NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local parish, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu. ~ Peter

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Saint of the Month - October 2016: Blessed Alexandrina Maria Da Costa

Bl. Alexandrina Maria Da Costa
The Fourth Seer of Fatima ~ Memorial: October 13th

Bl. Alexandrina was, undoubtedly, one of the most remarkable mystics ever to grace the Catholic Church. She was a victim-soul in the highest degree - a genuinely holy stigmatic - which most certainly means her life was replete with extraordinary events and charisms, too many to narrate in one blog. None the less, this short biography should suffice to give the reader a glimpse of just how truly virtuous and amazing this valiant woman's life was.

Born on March 30, 1904, Alexandrina Maria da Costa came into this world in the rural town of Balasar, Portugal. While still a small child, her father cruelly abandoned his family, which consisted of Alexandrina; her mother, Maria Ana; and an older sister named Deolinda. To make ends meet, Maria Ana took to working on a farm to support herself and her two girls... and it wasn't long after that the youngsters, themselves, had to join their mother as hired help to assist with the family income. Fortunately, biographers report that Alexandrina had a strong and healthy constitution, which made her capable when it came to the demanding physical labor on the farms. 

Despite their hard lot in life, the Da Costa family was a close knit one; sustained by the love they had for each other, and the innate faith they had in God. Maria Ana, by her worthy religious example, instilled in her daughters a deep piety. Alexandrina, particularly, despite being a headstrong and vivacious child, was unusually pious. Early on she enjoyed frequenting Balasar's parish church of St. Eulalia in order to exercise her keen devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. It was a trait that continued for the rest of her life.

Love for the Eucharist & devotion
to Our Lady of Fatima were central
to Alexandrina's spirituality
When Alexandrina and Deolinda hit their early teens, both learned how to sew and began supplementing their household income as seamstresses, working out of the attic in their home. There, a fateful event took place that drastically impacted their family for the rest of their lives; Alexandrina was 14-years-old at the time. As the story goes... on Holy Saturday, 1918, while sewing with another girl, three men broke into the Da Costa home with the intent of molesting the adolescents. One of the men was actually Alexandrina's former employer, and despite their efforts to bar the attic door, the men (who were intoxicated) forced their way in and began their assault on the three children. Alexandrina found herself trapped against a window but rather than giving in to the men's perverse intentions, she heroically jumped through the glass pane and landed 13 feet unto the ground below!

The pain was excruciating, but when Alexandrina heard the frightened screams of the other girls, she grabbed a large piece of wood and bravely charged back into the attic to defend her sister and friend. Yelling and wildly swinging her crude weapon at the men, Alexandrina managed to drive the attackers away before collapsing from pain and exhaustion. As it turned out, she had irreparably injured her spine during her fall and, as a result, suffered increasing pain and progressive paralysis until she was completely immobile and bedridden by 1925. 

Initially, going from a once robust teen to a helpless paralytic was a hard pill to swallow for Alexandrina. To add to her pains was the concern she had for her hardworking mother and Deolinda, who became her caretaker. So she pleaded and bargained with God and the Blessed Virgin to cure her; even promising to live austerely and join a missionary congregation if she was healed. When no cure arrived, the invalid was left depressed and on the verge of desperation. It was during this dark period in her life that she became aware of Our Lady's 1917 apparitions in Fatima and, although her medical condition made it impossible to visit the miraculous site, Alexandrina took the Fatima message to heart. She was moved to accept her lot in life and, taking it a step further, offered herself to God as a victim for sinners. She wrote about her sacrifice in the following words: 

   "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."

Her enthusiastic promotion of the Fatima Devotion and the recently deceased child-seers - Jacinta and Francisco Marto - was another lifelong trait she was known for, so much so, that she is often referred to as the "fourth seer" of Fatima.

This photo captures Alexandrina in one of her many
frequent ecstasies during which she received celestial
communication from Jesus & Our Lady.
With Alexandrina's self-oblation came a new outlook on life and she embraced her suffering with heroic fortitude. Her increasing desire to suffer for the conversion of sinners was a catalyst that eventually led to many private revelations and apparitions from Jesus and Mary, beginning in 1931 when the Lord said to her, "Love, suffer, and make reparation". Other mystical phenomena followed, with the most notable being weekly participation in the Passion of Christ; a perpetual fast during which she survived on the Eucharist; and physical harassment from the devil, who Alexandrina enraged by her efforts to rescue souls from him. Of these diabolic attacks, she once narrated: 

   "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."

The weekly Passion Ecstasies began on Friday, October 3, 1938 and the last one occurred just before Holy Week 1942. During these special occasions of reparational suffering, Alexandrina mysteriously regained the use of her paralyzed limbs and moved about in her small room, reenacting the different stages of the Passion in union with our Lord. At the end of each ecstasy she would speak with Jesus for a time, before returning to her usual state of paralysis. In all, Alexandrina endured approximately 180 Passion Ecstasies in a nearly four year period. 

Two photos showing scenes from Alexandrina's weekly Passion Ecstasies.  In the left she endures
Pilot's unjust trial & condemnation of Jesus; the right photo shows the Crucifixion.

As for the phenomenon of perpetually fasting, this began on Good Friday 1942 the week after the Passion Ecstasies ceased, and it lasted until her death thirteen years later. The fast began after Jesus stated the following words to Alexandrina: 

   "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."

With this new wonder in Alexandrina's life, Jesus confirmed, in a concrete manner, the Catholic Church's sublime teaching concerning his True Presence in the Eucharist, which the invalid received as her sole nourishment every day. The veracity of the fast was confirmed in 1943 after Alexandrina was taken to a hospital in nearby Porto, were she was strictly observed for 40 days. In the end, the supervising doctor, Dr. Araujo, published a favorable medical finding in the following words:

   "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."

Alexandrina's tomb in the parish church
of Balasar, Portugal.
Alexandrina returned home, vindicated, and spent the remaining years in continued prayer and sacrifice. News of her spread throughout Europe and pilgrims flocked to her home for spiritual help and counsel. Her advice was always the same - convert and return to God; live the message of Fatima; practice the 5 First Saturdays Devotion.

The "Victim of Balasar" died at the age of 51 on October 13, 1955. The date was providential in itself since it commemorated the final apparition of Our Lady in Fatima, whose message Alexandrina advocated so passionately in her personal ministry. Needless to say, her funeral was a triumph with thousands attending to mourn the passing of this great soul.

Just twelve short years after her death, Alexandrina's Cause for Canonization was officially initiated by her diocese and it successfully led to her Beatification on April 25, 2004. One more approved miracle is still needed for this Portuguese heroine to be declared a Saint; may the good Lord see fit to soon grant his Church this gift.

A Reflection
"...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."  ~ Words of Bl. Alexandrina

A Short Prayer
Dear Bl. Alexandrina, obtain for us the grace of a sincere and lasting conversion, for the love of God and for the sake of our own good; that we may not sadly lose Jesus for all eternity, but rather, come to happily join you in Paradise in contemplation of His immense love and goodness.  Amen.

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