Lay woman from the diocese of Braga. At age 14 Alexandrina jumped from a window to escape a rapist; she was injured in the fall, paralyzed, and was bed-ridden for the rest of her life. Member of the Salesian Cooperators. Mystic and visionary. The last 13 years of her life she had the gift of inedia, living solely off daily Communion.1 Offering herself as a victim soul while paralyzed, she had visions and locutions from Jesus and Mary, over and above being physically attacked by the devil for 10 years as detailed in the online book below…
1. Taken from the Patron Saints Index at http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/sainta6y.htm
Alexandrina: The Agony and the Glory
by Francis Johnston (Tan Books and Publishers 1979)
This first English language book on the Servant of God Alexandrina da Costa owes much to the excellent Italian biography Alexandrina, Libreria Dottrina Cristiana, Turin, 1960, by Fr Umberto Pasquale SDB, the noted Salesian writer, to whom grateful acknowledgement is made for permission to use selected excerpts including passages from Alexandrina's autobiography. Fr Pasquale was uniquely qualified to undertake this work, having been Alexandrina's spiritual director for a number of years, besides being a close friend of Sister Lucia, the last survivor of the three children to whom the Mother of God appeared at Fatima in 1917. The translations were effected by Mrs. Anne Croshaw for whose invaluable assistance I am deeply grateful.
In accordance with the decree of Pope Urban VIII, we declare that in speaking of events, prodigies and revelations in this work, we wish to accord them no other authority or belief than that which is usually given to narratives resting on merely human evidence and we in no way presume to pronounce on their authenticity or supernatural character, or to anticipate the judgement of the Holy See.
Ascent to Calvary
Years of torment
Ecstasies of the Passion
The Eucharist alone
Seraph of love
Who will sing with the angels?
In the main square of the small Portuguese village of Balasar, some forty miles north of Oporto, stands a small chapel dedicated to the Holy Cross. Erected in 1832, it commemorates the mysterious appearance that year of a cross in the village. The parish priest of Balasar at that time, Don A. G. de Azevedo, recorded the event in a report addressed to Rev. Dr A. P. de Azevedo Loureiro of the Archdiocese of Braga.
“I write to advise you of an inexplicable occurrence in this parish of St Eulalia of Balasar. 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 …”
Many people flocked to see this strange phenomenon and venerated it with flowers and offerings of money. The latter went towards the building of the small chapel mentioned above. The cross remains to this day and still defies attempts to obliterate it.
In the writings of the Servant of God, Alexandrina da Costa, there are three references to this cross the last of which was dated 14 January l955. While in ecstasy, she reputedly heard Our Lord say “A century ago, I showed the cross to this beloved village, the cross which comes to await the victim. O Balasar, if you do not respond!…Cross of earth for the victim who was taken from nothing.... Victim who is welcomed by God and who has always existed in his eternal designs. Victim of the world, but much favoured by heavenly blessings, who has given all to Heaven and for the love of souls accepts all. Trust, believe, my daughter, I am here! All your life is written and sealed with a key of gold…”
Lying in a trough of gently sloping, pine-wooded hills some seven miles east of the ocean resort of Povoa de Varzim, the village of Balasar consists of irregular clusters of small, rough stone houses, many of them gaudily painted, embracing a population in excess of 1,000 inhabitants. The surrounding countryside is dotted with little white cottages and crowded with vineyards and smallholdings yielding corn, vegetables, olives and figs. Bronze-faced peasants till the stony soil and herd flocks of sheep, goats and amber coated oxen with lyre-shaped horns and caned yokes along dusty roads, past crumbling tower walls and innumerable trellises and tunnels of vines.
The hamlets and villages of this pleasant region are clustered around their ancient stone churches and Balasar is no exception. Rising on the lower slope of a small stream known as the Este, the parish church of St Eulalia stands like a granite sentinel over the straggling stone houses of Balasar and it was here on 2 April 1904 that Alexandrina Maria da Costa was baptised, having been born four days earlier on the Wednesday of Holy Week, the second child of devout, hard-working peasants.
Shortly after her birth her mother was widowed and Alexandrina grew up with her elder sister Deolinda in an atmosphere of rustic simplicity and piety. As a small child, she must have been fascinated by the colourful religious processions which wound through the village on great feast days and the frequent fairs and dances held in the cobbled market-square to the shrill sound of fifes and accordians and a kaleidoscope of floral blouses, twirling skirts and flashing earrings.
Her earliest memory was when she was three years old. As she lay in bed with her mother for the afternoon siesta, she noticed a small jar of pomade on a nearby table. Carefully, so as not to waken her mother, she reached out for the jar with inquisitive hands. At that moment, the sleeping woman roused herself and called Alexandrina. Taken by surprise, the child let the jar fall to the floor where it shattered to pieces. Losing her balance, Alexandrina toppled over, injuring the corner of her mouth. She carried the scar for the rest of her life.
Naturally, she shrieked with pain and would not be comforted. Her mother, Maria Anna, anxiously wiped the blood from her mouth and quickly ran her to the nearby chemist shop for a prescription, where a kindly assistant tried to calm the child with a bag of sweets. Alexandrina responded with yells, kicks and scratches. “That was my first misdemeanour”, she wrote in her autobiography which she began dictating to Deolinda in 1940 at the request of her spiritual director, Fr Pinho, SJ.
As she grew older, she would wander, fascinated, through the ancient village church contemplating the beautiful statues of the saints, particularly that of Our Lady of the Rosary and St Joseph. Their rich costumes enchanted her and she dreamed of dressing in the same way. “Perhaps this was a manifestation of my vanity”, she wryly commented later.
One day when she was about six, she was overjoyed to receive a little pair of wooden shoes from her mother. In a transport of happiness she danced into her room dressed in her best clothes, and putting on the shoes, strutted around the house like a peacock. Having tired of this, she knelt down on the pavement outside and proudly placed the shoes in front of her as women did in the churches of Portuguese villages in those days.
One of her most formative experiences was vividly described by her years later “When our uncle died, Deolinda and I stayed with his family until the seventh day after his death, to assist at the Requiem Mass. One morning, I was asked to go and get some rice from a bag which was in the room where his body lay. When I reached the door, I was unable to muster up the courage to enter. I was frightened. So my grandmother had to get the rice. That same evening I was ordered to go and close the window of that room. As I reached the door, I felt my knees tremble again and was unable to enter. Then I said to myself, ‘I must fight it. I must overcome the fear.’ I opened the door and slowly walked into the room where my uncle lay. Since that day, I have been able to master my sense of fear.”
Her inborn liveliness and sense of humour led her to become a gay tomboy, full of wit and laughter, though without compromising a budding spirituality which few suspected, judging from her spontaneous joviality. Witty phrases and lively jokes flowed from her laughing lips. Deolinda, who was more composed by nature, was nearly always the victim. One morning, Alexandrina pushed over the lid of a large box of bed-linens and screamed as if she had crushed her hand. Deolinda rushed to her aid in panic, to be met by a chortle of laughter. In church, she would furtively tie together the fringes of women's shawls as they listened attentively to the sermon. Outside after Mass, she would hide behind a low wall and throw stones at the people emerging from the church.
Gradually, her developing spirituality began to master her propensity for mischief. By the time of her first Communion at the age of seven, she had already acquired a deep love of the Blessed Sacrament, visiting the village church with unusual frequency and making spiritual Communions whenever she was unable to attend Mass. On Sundays, she loved to sing in the choir and participate in the parish catechism group. When an aunt suffering from cancer begged Alexandrina to pray for her, the child responded with such fervour and perseverance that the habit of prayer became entrenched in her young soul. She wrote later ‘I always had a great respect for priests. Sometimes, when I used to sit on a doorstep at Povoa de Varzim and see priests walking by in the street . . . I used to stand with respect as they passed. They would take off their hats to me and say the customary “God bless you.’ I often noticed that people looked at me as I did this. Sometimes I sat there on purpose so that I could get up at the appropriate moment to show my veneration for priests…”
When Alexandrina was nine, she went with Deolinda and a cousin to hear a sermon in a nearby village given by a famous preacher, Fr Emmanuel of the Holy Wounds. She made her first general confession to him and the three girls remained there all day to listen to the afternoon sermon. Having taken their seats at the side of the Sacred Heart altar, Alexandrina placed her wooden shoes between the columns of the balustrade and listened to the priest with rapt attention. She recalled “At a certain point the priest invited us to descend in spirit to the place of eternal suffering—Hell. I was incapable of understanding the exact meaning of this invitation, and convinced that the priest was a saint, I thought he would actually take us down to Hell. I rebelled and said to myself, ‘I don't want to go to Hell. If the others want to go there, I'm staying behind.’ I immediately took hold of my wooden shoes and made ready to escape. When I noticed that nobody was moving, I quietened down a little, but I kept a tight hold of my wooden shoes.”
Due to the restrictions of rural life in those days, Alexandrina had only eighteen months schooling before being sent to work on a farm at the age of nine. Though a strong, capable child, the heavy manual labour, shot through with incessant bad language, taxed her severely. When she was twelve, her employer tried to assault her. She fought back vigorously and somehow managed to drive him off with an unexplained force in her rosary-clenched fist.
After this serious incident she was promptly brought home. This gave her the opportunity to become a daily communicant and to renew her love and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. But later that year she fell dangerously ill with typhoid. Her condition became critical; for several days she hovered on the brink of death. When her weeping mother gave her a crucifix to kiss, Alexandrina shook her head and murmured, “This is not what I want, but Jesus in the Eucharist.”
She finally recovered and was sent to a sanatorium at Povoa de Varzim on the bracing Atlantic coast. But her health remained precarious, and when she returned to Balasar she was still a virtual invalid. This led her to take up sewing for a living and she settled down in the village learning to be a seamstress with her sister.
One day when she was fourteen, she heard that the father of one of her friends had been found dying. She hurried to where he was living alone and found him lying in a heap of rags. Filled with compassion, she ran back to her mother and borrowing soap, towels and bed-linen, restored a semblance of human dignity to the poor man. He lived on for another twelve days and Alexandrina remained with him until the end to comfort him and his grief-stricken daughter.
Shortly after, her role of good Samaritan was repeated. She recalled in her autobiography: “A neighbour warned us that an old lady was dying. My sister took her prayer-book and some holy water and left the house. I followed her with two of my sister's sewing pupils. At the door was a niece of the sick woman who did not have the courage to assist her. Deolinda entered and began to read the prayers for the dying over the woman. I stood at her side and I noticed that the fringe of her shawl was trembling like a leaf. When she had finished reading the prayers the daughter entered, but the old lady breathed her last without recognising her Deolinda then took her leave, saying “I have done all I can; I have no more courage to stay on.” On seeing the dead woman's daughter in anguish, I hadn't the heart to leave her alone. I decided to remain and help her to wash and lay out the body, which was covered with sores. The smell was dreadful . . . and I had the feeling that I was going to faint. I said nothing, however, but a woman who had joined us noticed my distress and went to get a twig of geranium so that I could smell it. I thanked her sincerely, but did not interrupt my work. I finally left, after the body of the dead woman had been arranged with dignity…”
One day, while Alexandrina was praying alone in her house, she heard the door of the courtyard open and moments later, a man's voice demanded, “Open that door!” Recognising it as that of her former employer, and realising she had no means to lock herself in, she clutched her rosary in apprehension and waited for the man to enter. There was a succession of violent rattles as he hammered at the unlocked door. But it refused to open. After vainly trying to force his way inside, the exasperated man finally went off, leaving the shaker, girl convinced that Our Lord and his mother had barred the way to protect her chastity.
Alexandrina might have remained in the undramatic capacity of a seamstress, buried away in the wild and beautiful Portuguese countryside, had not a fateful event occurred in March 1918 which utterly transformed her life.
While she was working one day in an upstairs room in her home with Deolinda and another girl, there was a sudden knock at the front door. Alexandrina peered through the window, and to her dismay saw three men standing outside, one of whom was her former employer again. A glance at their impassioned faces told her the worst. She locked the door of the room at once. The men broke into the house and began forcing open a trapdoor on the floor of the upstairs room.
The girls quickly moved a heavy sewing-machine over the trap door. Not to be thwarted so easily, the men pounded the door with clubs. The dry wood splintered, the sewing-machine toppled over. One by one, the men levered themselves into the room. Deolinda and her friend were seized and Alexandrina was cornered by a third man.
‘Jesus help me!’ she screamed, lashing out at him with her rosary. Like St Maria Goretti, she was ready to die rather than consent to the man's lust. Frantically, she looked round for a way of escape. Behind her was a window, thirteen feet above the hard ground. It was her one chance. Desperately she jumped.
The pain was shattering. Gritting her teeth and wiping the blood from her face, she seized a stout piece of wood and staggered back into the house to defend her companions. Several well-aimed blows were enough. The startled men took to their heels, bruised and shaken by her courageous counter-attack. Fortunately, the other two girls were unmolested.
But Alexandrina's spine had been irreparably injured. Long months of increasing pain, incapacity and depression followed, though she never yielded to despair. In 1923 a specialist from Oporto, Dr Joao de Almeida, confirmed the family's worst fears. Total paralysis set in and on 14 April 1924 she became bedridden for life.
The awful predicament clutched at her heart and severely tested her faith and courage. Confined to a tiny upstairs room in an obscure house hidden from the outside world by a high stone wall was tantamount to being buried alive. Fortunately she had already practised the virtue of detachment; her only desire being for flowers and for the church. Deolinda settled down to become her nurse and secretary while their mother worked to earn money for food. “I had moments of discouragement,” Alexandrina says of this period, “but never one of despair.” When there were singing lessons in the church, the two sisters became sad, one because she had to leave her charge and the other because she could not go. But the crippled heroine conformed very quickly to the will of God and regarded her bed as “my beloved cross”.
At first, she tried to distract herself by inviting friends in for a game of cards. But the novelty soon wore off and she resolved to try to storm heaven for a cure. She promised to give away everything she had, to dress herself in mourning for the rest of her life, to cut off her hair, if only she was cured. Her anguished family and cousins joined in the assault on heaven, but the paralysis stayed.
Worse still, her condition began to deteriorate until the slightest movement caused her agonising pain. Once again she hovered on the brink of death, and the last sacraments were administered several times. The medicine she took had no effect, except to soothe and calm her. Looking back at this distressing period she wrote later that “I would have done better to have stayed united to Jesus because he alone is the true life and the true joy.”
Every evening the Costa family gathered round her bed and lighting two candles before the statue of Our Lady recited the rosary on their knees, followed by night prayers. During the day, whenever there were no companions to distract her, Alexandrina would meditate, pray and weep, imploring Our Lady to heal her. Sadly, she would sing the Tantum Ergo as in church, and not having the blessing of Benediction, she would ask Jesus for it from heaven, “and from all the tabernacles in the world.” The parish priest lent her a statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the month of May, and afterwards Alexandrina scraped together every penny she could to buy a similar statue of her own. In time, this statue was almost kissed smooth.
Her growing love of prayer led her to abandon her innocent distractions. She began to long for a life of union with Jesus. This union, she perceived, could only be realised by bearing her illness and incapacity for love of him. The idea of suffering being her vocation suddenly dawned on her. Without knowing how, she offered herself to God as a victim soul for the conversion of sinners.
In 1928, a local pilgrimage to Fatima was organised and Alexandrina implored Our Lady to let her accompany them. The fast-growing shrine was already a magnet for hundreds of thousands on the thirteenth of each month from May to October, and the numerous miracles occurring there gave the sick woman a surge of hope. But the doctor and parish priest were adamantly opposed to the idea. How could she be conveyed some 200 miles, they argued, if to touch or turn her caused her unspeakable suffering?
In the face of their inflexible stand, Alexandrina brokenly closed her eyes in prayer and offered to God the crushing sacrifice of her abandonment and isolation. Gazing fixedly at the statue of Our Lady, she prayed her heart out for a cure at home. She promised that on being healed, she would become a missionary and she told her friends that if they heard singing in the streets, it would be her thanking God and Our Lady for a miracle.
Week after week she prayed imploringly. Month after month she pleaded and wept for a cure. But the paralysis remained. Gradually, little by little, the desire for recovery died in her and she began to think only of loving God. As she prayed, her thoughts strayed longingly across to the Blessed Sacrament in the nearby church, and suddenly she realised that Our Lord in the tabernacle was also a prisoner.
This touching link with Christ led her to visit him in spirit, to remain constantly before him in union with Our Lady, keeping watch with unceasing love, prayer and self immolation, to console his Sacred Heart and obtain the conversion of sinners. To Jesus through Mary became her constant watchword. For long hours she meditated on the spiritual crisis in the world until she was fully conscious of the enormity of modern sin and the crying need for its expiation in union with the suffering Christ.
Pope Pius XI had underscored this need that very year in his encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor. His Holiness wrote “Although the copious Redemption operated by Our Lord has superabundantly forgiven all sins, yet through that admirable disposition of Divine Wisdom, there must be completed in us what is missing in Christ's suffering on behalf of his Body, that is, his Church (Col 1:24). We can and we must add to the homage and satisfaction (expiatory suffering) that Christ renders to God, our own homage and satisfactions on behalf of sinners…While men's malice incessantly increases, the breath of the Holy Spirit wonderfully multiplies the number of the faithful who generously try to repair so many outrages made to the Divine Heart, and they even do not hesitate in offering themselves to Christ as victims…”
Alexandrina realised that while this vocation applied to everyone in an elementary degree, the intense reparation of a victim soul was a very special vocation, reserved by God for the favoured few. The deeper she pondered, the more she became convinced that this was her exalted vocation. With a surge of tearful love, she implored Our Lord to accept her as his victim, to allow her to stand as a surety for sinners before the bar of divine justice, to cause her to suffer to the limit of her endurance if thereby sinners could escape hell.
Seemingly in response to this remarkably courageous request, her pain steadily intensified until it became almost unendurable. Night after feverish night she would lie awake gasping and struggling to pray, her head soaking the pillow, her fingers clenching her rosary with tight desperation as if squeezing relief from the clamped beads. ‘O Jesus,’ she would pant, repeating the prayer taught by Our Lady at Fatima, “this is for love of thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the offences against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Despite the fierceness of her pangs, she persevered with her prayerful oblation, day after interminable day, month after prolonged month. Her ardent devotion to Our Lady which she had cultivated since childhood, became a springboard from which she was able to leap more securely into the arms of Christ. She asked for a little altar to be fixed to the wall by her bed where it was graced with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima and decorated with flowers and candles. During each month of May, she tried to make herself the most beautiful flower of May by offering little “spiritual flowers” to the mother of God. She would offer the whole day with its sufferings, and her intentions would range from the needs of the parish to those of the entire world. At the end of the month she placed these petitions at the feet of the statue, together with an affectionate letter to Our Lady. One such letter read: “Little Mother, I come humbly to your feet to lay down the little spiritual flowers which I have collected during this month. Behold the state in which I offer them to you! They are so faded and leafless. But you, O Heavenly Mother, could transform them. Speak to your Divine Son of my distress and affliction…Repeat to him on my behalf all my supplications, and grant that my poor flowers may be acceptable, so as to benefit those for whom they were offered. In particular, I beg you to make a beautiful garland of them to offer to the Holy Father on his birthday.”
Mother dear, on the last day of your blessed month, since I have nothing to offer you, I give you my whole body. I ask you to take charge of it and take it on your arm as you would take that of a beloved daughter. Bless me, dear Mother. Ask Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament to bless me. Ask the Holy Trinity to bless me. Goodbye dear Mother, and forgive me everything.”
Every day in May she recited the following act of consecration to the Blessed Virgin: “Mother of Jesus and my Mother, listen to my prayer. I consecrate my body and all my heart to you. Purify me, most holy Mother, fill me with your holy love. Place me near the tabernacle of Jesus in order that I can serve as a lamp as long as the world lasts. Bless me, sanctify me, O dear Mother of Heaven!”
Many times during the long and lonely days she would turn her thoughts to the tabernacle in the village church, and repeat: “My good Jesus, you are a prisoner and I am a prisoner. We are both prisoners. You are a prisoner for my welfare and happiness and I am a prisoner of your hands. You are King and Lord of all and I am a worm of the earth. I have abandoned you, thinking only of this world which is the destruction of souls. But now, repenting with all my heart, I desire only that which you desire, and to suffer with resignation. O my Jesus, I adore thee everywhere thou dwellest in the Blessed Sacrament. Where thou art despised, I stand by thee. I love thee for those who do not love. I make amends for those who offend thee. Come into my heart.”
Her severe pain continued with only occasional periods of relative relief. Frequently she was seen quivering and moaning with agony. Finally in 1931, the throbbing red haze dissolved and for the first time she entered into a state of ecstasy. Reputedly, she heard the voice of Christ over flowing with love and tenderness, inviting her to “Love, suffer and make reparation.” Alexandrina bravely and generously consented. She begged Our Lord to give her renewed strength and patience to endure on behalf of sinners whatever further sufferings he might have in store for her.
She did not have long to wait for an answer. The priest who brought her daily Communion was replaced by a Fr Mateus, a strict, legalistic priest who maintained on principle that she should only be permitted to receive Communion on the first Friday of each month. The anguish of being deprived of her beloved Eucharist was almost more than she could bear. The daily visit of Our Lord had been the one thing that had kept her spirit going. Tearfully, she begged the priest to come more frequently, meanwhile offering the sacrifice for those who neglected the Bread of Life. Finally, Fr Mateus relented slightly and agreed to come every fifteen days.
To read more on the Life of Venerable Alexandrina Maria Da Costa
Please Go HERE