Blessed Albertina Berkenbrock: Martyr of Chastity

Today is the feast of Blessed Albertina Berkenbrock. When she is canonized, Blessed Albertina will become the first native born saint of Brazil. However, her family were originally from Germany. Her grandparents immigrated from Schoppingen to Brazil and brought with them their three children, one of whom was Johann Herman, who would become Albertina's father.

Johann married Elizabeth Schmooler and the couple had nine children. They were a pious farming family who attended church regularly and lived out their faith in their daily lives.

Albertina was born in the small village of São Luís, near the state of Santa Catarina in Brazil on April 11, 1919. She was a beautiful and intelligent child who had a great love for the Holy Eucharist. She spoke of her First Communion Day as the most beautiful day of her life and had special devotion to Our Lady and to St Aloysius Gonzaga, a model of purity and the Patron Saint of São Luís.

Albertina was interested in all things spiritual and flourished in her spiritual life by performing well the simple tasks that were expected of her as a child and as a student. She obeyed her parents. She was docile and patient. When her siblings taunted or teased her, she remained silent and did not retaliate. At school, she was a delight to her teachers. She was a diligent student who applied herself to her studies and knew her catechism well. She made friends with children who were poorer than herself and shared her lunch with them. She was a virtuous child who was highly esteemed by her peers as well as her teachers.

One day when Albertina was searching for a runaway oxen, she came across Maneco Palhoça, one of her father's employees, who was loading beans into his cart. When she asked him if he had seen it, he pointed in the wrong direction to lure her to a place where he could satisfy his lust without attracting attention.

Innocently, Albertina followed Maneco's directions and came to a wooded area. On hearing twigs cracking she turned, thinking it was the bullock, and found herself face to face with Maneco. She was petrified.

He informed her of his intentions but she firmly refused him. Albertina fought hard for her virtue. Even when he threw her to the ground, she did her best to cover herself. Furious at having been morally defeated by the young girl, Maneco grasped her by the hair and slit her throat with a knife.

Maneco tried to cover up his crime. He said he had discovered her body and accused a man called João Candinho of killing her, who protested his innocence in vain. But people became suspicious because when Maneco passed through the room where Albertina's body was laid out, witnesses said that every time he approached her body, blood would seep from the gash in her neck.

Two days later, the Prefect of Imaruí sent for João Candinho. The official took a crucifix and together with Candinho and others, went to Albertina's home. He placed the crucifix on her chest, ordered João Candinho to lay his hands on the crucifix and swear that he was innocent. It is said that at that very instant the wound in her neck stopped bleeding.

Maneco tried to flee but was arrested. He confessed to his crime as well as two other murders. He was tried, convicted and given a life sentence. In prison he admitted to his fellow prisoners that he murdered Albertina because she resisted his rape attempts.

This testimony from his own lips is fundamental for determining this as a true martyrdom. Albertina's reaction is unequivocal, since she preferred to die rather than to submit. Her reputation as a martyr was confirmed when the local midwife who had examined her body stated that the attempted rape was not a success. Thus, she is considered a martyr in the defense of chastity.

Albertina was venerated on December 16, 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI and she was beatified on October 20, 2007.

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