For the first time in history, a married couple will be canonized together when the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux are raised to the altars this October. Another couple, from Malta, might soon follow in their footsteps.
On Saturday, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta celebrated Mass during which a diocesan process was initiated for the beatification and canonization of a Maltese lay married couple, the Servants of God, Henry and Inez Casolani.
At the start of Mass, the postulator for both cases, Canon Etienne Sciberras officially requested the archbishop to set up the Tribunal, and presented a list of 180 people who may appear before the Tribunal to give their witness, together with 60 sworn declarations by persons who have already passed away. This Mass is considered to be the first sitting of the Tribunal and the launching of this diocesan process.
Priests, consecrated persons and the laity participated in this Mass held at St Dominic’s Church, Rabat. Prayers were offered to enlighten all those who are involved in this process, so that, if it is in accordance to God’s will, this lay married couple will be declared blessed and saints.
The study of the Casolini’s life-witness is being launched on the ‘eve’ of the Fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which will take place October 4–25, 2015.
Here are biographies of the Casolanis:
Inez Casolani (born Inez Vassallo) was born in Cospicua, Malta, on Oct. 11, 1915, and was baptized at the Immaculate Conception Parish, Cospicua two days later.
Inez married Henry Casolani on the 19th April 1944 at St. Augustine’s Church, Valletta. Henry and Inez Casolani blessed without reserve their one and only daughter’s call to a life consecrated to God.
Inez was brought up as a knowledgeable and studious girl. From a tender age she stood out for her love of prayer. She was diligent, obedient and also most sensitive to the needs of her family and the less fortunate. She was a qualified and prolific teacher. Yet, when she got married in 1944, she gave up her teaching profession in order to dedicate herself totally to her family. This, however, did not stop her from giving private lessons to the poor and the needy as she had oftentimes done before marriage. Inez was active in the life of the Parish community mostly through her spiritual writings. She was also an auxiliary member of the Legion of Mary and a member of the Ambassadors of Mary. She was a promoter of the Night Hour Adoration of the Holy Eucharist. Like Henry, Inez Casolani was also a Tertiary member of the Augustinian Order.
Empathy was strong in Inez. She was kind-hearted, generous and sincere; she loved and helped anyone who needed her. She used to pray sincerely for her neighbours and always gave good advice. Because of this many trusted her with their difficulties and problems and found solace in her words. Her concern was to give rather than to receive. A woman of faith she trusted God totally. In spite of difficulties, she never lost heart. Her life was a continuous prayer. God was always in her heart and on her lips. She could not and would not offend God. Inez felt that she had to give an account to God for all her actions. The daily Mass and the Family Rosary, the observance of the Sacraments and the regular practice of Christian virtues simply enhanced her deep spirituality.
Inez Casolani embraced her married vocation with zeal and dedication. Her letters to her daughter were filled with descriptions of warmth at home. Inez was always very inventive in cooking, knitting, giving recipes, writing articles and seeing to her family’s needs. She nurtured her daughter’s trust in God and trained her to lead a God-fearing life. ‘Whatever you do keep God’s presence in front of you and always leave room for Him in your own loving heart.’ (Inez Casolani). Inez created a relaxed and happy atmosphere at home. Devoted to each other and to their daughter, Henry and Inez could still reach out lovingly to support their extended family.
In her later years, among other ailments, Inez suffered from tinnitus, arthritis, shingles in the head and severe heart trouble. After being diagnosed with diabetes, Inez wrote: “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.” Notwithstanding pain and discomfort, her smiles still radiated joy to all those who came her way. She did not fear death and was always prepared for the moment the Lord called her to Himself. Aware of the closeness of her end and in constant discomfort, she continued to give her family the totality of her love and service as she had done throughout her life.
Inez Casolani died on 13th July 1992. Her spiritual testament ‘I take record of God. In Thee I have had my earthly joy’ testifies to her total surrender to God.
Henry Casolani, son of George and Maria Concetta nee Borg was born at Valletta on the 25th November 1917 and was baptized at the Parish church of St Paul in Valletta on the 29th of that same month. Henry Casolani married Inez nee Vassallo on 19th April 1944 at St. Augustine’s Church, Valletta. Henry and Inez Casolani had an only child, Cecilia Mary who became a Sister of St. Joseph of the Apparition.
From his very early childhood till the very end of his life, Henry Casolani was polite, well-mannered and would never quarrel with anyone. He was a born artist yet he never boasted of this. He was already engaged with Inez when he won a scholarship to pursue his artistic studies in Italy, but he declined the offer as he did not want to be separated from Inez for such a long time.
At the start of the Second World War, Henry was seconded with the Royal Army Medical Corps. Thereafter and until he was pensioned in 1977, Henry Casolani spent a life-long career as a senior draughtsman at the Malta Public Works Department. At his work place Henry created an atmosphere filled with the spirit of the Gospel. He was most upright in his ways and was trusted by one and all. He was exceptionally virtuous, honest and unselfish. He was good humoured; he was also friendly with everyone. Henry was considered by all those who knew him as an agent of peace, who was capable of building ‘bridges’ among his colleagues at his work place. Henry regularly used to lead his friends into prayer and reminded them of their religious duties.
“A good motto is: speak no evil against anyone, but praise those who deserve it.” (Henry Casolani). Henry Casolani never held a grudge against anyone neither did he ever speak ill of others. It was with kindness and affection that he treated those who were unjust with him. Whenever he went out, Henry always carried money specifically to donate to those who collected for charity or who asked for help. The daily Mass and Communion, the frequent reception of the Sacraments, the daily recourse to Our Lady particularly through the Holy Rosary, the regular visits to the Blessed Sacrament and his daily reflection on the Word of God and the live of Saints enhanced Henry Casolani’s close union with God.
In the difficulties of everyday life, Henry Casolani spontaneously turned towards the Divine help. Henry had a good share of pain, suffering and distress. From the age of thirty-eight, Henry Casolani was diagnosed with diabetes which later led to serious health conditions. Henry bore his ailments in perfect silence, never uttering the slightest word of complaint. Henry Casolani’s total surrender to God is confirmed by an outstanding and instantaneous healing of macular degeneration which, according to medical people, is scientifically inexplicable.
Henry Casolani’s life was one of uncompromising fidelity to his married vocation. His family was the world to him. Henry and Inez Casolani’s married life was a school of sanctity. Rev. Prof. Maurice Eminyan SJ summed it all up when he wrote: “They impressed me immediately with their kindness, as well as with their religiosity and the Christian values that underlined all their speech and behaviour.”
According to witnesses, Henry was ‘a saint’, ‘an apostle of peace’ ‘a humble person’, and ‘a man of God’. Henry Casolani died on 29th December 1999. The very last words he uttered in a most clear yet imploring tone were, ‘Mother of God, have mercy on me.’