Marriage works not by magic but by love: The Servants of God, Henry and Inez Casolani
By Norbert Ellul-Vincenti, o.f.m.
“Doesn’t anyone in marriage know how to quarrel and make up any more?” says yet another desperate father of a separated daughter. “One expects marriage to be fraught with problems. It never was a picnic. What is our society coming to?”
Like balsam comes the story of a couple, Henry and Inez Casolani, now Servants of God, whose exemplary married life drew admiration from all who knew them. And yet it all seems so within our reach if only we had eyes to see.
Their way of life does not present anything out of the ordinary. “The originality of their virtue lies in the manner they harmoniously fused faith and daily events,” says one witness.
What did Pope Francis say? “Christian families are missionary families in their everyday life, in their daily chores, as they bring to everything the salt and the leaven of faith.”
Henry and Inez Casolani lived for each other in union with God from the moment they pronounced their matrimonial vows in 1944.
Says Dominican Bishop George Frendo, “My memories of Henry and Inez are mostly those of an exemplary couple united in love and mutual respect…. They were always happy – a happiness which was a witness of the presence of God in their midst, united in prayer as they were.”
Inez prepared daughter Cecilia herself for her first Holy Communion at the age of five. The girl’s daily prayer was, “Oh Jesus, I promise to make my Holy Communions worthily in reparation for those who are unwilling to be friends with you.”
In one of her letters to her missionary daughter in India, Inez wrote: “Although so far away from each other, be certain that we follow you spiritually every single minute, both during the day and at night.”
The warmth of family life and her love for relatives filled the letters of Inez to her daughter with charming descriptions. Inez was always very inventive in cooking, knitting, writing articles, giving recipes and seeing to her family’s needs.
Both Henry and Inez surrendered themselves to long and often painful illnesses, bearing them with Christian fortitude. Inez wrote about a new illness: “I thank God for this new bouquet. These are the marvels of life. I am in His Hands, and I accept all He sends me joyfully.”
Henry and Inez Casolani were an example of piety to all who knew them. When Inez passed away in 1992, Henry, though devastated, accepted his beloved wife’s loss with an exemplary spirit of faith and with the firm conviction that his ‘saintly wife’ was in Heaven.
While being dedicated to their roles as spouses and parents, they were generous to relatives, neighbours, as well as companions in the workplace who turned to them whenever in need.
When a relative was sick with a terminal illness, Henry and Inez spontaneously took a four- year old child home, treating him as their very own, seeing to his schooling and education; this they did with great love never expecting anything in return.
To the measure they could afford, Henry and Inez Casolani gave generous donations to religious institutions and to the less fortunate. When Henry went for his regular walk he always carried money specifically to donate to charity. Inez took good care of her maid both materially and spiritually, preparing breakfast for her and sending her to Mass. Anyone who set foot inside their home was sure to find comfort and help.
When one of their neighbours lost her husband at a young age. Inez willingly offered her services and taught and helped her numerous children to prepare themselves for examinations. And yet, Henry and Inez were no martyrs; they simply spent their life doing good to others.
Inez went to see an old “enemy” in hospital. When Inez herself retired to an old home in later life, she was eager to help other patients.
At his workplace Henry created an atmosphere filled with the spirit of the Gospel. Gossip, trivial conversation, and passing judgment on others could not take place in his presence. Henry was always disposed to help others. Henry’s colleagues trusted him and referred to him in their need. “He was generous to a fault, and wore his heart on his sleeve. He never refused a request from anybody.”
Pope Francis highlights that ‘With trust in God’s faithfulness, everything can be faced responsibly and without fear. Christian spouses are not naïve; they know life’s problems and temptation but they are not afraid to be responsible before God and before society. They do not run away, they do not hide, they do not shirk the mission of forming a family and bringing children into the world.’