Saturday, February 6, 2010

Eliza Vaughan

It is a fact that vocations to the priesthood must be prayed for; Jesus speaks about it himself in the Gospel:

“The harvest is abundant, but the labourers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out labourers for his harvest” (Mt. 9:37-38).

Eliza Vaughan, an English family mother, is a particularly encouraging example of a woman with a priestly spirit who prayed very much for vocations.

The Courtfield "Our Lady of Vocations" Chapel

The mother of six priests and four religious sisters, her prayer was bountifully heard. Mother Vaughan died in 1853 and was buried in the grounds of her beloved family property, Courtfield.

Today, Courtfield is a retreat center for different groups in the Welsh diocese of Cardiff. In consideration of Eliza’s holy life, the family chapel was consecrated as the shrine of “Our Lady of Vocations” by the bishop in 1954 and confirmed as such in the year 2000.

Let us give our children to God

Eliza came from a strong Protestant family, that of Rolls-Royce. Yet even during her childhood education in France, she was deeply impressed by the exemplary efforts the Catholic Church made for the poor. After she married Colonel John Francis Vaughan in the summer of 1830, Eliza converted to the Catholic Faith, despite the objection of her relatives. During the time of the Catholic persecution in England under Queen Elisabeth I (1558-1603), the Vaughan’s ancestors preferred imprisonment and expropriation to being unfaithful to their beliefs.

An old drawing of Courtfield.

Courtfield as it stands today.

Courtfield, the ancestral family home, became a place of refuge for priests during the decades of terror in England, a place where the Holy Mass was often celebrated secretly. Nearly three centuries had now passed, but the Catholic beliefs of the family had not changed. Eliza was someone who converted with all her heart, so much so, that in her religious enthusiasm, she even proposed to her husband that they offer all their children back to God.

The bell tower of Our Lady of Vocations Chapel.

This remarkable woman made a habit of praying for an hour each day before the Blessed Sacrament in the house chapel at Courtfield. She prayed to God for a large family and for many religious vocations among her children. And her prayers were heard! She gave life to 14 children and died shortly after the birth of the last child, John, in 1853.

Fr Bernard Vaughan ~ a Jesuit priest who travelled the world extensively, preaching. Here is his biography.

Of the 13 children that lived, six of her eight boys became priests: two priests in religious orders, one diocesan priest, a bishop, an archbishop and a cardinal. From the five daughters, four became nuns in religious orders.

Cardinal Herbert Alfred Vaughan, see below for more about this holy man.

What a blessing for the family and what an impact on all of England! The Vaughan children enjoyed a pleasant childhood because their virtuous mother knew how to educate them in a very natural way by uniting spiritual and religious obligationds with amusement and cheerfulness.

Herbert Alfred Vaughan ~ Cardinal and Archbishop of Westminster. Here is his biography.

Cardinal Vaughan's tomb.

Thanks to their mother, prayer and daily Mass in the house chapel were just as much a part of everyday life as music, athletics, amateur theatre, horse riding and playing.

It was never boring for the children when their mother told them stories from the lives of the saints, who little by little became their dearest friends. Mother Vaughan happily let her children accompany her on visits to the sick and needy of the area.

On such occasions, they learned how to be generous, to make sacrifices and to give away their savings or their toys. Shortly after the birth of her 14th child, Eliza died.

Roger William Bede Vaughan ~ This saintly Archbishop left a strong and holy legacy in our country of Australia, as the Archbishop of Sydney and responsible for the construction of St Mary's Cathedral. Here is his biography.

Two months after her death, Colonel Vaughan wrote in a letter that he was convinced divine providence brought Eliza to him.

“I thanked the Lord in adoration today that I could give back to him my dearly beloved wife. I poured out my heart to him, full of thankfulness that, as an example and a guide, he gave me Eliza with whom I am still now bound by an inseparable, spiritual bond. What wonderful consolation and grace she brought me! I still see her as I always saw her before the Blessed Sacrament: her inner purity and extraordinary human kindness which her beautiful face reflected during prayer.”


Leanne said...

Thank you,that is such a beautiful and encouraging post. Such an amazing women.

Parousie said...

Wonderful story. Thanks.