Alexandrina de Balasar
A Visit to Alexandrina’s House
With Alexandrina’s beatification, her house and contents gained a different dimension. For a long time that Corazones.org’s site had already referred to the “holy places” at Balazar, which this house made part of. Now we can refer much more reasonably to a holy place and its relics. A well-guided visit to Alexandrina’s house can teach a lot about her.
When Mrs Ana Costa inherited this state, it was much smaller than it is today. Upstairs there was only the living room and one bedroom, facing the east. The kitchen was on the groundfloor. The house was just like that at the time of the accident. In her autobiography Alexandrina wrote as follows: “Shortly after coming from Póvoa, where I learned the little I know, we came to live in “Calvário” (the name of the place where the house stays.) The house was not as good as it is today”. At a time, difficult to determine, but before the year 1933 (that is, before Reverend Pinho’s arrival), Mrs Ana da Costa added the bedrooms’ wing, where Alexandrina’s room stays now. The part of the house which runs from the sitting-room to the south is much more recent, which means that Alexandrina, lying definitely in bed, came to have her bedroom in the room which is now the sitting-room.
Coming to the window
I got up tortured by pain and came to the window; I couldn’t bear staying in bed. The night was beautiful. Everything slept. The house was silent. All my inner thought was dying.
I looked at the starlit sparkling sky; the moon was shining.
I thought of my God’s beauties and splendour.
Everything I looked at turned into the very reason to make my poor heart more and more harmful.
I remained in a deep attitude of thankfulness to the Heaven for long.
I kept saying to Jesus:
“I can’t see you, I can’t feel you, but I know You’re my Creator and when You created me You already knew that today I would be here looking at Your grandeurs.
You already knew that the lack of air I feel today needed the wind You always send me.
Everlasting thanks, my Jesus!”
The wind was strong: it seemed to pull everything down.
It made me think of the horrors of Hell, the convicts’ life and their agonies.
I looked again at the sky and the stars
I begged Jesus to multiply my acts of love towards the sacraria by millions and millions the number of stars.
I didn’t want Him to be alone, and would like Him to feel love only there…
My soul keeps demanding loneliness.
It is under the brightness of the stars and the moonlight that I set myself alone and meditate.
I ask all stars to love Jesus for me.
And contemplating the sky, I often say to Him:
“Jesus, I do not see You, but I know You see me.
I do not feel Iove You, but I believe Yoy love me.
Rejoice in my pain.
Get comfort in my lack of it.
Heal the wounds of Your Holy Heart through the pain that Your grandeurs cause in mine.
Indeed the great steps of Alexandrina’s path towards her beatification took place in this very room. The frequent apparitions of Jesus and His Holy Mother, as well as Saint Joseph and Saint Therese’s, whose reports fill so many pages in Sentimentos da Alma did really happened there. All the requests for the world consecration also occurred there. In short, important pages of the history of the Church and the World can’t be written without having in account that tiny space.
The house gate dates back to 1935. It was a time of economic difficulties for Mrs Ana da Costa. With someone’s help, she might have that gate placed there, which really provided a further safety both to Alexandrina and to other people who might stay there, specially for the night. Some very rich people did spend the night there, from a lady who belonged to the Sommers’ family to people from a lower social status, namely her spiritual leaders or her former primary teacher, Ms Angelina Ferreira.
When you walk through the gate, you enter the so-called terrace (eirado), which should keep being called so. This terrace used to be a dirty place, full of weeds and dung, which was used by cattle. Certainly then, people might be careful enough to keep the path which led to the stairs cleaner.
When you climb the stairs and cross the entrance door, you come in a narrow balcony, which leads to the doors of the bedrooms and the sitting-room. At the entrance, on the left there is a bookcase: on the top of it there are books for sale, on the shelves underneath there are books on display. These are important ones; you can immediately understand how many serious studies have been already written on Alexandrina. There are books written in several languages: Portuguese, Italian, English, and others. (Two of which are even written in Chinese, and one translated in Japanese.) There are those by Fr. Marian Pinho, Fr. Umberto and other Salesians, by Signorile and others. On a piece of furniture there is a visitors’ book as well.
Alexandrina’s visitors feel an understandable haste to enter Alexandrina’s bedroom. Today she is not there physically, but many (Portuguese) who had visited her there once, are still alive and had listened to her astonished, when at certain periods, she used to welcome thousands of them a day. Fr. Pinho and Fr. Umberto were so often in there; as well as Dr. Abílio de Carvalho, Dr. Elísio de Moura and Dr. Araújo, Rev. Vilar, Fr. Leopoldino, Fr. Sebastian da Cruz, Singeverga’s Abbot and later on even Cardinal Cerejeira as well as many other priests and people from several social status.
Alexandrina’s bed resembles a hospital one. (Before 1942, it was not the one we can see today; the original one is kept in a close bedroom.) On the opposite side of the bed, there is an altar. As Alexandrina was a “Filha de Maria” member (she belonged to the congregation “Filhas de Maria”), she had the right to attend the holy mass in her bedroom, when sick.
The visitors’ attention easily fall into the set of pictures that cover great part of the walls. Thus, it is clear for the visitor why you can find a picture of Jesus’s Sacred Heart and an image of Mary’s Immaculate Heart there. It is well known how much Mary’s Immaculate Heart meant to her!
Alexandrina was not very keen on some of those pictures. She used to be given some and she couldn’t help having them hung on her bedroom walls.
To finish the visit to her bedroom, some words about Alexandrina’s crucifix, which we can see held by her in so many of those photos. An extraordinary episode happened with it:
About 15 days ago, during night, a crucifix that used to be hung on the wall appeared close to me: I was astonished, but as I took it as a momentary fact, I eventually forgot it and didn’t say a word about it.
For long I used to have a crucifix in my arms, mainly by night. Having got one, as a gift, from Fr. Pinho, I had that one removed and kept the new one with me. Some months later, I offered this one and asked for the one I had had removed. But they had forgotten to give it back to me and I kept without it for a while, not because I had forgotten it but not to disturb my family. It was then that the crucifix that used to be hung on the wall appeared close to me.
From Monday to Tuesday night the crucifix which had been hung on the wall since then, reappeared in my arms, under the blankets, as though it had been placed there by someone. That impressed me: it seemed to me like a dream. I once talked naturally about that, but I didn’t mention anything about that in my writings.
Later on, I was obliged (by Dr. Azevedo) to report what had happened and for my greatest sorrow, to ask Jesus for its meaning. I will do it unwillingly: that’s my destiny. May Jesus forgive me; that’s my virtue: how far I am from perfection!…
Oh, Jesus, do take my sacrifice: willingly or not, I must obey and ask You for the meaning of Your crucified image on my chest.
Jesus smiled sweetly:
- I want you to talk fearlessly and simply to me… The reason why I unfastened myself from the wall and came to you is very simple: the crucifix must be always fastened to the crucified.
The Sitting Room
When leaving the bedroom, the visitor enters the sitting room. In the corridor, over the bookcase, you should pay attention to Deolinda and Alexandrina’s diploma for being Salesian co-operators. It is a very important document; indeed, it explains the persistence that the Salesians have always had in studying Alexandrina and having gone forward towards the Beatification and Canonization process.
If the door that leads to the sitting room is not the same, it surely occupies the same place, through which the intruders had entered at the time of the fall.
The visitors might show much interest in seeing the window through which Alexandrina jumped. It is the one you can see on the wall heading north. It might be the one through which Deolinda had noticed the three men getting ready to carry out the terrible assault.
The trapdoor that Lino Ferreira had broken was in front of this window, a little closer to the centre of the room. This sitting room was then the two sisters’ bedroom, as well as Deolinda’s sewing room.
Facing west, there is the collection of Alexandrina’s writings. They amount to 5,000 pages of a rare quality of contents.
On the table in the middle of the room there is another book collection, which consists of several studies on Alexandrina’s personality. These are not very different from those which stand on the bookcase, in the corridor.
On the right, next to the window of the fall, a safe keeps the original writings. As we all know, Alexandrina used to dictate them to her sister or to the teacher Çãozinha.
On the wall, on the south wing, in a closet with a sliding door, an archive is kept. In it there are also hundreds of important original documents. Some samples of relics are kept inside two glazed cupboards. Alexandrina’s rosary has been recently stolen from one of these.
The great amount of images and holy pictures you can see in her bedroom is due to Alexandrina’s kindness towards the donators who used to bring such objects to her.
She used to say:
- This doesn’t please me at all, but I won’t hurt anybody.
Our Lady appeared to Alexandrina under several invocations, namely Our Lady of Mount Carmel. On the headboard of her bed, hangs a picture with an image of this invocation. Over the altar, there is an image of St. Mary the Helper, which Fr. Umberto had offered Alexandrina and which happened to replace a previous one, portraying Our Lady from Fatima.
An Amusing Episode
About 1946/47, when I attended the first years of college, I visited Alexandrina with Fr. Umberto. I had already heard of her before and honestly, I didn’t feel myself bound to believe in what people said about her, although I had heard that from people who deserved my greatest respect and confidence.
The first impression I had from her, when looking at her, was of sympathy; she conveyed kindness. You would say that she did not suffer, there in her bed of pain. When I was about to leave, just outside her house, I confessed my doubts to Fr. Umberto.
- Would you like to try something? He asked. From here, I’ll give an order to Alexandrina to greet you and shake hands, despite her suffering from paralysis of arms and hands.
I climbed the stairs, on my own, and reached her bedroom; stretching my right hand to her, I said:
- Goodbye, Alexandrina!
In spite of her injured wrists, she freed her arms, held my hand and pressed it with such a strength that I almost cried of pain; if I didn’t it, it was because I felt ashamed. Then she told me, smiling:
- Has that naughty Fr. Umberto told something to you? He enjoys playing tricks on people!
Would you like to make a deal with me? Shall we pray a Hail Mary for each other every night?
The deal was made and till today (1965) we have prayed the Hail Mary, in family, before going to bed. It is, undoubtedly, to this Hail Mary and to the protection of Our Lady Mary that I owe so many favours and that I have been so much relieved from so many pains and sorrows.
The engineer mentioned here is Sergio Guidi. The episode can be read in Fr. Umberto’s book “Eis Alexandrina”.
Behind the door, over it, you can see a representation in relief of the Calvary, which documents Alexandrina’s enrollment in Maries of the Tabernacles-Calvaries society. How often would she have stared at it when suffering the Passion!
Next to it, there is the diploma that certifies her registration as Mary’s Daughter. On the opposite wall to the altar, there is a blessing, consecrating the world to Mary’s Immaculate Heart, addressed by Pope Pius XI, who once said that he was sending not one, but all the blessings to Alexandrina.
Next to the headboard of her bed, of a smaller size, there is image of Saint Gemma. It is possible to make some approaches between St. Gemma and Alexandrina’s paths to sanctity; the former was canonized at the beginning of the 40s. Fr. José de Oliveira Dias S. J., Fr. Pinho’s friend as well as Alexandrina’s, had then prefaced one of this Saint’s biography. Beside the altar, next to the window, there is an image of Saint Therese of Jesus Holy Infant, whom Alexandrina was particularly devoted to; (she considered this Saint her spiritual sister.) On the altar, on the left side, there is a St. John de Brito’s image, a Jesuit saint, whose canonization took place in 1947. It makes people undoubtedly remind Fr. Pinho’s times.
One day, while I, my sister and an older friend of ours, were all working in the sewing room, three men appeared: one of them was my former boss, another was a married man and the third unmarried. My sister perceiving something and having watched them follow our movements, told me to close the door of the sitting room.
Some seconds later, we heard them climbing the stairs that led to the sitting room (which at that time did not have that function, as we have already mentioned) and knock at the door. My sister talked to them. The one who had been my master ordered her to open the door, but we didn’t do that, as they had nothing to do there.
My ex-boss knew the house well and went up a set of inner stairs, while the other two stayed at the front door. As he was not able to enter the house, using that way, because the trapdoor was closed, and protected by the sewing machine, he took a mallet and tried to break the trap, so as to enter the room.
When my sister noticed that, she opened the door of the sitting room to run away, but she was stuck; when I saw what had happened to her, I jumped through the open window, which faced the yard. I suffered a great shock and pain, as the window was four metres high above the ground. I tried to stand up immediately but I couldn’t; then I felt a strong pain in my belly. When I jumped, a ring I was wearing fell off, which I didn’t noticed. I held a stick courageously and walked onto the terrace, through the door of the yard, where my sister was, yelling at the two married men. The other girl had remained in the sitting room, where the single man was. I came close to them and shouted: “ you, bastards!” and told them to leave the girl alone, otherwise, I would cry and shout so much that the whole village would come up. They got frightened and accepted my proposal, setting her free.
It was then that I noticed the lack of my ring and told them:
-You, bastards, I’ve lost my ring because of you!
One of them, with his fingers full of rings, said to me:
- Take one from these!
I answered, in anger:
- I don’t need your rings!
We didn’t say anything else to one another; they went away and we went on working.
We didn’t tell a word about this to anybody but my mother came to know about it. Shortly afterwards, I started suffering serious pains and people used to comment that they might be caused by the fall. Doctors also stated that it had been the cause of my illness.
Let the love of our hearts be spread all over the world
My daughter, like St. Margaret Mary, I would like to wake the world to this so extinguished love in the men’s hearts.
Wake it more and more.
I would like to offer My love to men.
I would like to be loved by them.
They do not accept Me and they do not love Me.
Through you, I want this love to be spread all over the mankind, as through you, the world was consecrated to My Blessed Mother.
May, beloved wife, the love of our hearts be spread all over the world.
Jesus’s words to Alexandrina
Alexandrina was not born in this house you have just visited, but in Gresufes, two km away from here, her mother’s family house. This family was well off. This explains, for example, why her mother could send her daughters to Póvoa de Varzim, for a further education.
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