Alessandrina Maria da Costa was born on the 30th March 1904 at Balasar in Portugal. She was brought up in the faith by her mother, along with her sister Deolinda. Alessandrina stayed with the family until she turned seven, then was sent to Póvoa do Varzim to board with a carpenter's family, so she could attend the primary school that she would have missed out on at Balasar. After returning to Balasar she worked as a farmer, as a lively, affectionate and playful girl, much sought out by her friends.
Injured in jump from window to save her virtue
When she was 14 years old she jumped from a window into the garden at home to safeguard her virtue when it was under threat from some evil-intentioned young men. Five years later, the damage caused by the fall left her totally paralysed, and she was bed-ridden for more than 30 years. She was looked after by her older sister.
Salesian charism includes desire to suffer for souls
She sought the grace of a recovery, but the Mother of God instead gave her the grace to accept her suffering as well as a desire to suffer for the salvation of souls. The Salesian charism included that of being a victim, something she developed along with Frs Beltrami, Czartoryski, Variara and Sister Eusebia. It also inspired Alessandrina. She offered herself to Christ as a victim for the conversion of sinners and for peace in the world: "I have no purpose other than that of giving glory to God and saving souls".
No food or drink for 13 years - other than Eucharist
For four years (1938-1942), overcoming her constant paralysis, she was able to get up from her bed, and on 182 occasions relived Christ's passion every Friday, for three sorrowful hours. She asked and obtained from Pius XII that the world be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary (31 October 1942). From the 27th March 1942 until her death, 13 years and 7 months later, she took no food or drink other than her daily communion. This unexplainable fact was scientifically verified by different doctors, sometimes in a way which was humiliating for Alessadrina.
Becomes a Salesian Cooperator
She was a great mystic. In constant union with Jesus in the world's tabernacles, she was the subject of ecstasies and revelations. The Lord provided that her second spiritual director be a Salesian, Fr Umberto Pasquale, who kept her diary. She then asked to be a Cooperator. She said: "I feel I am in great union with the Salesians and with the Cooperators all over the world. And frequently I witness to my belonging to them and offer my suffering, united with them all, for the salvation of the young! I love the Congregation. I love it very much and will never forget it on heaven or on earth".
Thousands came to her bedside to get comfort from her words. On the 13th October 1955 she died at Balasar, where she is now buried, facing the tabernacle. Crowds of pilgrims regularly visit the place.
John Paul II beatified her on 25th April 2004.