The subject of
Alexandrina’s fast challenges our thinking that values the objective and
Therefore it is
particularly provocative: it is extraordinary, but true. The documents we
publish here are intended to endorse the truth of the claims.
important aspects concerning the fast, the reader might consult Only for
Love!, available on the Official Website (in English).
ALEXANDRINA IN THE JOURNALS OF HER TIME.
THE REFÚGIO DE PARALISIA INFANTIL.
DIAS DE AZEVEDO’S LETTER TO THE ARCHBISHOP.
name appears for the first time in the press in 1941, written by Fr José Alves
Terças, in an article on “A Martirizada do Calvário” (The Martyr of Calvary).
In mid-1944, her
name became widely known with the issue of the unfortunate note from the Curia
of Braga, in which it was denied that there was anything extraordinary, that is,
supernatural, in what concerned the “martyr”.
In January 1947,
an unseemly allusion to Alexandrina in an article of Fr José Agostinho Veloso
issued in the Brotéria, with the heading,“Mystics and Journalism”, moved
Dr Azevedo to reply in O Comércio do Porto, in February, under the
heading of “Reply to a phrase in the magazine “Brotéria””.
At the end of
the year, on 4th November, the Jornal do Notícias published a
news article on Alexandrina; the heading was provocative: “Uma mulher que não
come nem bebe há seis anos e vive perfeitamente” (A woman who has neither eaten
nor taken liquids for six years ago and lives perfectly). It carries no by-line
but the work is certainly the responsibility of the diary’s director; it
includes a brief interview and a photograph of the exterior of the house. The
author adopts a respectful attitude, although he shows a certain reserve,
probably to save his own face should he stir up opposition.
Let’s read the
charming portrait that he presents of the Patient of Calvary:
with an open smile, is perhaps waiting until we speak to her. Her face is a
little long, the mouth is uneven, the skin pale with a touch of pink. Her eyes
are black, and brilliant with light; the hair, which is also black, frames her
expression of unaffected sympathy. She is 43 years old, but does not appear to
be more than 33.
And now the
were told that you do not take food.
That is true. I stopped eating and drinking six years ago.
But you have no appetite?
always feel sated.
you have a distaste for food?
No. I sometimes long for it.
Then why don’t you use those occasions to try a quick snack?
cannot. I feel too well.
How do you mean, well?
is a way of speaking: I feel well, I feel poorly.
For how long have you been ill?
Thirty years. Only 13 ago I had had first the great crisis. That
time, tortured by vomiting, I underwent a fast of 17 days. Later
came other crises, less drawn out. When they passed, I ate again.
Finally, I ate almost only fruit. But six years ago came the
definitive crisis. Then I left off food completely.
There is nothing about your appearance that would indicate this.
Each one knows himself. I understand that my illness has roused
curiosity and talk. It troubles me that such things should happen. I
wish people wouldn’t concern themselves about me. Too much has
already been said. If it was in my power, I would hide myself in a
Alexandrina speaks without any sign of annoyance – she speaks
naturally, saying what she feels. This simplicity is transparent.
She suffers, certainly, but she endures with joy, armed with a
determined spiritual force, her faith.
continue with the interrogation:
And the doctors?
The doctors – they do not say anything. Every week Dr Azevedo comes
here, but he does not prescribe remedies for me. Five years ago I
was in a hospital in Porto. They I underwent 40 days of constant,
rigorous monitoring. But I returned from there just as I had
hour had passed. The patient was visibly tired. We made our
farewells, expressing wish for her improvement. Smiling, she thanked
Let us move to
the conclusion of the article:
spite of the understandable loss of weight, (Alexandrina)
maintains an impressive freshness and resilience. Finally, hers is a
case that Medicine, to a large extent, can explain, but it does
leave some details unclear because food is important to the
biological process. Such a length of time without liquids and anury
should impose certain suspensions. Medicine needs to give a clear
explanation and provide more light on such happenings. However,
science is not definitive, as we know. What is undisputed is the
fact that the patient has lived for years without taking anything by
mouth, neither food nor drink.
week, Dr Dias de Azevedo published, in the same periodical and under the same
heading, a long clarification to the above article. If Alexandrina’s closest
friends harboured any doubts concerning her fast, they now they had the public
affirmation of her doctor, guaranteed by the competence of the renowned director
of the Refúgio da Paralisia Infantil (Refugee of the Infantine
Paralysis), Dr Gomes de Araújo.
The year 1953
was fertile with news of the fast: articles appeared in issues of the Jornal
de Notícias, on various occasions, in O Gaiato (unfavorable), in the
Diário do Norte (at least four times, favorable) and in the Jornal do
Médico, where an article of Dr Joaquin Pacheco Neves, of Vila do Conde,
unleashing a controversy with Dr Dias de Azevedo.
of Alexandrina’s fast and anury in the Refúgio de Paralisia Infantil, in
Foz do Douro, owes a large debt to Dr Dias de Azevedo. He wrote at length on the
subject in the Bulletin of Graces, of April 1964, just after Dr Gomes de Araújo
died. He dealt fully with the subject, but “forgot” to give just credit to the
role Dr Gomes de Araújo played in that verification.
praising the director of the Refugee and relating the correspondence he had with
the Archbishop, who advised him to deepen the clinical study, he continues:
went to Porto and I invited a very distinguished doctor to go to
Balasar to see Alexandrina (whose illness or malady Dr Gomes de
Araújo, on 15th July 1941, had classified as organic
paralysis by marrow affection with one or more focuses), telling him
that she did not eat. He answered me immediately that he would go to
see her whenever I wanted. I told him among others things, that it
was an interesting case, since she, apart from not eating,
manifested extraordinary phenomena which theologians called
ecstasies. At this my friend answered at once that in that event he
declined to take on the “case”, since he had no intention of delving
into such things.
It did not seem an
appropriate response from so beautiful a spirit as he was. As a
Catholic, he had an obligation to study the “case”, either to
evidence it as an admirable and respectable thing of God, or to
expose it as a fraud and prevent people from being deluded. Few
doctors were in so felicitous an intellectual condition as he. But
things are as they are and, sometimes, as they do not have to be.
Later, I invited Dr Carlos Lima, and this distinguished professor
accepted my invitation.
Finally, I invited Dr
Gomes de Araújo. I only told him that it was about a patient who did
not eat. He also accepted my invitation, but I believe that he was
persuaded the patient was a mental anorexic, equal to another case
that I had already handed over to him and which he cured very well,
or perhaps an hysteric.
learned shortly afterwards that, somebody in Trofa told him about
this case; he had answered that he would like to examine a condition
that had eluded me and that, in few days, with the patient kept
under observation, all would become clear.
Later Dr Dias de
Azevedo continues to talk about Dr Gomes de Araújo:
for the internment, I made him promise me two things: first, there
would be a study made of the patient’s mental
and I wanted to know, in writing, if they were normal or not.
Second, the patient would not be obliged to take food, unless she
wanted to, nor was she to be injected with any medication, unless
she agreed. Briefly: I wanted it to be understood that if she lived
without food and if her mental faculties were normal, she could be
interned for as long as was considered necessary: Dr Gomes de Araújo
agreed to these conditions.
In the Bulletin
of the following July, Dr Dias de Azevedo continues:
will not overburden our study of Alexandrina to speak about the work
that Dr Gomes de Araújo did in order to investigate whether or not
Alexandrina did indeed live without even minimum feeding, except the
Sacred Eucharist. The authentic purity and fortitude of Alexandrina,
which, being all, unfortunately counts for little or nothing with
many people. This inquiry is, in a way, more interesting in that it
is true, because the very distinguished Dr Gomes de Araújo started
with the assumption that Alexandrina was clearly a patient who
wished to delude others.
wife, who has also departed for eternity to receive the reward of
her virtues, told me that those 40 days of rigorous inquiry had been
a real mental torment for him,. (…)
Fifteen days later, Dr Gomes de Araújo said me, now in his doctor's
You limited me, therefore I committed myself not to force her to eat
and I wished to see if she could eat or not.
But then, Doctor, who was deluded? Was I deluded by her, or were you
deluded by me?
do not want to know if she can swallow food; I know that she can;
but, moments later, she vomits it up. I made this experiment from
March 1942 until May this year. What I want to prove to the world is
that she lives without food or drink.
us pass now to the bulletin of August:
affirmed in the previous bulletin - continues Dr Azevedo - that
those 40 days of rigorous observation had been a real mental torment
for the very distinguished doctor, Gomes de Araújo. It seems me that
in this occasion he was convinced that nobody had passed any season
of total abstinence of solids and liquids worthy of reference and
against the normal process of the physic-chemical exigencies of our
organism. These abstinences, of which Christian hagiography speaks,
were foreign to his knowledge and conviction which starting with the
basic organic law that nobody could live for long periods without
we presented him with a genuine long-term abstainer, for study and
ascertainment, he doubted, as a scientist, its objective reality,
and persuaded himself that we hadn’t taken due precautions not to be
deluded. It was the proper and safe path for an investigator to
follow, and he followed it to the letter, yes, but also with
respect, and aware of the consequences of his meticulous study, not
allowing himself to be disturbed, while judging the case, with
insinuations that anybody made to him (…)
Autobiography, Alexandrina left a detailed story of what she endured during
the 40 days she was interned in the Refugee of Foz. Because the first part of
this narrative is well known, let’s look at the final part, which also deserves
a close reading:
of the attendants told a doctor who did not know of me, or my case,
about what happened to me, which raised new doubts.
doctor made bold to say that it could not be so, that the attendants
allowed themselves to be deceived too easily and that he would only
believe it if he used nurses whom he personally trusted.
Araújo, a little infuriated at having his observations discredited,
demanded that he, too, would use an attendant who had his
confidence. And he chose his sister. When we thought our ordeal was
over, we were required to take more tests, more embarrassing and
Araújo sought to convince us that it was essential to spend ten more
days there, however he was totally convinced of the truth, and,
against the will of my sister, he insisted that it was necessary for
us to remain to convince the other doctor. I answered him: “Who is
thirty is forty”. And thus it was decided.
Alvaro, indeed, did not need that much time; it was enough for him,
to be convinced, that I only went forty eight hours without eating
or defecating, and he did not demand more.
was the same Dr Araújo who, delicately, for honour of his name,
invited the lady (his sister) to stay one more day, and, later, yet
after she had fulfilled her mission, this lady came back on
occasions to visit me, at last convinced of the truth. This last
time was a true Calvary and I offered this great sacrifice to Our
Lord and to the heavenly Mother. Hard proof, my God! (…)
were not slow in tempting me, and watching to see if I took any of
their food. When they showed morsels without saying anything to me,
I contented myself with smiling at them… And when they offered the
food, with inviting words, I showed gratitude: “Thank you very
much!”, but always smiling, seeming not to understand their ill
many times were all my clothes taken off so that I could be
I saw my sister discouraged – she would appear now and then at the
little window in the door asking if I was worse – I would look for
ways to encourage her. Poor sister! She heard the doctor’s say that
I was being poisoned, because I was not defecating. Poor men! …
Jesus knows how to do the things better than they!
eve of my departure was a day of continual visits. All the children
of the Refuge, came to see me and I gave them sweetmeats and I
prayed with them for all the house.
sister felt like a new person now that the ordeal was over and
everybody noticed it. I was visited by around one thousand five
hundred people… The police had to intervene to keep order. I found
one of the police very funny; being charged to keep order, he
limited himself to being at my side and there he remained all the
time, contenting himself with saying now and then to the people:
“Go! Go” (…)
first thing that I did was to ask that my sister wash me. On the day
of our departure, in the morning, the Doctor, who had had almost no
sleep because of the responsibility, arrived at the Refugee where
many people waited to be able to visit me… and after being a little
with me, she left to let some people enter.
was then that he told us that we could do as we wished and that the
observation had finished; he left my sister to eat close to me and
said me: “In the month of October I will visit you in Balasar, not
as doctor spy, but as friend who esteems you”.
fast defied science and imposed itself without appeals. But some were not yet
convinced or never would be convinced. It was essential to guarantee the truth
of everything that involved her, especially the fast. Let us begin by examining
this letter written by the parish priest of Chaves to the Archbishop:
respectfully kiss your ring.
Finding myself here at rest, at the shrine of Sameiro, someone
authorizes me to say that the case of Balasar (a certain
Alexandrina) is nothing but a vile and indecent fraud that must be
extirpated as soon as possible. It is a truly monstrous case from
which you must disassociate yourself, and, above all, from which you
must remove Fr Pinho. I can say nothing more.
José Francisco Gonçalves Fraga, Parish priest of Chaves. Sameiro,
information could this parish priest of so far away have concerning Alexandrina?
What could have convinced him to speak of her to an ecclesiastical authority in
terms of “vile and indecent fraud”, of a “truly monstrous case”?
There is an
intervention of Fr Agostinho Veloso concerning the period in which Alexandrina
was in the Refúgio de Paralisia Infantil.
Dr Dias de Azevedo speaks of it to Fr Pinho in a curious letter of 23 August of
Before having written the report, Dr Araújo was approached by Fr A.
Veloso (so creditworthy that he was forbidden to preach in the
dioceses of Lamego and Porto), who said that he must not compromise
himself because the patient of Balasar is an imposter; to be careful
because all is a fraud and that I am a fanatic. I knew about had
happened and about what he said … but for what he says concerning
me, I forgive him, and I do not want you to suffer because of it: I
ask this on my knees. About the statements concerning the patient,
someone should be very careful… because there are relatives of such
strength that if they knew of the calumny they would break the man´s
This doctor had
many and good reasons to defend Alexandrina. She was not an imposter, her
attachment to the truth, her humility and her good-sense did not admit doubts,
the supernatural character of what she was experiencing imposed itself on those
who were close to her.
August 1944, Dr Azevedo wrote to the Archbishop of Braga; Fr Humberto had
already come to Balasar, but had not yet assumed Alexandrina’s spiritual
direction. The letter is an important document for the clarity of the argument,
the greater part of it defending of extraordinary character of her fast.
Excellent and Reverend Primate Archbishop,
received the welcome letter of your Most Excellent Reverence,
followed by the opinion of a commission and some resolutions
concerning the case of Balasar which has been under scrutiny for
such a long time. After reading everything that you have said me, I
felt it is my duty to make the following five points to Your Most
Excellent Reverence, with the greatest respect and the deepest
Point: I will always keep in my heart the amiable words of the
letter of the Primate Archbishop, thanking him for them and
declaring myself much obliged;
Point: I will look to have the greatest prudence, if I be provoked
to speak or to write about Alexandrina and I will always remember
the decision of Your Most Excellent Reverence, so that I be obedient
it, as much as possible, save in the freedom to answer to any critic
concerning the case, issued in any periodical or magazine of
responsibility, therefore I cannot nor do I want to undermine my
Point: I will continue immovable, until reason or good-sense advises
a different attitude to me, in the same position of observation,
prudence, clinical inquiry and admiration for Alexandrina, true
martyr, that time and God will fully and clearly justify;
Point: In accord with the thought of Dr Mazano, Professor of the
College of Medicine in Porto who, speaking on this case, and showing
that he was very interested in it, said that “there is no possible
explanation for not eating for two years”, I continue, as a doctor,
without fear of contradiction, to affirm that this case is
extraordinary. Because Science says that a woman of 39 years, of
healthy intellectual and emotional life, of normal faculties and
senses, passing days and nights without sleeping, and sleeping
little during the other time, maintaining invariably, or with little
variation, the same weight, maintaining normal blood in its
constituent elements, living not only forty complete and consecutive
days (being monitored day and night to satisfy the incredulous), but
two years and three months, the first period completely abstaining
from solid and liquid food, including simple water, and the other
period in total abstinence of alimentary substances, simply
drinking, on an occasional day, under medical imposition, the
occasional little spoonful of simple water, with the aim of
relieving the dryness of the mouth that she some times felt,
constitutes a truly extraordinary fact. It is not necessary, to
classify the phenomenon, that doctors have to ask permission of
philosophers or theologians to do it with dignity and honesty. To
anyone who tells me that there is an opinion of philosophers and
theologians who, poaching on disciplines outside their training,
claim this fact that has astonished a specialist in neurology is not
extraordinary because he does not believe Catholic dogmas, in other
words announcing that we must “suspend judgement and wait for a
clear explanation which will give us the necessary light”, meaning
that Alexandrina’s observation could have been “sure, firm,
undisputed, leaving only doubts to those who have the habit of
doubting… that is, themselves”, I will answer that who reads both
the history and the biography of some extraordinary person, well
knows the value of the opinion of each approach. The Church alone
wants the truth and I love both the Church and the truth;
Point: the Commission, reading this, will judge that this prose is a
little tiresome and strained for lovers of philosophy and theology,
and I, to alleviate it, ask for license to quote the words of Fr
Louis Capalle, S.J., in “Les âmes généreuses”, p. 165 and following
vérité théologique et expérimentale est que Dieu n'a pas donné aux
âmes une résistance illimitée, et qu' Il a laissé aux directeurs ou
supérieurs imprudents la puissance redoutable d’entraver ou même de
ruiner l'œuvre magnifique qu'Il se proposait d’accomplir. Nier cette
vérité ou même chercher à l'atténuer par sophismes spécieux, serait
atteindre par le fait même la notion de responsabilité, fondement
essentiel de toute morale.”
And, after other very
interesting phrases, he says: “Malheureusement, après une réponse
évidente, on en veut souvent une plus évidente encore; et ainsi on
oublie que Dieu, souverainement indépendant, ne se plie pas toujours
aux exigences de ses créatures. Il donne assez de lumières pour que
l'on puisse raisonnablement conclure à son intervention, et Il
laisse assez de ténèbres pour que l'on ait le mérite d’une humble
these phrases can be summarized in short: the determination of Your
Excellency is, in general, right even though some words like
“pretence” need to be justified; furthermore the opinion of the
Commission skirts the facts and denies them the quality of the
extraordinary, giving place instead to reckless judgments, which
befit neither philosophers nor theologians. I sign off with prayers
for the continued health of Your Very Reverend Excellency and ask
that this letter be attached to the above-mentioned opinion of the
cited Commission (or to the doctors’ report) that pronounced on the
great martyr that is Alexandrina of Balasar, whom Msgr. Vilar called
his “protectress”, his “providential collaborator”, and “the most
faithful co-operator that Jesus gave him”. And he was more
trustworthy than an examining commission.
kiss the sacred hands of Your Very Reverend Excellency.
Augusto Dias de Azevedo. Ribeirão, 2