By Prof. Micheal Ogunu
Many pilgrims who go to Fatima also visit the town of Balasar north of Fatima. It became famous in 1832 when the earth changed to form the appearance of a large cross which you can still see today inside a chapel which has been built over it. Almost exactly 100 years later in the same town, Alexandrina Maria da Costa started suffering the passion of Jesus in answer to the request of Our Lady of Fatima. She lived on the Eucharist alone for thirteen years. Alexandrina Maria da Costa was born 30th March 1904 in Balasar, Portugal. She received a solid Christian education from her mother and her sister, Deolinda. On Holy Saturday of 1918, while Alexandrina, Deolinda and a young apprentice were busy sewing, three men violently entered their home and attempted to sexually assault them.
To preserve her purity, Alexandrina jumped from a window, falling four metres to the ground. Although her fall caused excruciating pain, Alexandrina’s only concern was for her sister, Deolinda and a friend who remained trapped in the upper room. Her courage and pitiful state shocked the wicked men who fled in shame and fear. Alexandrina’s spine was irreparably injured and she had to remain in bed for the rest of her life. The doctors diagnosed her condition as “irreversible.” 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 14th 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”. From her room, which Cardinal Cerejeira called “that altar of great sacrifice”, Alexandrina is said to have had a series of ecstasies in which she entered into the Passion of Christ. For the last 13½ years of her life, she ate and drank nothing but the Holy Eucharist. Surrendered to God’s will, she willingly offered herself as a victim of love and suffering for sinners. She went in her first ecstasy in 1931 when she heard Jesus say to her, “Love, suffer and make reparation.” She saw her vocation to be that of a victim soul, to make reparation for all of us. In 1936, Our Lord asked her to spread the message of Fatima and to urge the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart. She offered herself as a victim soul for this.
In one of her ecstasies Jesus said to her, “Keep me company in the Blessed Sacrament. I remain in the tabernacle night and day, waiting to give my love and grace to all who would visit me. But so few come. I am so abandoned, so lonely, so offended… Many…, do not believe in my existence; they do not believe that I live in the tabernacle. They curse me. Others believe, but do not love me and do not visit me; they live as if l were not there… You have chosen to love me in the tabernacles where you can contemplate me, not with the eyes of the body, but those of the soul. I am truly present there as in Heaven, Body, Blood, Soul and divinity”. From October 1938, Alexandrina began to suffer the passion of Jesus every Friday. She suffered the passion of Jesus 180 times.
Until 1942, she was suffering in silence without fame but after a report appeared in a newspaper, from then on, she was besieged by pilgrims asking for prayer. During the Holy Week, the same year Jesus said to her, “You will not take food again on earth. Your food will be my Flesh; your drink will be my Divine Blood…”
So on Good Friday 1942, she began an absolute fast which lasted more than thirteen years until her death. The only nourishment which her body filled with pain received was Jesus in Holy Communion every morning. Alexandrina’s mission seemed to re-echo the Message of Fatima. She repeatedly told the thousands of people who visited her home to say the Rosary everyday and consecrate themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary through the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. She begged people to repent their sins and amend their lives.
The Rosary, which was constantly on her lips, was also entwined in her clinched hands. She continually offered her sufferings to God by using the prayer Our Lady taught the three children to whom she appeared at Fatima (Lucia, Francisco and Jacinth): “O My Jesus, this is for love of Thee, in reparation for the offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary and for the conversion of sinners. Because of a command she reportedly received from Our Lord, Alexandrina asked Pope Pius XII, in 1939, to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Holy Father did this in 1942, after receiving a similar request from Sr. Lucia.
In 1944, Alexandrina became a member of the “Union of Salesian Co-operators” 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.
Alexandrina died on 13th October, 1955, anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun which took place in Fatima in 1917, and was declared Blessed (beatified) on 25th April, 2004. On the day of her death, she gave the following messages to mankind: “Do not sin. The pleasures of this life are worth nothing. Receive Communion. Say the Rosary every day. This sums up everything”. 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!”.
Indeed, Alexandrina has an important message for our modern world and for the youth. By her hidden, obscure life of suffering and pain, she accomplished great things for God and the world. We too can offer our sufferings and pains, trials and difficulties of life as acts of reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary for our sins and for the sins of the whole world. Through three shepherd children, Our Lady spoke to the world: “Do not offend the Lord our God anymore, because He is already so much offended” (13th October, 1917).
She asked for personal conversion, saying the Rosary every-day, offering prayers and sacrifices for sinners who have no one to pray for them and making reparation to the Eucharistic Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The reward will be peace in our families, our country and the whole world, and, above all, external salvation. May Alexandrina’s example inspire the youth and all Catholics to heed the message of Our Lady of Fatima.
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