http://www.blessed-alexandrina.com/ – web link for pages specifically on her…
And a downloadable printout with more details of her life
Alexandrina Maria da Costa (1904-1955)
Alexandrina Maria da Costa was born on 30 March 1904 in Balasar, Portugal. She received a solid Christian education from her mother and her sister, Deolinda, and her lively, well-mannered nature made her likeable to everyone.
Her unusual physical strength and stamina also enabled her to do long hours of heavy farm work in the fields, thus helping the family income.
When she was 12, Alexandrina became sick with an infection and nearly died; the consequences of this infection would remain with her as she grew up and would become the “first sign” of what God was asking of her: to suffer as a “victim soul”.
The consequences of sin
When Alexandrina was 14, something happened that left a permanent imprint on her, both physically and spiritually: it gave her a face-to-face look at the horror and consequences of sin.
On Holy Saturday of 1918, while Alexandrina, Deolinda and a young apprentice were busily sewing, three men violently entered their home and attempted to sexually violate them. To preserve her purity, Alexandrina jumped from a window, falling four metres to the ground.
Her injuries were many, and the doctors diagnosed her condition as “irreversible”: it was predicted the paralysis she suffered would only get worse.
Until age 19, Alexandrina was still able to “drag herself” to church where, hunched over, she would remain in prayer, to the great amazement of the parishioners. With her paralysis and pain worsening, however, she was forced to remain immobile, and from 14 April 1925 until her death – approximately 30 years – she would remain bedridden, completely paralyzed.
Alexandrina continued to ask the Blessed Mother for the grace of a miraculous healing, promising to become a missionary if she were healed.
Little by little, however, God helped her to see that suffering was her vocation and that she had a special call to be the Lord’s “victim”. The more Alexandrina “understood” that this was her mission, the more willingly she embraced it.
She said: “Our Lady has given me an even greater grace: first, abandonment; then, complete conformity to God’s will; finally, the thirst for suffering”.
Mission to suffer with Christ
The desire to suffer continued to grow in her the more her vocation became clear: she understood that she was called to open the eyes of others to the effects of sin, inviting them to conversion, and to offer a living witness of Christ’s passion, contributing to the redemption of humanity.
And so it was that from 3 October 1938 until 24 March 1942, Alexandrina lived the three-hour “passion” of Jesus every Friday, having received the mystical grace to live in body and soul Christ’s suffering in his final hours. During these three hours, her paralysis was “overcome”, and she would relive the Stations of the Cross, her movements and gestures accompanied by excruciating physical and spiritual pain. She was also diabolically assaulted and tormented with temptations against the faith and with injuries inflicted on her body.
Human misunderstanding and incredulity were also a great cross for her, especially when those she most expected would “assist” her – members and leaders of the Church – were adding to her crucifixion.
An investigation conducted by the Curia of Braga resulted in a circular letter written by the Archbishop which contained a series of “prohibitions” regarding Alexandrina’s case. It was the result of a negative verdict made by a commission of priests.
In addition and by way of spiritual comfort, after her spiritual director, a Jesuit priest who had helped her from 1934 to 1941, stopped assisting her, a Salesian priest, Fr Umberto Pasquale, came to her aid in 1944.
Nourished only by the Eucharist
On 27 March 1942, a new phase began for Alexandrina which would continue for 13 years and seven months until her death. She received no nourishment of any kind except the Holy Eucharist, at one point weighing as few as 33 kilos (approximately 73 pounds).
Medical doctors remained baffled by this phenomenon and began to conduct various tests on Alexandrina, acting in a very cold and hostile way towards her. This increased her suffering and humiliation, but she remembered the words that Jesus himself spoke to her one day: “You will very rarely receive consolation… I want that while your heart is filled with suffering, on your lips there is a smile”.
As a result, those who visited or came into contact with Alexandrina always found a woman who, although in apparent physical discomfort, was always outwardly joyful and smiling, transmitting to all a profound peace. Few understood what she was deeply suffering and how real was her interior desolation.
Fr Pasquale, who stayed close to Alexandrina throughout these years, ordered Alexandrina’s sister to keep a diary of her words and her mystical experiences.
In 1944, Alexandrina became a member of the “Union of Salesian Cooperators” and offered her suffering for the salvation of souls and for the sanctification of youth. She kept a lively interest in the poor as well as in the spiritual health of those who sought out her counsel.
“Do not offend Jesus anymore!’
As a “testimony” to the mission to which God had called her, Alexandrina desired the following words written on her tombstone: “Sinners, if the dust of my body can be of help to save you, come close, walk over it, kick it around until it disappears. But never sin again: do not offend Jesus anymore! Sinners, how much I want to tell you…. Do not risk losing Jesus for all eternity, for he is so good. Enough with sin. Love Jesus, love him!”.
Alexandrina died on 13 October 1955. Her last words: “I am happy, because I am going to Heaven”.
HOMILY OF ST. JOHN PAUL II
St Peter’s Square
Third Sunday of Easter, 25 April 2004
- “They knew it was the Lord” (Jn 21: 12): this is how the evangelist John expresses the reaction of the disciples’ joy in recognizing the Risen Lord. Jesus manifests himself to them after a night of hard and unprofitable work on the Sea of Tiberias. Trusting in his word, they cast their nets into the water and haul to the shore a “[large] quantity of fish” (Jn 21: 6).
Like the Apostles, we too remain in amazement before the wealth of wonder that God accomplishes in the heart of those who confide in him. In today’s Eucharistic Celebration, we contemplate what he has achieved in six new Blesseds: in the priest Augusto Czartoryski; in four women religious: Laura Montoya, María Guadalupe García Zavala, Nemesia Valle, Eusebia Palomino Yenes; and in a laywoman, Alexandrina Maria da Costa. These are eloquent examples of how the Lord transforms the existence of believers when they trust in him.
- “How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, God of hosts. My soul is longing and yearning, is yearning for the courts of the Lord…. One day within your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (Ps 84: 2, 11).
Blessed Augusto Czartoryski wrote these words of the Psalm, his motto of life, on the holy card of his first Mass. In them is contained the rapture of a man who, following the voice of the call, discovers the beauty of the ministerial priesthood. In them resounds the echo of the different choices that the person who is discerning God’s will and wishes to fulfil it must make. Augusto Czartoryski, a young prince, carefully prepared an effective method to discern the divine plan. In prayer, he presented to God all questions and deep perplexities, and then in the spirit of obedience he followed the counsel given by his spiritual guides. In this way he came to understand his vocation and to take up the life of poverty to serve the “least”. The same method enabled him throughout the course of his life to make decisions, so that today we can say that he accomplished the designs of Divine Providence in a heroic way.
I would like to leave this example of holiness especially to young people, who today search out the way to decipher God’s will relating to their own lives and desire to faithfully forge ahead each day according to the divine word. My dear young friends, learn from Blessed Augusto to ask ardently in prayer for the light of the Holy Spirit and wise guides, so that you may understand the divine plan in your lives and are able to walk constantly on the path of holiness.
- “Just after daybreak Jesus was standing on the shore, though none of the disciples knew it was Jesus” (Jn 21: 4).
It is possible for a person not to know the Lord, notwithstanding his numerous manifestations in the course of history. Mother Laura Montoya, seeing how many indigenous persons far away from urban centres lived without knowing God, decided to found the Congregation of the Missionaries of Mary Immaculate and St Catherine of Siena, with the aim of bringing the light of the Gospel to the inhabitants of the forests.
This Blessed Colombian considered herself as mother to the Indians, to whom she wanted to show God’s love. Her times were not easy ones, since the social tensions bloodied even then her noble Country. Taking inspiration from her message of peace, let us ask today that the beloved Nation of Colombia may soon enjoy peace, justice and holistic progress.
- In the Gospel reading we heard the threefold question of Jesus to Peter: “Do you love me?”. Christ addresses this same question to men and women of all times. Christians must decisively and readily respond to the projects that he has for each one of us. Such was the life of the Mexican Blessed Guadalupe García Zavala, who, by giving up matrimony, dedicated herself to serving the poorest, the sick and the needy; she founded for this the Congregation of the Handmaids of St Margaret Mary and the Poor.
With deep faith, unlimited hope and great love for Christ, Mother “Lupita” sought her own sanctification beginning with love for the Heart of Christ and fidelity to the Church. In this way she lived the motto which she left to her daughters: “Charity to the point of sacrifice and perseverance until death”.
- “Manifest God’s love to the little, to the poor, to every person in every corner of the earth“: this was the undertaking of Blessed Nemesia Valle throughout her entire life. She left this teaching especially to her Sisters, the Sisters of Charity of St Joan Antida Thouret, and to the faithful of the Archdiocese of Turin. It is the example of a shining holiness directed towards the high summits of evangelical perfection, which can be translated in the simple gestures of daily living, completely spent in God’s service.
The new Blessed continues to repeat to all of us: “Holiness does not consist in doing many things or great things…. Those who entirely spend themselves each day, wherever they are, for the Lord, are holy”.
- The Lord says to Peter in a decisive and penetrating way: “Follow me”. Sr Eusebia Palomino, of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, also heard God’s call one day and answered by way of an intense spirituality and a profound humility in daily life. As a good Salesian, she was enlivened by love for the Eucharist and for the Blessed Virgin. Loving and serving were important for her; the rest did not matter, faithful to the Salesian maxim: “da mihi animas, caetera tolle”.
With the radicalness and constancy of her choices, Sr Eusebia Palomino Yenes traced out an attractive and demanding path of holiness for us all, especially for the young people of our time.
- “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 relived mystically 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
- “Yes Lord, you know that I love you” (Jn 21: 15). Like Peter, like the Apostles on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, these new Blesseds also made their own this simple profession of faith and love, living it to the extreme. Love for Christ is the secret of holiness!
Dear brothers and sisters, let us follow the example of these Blesseds, offering as they did a coherent witness of faith and love in the living and working presence of the Risen One!