Chapel of the Holy Cross in Balazar, Portugal
The village of Balazar is located 40 miles north of Oporto, made up of small houses of stone with a population of about 1,000 people. The village is surrounded by vineyards and fields of corn, dates and olives. The Church of Balazar is dedicated to the Holy Cross. Erected in 1832, commemorating the mysterious apparition that year of a cross made on the ground. In a report sent to the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Braga, the pastor of the parish testifies the happenings of that day:
“I’m writing to make you aware of the happenings in the Parish of St. Eulalia de Balasar. During our latest celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi, the faithful were coming towards the Church and noticed a cross of a lighter color formed on the ground. The morning dew was all over the area, except on the cross. I myself went and touched and moved around the ground where the cross was formed, but the same image reappeared in the same place. Later, I ordered water to be poured over the same area, but the cross reappeared again and it has remained ever since.”
Many people came to see this phenomenon of the cross to venerate it with flowers and offerings. Till this day, the cross remains in the same place, and it continues to be a challenge to erase it.
Alexandrina lives the mystery of Cross
East of Balazar we find the Church of St. Eulalia where on April 2, 1904, Alejandrina Maria da Costa was baptized. She was born on Wednesday of Holy Week, March 30th of the same year. She is the daughter of very devout and hard working farmers. Her father died shortly after her birth. Alejandrina grew up with her older sister Deolinda in a very simple, devout, and pious environment.
In the writings of Alejandrina de Costa, she makes three references to the cross, the last one dated Jan. 14th, 1955. While in ecstasy, she heard the voice of our Lord saying to her: “A century ago I revealed to this village the cross that comes to receive the victim. Oh Balazar, if you don’t respond ! . . . A cross made of dirt for the victim that is offered for nothing . . . The victim is chosen by God and has always existed in His eternal designs. Victim for the world, but favored more by celestial blessings, who has given ALL to heaven for love of souls, she accepts ALL. Trust, believe my daughter, I’m here!
All your life is written and sealed with a key of gold.” (Alejandrina: Her Agony and Her Glory)
During the first years of her life she was fascinated by the religious processions that took place around the village during days of great celebration. At age three, while resting one afternoon with her mother, she saw a jar of cream on the table. She leaned over carefully not to awaken her mother, and reached out for the jar. When her mother called her, she was surprised and the jar fell on the floor and broke into pieces. Having lost her balance, Alejandrina fell on the floor, consequently injuring her lip and created a scar for the rest of her life. She was then taken to the nearest clinic. Her mother, Maria Ana, anxiously cleaned off the blood flowing from her mouth. A generous assistant gave Alejandrina a bag of candies in order to calm her down, but Alejandrina responded by screaming, kicking, and hitting.
“This was my first offense,” she wrote years later in her autobiography, dictated to her sister Deolinda by order of her spiritual director. Alejandrina was a very active, joyful child, full of life, but never jeopardizing her precocious spirituality with her humor and spontaneous character.
Years later she wrote the following experience:
“Upon the death of our uncle, Deolinda and I stayed at the house with his family for seven days after his death to assist at the Masses offered for the deceased. One morning I was asked to go and get a bag of rice in the room where my uncle’s body lay. When I got to the door I did not have the courage to enter. I was so frightened that my sister had to get the rice. That same night I was ordered to go and close the window of that same room. As I approached the door, I felt my knees trembling and again I was unable to enter. I said to myself: ‘I have to fight against this fear,’ I opened the door slowly and walked around the room where my uncle was. Since that day, with the help of God, I am able to manage my fears.”
By the time she was ready for her First Communion, at age 7, Alejandrina had a profound love for the Eucharist, visiting the Blessed Sacrament with unusual frequency and doing spiritual communions on occasions she was unable to attend daily Mass. On one occasion, an aunt of Alejandrina who suffered from cancer asked her to remember her in her prayers. The child responded with such perseverance and fervor that this habit of prayer continued in the soul of Alejandrina ever since.
Later she wrote: “I’ve always had great respect for priests. At one time I found myself sitting on the stairs at the entrance of the village and I saw priests walk through the streets. I stood as I was accustomed to stand up in respect when they passed by in front of me. They took off their hats and said “May God bless you!” I realized people would stare at me because I had the habit of sitting at the same place on purpose in order to see the priests enter the village and show my reverence to them."
Due to the privations of the rural life at the time, Alejandrina only assisted school for 18 months and was sent to work in the fields. She was hardworking and exposed to bad habits and vocabulary from the other workers who worked with her. After 3 years, an employee of the area tried to attack and abuse her. The Lord protected her with the grace of an extraordinary strength that came while she held the holy rosary in her hand.
After this serious incident, the child was returned to her home. This opportunity allowed her to renew her love and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. In that same year, she became ill with typhoid. Her mother would give her the crucifix for her to kiss and Alejandrina would move her head and murmur : “ I want Jesus in the Eucharist.” Finally she recovered her health and was transferred to the hospital in Povoa located in the Atlantic coast. Upon returning to Balazar her health was poor, she was very weak and virtually paralyzed. Alejandrina dedicated herself to sewing with her sister Deolinda.
She became paralyzed to defend her purity
Just like Saint Maria Goretti, the Italian martyr of purity, Alejandrina would rather embrace death before yielding to sin. In 1918, an incident occurred that would mark Alejandrina’s life forever. She was in the second floor bedroom of her house with Deolinda and another young friend when three men approached and insisted with a strong voice to allow them to enter. Alejandrina looked out the window and recognized one of the men, the one who tried to attack her some years ago while working in the field. She rapidly closed the door, but the men were able to enter through an emergency door in the roof. Deolinda and the other young lady were able to flee, but Alejandrina was cornered in the room by this man. She screamed: “ Jesus, help me! ” hitting the man with her rosary.
Behind her was a window, about 13 feet high. It was the only way out. She preferred to jump out the window with the possibility of death before consenting to the low passions of this man.
The fall was severe and with much pain. With excruciating pain and grinding her teeth she crawled her way into the house. Her vertical spine was irreparably injured. Alejandrina was 14 years old. What followed were many long years of pain that increased unceasingly, along with incapacity and depression, but she never yielded to desperation or weakness.
Completely paralyzed on April 14th of 1924, she became bedridden for life at 20 years of age. Her distraught family prayed for her every night, united around her bed they would light two candles to the image of our Lady and prayed the Holy Rosary on their knees.Alejandrina would spend her days praying, meditating, asking our Blessed Mother for healing; she would ask Jesus “his blessing from heaven and from all the tabernacles in the world.”
Because of her increased love for prayer her distractions diminished. She started to desire more and more a life of greater union with Jesus. This union that she perceived could only take place by orienting all her incapacities and illness towards the Love of Jesus. She soon understood the idea that “suffering was her vocation.” At the end of this same year, Alejandrina found herself immersed in the sublime desire to offer herself to God as a victim soul for the conversion of sinners.
After praying and discerning, she felt confident that our Lord was calling her to live a life of love and reparation, offering voluntarily all the sufferings to the Beloved for the conversion of sinners. Like St. Paul, Alejandrina was able to say, “ At present I rejoice when I suffer for you; I complete in my own flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, which is the Church.” (Colossians 1:24)
Alexandrina and Fatima
News of the apparitions of our Lady of Fatima started to reach the village, 200 miles south. Healings and miracles were reported at Fatima. A pilgrimage was organized to go to Fatima from Balazar. Having a great devotion and love to Our Lady, Alejandrina wanted to be completely sure of God’s will for her in relation to her call to suffering. She asked Our Lady to allow her to go and accompany the pilgrims. The parish priest and the doctors insisted that the trip would be deadly for her condition, so the pilgrims departed without her.
After all the pilgrims left, Alejandrina closed her eyes and started to pray, offering to the Lord the sacrifice of her abandonment and desolation. As she prayed her mind was transported to the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of St. Eulalia, close to her home. Unexpectedly, she received a divine illumination. She was able to understand that Our Lord is also a prisoner in the tabernacle.
This unity with Jesus allowed her to visit Him spiritually and to be constantly in His presence, loving Him unceasingly and praying, offering herself in immolation to console His Sacred Heart and to obtain the conversion of sinners. Recollected and moved by tears, Alejandrina pleaded to the Lord to allow her to suffer to the limit that she could tolerate if this would help the sinners to be delivered from the fires of hell.
She was unable to go to Fatima, but the Virgin Mary granted her the grace to understand and live the messages in the most perfect way, intimately uniting herself to the desire of the Blessed Virgin. By offering her passion in this way, Alejandrina became a victim soul for love of the Eucharist and the consecration to the Immaculate Heart, which are fundamental messages of Fatima.
In response to the courageous petition, her pain increased until becoming almost intolerable. Night after night, with very high fever Alejandrina awoke with her head on her pillow and with the rosary clasped strongly in her hands so as to receive strength from each Hail Mary. With tears, she prayed exclaiming and repeating the prayer Our Lady had taught her in Fatima: "Oh, Jesus, it is because I love you, for conversion of sinners and in reparation for all the offenses to the Immaculate Heart of Mary."
She lived the Passion of Jesus
Alejandrina experienced 180 ecstasies of the Passion, preceded by many hours of fear and horror as midday of Good Friday approached. This fear was generally accompanied by an intense sadness, nausea, and a strong sensation of loneliness.
For seven years she was unable to forget her first crucifixion. She wrote: " All seemed to be present before me, I felt the fear and horror of those bitter hours, the anxiety of my spiritual director at my side, and my family in tears and horrified." Minutes after midday on October 3rd, 1938, Our Lord invited Alejandrina to immerse herself in His Passion: "See, my daughter, Calvary is ready, do you accept?" Alejandrina courageously accepted. Witnesses held their breath while she was in ecstasy. Even though she was paralyzed, she would recover movement in her body and almost levitated from her bed with the same movements of Jesus in the Agony of the Garden of Olives to Calvary.
Images of the ecstasy of the Passion were filmed forming an important part of her beatification process.
At the end of one of her ecstasies at 3:00 pm, Alejandrina raised her arms in thanksgiving and exhausted in horror, she immediately cried: "No, Jesus, no, Jesus, crucify me !! Forgive, forgive, forgive !!! They have the same right as I have, you died on the cross for them, like you did for me. Jesus I don’t want any soul to go to hell. I love you for them. Forgive them Jesus, remember me in my crucifixion. Hell is the worst place." This dialogue reminds us of Saint Gemma Galgani, a mystic of the end of the 19th century.
A few days later, Alejandrina suffered terrible pain, she vomited blood and was tortured by an unquenchable thirst. Water was not enough; she was unable to swallow a drop of water. She started to perceive the strong odor of sin: "they were repulsive odors," she related in her autobiography. "Perfumes and violets were brought to me, but I rejected them because I was still tormented by this vile odor. Just to remember these things make me suffer."
She is nourished only on the Eucharist
One day she heard the voice of God say to her: "You will not be nourished any longer with food from the earth. Your food will be My Flesh, your drink will be My Divine Blood, your life will be My Life. You receive it from me when I unite my Heart to yours. Do not be afraid, you will no longer be crucified like in the past, now new trials await you that will be the most painful ones. But at the end I will take you to heaven and the Blessed Mother will accompany you."
Her last ecstasy of the Passion occurred on March 27,th 1942 on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Sorrows.
During the last 13years of her life, Alejandrina ate and drank nothing. She was nourished exclusively by the Holy Eucharist.
Her thirst was only satisfied by God Himself. She was submitted to many medical studies; the last one was performed by: professor Joao Marques, a teacher of Medical Sciences at the University of Pernambuco; a well-known conference speaker from the faculty of this university; a professor of the nutrition department of the School of Social Services; and the President of the Gastronomy and Nutrition of Pernambuco.
Alejandrina shared with her spiritual director what the Lord said to her: "You will live only on the Eucharist because I want to show the entire world the power of the Eucharist and the power of My life in souls."
During her long agony she heard the voice of God saying to her: "Give me your hands because I want to nail them to mine. Give me your head because I want to crown it with thorns like it was done to Me. Give me your heart because I want to pierce it with a lance like My Heart was pierced by one. Abandon yourself completely to ME . . .Help Me in the redemption of humanity."
Alejandrina died a little after receiving the Holy Eucharist on October 13th, 1955, the 38th anniversary of the miracle of the sun in Fatima. Her last words before death were: "Don’t cry for me, today I’m immensely happy . . . . at last I’m going to heaven."
To the priest, pilgrims, and reporters who crowded the place, she gave a message that should move all humanity: "Do not sin anymore. The pleasures of this life are worth nothing. Receive Holy Communion; pray the Holy Rosary daily. This resumes everything."
Before her death, Alejandrina requested to be buried facing the tabernacle of the Church, saying: "In life I always desired to be united to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and to look at the tabernacle at all times that I was able; after my death I want to continue contemplating, always having my eyes constantly on Our Eucharistic Lord."
She dictated to her sister Deolinda her epitaph which still exists today over her tomb: "Sinners: if the ashes of my body are worthy enough to save you, come close. If it is necessary, step on them until they disappear, but do not sin anymore. Do not offend Our dear Lord anymore. Convert. Don’t lose Jesus for all Eternity. He is so good !!"
The process of beatification for Alejandrina was solemnly opened by the Archbishop of Braga in 1973, completed, and sent to Rome. Many miracles occurred through her intercession.
Alejandrina Maria de Costa was solemnly beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 26th, 2004.
We give thanks to the Lord for allowing us to visit the Church of St. Eulalia in 1996, where Holy Mass was celebrated before the body of the great victim soul of the Eucharist. We also visited her house, saw the window out of which she threw herself to save her purity and the room where she lay so many years in bed, loving and suffering for sinners. We will never forget her example and memory.
Mother of Jesus and our Mother, hear our prayer. We consecrate to you our bodies and our hearts. Mold them Blessed Mother, fill them with your love. Like Alejandrina, may we also be close to the tabernacle with Jesus, so that we may serve Him like lighted lamps while we live in this world. Bless and sanctify us, Oh, loving Mother of Heaven! May we also be prisoners of love. Purify us so that we may desire what is undesirable for love of Jesus, your Son and Our Lord.
Novena for personal use
Oh Jesus, who rejoice in the simple and humble souls, many times ignored, forgotten and despised by men! Exult your Servant Blessed Alejandrina who always desired to live hidden in the world and away from greatness.
Oh, Lord Jesus so often in our times we need lessons on holiness, which is the full realization of our human and Christian vocation, and, therefore, the elevation of the human being to the beauty of love and moral state. Bless your Servant Blessed Alejandrina, and hear the petitions which we offer through her intercession. Grant us especially the grace ..............(name the intention), if it is for honor and glory of your Name Jesus, and the glorification of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and salvation of sinners, for whom Blessed Alejandrina admirably immolated herself. Amen !
“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 I 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.”
Blessed Alexandrina, pray for us to increase our love for the Eucharist!
Vatican official small biography>>
John Paul II's homily at her beatification>>
Bl. Alexandrina's official Site>>
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