Herbert Vaughan

June 17, 2024

His Eminence Herbert Alfred Vaughan.

Cardinal, and third Archbishop of Westminster; b. at Gloucester, 15 April, 1832; d. at St. Joseph’s College, Mill Hill, Middlesex, 19 June, 1903; he came of a family which had been true to the Catholic Faith all through the ages of the persecution. Its members had suffered for their faith in fines and imprisonment and double land taxes. Sometimes, too, they suffered for their politics. In the Civil War they sided with Charles I and were nearly ruined. After the Stuart rising in 1715, John Vaughan of Courtfield refused to take the oath of allegiance to the House of Hanover, and two years later his name appears in a list of “Popish Recusants Convict”. When “Prince Charlie” in 1745 raided south to Derby, two of the Vaughans rode back with him to Scotland, and fought by his side at Culloden. Driven into exile, both took service under the Spanish king, and the younger rose to the rank of field-marshal. The son of the elder brother, the great-great-grandfather of the cardinal, was allowed to come back to England and to resume possession of the family estates at Courtfield, in Herefordshire.

Photograph of one of his brothers, Roger William Bede Vaughan, who became Archbishop of Sydney, Australia.

Colonel John Vaughan, the cardinal’s father, married, in 1830, Eliza, daughter of Mr. John Rolls, of the Hendre, Monmouthshire, and an aunt of the first Lord Llangattock. Mrs. Vaughan became a convert to the Catholic Faith shortly before her marriage and was, in many ways, a remarkable woman. It was her habit to spend an hour every day in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, begging of God that He would call her children to serve Him in the choir or in the sanctuary. In the event all her five convents, and of her eight sons six became priests, three of them bishops. Herbert, the eldest born, went to the Jesuit College at Stonyhurst in the spring of 1841, and remained until the summer of 1847. From Stonyhurst he went to the Jesuit College at Brugelette, in Belgium, for three years. From an early age his thoughts had been turned to the priesthood. His mother, writing when he was only fourteen, said she was confident that he would be a priest. His father’s dearest wish was to see him win distinction as an English soldier, but when he was only sixteen he had made up his mind to give himself to the Church. On leaving Brugelette he went to the Benedictines at Downside Abbey for twelve months as an ecclesiastical student. In the autumn of 1851 he arrived in Rome to attend the lectures at the Collegio Romano, and there for a time he shared lodgings with the poet, Aubrey de Vere. The student years in Rome were a time of trial and difficulty. Wretched and incapacitating health made the labour of study a constant strain. In the intimate diary which he kept at this time he constantly reproaches himself for his excessive impetuosity in speech and action. He was ordained, at the age of twenty-two, on 28 October, 1854, at Lucca, and said his first Mass in Florence at the Church of the Annunziata on the following day.

The youngest of the Vaughan siblings, John Stephen Vaughan, who became titular Bishop of Sebastopolis and Auxiliary Bishop in Salford, England.

During all his student years he had hoped to be a missioner in Wales, but at Cardinal Wiseman’s call he now accepted the position of vice-president at St. Edmund’s College, Ware, the principal ecclesiastical seminary for the south of England. He went there in the autumn of 1855, after spending some months in a voyage of discovery among the seminaries of Italy, France, and Germany. Though not yet at the canonical age for the priesthood, and younger than some of the students, he was already vice-president at St. Edmund’s. The position, a difficult one in any case, was made impossible when it became known that the had recently become an Oblate of St. Charles and therefore was a disciple of Manning. At once he was involved in the controversy between Wiseman and his chapter which darkened and embittered the last years of the cardinal’s life. Wiseman was the friend and protector of Manning, and Vaughan was regarded as the representative of a man suspected of a wish to bring all the ecclesiastical education of Southern England under the control of the Oblates. Litigation followed in Rome, and the Oblates eventually withdrew from St. Edmund’s. Vaughan looked back upon his work at St. Edmund’s with a sad sense of frustration. The disappointment worked in two ways. He began to look for external work in the immediate present and, for the future, he dreamed dreams. He collected money and built a church in the county town, Hertford, and founded a mission at Enfield. But he wanted to do something great for God. Since he was a boy his constant prayer had been that whatever else was withheld he might live an intense life. He resolved to consecrate himself to the service of the Foreign Missions. Blessed [now St.-tr. note] Peter Claver was his ideal hero and saint, and his first purpose was to go himself to Africa or Japan.

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