Carol Castelli Funeral Service
August 7, 2020 (died on Sunday, August 1)
Note: I met the Castelli family in October of 1972 and they soon became life-long friends. I was their pastor for ten years in the 70’s and 80’s and again from 2004 until I retired in 2011, but they continued to treat me as their pastor. I also officiated at Harry’s funeral on October 1 of 2022.
Obituary: Carol Castelli, 89, loving wife, mother and grandmother and friend of many died August 2 in Wichita surrounded by loved ones. She was born on October 31, 1930 in Chicago to Arthur Vermillion and Christina (Houghton) Vermillion. Her parents moved to Wichita, Kansas when she was a small child, and she spent the rest of her life in Wichita.
Carol was a graduate of Wichita East High School and Stevens College. She married Harry Castelli on November 21, 1953 in Wichita. He survives. Additional survivors include her four children: Jim (Brenda) Castelli of Salina, Tom (Denise) Castelli of Oklahoma City, Susie (Jed) Holmes of Wichita, and Julie (Marty) Keenan of Wichita. She is also survived by 15 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren in the womb to be born soon.
Carol was raised in the Presbyterian church. While participating in a Bible Study in 1962 a friend asked her to visit First Evangelical Free Church, a small church on Oliver Street in Wichita. She and her family joined the church and have been faithful members for 58 years, as the church expanded and moved to a larger facility on Woodlawn. She helped start the Career Class for singles at the church, and she and her husband founded a popular “Donut Ministry” where they gave worshippers a donut before or after the church services.
Other than taking care of her family and friends, her main priority in life was sharing the Gospel of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. She loved Bible Studies. Her favorite Bible Study program was Precept by Kay Arthur. She and Harry were at church whenever the church doors were open. She had a heart for young people and opened her home to Young Life meetings to help young people grow in their faith. She was also a gracious host in opening her home to her children’s friends and schoolmates at Andover schools and various school groups at Andover High School.
She loved books and helped build up and modernize the Andover Library in its infancy. She enjoyed helping Andover students find books to help them with their studies or curiosities. Prior to her working at the Andover Library, she worked in Student Records at the Wichita State University School of Art.
Carol loved vacationing in Colorado, and Branson, Missouri. Two of her hobbies were needlepoint and crochet, and her handwork often became gifts for loved ones.
She was the youngest of three children, and was predeceased by a brother, Dick Vermillion, and a sister, Arlee Vermillion Funk.
Message: This memorial service has two primary purposes. One is to celebrate the life of Carol Castelli and to remember the character traits and actions that made her special. Her daughter Susie did that so well. But a second important purpose is to lift up the One who was most important in Carol’s life, for Carol had a strong and enduring faith in her Savior, Jesus Christ.
For years I have called Carol Castelli “St. Carol.” Most of you know why, and it’s not because she was unusually saintly, or even because she was born on All Saints Eve, October 31. It was because her husband is Harry, one of my dearest friends, and I love to tease my best friends. He calls himself “the Italian Stallion,” but Carol had other special names for him that I won’t mention. By the way, I learned a new one at the Mortuary on Monday. Ashley Cozine was filling out papers and asked Harry for his middle name and it finally came out—Bruno! Bruno Castelli! If that doesn’t sound like a member of the Mafioso, I don’t know what does.
Now usually for a memorial service message I pick a Psalm of comfort or some passage that speaks of heaven or the resurrection. But today for our meditation I want to talk about why it really isappropriate to refer to Carol Castelli as “St. Carol.”
There are three different meanings attached to the term “saint.” There’s a colloquial meaning, an ecclesiastical meaning, and a biblical meaning. Colloquially we usually speak of a person as a saint when they do extremely saintly things or have unusually saintly character. For example, a person who spends her whole life on the mission field or working at a rescue mission, or a person who is kind to everyone, godly and faithful, or a person who reads the Bible constantly and spend hours in prayer—those are the kinds of people we would normally call a saint. You know, the Lois Thomi or Dorothy Watkins types, to use examples most of you know.
Now was Carol Castelli a saint in this colloquial sense? Well, probably not. Don’t get me wrong, she was a very special person, and I for one had a delightful relationship with her for 48 years, but Carol could be pretty opinionated; she spoke her mind readily; she could be “sassy,” as Susie said; and she even feuded with Betty Fouty over the donut table, as a few of you may remember. These are fairly minor peccadilloes in the total scheme of things, but they are probably enough to eliminate someone from the saintly category, at least in some people’s minds.
But there’s a second kind of saint, and that’s the ecclesiastical one. The Roman Catholic Church specializes in these kinds of saints. Did you know there are at least five qualifications you must meet to become an ecclesiastical saint? First, you must be dead for at least five years. Second, someone has to nominate you, attesting to your life of holiness. If the local church authorities deem the evidence sufficient, they then forward the nomination to the Vatican requesting a special tribunal, before which witnesses are called to testify to the candidate’s goodness, holiness, devotion to God, and other virtues. If a person passes this step, he or she is named a “Servant of God.”
Third, the nomination goes to the CCS, the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. Nine theologians read all the material collected and a “devil’s advocate” is appointed to raise questions and objections to the candidate’s sainthood. This is to make sure the final decision considers all the evidence. Once a candidate has been determined to be virtuous and heroic in his or her faith, he or she is then declared “Venerable.”
The fourth step is beatification. If a person is martyred, that’s almost automatic, but if not, at least one miracle in his or her name must be substantiated. But in order to reach the final step of canonization or sainthood a second miracle must be attested, and, of course, the Pope makes the final decision.
Now clearly Carol is not a saint in the ecclesiastical sense, and even after five years, it is unlikely she will be nominated. She did live at Catholic care, and it’s probably a miracle that she was married to Harry for 67 years, but she doesn’t meet most of the other requirements. So, Carol is not a saint in the colloquial sense or in the ecclesiastical sense. She’s got just one more option.
What about the biblical sense? Think with me about what the Bible says about saints. A saint in the Bible is someone who is set apart from the crowd, not by their saintliness, but by their faith in Jesus. I’m not suggesting that saintliness is unimportant or that it is something we shouldn’t strive for; I’m saying that saintliness is not the requirement for sainthood. You want proof?
Virtually every one of the N.T. epistles is written to “saints.” Paul writes, “To the saints in Ephesus,” “to the saints in Philippi,” “to the saints in Corinth.” So let me ask you about these “saints”. How saintly were they? Well, to take those in Corinth, for example, they were quarreling in the church over who was their favorite pastor and who got baptized by whom, they were boasting about their status and their spiritual gifts, they were taking one another to court, they were tolerating gross sin in the church, they were arguing about legalistic issues like diet and holy days, they were practicing spiritual chaos in their worship services, they were stingy, and we could go on and on. But surprisingly Paul doesn’t address his letter to the “sinners” at Corinth or even to the “sinners saved by grace” at Corinth; he addresses it to the “saints” at Corinth.
The term “saints” is used 81 times in the ESV version of the Bible. I want us to look at just a few of those references to gain a little more perspective on what it means to be considered a saint biblically. Many of these are promises which we can count on regarding our sister Carol.
Psalm 37:28: For the Lord loves justice; he will not forsake his saints. They are preserved forever.
Psalm 97:10: O you who love the Lord, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 11:15: Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
Romans 8:27: … he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
1 Thes 3:12-13: … may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another . . .so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. (When Jesus comes again, He will bring Carol with Him!)
Rev. 5:8: And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (When Carol prayed for her children and grandchildren, that was like incense going up to the Father).
Now do you remember when I was talking about ecclesiastical sainthood, I mentioned that in the process of examination the Vatican appoints a “devil’s advocate,” a person whose job it is to make accusations against the nominee to see if their application for sainthood can withstand the scrutiny? You know something, that’s almost biblical. But the truth is, a devil’s advocate isn’t needed because the Devil himself is accusing us before God.
In Rev. 12 there is a great battle in heaven being fought by Michael the archangel against the devil and his angels. A loud voice announces the verdict: “And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.’”
You see, the Devil is constantly standing before God saying about each of his children, “Did you hear what he said? Did you observe that ugly thought? Did you notice that she hasn’t read her Bible for a week and hasn’t prayed in two weeks?” Satan is, of course, a liar, but he doesn’t need to lie when he accuses us. He knows we’re guilty, and so do we. What are we supposed to do about such accusations?
Well, the next verse tells us what our solution is: “And they (the saints) have conquered him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” Here are two weapons God has given us to conquer the Evil One and his accusations. The first and most important is “the blood of the lamb.” Jesus’ death on the Cross is our answer to Satan. Yes, we have sinned, and yes, we are guilty of evil thoughts, evil actions, sins of omission, failure to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. But Jesus died for every one of those sins and his shed blood cleanses us from all sin.
The second weapon is the “word of our testimony.” Listen to Romans 10:9-11:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”
So, here’s my encouragement to you today. When you think of Carol Castelli, I want you to think of her as St. Carol because she put her complete faith and trust in Jesus and will spend eternity with Him. But I also want you to ask yourself, “Am I a saint? Do I belong to that great company of sinners saved by grace who will someday gather before the throne, lay their trophies at the Father’s feet and never stop singing to Jesus?”
You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…. Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for special memories we all have of Carol Castelli. Thank you for her faithful service to Harry for almost 68 years, for her sacrificial love to Jim, Tom, Susie and Julie, for her delight in her grandchildren and greatgrandchildren, including the three about to be born. Thank you for her faithful service and fellowship in the Gospel here at First Free for almost six decades.
We rejoice that Carol is now free from all the disabilities of an aging body. We are grateful for the confidence we have that she is with her Savior, because for the believer absence from the body means presence with the Lord. Help us to turn in faith to Christ and to lean on Him alone. We pray all these things in our Savior’s name, Amen.