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Fr John Flader Q&A: Blessed Alexandrina da Costa

Fr John Flader
Fr John Flader
Fr Flader is an American-born priest who arrived in Australia in 1968. A former director of the Catholic Adult Education Centre in Sydney, he has written Question Time for The Catholic Weekly since 2005. Submit your question here. Fr Flader blogs at
Blessed Alexandrina da Costa. Image: Wikicommons


“Dear Father, A friend recently told me about a Portuguese mystic, Blessed Alexandrina da Costa, who supposedly survived only on the Eucharist for some years. Is this real?

It is real, surprising though it may seem. We should always remember that events like this are miraculous, since the human body needs more than the Eucharist to obtain all the nutrients it needs to be alive and healthy. But who was this mystic?

Alexandrina Maria da Costa was born on 30 March 1904 in Balasar, Portugal. She received a solid Christian education from her mother and her sister, Deolinda, her father having left when she was very young. Her lively nature made her likeable to everyone and her unusual physical strength enabled her to do long hours of heavy farm work in the fields. When she was 12, Alexandrina became sick with an infection and nearly died.

The consequences of this infection would remain with her as she grew up and would become the first sign of what God was asking of her: to suffer as a “victim soul”.

When Alexandrina was 14, while sewing one day with her sister Deolinda and a young apprentice, three men broke into their home and attempted to sexually assault them.

To preserve her purity, Alexandrina jumped from a window, falling four metres to the ground and breaking her spine, leading to paralysis. For the next five years, until she was 19, Alexandrina was able to drag herself to church where, hunched over, she would remain in prayer, to the great amazement of everyone. With her paralysis and pain worsening, however, from 14 April 1925 until her death 30 years later she had to remain bedridden, completely paralysed.

We should always remember that events like this are miraculous, since the human body needs more than the Eucharist to obtain all the nutrients it needs to be alive and healthy”

Alexandrina prayed to Our Lady 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 to be her vocation and that she had a special call to be the Lord’s “victim”. The more she 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”. She understood that she was called to open the eyes of others to the effects of sin, inviting them to conversion, and to be a living witness of Christ’s passion, contributing to the redemption of humanity.

From 3 October 1938 until 24 March 1942, Alexandrina lived the three-hour “passion” of Jesus every Friday, experiencing in body and soul Christ’s suffering in his final hours. During these three hours, her paralysis was in some way overcome, and she would relive the Stations of the Cross, her movements and gestures accompanied by excruciating pain.

She was also assaulted by the devil and tormented with temptations against the faith and with physical injuries. Added to her physical suffering was the misunderstanding of priests, including her spiritual director and the Archbishop of Braga.

Finally, in 1944, a Salesian priest, Fr Umberto Pasquale, came to her aid.

After December 1938, Alexandrina corresponded regularly with Sr Lucia Santos, then a Carmelite nun who, together with her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, had seen Our Lady at Fatima in 1917.

In 1944, she joined the “Union of Salesian Cooperators”, offering her suffering for the salvation of souls and for the sanctification of youth.

From 27 March 1942 until her death 13 years later, Alexandrina received no nourishment of any kind except the Holy Eucharist. Her weight dropped to as little as 33 kilos. The medical doctors who examined her, did so in a cold and hostile way, only increasing her suffering. But she was consoled by Jesus telling her: “You will very rarely receive consolation … I want that, while your heart is filled with suffering, on your lips there is a smile”. As a result, in spite of her physical suffering, she was always outwardly joyful and smiling, radiating peace to all who visited her.

Alexandrina died on 13 October 1955. Her last words were: “I am happy, because I am going to heaven”. She was beatified on 25 April 2004 in St Peter’s Square by St John Paul II.

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