During Holy Week of 1942, Alexandrina's condition deteriorated alarmingly. Her interminable pain, shot through with acute spasms of nausea, grew so agonising that it seemed her chalice of sorrow would overflow and her martyred soul take its flight to eternity. Despite a ravenous hunger and burning thirst, she was unable to retain any nourishment except a little milk and mineral water. On Palm Sunday evening she asked to be anointed, fearing that she would lose consciousness before receiving the sacrament As soon as it had been administered she stammered, "I am so happy now. All my faults have been removed."
By Maundy Thursday her agony was almost unendurable. When Deolinda touched her burning lips with a glass of water, Alexandrina gasped, "O my God! My thirst can only be satisfied by you! On earth there is no remedy." Hour after fiery hour her frightful torment continued. "Oh what nausea!" she groaned. "It is really of the damned in Hell. It cannot be but the fruit of sin." As the evening closed in, she rallied slightly and murmured that she did not have the usual fear of the Friday Passion. When asked the reason she confided, "I do not know how it is, but I feel certain that Our Lord will not give it to me."
She was right. And a great sigh of joy escaped her as she realised that the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary had been decided on. Early on Good Friday morning she heard Jesus announce to her in a tone of triumph, "Glory to Mary! The world will be consecrated to her. It belongs to Jesus and to the Mother of Jesus." [The consecration was effected by Pope Pius XII on 31 October 1942, using the very titles that had been revealed to Alexandrina: "Queen of the Universe, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, Refuge of the human race, Victress in all God's battles." Days later came the "turning point" of the war, according to Sir Winston Churchill.]
In a blaze of agony and adoring love, Alexandrina cried out to Jesus in the tabernacle of the nearby church, "O my Eucharistic Love, I cannot live without you! O Jesus, transform me into your Eucharist! Mother, my dearest Mother, I wish to be of Jesus, I wish to be entirely yours!"
Deep in her soul she heard his profound reply:
<You will not take food again on earth. Your food will be my Flesh; your blood will be my Divine Blood, your life will be my Life. You receive it from me when I unite my Heart to your heart. Do not fear, my daughter. You will not be crucified any more as in the past.... And now a new trial awaits you, which will be the most painful of all. [The last Passion ecstasy occurred on 27 March 1942 which was then the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.] But in the end I will carry you to Heaven and the Holy Mother will accompany you.>
And so it was on Good Friday 1942 that Alexandrina began an absolute fast which was to last more than thirteen years until her death, her sole nourishment being Holy Communion which she received with moving devotion every morning. Meanwhile, her agonising pain continued without respite. "My body seems to have no bones", she panted. "It seems a pulp. I am like a statue of chalk which must not be touched or it will crumble."
Her family and friends, believing her to be dying, never left her sick-bed; not could they explain an existence which was only pain. Visions of the Holy Family and her guardian angel gave her fleeting relief from her appalling suffering. But as the days without nourishment lengthened into weeks and months, the suspense of her watchful family steadily grew.
Alexandrina became convinced that the end was near. "O Our Lady!" she wept, "Come to take me! I cannot bear this suffering any more . . . O Jesus, my love, do not abandon the one who loves you so much O days which never end! O Heaven which never approaches!" Turning to her relatives she groaned, "When you hear the bells sound for my death, go down on your knees, pray and thank Jesus and Our Lady for coming to take me."
Every Friday, she felt a wave of nostalgia for the Passion she had suffered for the last four years. "One esteems something only when one has lost it", she sighed. "If I had the Passion now, I would embrace it with an eternal embrace and would never separate myself from it." To ease her yearning, she had brought to her the long gown which she had worn during the Passion ecstasies. She would gaze at it with a faraway look and then tearfully embrace it. At other times, she would reverently kiss the large mat on which took place the successive stations of her mysterious martyrdom.
Her longing for that mystical Calvary was only tempered by her greater longing for death. She begged God to take her on the first Friday of May, to enable her to celebrate in heaven the first Saturday she loved so much. But the first week in May passed and her agony continued to rack her day and night without respite. On 24 May, feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, after almost two months of absolute fasting "with a burning thirst and a longing for food", Alexandrina cried out in anguish, "I sigh, I die, I long to satisfy my soul with the food of Paradise!"
As the months passed, news of Alexandrina's fast spread far and wide. Crowds of pilgrims again besieged her sickroom, imploring her prayers and favours. Their endless importunity seemed to heighten her ferocious suffering, but panting on her bed of pain she promised to remember everyone in her prayers. Of this period she wrote later:
<Day by day, moment by moment, my life became more and more painful. On the one hand, obedience obliges me to live hidden and to receive people in such a way as to be soon forgotten. O my God, if I had my will that is how I would live But what deceit! The more I want to be hidden, the more they make me known. Visitors arrive from everywherewhat torment for me.>
One afternoon, a number of important-looking men entered the sickroom to investigate reports of Alexandrina's total fast. She relates the event as follows:
<At half past two in the afternoon, five men entered the room. At once I had a presentiment that one of them was a doctor. They began to question me. For some reason, I found my attention drawn to one of them and after they had gone, I knew instinctively that he was a doctor. I answered their questions calmly and firmly, for truth has only one reply. When they asked me incredulously if it was true that I ate and drank nothing, not knowing whether they were believers or not, I answered: "I receive Holy Communion every day." They remained silent and non-committal for a while and shortly afterwards they respectfully withdrew.>
Not everyone, however, treated Alexandrina with the same courtesy. Doubts and suspicions about her fast circulated; some openly accused Deolinda and her mother of perpetrating a monstrous fraud. These accusations, and the indignation of many zealous people, were the cause of much sorrow for Alexandrina and her family. Finally, her friends appealed to the medical authorities to intervene and establish the authenticity of the prodigy once and for all.
Alexandrina vividly describes all that followed. She wrote on 27 May 1943: "In order to satisfy the desires and the will of the Archbishop, I subjected myself once more to a medical examination. When they told me about this, a new suffering took possession of my spirit, but seeing in everything the holy Will of God, I accepted, as always through obedience. When they told me the day on which the doctors would come, I prayed with great fervour to Our Lady to give me the necessary composure to bear everything with courage and resignation for Jesus and for souls.
"On the appointed day, the doctor in attendance came to our house with Dr Enrico Gomes di Araujo and Dr Carlo Lima. Fortunately I was calm and serene; God had heard my prayer. One of the doctors asked me if I suffered much and for whom I offered my sufferings. He also asked whether I suffered willingly and if I would be happy if God released me from my sorrows. I replied that, in truth, I suffered much and that I offered everything for the love of God and for the conversion of sinners. "
They then asked me what was my greatest aspiration and I answered, 'It is Heaven.' They then enquired if I wanted to be a saint like St Teresa or St Clare and to arrive in Heaven leaving behind a name famous throughout the world. 'I am not in the least interested in that', I replied. They then asked, 'If it were necessary to lose your soul to save sinners, what would you do?' I answered, 'I trust that I would also be saved, but if I had to lose my soul I would say no, because God would never ask such a thing.'
"'Why do you not eat?' they then asked. And I replied, 'I do not eat because I cannot. I feel full. I do not need it. However, I have a longing for food.'
"The doctors then began the examination which I bore with good disposition. At the end, seeing that I was in no condition to make a journey, they decided to call two nuns to verify the truth of my fast. After they left, I remained waiting for their decision. On 4 June my confessor came to give me Communion, accompanied by my doctor, who afterwards explained that I was being given the opportunity to enter a hospital in Oporto to have the fast medically certified. I would be isolated for a month and under constant observation. I immediately said 'No'but at once I was sorry, thinking of the obedience I owed the Archbishop and the difficult situation of my spiritual director, my doctor and my relatives and friends. So I accepted the proposal, subject to three conditionsI would be able to receive Holy Communion every day, I would be accompanied by my sister, and I would not be subjected to any more medical examinations because I was only entering the hospital for observation.
"By 10 June all was ready for my journey to the hospital of Foce del Duro in Oporto. My grief was great, but I had such faith in Jesus that I felt he would, if necessary, send his angels to help me. When my doctor arrived, he hesitated for some while, as if loath to tell me I had to leave. Finally I managed to say, 'Let's go, doctor. He who does not leave does not return!'
"I embraced my family and friends and only Jesus knew the sorrow it cost me to separate myself from them. I looked only into his Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and implored them to give me courage and strength to bear this new affliction. As they levered my stretcher downstairs I murmured to my weeping family, 'Courage! All for Jesus and for souls!' I was unable to say more. There was such a tightening of my heart that I felt it would be impossible to keep back the tears.
"Over a hundred people were surrounding the ambulance. I saw tears in the eyes of almost all. The sorrow I felt then was indescribable. My heart was beating with such violence that it seemed about to burst my ribs. Inwardly I prayed, 'Accept these throbbings, my dear Jesus, for your love and for the salvation of souls.'
"The journey was difficult; it seemed to me that my heart would not hold out. [The road from Balasar to Povoa is still badly broken and rutted and the ambulance journey must have caused Alexandrina severe pain.] Every now and then, I looked at my sister and saw how desolate she was. By the grace of God, I was able to keep the smile on my lips. But the constant shaking of the ambulance was sheer torture and I prayed repeatedly, 'All for your love, my dear Jesus, and may the darkening of my spirit serve to give light to other spirits.'
"When we arrived at Matozinhos, the doctor raised the curtains
so that I could look at the sea. An enormous silence filled my spirit, and
observing the continuous movement of the waves, I asked Jesus to let my love
beat like them without interruption."
Taken from Alexandrina by TAN Books & Publishers, Inc.
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