"The word Irish is seldom coupled with the word civilization. When we think of peoples as civilized or civilizing, the Egyptians and the Greeks, the Italians and the French, the Chinese and the Jews may come to mind. The Irish are wild, feckless, and charming, or morose, repressed, and corrupt, but not especially civilized...And yet...Ireland, a little island at the edge of Europe that has known neither renaissance nor Enlightenment--in some ways, a Third World country with...a Stone Age culture--had one moment of unblemished glory. For, as the Roman Empire fell, as all through Europe matted, unwashed barbarians descended on the Roman cities, looting artifacts and burning books, the Irish, who were just learning to read and write, took up the great labor of copying all of Western literature--everything they could lay their hands on."
I thought I'd share some thoughts on my favorite chapter..."Good News from Far Off...The First Missionary"
Patricius, later known as St. Patrick was a British Shepard boy who was kidnapped at 16 and taken to Ireland to work as a slave. Up till then he had never really believed in God but now with no one to help him he begin to pray. He says here:
"Tending flocks was my daily work, and I would pray constantly during the daylight hours. The love of God and the fear of him surrounded me more and more and faith grew and the Spirit was roused, so that in one day I would say many as a hundred prayers and after dark nearly as many again, even while I remained in the woods or on the mountain. I would wake and pray before daybreak--through snow, frost, rain--nor was there any sluggishness in me (such as I experience nowadays) because then the Spirit within me was ardent."
He was a slave for 6 years. Then one day he heard the Lord say "your hungers are rewarded: you are going home." "Look your ship is ready." When he arrived at the ship that would take him to freedom, the sailors told him he was wasting his time asking to sail with them. Patrick went away and prayed. When he returned the sailors had had a change of heart and said, "Come on board, we'll take you on trust."
It would be almost 30 years before he returned to Ireland. He is considered the first missionary to go and preach the gospel... "to barbarians beyond the reach of Roman law."
The thing that stood out the most for me in this chapter was, as the author states here... "His love for his adopted people (the Irish) shines through his writings, and it is not just a generalized "Christian" benevolence, but a love for individuals as they are." He didn't go to Ireland to convert the Irish to his religion but to share the love of God with them. He brought the gospel to the people there. At a time when the Irish were offering sacrifices to their gods, even sacrificing their own children, Patrick came and brought a message of the Creator who gave up His son, Jesus Christ, to be sacrificed once for all. A message that changed the lives of the Irish there forever.
So many wonderful things in this chapter of how God worked through Patrick and answered his prayers. Even the high druid priests were afraid of him! Within Patrick's lifetime or soon after his death the Irish slave trade came to a halt and violence dramatically decreased in Ireland.
Patrick went and make disciples of Christ, "establishing bishops throughout northern, central, and eastern Ireland..." In the years to come the Irish monks would dedicate their lives to preserving the written word, when the Barbarians had destroyed so much of it... "Wherever they went the Irish brought with them their books, many unseen in Europe for centuries and tied to their waists as signs of triumph, just as Irish heroes had once tied to their waists their enemies' heads. Wherever they went they brought their love of learning and their skills in bookmaking. In the bays and valleys of their exile, they reestablished literacy and breathed new life into the exhausted literary culture of Europe.
And that is how the Irish saved civilization."
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