by Thomas Cahill
1996 / 245 pages
When I think of the Irish, what comes readily to mind are the Irish Rovers of traditional folk music fame, or Riverdance, the world-renowned tap-dance troupe, and of course, Saint Patrick who chased all the snakes out of Ireland. But in truth the latter would never have considered himself a “Saint,” nor is it probable that there were ever any snakes in Ireland for him to chase. But this Patrick did become a saint in the biblical sense and had a profound effect on the history of the church in Europe.
Patrick’s life story is only part, but a pivotal part, in the story of how the Irish saved civilization. After the fall of Rome until the time of Charlemagne, Europe entered a period known as the Dark Ages, a period during which culture, learning and scholarship disappeared; throughout Europe the barbarians looted artifacts and burned books, from the Greek and Roman classics to the Jewish and Christian classics.
But Patrick’s role in all this started when he, as a teenager, was kidnapped from Britain by the Irish, and suffered the next six years as a lonely shepherd-slave with only hunger and nakedness as his companions. In these impossible circumstances this young man, as he writes in his Confession of Saint Patrick, grew in faith and was roused by the Spirit. So much so that twenty-five years after his escape from this slavery, he returned to Ireland as a missionary. On his death almost thirty years later, pagan Ireland, once a shifting world of darkness, had become a Christian nation. And that is only the start of the story; his mission in Ireland eventually had many marvelous results including the preservation and transmission of classical literature and the evangelization of Europe. Read this book and see how the Lord worked in wondrous ways to bring His word to these ends of the world.
How this all came about is a story of adventure, drama, suspense, danger, hardship, cruelty, and courage. It is a book that you will probably read a second time. This book is recommended only for adult readers because history in our sinful world also brings many disturbing elements to our notice. Pagan practices, including sexual perversions, that are described may be troubling to some readers, but these accounts are also what makes this story all the more powerful. God molds Patrick, through his slavery and suffering, into an indestructible force to bring His Word to these Irish pagans with their detestable practices. And then He uses these once perverse people as His instruments to spread that message to Europe. As William Cowper wrote, “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.”
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- Adolph Dykstra