INEZ CASOLANI, Servant of God
A Contemporary Evidence that Little Deeds Done with Great Love Lead to the Lofty Heights of Sanctity
Inez Casolani was born in Cospicua (Bormla), Malta, on the 11th October 1915, daughter of Giovanni Felice Vassallo and Giuseppina née Portelli. She was baptised two days later at the Collegiate parish church of the Immaculate Conception of the same town. Inez died on the 13th July 1992 when she was 76 years old at a summer residence in Birzebbugia, Malta.
Her father was a very talented person. He was a teacher of Art in State schools. He was a musician, a baritone singer and a composer. He was also secretary of the local band club and rector of a religious confraternity. Obviously he had a certain influence on Inez who was brought up as a knowledgeable and studious girl. Inez 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 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.
Henry and Inez lived in Valletta between 1944 and 1964 when they moved to Gwardamangia. They lived there until 1984 when they retired at the convent of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition in Rabat; their only daughter was a sister with the same Congregation. 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 affairs. However their underlying theme was the spiritual inspiration which makes of daily charitable actions a thanksgiving sacrifice to the Lord no matter the circumstance.
Inez gave many suggestions on the education of children and the way holidays are to be spent insisting on the spiritual and religious aspects. She was moderate in all matters. Not only did she advise people but she herself economised on the household budget so that her family might live comfortably without any waste of resources. She was detached from earthly belongings and could resist the temptation of wanting things that were not really necessary. Inez held clear views about the proper behaviour of a wife towards her husband. She warned against improper extramarital relationships. Inez grew adamant whenever she heard that a third person destroyed the happy life of a couple. She was a keen promoter of the Night Hour Adoration. Inez was also an auxiliary member of the Legion of Mary as well as a member of the Ambassadors of Mary. Both Henry and Inez Casolani were Tertiary members of the Augustinian Order.
Inez was a dedicated housewife and mother. Though before marriage Inez only studied and worked, after marriage she soon became an excellent cook and even broadcast her own recipes on Malta’s cable radio. She also mastered crochet and knitting. On their return home from work and school Inez was always ready to welcome her husband and her daughter not only with her loving care but also with her exquisite meals.
Henry and Inez Casolani gave and provided the best possible education for 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 and love God above all and also that she should be prepared to welcome Jesus with a pure heart. Inez had a great share in preparing her for Holy Communion. 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 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 related 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 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 have you die than offend God.’ Also: ‘Ýou know how much I love you, but for me no one stands next to God, not even you!’
Inez had longed to have a big family. Together with Henry she had an ardent desire for their daughter to have a wonderful and successful marriage, to make them grandparents, thus the procreation of the family would be guaranteed. One can just imagine their emotional and moral suffering when they got to know about Cecilia’s vocation. Inez begged her daughter to tell them of anything by which they may have lacked her. They were simply at a loss not knowing what to say or do. However, after seeking advice from the then Archbishop of Malta, Henry and Inez accepted God’s will unconditionally. Then not only did they accede to her desire but they enthusiastically supported and encouraged Sister Cecilia throughout her vocation and in all her missionary activities. Indeed the couple’s trust in God prevailed even in the midst of their doubts, fears and sorrows.
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. She empathised with other people and was always ready to help others who were in any type of need. Inez never complained about her physical ailments since her concern was helping others rather than pursuing comfort.
At the time when the Casolani couple lived in Valletta Inez was quite active in their own home parish which was run by the Augustinian friars. When they moved to Gwardamangia they were mostly active at the Immaculate Conception parish of Hamrun, which was also very close to their home. It is mainly at this latter parish, that Henry and Inez participated at daily Mass. Their devotion to the Holy Eucharist stood out as the spiritual cornerstone of their whole being and relationships. They were motivated, inspired and fulfilled by this spiritual and physical closeness to the Lord. Inez was no martyr in the actual sense of the term; neither does her name stand out for any extraordinary feat. However, her whole life is an example of sincere dedication to God and neighbour. All her deeds and actions were performed in a most charitable way for the glory of God and for the love of whosoever came into contact with her, and this she did in a heroic manner.
Inez was a very religious person. Like Henry she had a great respect for priests and religious. She was well read and kept abreast of all that was happening especially what pertained to the Church and its holiness. In 1985 Inez actually wrote a letter to Pope John Paul II humbly begging for the beatification of Cardinal Emile Biayenda who had been murdered in Congo. With great respect and with great determination Inez wrote another letter to Pope John Paul II in favour of the beatification of John Duns Scotus of the Franciscan Minors who was a great defender and propagator of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It is worth noting that this wish of Inez came true just eight months after her passing away. Duns Scotus was beatified on the 20th March 1993.
Together with her husband Inez lived a normal life in 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 war time. Notwithstanding this they went about their daily chores always carrying in their hearts Jesus, Mary and their beloved St. Joseph, not to mention all the other saints. Their spirituality is even reflected in their choice of vacations spent abroad. They mainly visited centres of pilgrimage or places related to their daughter’s vocation.
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 Venerable, now Saint, George Preca’s body. 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!
As many who knew her have stated Inez was a holy woman. The following episodes give a light to this. Inez mortified her senses to offer sacrifice for the glory of God and for the souls in purgatory by refraining from eating the first fruits of the season or simply from smelling a rose thus offering these to Jesus or Mary.
The Casolani’s home was on the main road to St. Luke’s Hospital which was the main hospital in those days. A religious, who knew her daughter, passed regularly in front of her home on her way for a regular check-up. Seeing this Inez took it on herself to prepare a nourishing drink for this sister, and this was repeated every time the sister went that way. However, Inez was always ready to act in a similar manner with anyone in need or anyone who simply visited them.
The family of a numerous family died when the children were still young. Inez taught them for free, and, as was typical of her, never let them go home empty handed.
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.
Inez was a great promoter of the Rosary. On one occasion Inez was badly treated by a person. This same person was taken ill suffering from terminal disease. Although she 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 saying that she had never bothered about the Rosary, but that it was Inez who gave her this devotion. Inez also regularly used to make her maid pause during her work so as to join her in reciting the Rosary. Also if the 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 in her veranda to pray the Rosary together. No matter the situation the daily family Rosary was never missed.
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.
In her later years Inez suffered from various ailments including tinnitus, migraine, arthritis, shingles and heart trouble. Yet she still kept up her jolly self, aware that God knew it all and that He accompanied her. When towards the end she was also diagnosed with diabetes, Inez welcomed the condition as a bouquet which she lovingly offered to God, ‘I accept God’s Will unconditionally!’
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 mocking her, not realising she was noticing them. She did not react but suffered all in silence.
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 later could she then go to bed herself.
Inez organised the whole night hour vigil of prayers at the Immaculate Conception parish, seeking out participants and putting up the roster. 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 day, to the very last moment of her life, without ever thinking of her own needs.
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.
Anton Quintano, Henry and Inez Casolani – A Couple Moulded in Christ, (published by author, Malta 2005)