By Jet Moses
Vox Hiberionacum: A tribute to Saint Patrick
When Europe fell to the Huns during the collapse of the Roman Empire, It was the Irish who preserved so much of western civilization that would have been lost to the barbarian hordes. Why has this contribution been overlooked? The short answer to that is that the English wrote so much of what we now know as history. And since the English have always had contempt for the Irish, it is reasonably understood why it would come to pass that these recollections would be conveniently washed away by those who controlled the printing presses. Only recently have these memories been transcribed, and have earned their proper place in the historical record. Mind you, this is not historical revisionism, for historical revisionists played a crucial role in maintaining the secret. Historical revisionism is the process of rewriting history so that it reflects 20th century progressive ideas. Revisionists have whitewashed Christianity’s contributions from the history of Western Civilization. Without Christianity, the Irish never would have formed the monasteries that taught them how to read and write, and they never would have used this knowledge to transcribe the works of Plato, Aristotle, Homer, Virgil and bring it back to Europe hundreds of years later. Revisionists want us to believe that Christianity held Europe in the grip of the dark ages, that the Renaissance was a secular movement that lifted Europe out of the dark ages, that the Renaissance gave birth to another secular movement called the Enlightenment, and that Secularism and Humanism are the champions of civilization who overcame the adversity of Christianity. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Dark Ages were heralded in because of the collapse of the Roman Empire. Christianity did not cause the Dark Ages. Perhaps I had better start at the beginning.
Patricius was a Romanized Briton. We can place his birth at 387 CE. During his teenage years, he was kidnapped by Celts, and taken across the Irish Sea to a land we now call Ireland. He spent 6 years in captivity. The impossible circumstances of his intolerable isolation as a shepherd inspired him to pray to the Christian God of his youth. It is fair to assume his mother and father in Britannia converted to Christianity out of social convenience and political advancement. Patricius was by no means a devoted Christian, certainly not in the same sense that Christians of the first three centuries (whose adherence could easily prove their death warrant) were during the reign of Roman emperors prior to Constantine.
During his captivity, Rome fell to Alaric, king of the Visigoths, in 401 CE. Patricius eventually escaped captivity and made his way back to Britannia, but never adapted to the culture of his youth. He joined the monastery to become a priest, and in 433 returned to Ireland as a missionary. He would spend the next 30 years of his life, baptizing the Irish, establishing monasteries, and creating schools of learning among the monks. Rome fell in 476 and the Ecumene—the territory under Roman governance—was thrust into chaos. Brittania was a part of the Ecumene. The Romans had never conquered Ireland. Indeed, Roman maps of Ireland and Scotland from that time say “here do be monsters”. These lands were home to the Picts and the Celts, savages who painted themselves, shaved half their heads and went into battle naked.
As the Roman troops departed Britannia, the Angles and the Saxons invaded. They conquered the Britons, and renamed the land Angland (which would become England). Educated Britons, who were able to, escaped to Ireland and brought with them libraries of knowledge. Those that stayed behind were perhaps slaughtered, and if they lived, at the very least their books were destroyed.
The Celtic conversion to Christianity was different from first century Christians and the Post-Constantine era Christians. The Irish had a pantheon of violent Gods, and believed in magic and shape shifting. Their holy men were druids. When they went into battle, they were convinced that in the frenzy they would experience warp-spasms. They also engaged in human sacrifice—and perhaps the story of the crucifixion resonated with them. In any event, the Gospels made sense of what to them was a chaotic and violent world. They saw alphabets as magical, and took to the written word with much enthusiasm. During St. Patrick’s life, the Irish monks learned to read and write in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. They recorded a primitive Gaelic alphabet, and wrote their own history, such as the Tain. Meanwhile back on the main continent of Europe, all learning had come to a stop. A world in Chaos is not a world in which books are copied and libraries maintained. The Roman Empire had retreated to far off Constantinople, taking the Holy Roman Church with them. It was left to the Irish, in 635, to reintroduce
Books and learning to the mainland. Aiden, at Lindisfarne, founded the first monastery in England. Another descendent of St. Patrick’s Irish ministry, Alcuin, took over the already established Palatine School in what is present day France, with Charlemagne’s blessing.
The undoing of the Irish was their missionary work. Word traveled to Norway, telling tales of riches to be plundered in Irish monasteries. In 793 CE, Lindisfarne was attacked and pillaged by Vikings. The Vikings went on to conquer both England and Ireland. The Irish never recovered, while England absorbed them. And so Irelands contribution to Western Civilization was lost. Yet without St. Patrick, there would be no Shakespeare, Magna Carta, or Beowulf.
Christians took a backward continent and gave it learning and order, stability and dignity. The monks copied and studied the manuscripts that preserved the learning of late antiquity. Monasteries were the locust of productivity and learning throughout Europe. Where there was once wasteland they produced hamlets, then towns, and eventually commonwealths and cities. Through the years the savage barbarians—the Celts, the Saxons, the Normans—became chivalric Christian knights, and new ideas of civility and manners and romance were formed that shape our society to this day. So extensive is this contribution to our laws, our economics, our politics, our arts, our calendar, our holidays, and our moral and cultural priorities that historian J.M. Roberts writes in The Triumph of the West, “We could none of us today be what we are if a handful of Jews nearly two thousand years ago had not believed that they had known a great teacher, seen him crucified, dead, and buried, and then rise again.”
 Thomas Cahill
 Dinesh D’Souza