Cahill, Thomas. How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland's Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe. New York: Anchor , Doubleday, 1996. Print.
Just over two months ago I went on a trip to Europe, where I got to experience many of the most important places in history. When I was over there I remembered something I learned about in Dr. Haluska’s English Literature class—the White Martyrdom.
There are actually three colors of martyrdom:
1) The traditional Red Martyrdom which spilled the blood of countless (mostly early) Christians. Of this Martyrdom Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”
2) The Green Martyrdom was a way for Irish clerics to copy the early desert hermits. They moved away from civilization, hoping to find God in the solitude and beauty of nature, as well as in the written Word of God.
These hermitages very quickly became monasteries, and the monasteries quickly became cultural centers at a time when all of civilization was collapsing (the mid-to-late fifth century to the early-to-mid sixth century—when Rome was collapsing). They collected books from all over the known world, on topics both sacred and secular.
3) The most moving to me (at this point) is the White Martyrdom. There was a main priest of the monetary, who was called the Abbot. Under the Abbot were twelve priests who were awaiting ordination. When they had learned and grown enough to be ordained, they were charged with the task of starting a new monetary, and in doing so they would spread the Gospel of Christ with the pagans they came in contact with.
It wasn’t as easy as it is now, though, to move to a faraway land. These freshly ordained Abbots oftentimes didn’t even know where they were going. They would just pack a small boat and sail into the white, foggy morning—never to be heard from by their friends again. Some didn’t even pack oars, instead trusting God to guide them.
They didn’t just drop off the face of the earth, though. They witnessed to much of Europe, making their way as far west as modern-day Kiev in Ukraine. They formed new monasteries in places like Salzburg and Vienna, Liège and Würzburg.
James Bullock remarked, “All England north of the Thames was indebted to the Celtic mission for its conversion” because the British Christians hated their Saxon invaders—the same people who had pushed them out of their lands into modern-day Wales. It was the Celtic missionary martyrs who brought the gospel to England.
As I mentioned, I got the idea for this post from a lecture from Dr. Haluska’s English Literature class. He quoted from a book by Thomas Cahill: “How the Irish Saved the World,” which I read in preparation for this article.
I'm a Classical musician, a growing Christian, and a world traveler. I'm learning, exploring, and trying to understand this wonderful world I live in.