company for fifteen minutes while meditating on the fifteen mysteries of the Rosary, with the intention of making reparation to me.”
The Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, was given by Our Lady in the 13 th century to St Simon Stock of the Carmelite Order at Aylesford in Kent, with the promise that those who die wearing it shall not suffer eternal damnation, and it has been worn ever since by millions as a sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and a pledge of Her Motherly protection. Countless saints have recommended its use, and it has consistently received Papal approbation, including that of Pope John Paul II, who said in a message of 25 th March 2001 to the Carmelite family on the 750 th anniversary of the Bestowal of the Brown Scapular:
“ . . . two truths are evoked by the sign of the Scapular: on the one hand, the constant protection of the Blessed Virgin, not only on life's journey, but also at the moment of passing into the fullness of eternal glory; on the other, the awareness that devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honour on certain occasions, but must become a ‘habit', that is, a permanent orientation of one's own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life, through frequent reception of the sacraments and the concrete practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In this way the Scapular becomes a sign of the ‘covenant' and reciprocal communion between Mary and the faithful: indeed, it concretely translates the gift of his Mother, which Jesus gave on the Cross to John and, through him, to all of us, and the entrustment of the beloved Apostle and of us to Her, who became our spiritual Mother . . . I too have worn the Scapular of Carmel over my heart for a long time! ”
Formerly, only Carmelite priests could enrol people in the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, but now the Holy See has extended the faculty to all priests, so that as many as possible may reap the benefits of this great devotion.
In 1948 Fr Pasquale was sent by his superiors to do other work, which meant that Alexandrina had to rely on other priests to bring her daily Holy Communion. She recorded in her diary that on occasions when no priests were available, Jesus Himself used to bring her Holy Communion. In early 1955 her health rapidly deteriorated and she lay for several months in agonising pain - worse than anything she had suffered before. Towards the end of September 1955 the pain subsided somewhat, and on October 2 nd she heard a voice saying to her :- “Who will sing with the angels? You, you, you! In a little while, in a little while.” Taking this as a sign that her time on earth was coming to an end, Alexandrina started to prepare for death. In the evening of the 12 th October, Mass was celebrated in her room and she received Holy Communion. Towards the end she said:- “My God, I have always consecrated my life to you and I offer you now its end, accepting death with resignation, with all its pains, for your greater glory.” After thanking everyone present for all they had done for her over the years, she cried out :-
“O Jesus! I can no longer stay on earth! Oh Jesus, life is dear, Heaven is dear! I have suffered so much in this life for souls! I am crushed, I am consumed in this bed of pain. Forgive everyone! Pardon, pardon the entire world . . . Oh I feel so happy! I am so happy because I am going to Heaven at last!”
On the morning of the 13 th October, the 38 th anniversary of Our Lady's last appearance at Fatima and the day on which the miracle of the sun took place, Alexandrina received a vision of the Immaculate Heart of Mary who said to her “I am about to take you”. She received Holy Communion for the last time at 8am, and afterwards delivered her final poignant message to those present in her room, and to all humanity, crying out:- “Do not sin. The pleasures of this life are worth nothing. Receive Communion. Pray the Rosary every day. This sums up everything.” Alexandrina suffered extreme pain throughout the whole day, which she bore with great fortitude to the very end. At 8pm, she kissed the crucifix for the last time, and died at 8.29pm.
Fr Pasquale was in Italy at this time and was unaware that Alexandrina had died. On the day after her death, he offered Mass in the morning as usual, and afterwards was approached in the sacristy by an elderly woman. Thinking that she wanted confession, he asked her to wait in the confessional and said that he would be with her shortly. He was amazed when this woman told him that she didn't want confession, but that she had a message from Our Lady for him. The woman said:- “ When you were saying Mass, Our Lady appeared to me and asked me to tell you that Alexandrina is dead and is in heaven ”. The woman said that she didn't know who Alexandrina was. She also informed Fr Pasquale that Our Lady had told him not to worry, and that Alexandrina was with him. Three days later he received a letter from another Salesian priest confirming her death.
The news of Alexandrina's death spread quickly throughout Portugal and a multitude came to venerate her and pay their last respects. An all-pervading deep sense of loss affected the entire region. The funeral took place on the 15 th October and was attended by thousands, including dozens of priests. Alexandrina was buried in a humble tomb, with her face turned towards Jesus in the tabernacle, as she had requested. Two years after her death, a small chapel was built over her tomb, and 12 years after her death, on 14 th January 1967, the diocesan investigation into the cause for her beatification was solemnly opened. It was completed on 10 April 1973 and sent to Rome. In 1978 the diocese transferred Alexandrina's remains from the small chapel to a place of honour inside the parish church of St Eulalia, next to the high altar, where her remains are kept to this day. She had previously predicted that her body would turn to ashes, without decomposing, and when she was disinterred, this was indeed found to be the case. There was no body or bones – just ashes. These have been known on occasions to exude the same heavenly fragrance that used to emanate from Alexandrina during her life.
Sister Lucia of Fatima wrote to Fr Pasquale, saying “ May the Lord grant that Alexandrina's cause of beatification advance as quickly as possible, for the glory of God. It is necessary that such a materialistic world sees that there are still souls capable of being raised into the realms of the supernatural. ”
A plea to sinful humanity, which Alexandrina originally dictated in 1948, was engraved on her tomb at her request:-
“Sinners: If the ashes of my body can be useful to save you, approach; if necessary, pass on the ashes, trample on them until they disappear; but never sin again, never offend Jesus again.
Sinners: There is so much that I would like to tell you. This vast cemetery could not contain all that I would like to write. Be converted. Do not offend our dear Lord any more. Do not lose Jesus for all eternity. He is so good. Enough of sin! LOVE HIM! LOVE HIM !”
Rome approved Alexandrina's writings in the late 1970's, and issued a decree for the introduction of the cause for her beatification on 13 th January 1983. She was declared Venerable on 12 th January 1996. In the previous year, a miracle took place through the intercession of Alexandrina, and the evidence of this was used for her impending beatification. The miracle, the complete cure of a woman named Maria Madalena Azevedo Gomes Fonseca, from a type of incurable Parkinson's disease, was approved by Rome in 2003. To the great joy of her devotees throughout the world, Alexandrina was beatified on 25 th April 2004 by Pope John Paul II, who decreed that her feast be celebrated each year on the 13 th of October.
Cardinal José Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, was asked by the international journal Inside the Vatican about the significance of Alexandrina's beatification for Portugal and for the world. He told them:-
“Because a Saint does not belong to this or that country, but rather to the Church of Christ, firstly the Beatification of Alexandrina da Costa is a great event for the Church in Portugal, but even more so for the Universal Church because Pope John Paul II is going to propose a special role model for the world today and especially for today's youth, and that is the great message of the beatification of Alexandrina da Costa. Firstly, she was a great heroine when she defended her virginity by jumping from a window and ending up a paraplegic. This was a heroic act. Today there exists a great spiritual laziness. A lack of courage in today's youth that should always have present a strength of conviction in the values of the Faith. Therefore, Alexandrina da Costa is a model of purity and perseverance in the Faith for today's youth.”
The centrality of the Holy Eucharist in Alexandrina's life, and her call for our lives to be centred on the Eucharist is highlighted by Fr Joaquim Mendes, Salesian Provincial of Portugal, in an article on the Salesians of Don Bosco website. When asked what specific contribution Alexandrina had made to Salesian spirituality, he said:-
“The first particular contribution is love of the Eucharist. She lived this love for Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. She spent the greater part of each day praying, with her eyes fixed on the tabernacle in the church of Balasar. As well as this she received Holy Communion each day, and for thirteen years took no other food. She also wanted her tomb to be directed towards the tabernacle”
It is fitting that the 50 th anniversary of Alexandrina's death coincided with the year pronounced by Pope John Paul II to be The Year of the Eucharist.
One of the most moving tributes to Alexandrina, written ten years after her death in 1965 by her second spiritual director, Fr Pasquale, is held in the archives at Balasar. The following is an excerpt:
“Being frequently questioned about Alexandrina, I confirm that in my long clerical life I became close to many people of all kinds, but I have never found anyone (even religious or priests) so spiritually and humanly perfect, in all aspects, as Alexandrina. Never. When I recall the frequent meetings I had with that exceptional soul, illuminated by ascetic knowledge that I have learnt from spiritual readings throughout my priestly life, I cannot discover the least shade of imperfection in her. On the contrary, I discover beauty, refinement and heroism in her virtue. I admire the wonderful action of God's grace in that soul more and more. If I had to point out the virtue in which she most distinguished herself, I could not, because she did not have one that shone more than the others: she was excellent in all, in a perfect harmony, even in those that were more visible: for example, in her obedience to ecclesiastical authority and her directors; in the patience so often tested by her illness or by troublesome people that came to see her; or in her charity to others, especially to those who had caused her serious sorrow. Her truly giant personality was assisted by a spirit of genuine and evident humility that arose from her lips and more so from her inner attitudes, which can easily be deduced from the careful reading of her daily notes: by complete indifference to her own will, always anxious in seeking and fulfilling the will of God, through a total resignation of her desires and personal wishes. She was a creature truly and totally consecrated to her God, in a spirit of immolation and reparation for the offences continuously committed against Him, and to save all souls for Him. Such a consecration cannot be explained without an eminent degree of love of God: insatiable, burning, overwhelming love. This love could not be better defined than by applying to it the adjective ‘seraphic', in the most complete sense of the word . . .”
Model of purity and perseverance in the Faith for today's youth; ardent adorer of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament; inspiration and help for those suffering in any way; faithful Fatima messenger: Blessed Alexandrina is all these things and much more. Many have already benefited from the graces won by her sufferings and prayers, and undoubtedly, many more will benefit in the future. Let us pray that her canonisation may take place soon.
Official Novena Prayer
O Jesus, who art pleased with simple and humble persons, who are so often ignored, forgotten and despised by men, raise to the glory of Thy altars Thy humble Servant Alexandrina, who always desired to live hidden from the world and aloof from its vanities and praises. Thou well knowest, Lord Jesus, how in our times there is need of lessons in holiness, which is the true fulfilment of every human and Christian vocation and, consequently, the elevation of a creature to the supreme height of moral beauty. Invest then, O Jesus, Thy Servant with the immortal halo of glory and hear our prayers, which we through her intercession offer to Thee; especially grant us the favour which we ask ( . . . here mention your petition ) if it be for the honour of Thy Blessed Name, the glory of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the salvation of sinners, on whose behalf the pious Alexandrina so wholly and generously offered herself a victim. Amen.
Blessed Alexandrina da Costa, ‘Journal Spirituel'
Francis Johnston, ‘ Alexandrina: The Agony and the Glory ', TAN Books
Fr Mariano Pinho S.J. ‘Victime de l'Eucharistie'
Fr Umberto Pasquale SDB, ‘Sous le Ciel de Balasar'
Sister Lucia, ‘Fatima in Lucia's own words – volume 1' , Secretariado dos Pastorinhos, Fatima
Leo Madigan, ‘ Blessed Alexandrina da Costa ', Ophel Books
Other useful sources:
The Alexandrina Society
The Salesians of Don Bosco website:
www.sdb.org (look in the English language section and put ‘Alexandrina' into the site's search engine)