Chapter 8



Chapter 8



In 1942 Alexandrina started a total fast, of both solids and liquids, which was to last until her death! But brief periods of fast had already been experienced during the preceding years. 

At the end of April 1937 she vomited day and night. (vide Ch 3) 

After the first ecstasy of the Passion, in October 1938, she went 5 consecutive days without food and experienced continuous vomiting. (vide Ch 4) 

At the end of November 1939 she wrote to Fr Pinho: 

Good bye, my dear father, I cannot feed myself. I have many pains! C (29-11-39)     

Definitive fast   

The following is taken from Dr. Azevedo’s deposition in the Diocesan Process: 

From 27 March 1942 until the end of June of the same year, she swallowed water with a little salt, which was boiled in a little trickle of oil. (...) In June she said me: “Let me rest and do not compel me to take anything”. I answered her: “If this makes you better, let your will be done” (...) 

One thing I found strange: Although she lived without food from 1942 to 1955, she nevertheless menstruated every month, until she was 47 years of age. (Summ, pp. 46-47) 

To get an idea of the suffering brought on by the fast, let us quote from two letters to her director: 

I cannot explain the longing that I have for food: I want to take all the food there is into my mouth; I want to be fed with all the foods whose odours reach me, and I get nothing. But, Jesus be praised, my intelligence is very alert. 

I offer all my martyrdom for love of Jesus, to make reparation for so many sins, to save souls for Him and to give light to those who have removed from this earth my light and comfort. (vide Ch 7; C (22-8-42)    (...)

My father, I continue without eating. I am not hungry, but I feel a need, a ravenous desire to take to my mouth everything I see. If you knew how much this new suffering costs me! Let it be for Jesus and for souls! C (7-11-42)     

An investigation is made!   

The phenomenon provoked controversy. And there was no shortage of people who were mystified by it. Dr. Azevedo spoke to the Archbishop of Braga, who advised that an investigation be made in a hospital.  Dr. Azevedo prepared a consultation with Dr. Carlos Lima, a university professor, and Dr. Gomes de Araújo, director of the Hospital Refúgio de Paralisia Infantil in Foz do Douro, close to Oporto:   

To satisfy the desire and will of His Excellency, the Archbishop, I was once again subjected to a new inspection, which was carried out on 27th May 1943. (A, p. 59)   

The doctors were favourably impressed, but they demanded an investigation in a nursing home; a clinic of Dr. Gomes de Araújo’s was chosen.   

On 4th June, the assistant doctor came here, together with my current confessor (Fr Alberto Gomes), to tell me of the doctors’ decision and to convince me, and my family, of the advisability of going to the Refúgio da Paralisia Infantil, to a private room, to be one month there, so that the doctors could ascertain, under close observation, what is happening to me. I answered ‘no’ immediately, but soon I changed my mind; I remembered the obedience I owed the Archbishop, and said ‘yes’. I did not want to leave my Director and the assistant doctor, and all those who have taken an interest in me, in an awkward position. However, I made certain conditions: 

1) to be allowed to receive Jesus each day; 

2) that my sister be with me always; 

3) not to be subjected to any more examinations, because I was going in for observation and not for examination. 

During the days I was here, I asked Jesus and my heavenly Mother to give me strength and courage so that my family, who were desolate, could take courage from me.     

Forty days under rigorous observation   

On 10th June 1943 Alexandrina started her internment that was to last not 30 but 40 days, as we will see: the famous Biblical “40” days!   

The 10th June arrived, in which all was prepared for my departure for Foz.  

The bitterness that took possession of me was profound, but, at the same time, I felt such courage that I was able to hide what was transpiring in my soul. I trusted Jesus in such a way, and was so convinced of His divine aid, that I thought that, if necessary, Jesus would send His own angels to help me in the exile in which I would find myself.

When doctor (Azevedo) arrived at my bedside, he was embarrassed about telling me that it was time to leave, but I said to him:  

“Let’s go! Who does not go does not come.” 

Then the farewells began. Only Our Lord knows how much this separation cost, all my friends had come to hug me and to kiss me and I was full of pain. All I could do was look at the Sacred Heart of Jesus and our dear heavenly Mother, asking Them for courage and strength. 

When going down the stairs in the stretcher, I said, to cheer up them:

“Courage! This is for Jesus and for souls”  

I could not say anything more, such was the pressure that I felt in my heart and it would be impossible to contain the tears. I did not want to cry, not that I minded for myself, but because I did not wish to be the cause of greater pains for those I love. 

When I was placed in the stretcher, and surrounded by more than a hundred people, I saw tears in the eyes of almost all of them, heard the cries of my mother and others of my family. My pain was indescribable. I yearned to leave, and that quickly. My heart beat with such force that it seemed to be battering my ribs. On this occasion I said to Jesus:

“Accept, my Jesus, all the pulsations of my heart, for Your love and for the salvation of souls.” 

The trip was difficult, sometimes my heart felt huge and at other times it seemed that it would succumb to the pressures on it.

I looked at my sister and I saw that she was desolate. The doctor told me that, because he always saw me with a smile in the lips, he believed that sick people like me didn’t suffer too much during journeys.  

But only Jesus knew the bitterness that was in my heart and the tortures of my poor body. With the constant movement of the stretcher-car, I felt great afflictions in my heart, but I always repeated:   “Everything for Your love, my Jesus, and I pray that the dark night I feel in my soul serves to give light to other souls” 

When we arrived at the last houses of Balasar, I saw that Mr. Sampaio (the friend who had taken her to Oporto during her 4th trip; vide Ch 5) raised the curtains around the stretcher-car and I noticed that the tears had welled up in the eyes of the doctor, who came to my side and exclaimed: “Poor children!” 

Hearing these words, I asked him what he meant. I was told that some children, on the roadside, threw flowers at our car. I felt then full of compassion towards those little children. It was with difficulty that I managed to contain the tears which were trying to course down my face. 

When we arrived at Matosinhos, the doctor raised the curtain of the window of the stretcher-car so that I saw the sea.

Then an enormous silence took possession of my heart and, seeing the continuous movement of the waves and their coming up the beach, I asked Jesus that my love might also be like this, without interruption and lasting.

We arrived close to the Refúgio, and Dr. Gomes de Araújo did not want the stretcher-car to go right up to the door so he told the ambulance men and they turned the stretcher-car and carried me onto the street, covering my face so that nobody saw me.  

Then, my heart became heavy, because I had already guessed how things would be for me during those 30 long days that I would spend in that house. While they carried me with my face hidden, it seemed to me that I was in a coffin. My gloom increased, and I asked myself: “What crime did I commit?” 

The ascent of the Shelter’s stairs was a martyrdom, because I was carried upside-down. Once we were in the room they uncovered my face, and I saw myself surrounded by Dr. Araújo and some ladies, who were to be my guards, while I was there. (…) 

On the following day, a Friday, the true Calvary in that house began for me. At the time of the ecstasy, which happened every Friday, my sister came close to me; there was also the medical assistant (Azevedo, who recorded the ecstasy to deliver a report of it to the doctors), Mr. Sampaio and a nurse. Nothing escaped the observers, no small detail, all of which would later be discussed in public and commented on. (...)  Deolinda, who was told to leave the room, was troubled and asked: “But surely I will be permitted to see my sister from the door? If she can see me perhaps she will be reassured.” and, leaning over my bed, she cried inconsolably. I said to her:  “Do not afflict yourself, Our Lord will be with us!” (...)

The following night, she had a serious crisis of vomiting, aggravated by not having anybody to assist her. She lay prostrate. The doctor whispered to the nurse: 

— She is ready! She is ready!  

Then I opened my eyes and said him: “O Doctor, I have these things at home too.”  

He replied quickly and imperiously:  

— Young lady, do not think that you come here to fast!  

I understood what he was trying to do, and that wounded me deeply. 

When (Dr. Araújo) knew what had happened on that Friday, he demanded the report of the ecstasy and said angrily:  

— It seems impossible that Dr. Azevedo, being an intelligent young man, accepts such things. We must put a stop to this. Meanwhile, all clocks must disappear so that she ignores the time…

As if Our Lord needed them! 

Seeing my state, he wanted to give me medication, but I did not give my assent, nor would I. How many times the nurses came close to me, convinced that I had died!  

There had been five days of continuous agony, more of the soul than of the body, and during these crises they had forbidden my sister to come near me, I, who at home, needed two people to lift me!  

All judged that this crisis was due to lack of food. (…) 

How they were deceived! My nourishment came me from the blessed Host which I received at Communion each morning.    

Dr. Azevedo visited her again and reaffirmed his prohibition against the introduction of foods or remedies, unless Alexandrina asked for them. And to the duty nurse he added: 

— I’ll guarantee you one thing: you may die, I may die, but here in the Shelter she does not die! 

He sat close to me and gave me a little of the comfort that I needed. Because Our Lord allowed this it turned out well; five days later the vomiting had stopped completely and the natural colour came back to my face together with the lustre of the eyes.  

At the next visit of the medical assistant, who saw me frequently, the duty nurse said:  

— Look, Doctor! Look at this face! 

He, ever delicate, but with firmness, answered:  

— It is because of the steaks she has been eating, and the injections she has received.

 Jesus wanted once again to show His power in this humble creature.    

From some conversations, Alexandrina overhears talk of hysteria. In consequence she said to Dr. Azevedo: 

“If I’m to be treated as an hysteric, there is no need for me to be here!” 

But he answered that I had to have courage and confidence. So I did everything I had to, to fulfil the most holy Will of God.    

Dr. Araújo visited her two or three times a day, at different hours. He spoke constantly, trying to convince her that what was happening to her was not what God wanted: 

— Convince yourself, young girl - he said - that God does not want you to suffer. If

He wants to save others and if it is true that He has power to do so, He can save them Himself! If it is true that God rewards those who suffer, has He already rewarded you, for what you have suffered?

But, my God, I know that You are infinite, infinite in the power, infinite in Your rewards. If it was like he says, what am I suffering for? 

He accompanied his words with a malicious look, like a demon – or so it seemed to me.  

Then I answered him: “They are so great, so great the things of Our Lord, and we are so tiny, so insignificant, at least I am!”

He did not say anything at first; but later, infuriated, he answered: “You are right about yourself; but I am a person of much greater intelligence” - and he went out. 

How far the doctor was from understanding this law of love for souls! If he knew the value of a soul, he would see that nothing we do to save one can be excessive.

It was a constant deluge of humiliations and sacrifices. Oh, if I knew how to suffer well, how much I would have to offer Jesus! New things that humiliated, and called for sacrifice, would always appear. I had close to my bed a picture of little Jacinta (that Fr. Pinho had given to her; it is now conserved in the wall close the Alexandrina’s bed). I looked at it with love and, then, without fearing that the duty nurses would tell the doctor, I said:  

“Dear Jacinta, you, though so young, know what this costs! Help me, from Heaven where you are.”  

Only the aid of Heaven, only the prayers of good souls could be my strength, to climb so painful a Calvary and to support the weight of so heavy a cross! (...)

I sang praise to Jesus and to our heavenly Mother, pretending to enjoy the greatest of joys. I sang with the greatest enthusiasm. But inside me, and with what I could see through my own eyes, it seemed that there was neither sun nor day.    

One day Dr. Araújo made a long speech to convince her that she was deluded. He told her about some research he did when he was a student, research which took intense study; but in the end his teacher had said to him: “Don’t you see that you are mistaken, that, for such and such a reason, it cannot be anything like that?”  I said: My God, how many lost hours! So many hours of illusions! Everything fell flat! 

I, who saw from the beginning what he was trying to convey, smiled and said:  

“It does not fall flat, Doctor. I have a very wise and holy Director and he studied my case for some years. If the work belongs to God, nothing can possibly fall flat”. 

He, a little embarrassed, said: “Nothing?! …” — pretending with his words that that was not what he meant. 

I had said what I had to say, and shortly after he left me.

During that long and stormy exile, her mother visited her twice: on the 16th and 30th day, the days on which she should have returned home.. 

I was so very homesick for her! She was such a short time with me and then always under the curious looks of the duty nurses!  

She cried and I pretended not to have a heart: I smiled and joked with her. 

 I caressed her, and with my deceptive smile I hid the bitterness that was in my soul, and I removed the tears that persisted in sliding along my face.  

Dr. Araújo, exasperated with his colleague Dr. Álvaro for not agreeing with his own assessment of Alexandrina’s case, defied him to get a person he trusted to take over the investigation for some days more. A sister of Dr. Alvaro was chosen. 

Dr. Araújo looked for ways of convincing us that it would be convenient to spend a further 10 days at the Clinic; he was so convinced of the truth. (…) I answered him:   “Whoever is 30 might as well be 40!”  

Thus it was decided.  

The regime returned to the former severity, or even worse. I was forbidden to talk about Jesus in any way whatsoever, because they thought that in this way they could remove the reality within. (…)  

There was no lack of cunning in trying to catch me out taking their food. When they showed me their titbits without saying anything, I was content to smile at them… when they offered food I thanked them saying: “Thank you very much! ”, but always with a smile as I did not wish to show them that I was aware of their ill intent.    

Finally the longed-for moment when she was to leave that prison arrived! The two sisters had the satisfaction of hearing the great physician say: 

In October I will visit you in Balasar, not as doctor or spy, but as friend who esteems you. (A, p. 71)

And he kept his promise!  A great satisfaction. But at what a cost! 

On that afternoon of 20th July, there had been the farewells from the nuns and the duty nurses. All the duty nurses had offered me their gifts (flowers, perfumes).

But neither the perfume, nor the flowers, nor the multitude of the people who surrounded our car as we set off gave me cause for the slightest vanity. 

When we stopped to rest and I saw many people approach me with many exclamations, I said to the medical assistant, who came to my side: “Let’s go, let’s go, Doctor” (…) 

During the trip, I lived more inside myself than outside: the sea, everything that I saw, invited me to silence, to the inner life with God. I had no reason for vanity: everything conspired to humble me and to make me so small that I all but disappeared.  

How would it be with me if I was to be judged by the world! They had ascribed malice where there was none. Forgive them, Jesus! They do not know Your things! (...)

When I arrived at my small room, it seemed a lie to enter it!   There were tears, but this time very different tears: they were tears of joy!   After being put into my bed it was a long time before I could allow anyone to touch me; I let out great moans, most painful ones. It was the effect of the trip.  

Now I say: For whom did I make this sacrifice? Would I do this just for vanity? O world, O poor world! Vanity, but for what!? What are we without God? Who would be capable of suffering like this for the importance and vanity of the world? (...)

The doctor was right when I was leaving to go there; when he was placing a wet cloth on my forehead, he said to me:  

- You have some white hairs here, but when you return you will have many more! 

And, indeed, that is what happened: he had already foreseen everything that was waiting for me.

But it is so good to do everything for Jesus’s love! (A, pp. 61-72)

 As a comment and conclusion to this great trial, Jesus said:

Nothing that is of Jesus falls: in the middle of all storms it is secure, it shines, it is triumphant. Jesus reigns with his love-sick little girl. 

In this, too, Alexandrina shows her humility: 

O my Jesus, many thanks! Triumph and reign for your glory, so that souls be saved. I always want to be tiny in the eyes of the world, but huge in love, great in the power to save souls for You; from this power that is yours, from this love that belongs only to You, all stems. S (7-8-43)

Alexandrina’s fast is a martyrdom of salvation

On many occasions Alexandrina heard Jesus affirm this: 

If you could see the souls that have been saved by you! Especially lately, during these 3 years of your fast! What a great way to rescue sinners! I show my power here, my anxieties for them and my love towards them.

(...) Martyrdom and fast will be the greatest way, the last way of salvation.

(...) Martyrdom will climb the peak and love will reach the utmost summit. The love of Jesus, suffering for souls: reparation without equal! S (30-3-45)

Alexandrina interprets her physical hunger as a “sign” of a spiritual reality: she also, like Jesus with Whom she identifies herself (and this identity will be consummated, as we will see), feels a hunger which encompasses the world.

On 2 April 54 she dictated: 

On 27th March, date of the 12th anniversary of the day on which I stopped eating, I will never be able to tell what I felt in myself: the hunger was so great, so great; it was infinite. But it was not a hunger for food. 

It was as if my chest and my heart had opened, and the world came to me like the waves of the sea. However many more there were, however many more waves came, the more I went to meet them and the greater was my desire to possess them. 

Humanity was the sea and all this sea was mine to fit inside in my chest and heart. I suffered bitterly, infinitely, because all this sea did not to enter me. I suffered alone, in silence. This opening up of my heart had been for Jesus and our heavenly Mother. S (2-4-54)


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