“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, 22nd November 1937.
The desire of Jesus to see a widespread knowledge of the life of Blessed Alexandrina Maria da Costa of Portugal is starting to be fulfilled, as devotion to her grows steadily throughout the world. One of the great mystics of modern times, a ‘victim soul’ chosen by Christ to suffer in atonement for the sins of humanity, she appears set to become an important and well-loved saint in the Universal Church. Her life gives us an example of complete fidelity to the will of Christ, and also presents an astonishing and undeniable explosion of the supernatural to an increasingly secular world.
Bedridden for life from the age of twenty, after sustaining a serious injury some years earlier while trying to escape from an attack on her virtue, she suffered unspeakable pain throughout her life and mystically underwent the Passion of Christ on Fridays to atone for the sins of humanity. She also had frequent ecstasies during which she saw and spoke with Our Lord and Our Lady, and offered her sufferings to bring about the consecration of the world by Pope Pius XII to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, an act which in turn shortened the duration of World War II. Her life reaffirms the immense value of suffering offered in union with Jesus, and stands as a beacon of hope to those who suffer in any way, and a sign of contradiction to those who would deny the value of suffering offered in union with Jesus. She prayed especially for youth, and has been proposed by the Church as “a model of purity and perseverance in the Faith for today's youth.”
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 30th March 1904 in a part of the village of Balasar called Gresufes, and baptised three days later on the 2nd 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 21st 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 14th 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 20th 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 6th 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”.