The Servants of God, Henry and Inez Casolani were an ordinary couple who lived a normal life in the twentieth century Malta. They did their utmost to earn a decent living and to have an exemplary family – a domestic church. They went through the difficulties of a long siege during World War II. Notwithstanding this they went about their daily chores always carrying in their hearts the Blessed Trinity and the Holy Family of Nazareth to whom they later consecrated their family.
Together, as a married couple, Henry and Inez Casolani are an exemplary inspiration to the Christian family. Their life was lived in profound humility, in a spirit of mortification and of sacrifice, in faithful observance of the teachings of the Church, in humility and detachment. It must also be said that their filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary never wavered and was strong throughout their lives.
The spirituality of Henry and Inez Casolani does not hinder us from relishing the joy of living. On the contrary it challenges us to live constantly in the presence of God, seeing Him in the big, as well as in the small things of life, knowing that He is watching over us, allowing Him to mould and shape us, filling us with His love and life.
The following reflection is based upon the documentation collected from the personal writings of the Henry and Inez Casolani themselves, as well as from people who knew this Couple.
One of the greatest strong points during the earthly life of the Servants of God Henry and Inez Casolani was that they lived each day in total commitment to the Lord. Their ardent love for the Word of God was exceptional! They actually lived it in a simple yet in an admirable way. God’s mercy and forgiveness was a topic Henry Casolani loved to speak about and, whenever he did so, his face used to be radiant with enthusiasm. In imitation of Christ, it is with kindness and affection that they treated those who were unkind or unjust with them. Whenever Henry Casolani was deliberately hurt by someone, he was always prompt to forgive. He never retaliated; on the contrary, ‘Who am I to condemn another?’ he would say. For peace’ sake he would do everything possible! One day, when Henry Casolani acted in his usual humble way, spontaneously offering a heroic gesture of peace, the receiver spontaneously exclaimed, ‘That man is a Saint!”
At one time Inez had her hearing slightly impaired because of fireworks that had exploded next to her when they were on one of their trips abroad. As a result she occasionally mistook one word for another. Two inmates at the home enjoyed making fun of her, not realising she was observing them. She did not react but suffered in silence.
Inez Casolani was brought up as a knowledgeable and studious girl. She studied languages and became a prolific teacher, very much dedicated to her vocation. She was a born teacher. Yet during World War II when her school was destroyed by a bomb Inez took the first job she was offered, with the Royal Air Force, to be able to help financially her recently widowed mother and her family. Inez married Henry Casolani on the 19th April 1944. She again gave up her career completely in order to dedicate herself to her beloved Henry and her only child Cecilia Mary. This, however, did not stop Inez from giving free private lessons to the poor and the needy, as she had oftentimes done before marriage.
As his childhood companions could affirm, Henry was a well-mannered and educated boy. He always showed prudent and conciliatory manners towards everyone. Sensitivity to others, compassion, social responsibility, authenticity and humility are strong qualities which Henry Casolani cultivated to an extraordinary degree. Gifted with great intelligence, artistic talents and enormous diligence, Henry Casolani willingly and freely put his knowledge at the service of others. He was considered a lay apostle among his workplace companions and was always there to spur them on to forgive one another and to encourage them to lead good lives. Henry’s wonderful sense of humour endeared him with everyone.
Inez was a very active housewife; she was also very active in the parish community mostly through her spiritual and instructive writings. During the time they lived in Gwardamangia Inez regularly wrote articles for the monthly newsletter of the Immaculate Conception parish, Hamrun. These articles delivered practical information and hints about daily matters. However their underlying theme was the spiritual inspiration which makes of daily charitable actions a thanksgiving sacrifice to the Lord, no matter the circumstance.
Henry was a man who was deeply fond of nature and the countryside, besides being a great lover of birds and animals. A born artist, Henry, like Inez, could easily capture the splendor of nature and the immensity of the universe; yet likewise would he also easily lift his thoughts towards God, the creator of all!
Helping those in need came spontaneously to Henry and Inez Casolani. As years passed they wanted to give all to religious institutions and less fortunate families! When later in life Henry and Inez Casolani retired at St Joseph Home at Rabat, an elderly lady who lived in the same home needed daily massage because of back pains. She used to say that no one understood how painful it was. Inez could not let such a remark pass by unnoticed; although already suffering from heart trouble herself, Inez used to go every evening to massage the lady’s back, to the greatest comfort of the lady. When any elderly person needed to buy something, Henry spontaneously used to offer to go himself.
The father of a numerous family died when the children were still young. Inez took it upon herself to teach them for free, and as was typical of her, always giving them eatables to take home for the rest…
On one occasion Inez was badly treated by a person. This same person was taken ill suffering from terminal illness. Although Inez was suffering from severe heart trouble, Inez still went to visit this person in hospital and was deeply concerned and upset about this person’s poor health and prayed for her heartily. When Inez passed away this same person went to her daughter, begging for one of her Rosary beads and grabbed an old one of Inez saying that it was Inez who instilled her devotion to the Rosary. Before, she had never bothered about it.
When a young relative was sick with a terminal illness Inez and Henry took the child to their home, treating him as their very own, giving him much love, attention and care, as well as all the material needs possible until it was necessary – and all this they did spontaneously never expecting, or receiving, anything in return.
On one of their pilgrimages when they were on a cruise, some of the pilgrims were down with flu. Inez used to go every night to see to their needs and never retired before finding a doctor and procuring the necessary medicine for all the sick persons. Only then could she then go to bed herself.
Not only were they generous persons, but Henry and Inez Casolani were people of prayer. They participated at Mass daily and used to spend long moments in adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Inez also regularly used to make her maid pause during her work, so as to join her in reciting the Rosary. Also if this same person had no time to go to Church, Inez used to send her to Mass before starting the housework. Inez also used to assemble a group of girls at her veranda to pray the Rosary together. No matter the situation the daily family Rosary was never missed, this up to the very last day of her life.. Henry, like Inez, not only loved Our Lady but wanted Her to be loved by everyone! He trusted her completely. Throughout his life and even at his most crucial moments of passing from this life to the next, Mary was his steady and unfailing refuge. Inez Casolani was a keen promoter of the Night Hour Adoration. Both Henry and Inez Casolani were Tertiary members of the Augustinian Order.
Henry and Inez Casolani gave the best possible education to their only daughter Cecilia, who was their hearts’ delight. Inez took time to teach Cecilia the principles of the Catholic faith and above all to love and obey God, and always to be helpful to the neighbour. She taught her how to pray, how to love God above all. and how she should prepare to welcome Jesus. She had prepared her so well to receive Jesus, that Cecilia received her First Holy Communion at the age of five instead of the usual six – an everlasting joy which Inez treasured all her life and which she made sure her daughter treasured too. Inez used to accompany Cecilia to Mass every day before going to school, and also regularly reminded her to visit the Blessed Sacrament. She would insist with Cecilia to kneel down whenever the Blessed Sacrament was exposed or simply when the Tabernacle was open. It is with love and conviction that she related Bible stories to her. Gospel passages became alive when she narrated them. It is with love and empathy that she made her daughter understand the Passion of Christ. Inez taught Cecilia to despise sin and encouraged her strongly to read the life of saints. Throughout the different stages of her life and to all those who knew her, Inez was a living witness of the love she had for God. Although she loved her daughter so dearly, she had the courage to tell Cecilia without hesitation ‘I would rather you die than offend God.’
Both Henry and Inez Casolani were dedicated parents who nurtured their daughter’s spiritual formation by word and example. Strongly influenced by this holy atmosphere, at the age of nineteen Cecilia left home to join the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition. Because of the strong bond that existed between the Casolani couple and their only child, one may dare to try to understand the atrocious suffering that her departure from home may have caused them! Yet even this heartbreak they accepted willingly from the Hand of their Lord and Master, though not without plentiful tears.
Ailments were not lacking in the life of Couple Casolani. Henry had just turned thirty-eight years when he became a diabetic. In his later years, among other ailments he suffered from heart trouble, yet always without complaint. When his pain was noticed by others he would only smile and say: “Who knows what Christ suffered!” Up to his last moments in hospital, whenever asked he would reply: “Ï’m fine!” He offered his suffering in atonement for the world’s spiritual sickness. Even in his later years, Henry Casolani remained faithful to his Lenten observance. No way would he miss days of fasting or abstinence even though his illness and venerable age entitled him to do so; his spirit of self-denial remained strong in sickness as it was had been in health.
Throughout his illnesses, Henry grew closer to God and His Saints. This is confirmed by a scientifically inexplicable healing which Henry Casolani had received through the intercession of the Venerable, now Blessed, Maria Adeodata Pisani. A proof of this is that towards the end of his life, on the 8th December, the Sacrament of the Sick was administered to him because of his precarious condition; however, just a couple of days before his passing away, on the 26th December, this Sacrament was administered to him once more and though now in bed and with closed eyes, because of weakness, he answered all the prayers the priest said – and this all to perfection! Amidst great pain and physical discomfort, Henry Casolani’s last imploring words were “Mary, have mercy on me!” He passed away peacefully on the 29th December 1999 in his daughter’s arms – on the very anniversary of Blessed Maria Adeodata Pisani’s actual birth day.
Like her husband Henry, Inez was the recipient of an extraordinary healing, witness to her faith and trust in the Lord. She had been suffering from fever for a number of days. Henry took her temperature that was very high. Worried, he wiped the thermometer with a piece of cotton wool, although he was oblivious of the fact that the latter had been touched to the body of the then Venerable, now Saint, George Preca. He tried her temperature again, fearful of the outcome. He could barely believe his eyes! Strangely enough the temperature had gone down instantaneously; the thermometer marked perfectly normal!
In her last years Inez suffered from severe heart trouble. Aware of the closeness of her end and in constant discomfort, she did not refrain from giving her loved ones all of herself, and this she did to the last moment of her life without ever thinking of her own needs.
Throughout her life the clear goal of Inez shone through: a yearning to be united with her God and Saviour for all eternity. Her spiritual testament ‘I take record of God. In Thee I have had my earthly joy’, which she wrote just before her passing away, gives evidence of her total and lifelong unity with God.
Henry and Inez were totally different in character. Henry was an introvert and a rather quiet person; on the contrary Inez was an extrovert with a most sociable character. She loved life and would talk on any matter since she was well-versed. Inez was kind-hearted and generous, scrupulous in her duties, sincere, honest, a woman of faith, hope and perseverance. She was sought for her solace and good advice. Inez mortified her senses to offer sacrifice for the glory of God and for the souls in purgatory, among other things by refraining from eating the first fruits of the season or simply from smelling a rose thus offering these to Jesus or Mary.
As a husband Henry was tremendously devoted to his wife, Inez, whom he loved dearly because of her holiness, trust, dedication and support. Together Henry and Inez Casolani lived a truly Christian married life built solidly on faith, hope, and love. Having lost his saintly wife Inez in 1992, Henry Casolani’s last seven years of his life were marked by severe trials, which he bore with the fortitude and patience typical of the saintly man that he was, accepting everything from the Hand of His Loving Father.
The devotion of Henry and Inez Casolani to the Holy Eucharist stood out as the spiritual cornerstone of their whole being. They were motivated, inspired and fulfilled by this spiritual and physical closeness to the Lord. These Maltese Servants of God were no martyrs in the actual sense of the term; neither do their names stand out for any extraordinary feat; however, they have touched the hearts of every sector of the Maltese society with their simple but loving and caring ways.