"You are, together, members of Christ's body” (1 Cor. 12.27)
Alexandrina Maria da Costa was one of these living members of Christ who had received from the Lord the vocation to participate in the sufferings of the Lord Jesus who humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2.8). United to her divine spouse, she followed him with love and with a particular devotion to the Way of the Cross for the conversion of sinners, and by fulfilling the mission of "loving, suffering, dying" which had been confided to her by heaven.
The servant of God was the second daughter of Ana Maria da Costa. She was born 30th March 1904 in Gresufes, Balasar, in the Archdiocese of Braga, Portugal and was baptized on 2nd April. Her mother, abandoned by her 'husband' a short time before marriage, supported her family with dignity and educated her daughters with fortitude and diligence according to the laws of God and the Church, giving them admirable examples of prayer and the practice of charity, above all for the sick.
From her youth, Alexandrina suffered the extremes of poverty when the family lost all its goods and, due to family exigencies, contracted a large debt. For a short time she attended the primary school in the town of Povoa de Varzim where, with great happiness, she made her first Holy Communion. Returning to her birth place, she worked in the fields and learnt sewing. She enjoyed the best of health and was a happy, playful, lively, affable character. She dedicated herself to prayer with assiduity, studied the catechism, took part in the parish activities and committed herself to the correction of her faults. She often helped the sick and the dying.
On the Holy Saturday of 1918, to defend her virginity against some men who forced their way into her home, she jumped from a window, only to begin a road of anguish and suffering. At first the doctors could not arrive at a diagnosis but later they came to the conclusion that she had suffered an injury to her nervous system. All the treatments were useless and her sufferings became greater day by day, so that, by the year 1925, she was bedridden. The paralysis of her limbs gradually worsened, and her muscles atrophied to the point that they were incapable of movement. In the first years of the illness, as is natural, she begged heaven for a cure but she was granted the grace to accept the will of God and even to suffer more. In this way her bed became an altar of sacrifice, her body a temple in which God worked marvels, and her soul an ardent song of love. She began to feel a great sorrow for "Jesus, the prisoner of the Tabernacle", at the same time she perceived more clearly her vocation of 'victim'. Instructed by Christ himself, and guided by Him in the Wisdom of the Cross, she offered herself as a victim of expiation, accepting crucifixion and participating in the Redemption with of her sufferings, which were many, atrocious and continual.
She experienced in her body and her soul the sufferings of the Passion of Christ and molestions by the devil, to which were joined temptations, periods of aridity and darkness of soul, doubts against the faith and mystical death. She was terribly upset that she could not go to church, nor receive Holy Communion frequently and that her marvelous experiences were gossiped about. She suffered equally from the visits of so many people, the banishment of her first spiritual director, the clerical enquiries and the medical inquisitions with their repressive recommendations when they did not believe in her sincerity and honesty. God favored her with ecstasies, visions, knowledge of future happenings and scrutiny of hearts. In the last 13 years of her life, she took no food other than the Eucharist.
Despite her illness she exercised a great and fruitful apostolate, receiving with great courtesy many visitors to whom she spoke words of faith and consolation, exhorting them to receive the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist, often obtaining the conversion of sinners. She taught the catechism, over a long period, to children and was a zealous member of the Pious Union of the Apostolate of Prayer, promoting books of the faith and the missions and encouraging vocations both sacerdotal and religious. She was a Child of Mary and an Associate of the Salesian Workers.
With the offerings which she received from benefactors, she helped divine services, the missions, the preaching of the Word of God, help for her parish, seminarians, youth causes, the poor and the unemployed. Religious festivals and attendance at Masses also occupied her, as did the construction of homes for the deprived. In 1936 she wrote to the Holy Father about the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which Pope Pius XII performed on 31st October 1942.
Forgetful of self, she lived only for God and for her neighbor and, between the thorns of suffering, she cultivated many beautiful perfumed Christian virtues. Faith was a light for her thoughts, her affections, her words and her actions. She held total belief In Jesus Christ, in the Gospels, in the revealed truths and the teachings of the Church. The Commandments of God she fulfilled perfectly, she promptly obeyed the will of God and was a docile instrument in his hands for the fulfillment of the mission which he had given to her for the good of humanity. Raised up by the contemplation of the great mysteries of the faith, by prayer, nourished by a special devotion to the Most Holy Trinity, to the Eucharist, to Our Lady and identifying with Christ nailed to the Cross, she was able to say "It is not I who suffer, it is Christ who suffers in me" (follows 2 quotes Galatians 2 20 and Colossians 1 24).
Her heart burnt with love for God, the Church and for souls. She wrote:
I love Jesus in the darkness, I love him in the humiliations, in the sufferings, in the heartaches, I love Him in the surges of happiness, trying to do His will in all things.
At the same time she affirmed her willingness to suffer to the end of the world for the salvation of sinners. These are the words engraved on her tomb stone, summing up her apostolate:
SINNERS, IF MY ASHES CAN CONTRIBUTE TO YOUR SALVATION, COME CLOSER, PASS OVRER THEM, TRAMPLE THEM INTO THE EARTH BUT NEVER SIN AGAIN, NEVER OFFEND OUR JESUS AGAIN.
SINNERS, THERE ARE MANY THINGS I WANT TO TELL YOU, IF I WROTE THEM ALL DOWN THIS CEMETERY WOULDN’T BE BIG ENOUGH TO CONTAIN ALL THE PAPER. BE CONVERTED! YOU DO NOT WANT TO LOSE HIM FOR ALL ETERNITY.HE IS SO GOOD.
ENOUGH OF SIN.
LOVE HIM! LOVE HIM!
Neither did her love for her mother and her sister Deolinda, who looked after her tenderly, grow less, nor her love for the poor, the sick, or the souls in Purgatory. Anyone who caused any hurt, received immediately her forgiveness and her benevolence. Sincerely humble, she held herself as nothing in the sight of God and unworthy of any reputation in the sight of man; she avoided praise and rejoiced when despised. The things of this world were as nothing, she happily embraced self-denial and poverty, placing her hopes in God and His providence; she looked continuously to eternity as the prize which she strove to reach, not by her merits but rather through Christ. She kept herself free and pure of any wrong-doing and observed perfectly the law of chastity even in the slightest temptations. In all these circumstances she acted and spoke with a supernatural prudence. She was just before God and also before her neighbor. She was strong in her obedience to her ecclesiastical superiors, in the sufferings of body and soul and in fidelity to her duties and daily fulfilling the will of God.
Again, when death was near, when her sufferings were at their most intense, she persevered with strength and generosity at the summing-up of herself and her life. With serenity of soul she entered eternity murmuring:
I am happy because I go to heaven.
Comforted with the Sacraments, her sad road completed and with her lamp alight, she went to God on October 13th 1955.
The people who held her to be a saint affirmed "The mother of the poor has died, a helper in necessities; she was the consoler of the afflicted". An enormous crowd paid their respects to her body laid out in the casket and were present at her burial. In 1978 her remains were translated to the parish Church of Balasar, where it rests today, venerated by the faithful who recommend themselves to her intercession.
Recognizing the size and the consistency of the fame of sanctity which the servant of God had shown in her life, her death and after her death, the Archbishop of Braga set in train the CAUSE for beatification and canonization during 1967 to 1973, the authority of which was recognized by the Congregation for the Cause of Saints by decree dated 16th November 1990. The Archbishop of Cagliari is the Proponent. The Holy Father has ordered that:
The Servant of God Alexandrina Maria da Costa, lay virgin, member of the Association of the Coworkers of St. John Bosco, practiced the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity towards God and her neighbor, together with the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude to a heroic degree.
This is to be published and reference made in the Acts of the Congregation of the Cause for Saints, given in Rome 12th January 1996.
Archbishop of Cesareia of Numidia. Pro-Prefect.
Archbishop of Luna. Secretary.
Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 13th May 1996. Page 504.