Salesian Saints: Bl. Alexandrina da Costa

07 Oct 2020

Photo credit:

October 13, optional memorial

By Bishop Enrico dal Covolo, SDB, and Father Giorgio Mocci, SDB*

Alexandrina Maria da Costa was born on March 30, 1904, in Balasar, Portugal. Her mother provided her and her sister Deolinda with a Christian upbringing. Alexandrina remained within her family until she was seven; then she was sent to Povoa do Varzim to board with the family of a carpenter so that she’d be able to attend the elementary school; Balasar didn’t have one.

She returned to Balasar to work in the fields. She was a lively girl, playful and affectionate, and much sought by girls her age. When she was 14, she jumped from a window into the garden of her home in order to escape a sexual assault by some intruders. After five years the injuries she’d sustained in her fall became a total paralysis, which confined her to bed for more than 30 years. Her older sister cared for her.

Alexandrina asked for the grace of healing, but the Madonna instead granted her the grace of accepting her suffering, and with it the desire to suffer for the salvation of souls. The Salesian charism of suffering, developed by Venerable Andrew Beltrami, Blessed August Czartoryski, Blessed Louis Variara, and Blessed Eusebia Palomino, inspired Alexandrina, too. She offered herself as a victim to Christ for the conversion of sinners and for world peace: “I have no other purpose than to give glory to God and save souls for him.”

For four years (1938-1942), every Friday she overcame her usual paralysis, got out of bed, and 182 times relived Christ’s passion for three most painful hours. She sought and obtained from Pope Pius XII the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary (October 31, 1942). From March 27, 1942, until her death, for 13 years and 7 months, she took no food or drink whatever except daily Holy Communion. This unexplainable fact was scientifically verified by several doctors, sometimes in a manner that was humiliating to Alexandrina. She was a very great mystic. In continual union with Christ in the tabernacles of the entire world, she experienced ecstasies and revelations. Thousands of people came to her bedside to receive comfort from her words.

God willed that her second spiritual director should be a Salesian, Father Umberto Pasquale, who kept a precious diary for her. She agreed to become a Cooperator. She said: “I feel a great union with the Salesians and the Cooperators of the whole world. How many times have I confirmed my membership, and I offer my sufferings, in union with all of them, for the salvation of youth! I love the Congregation. I love it so much, and I’ll never forget it either on earth or in heaven.”

On October 13, 1955, she died at Balasar, where she is buried facing the tabernacle. Huge crowds of pilgrims come to visit her tomb.

Alexandrina was declared “venerable” on December 21, 1995. She was beatified on April 25, 2004, by St. John Paul II.

Homily of John Paul II

*Santi nella Famiglia Salesiana, 2d ed. (Turin: LDC, 2009), pp. 54-55.