I wrote this post a couple of years ago and thought I'd share it again this St. Patrick's Day. Patrick was certainly a man to look up to and this book gives some great insights, with all legends set aside, into who he was and what he accomplished with God's help.
Originally posted September 7, 2011:
I read this book, "How the Irish Saved Civilization" several years
ago, and it was one of those books that stuck with me and I still think
about. The book starts the readers off with the fall of the Roman Empire
and continues through Ireland's early history and how their
devoted monks preserved books and writing that would have otherwise been
destroyed during the turbulent times of the Roman Fall. I especially
loved the chapter on the first missionary to Ireland...Patrick. The book
starts out like this:
"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"
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
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."
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.
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."
Buy it HERE on Amazon