Our Father gave His Son, Christ gave His Life, what gifts will we give?
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Luke 2:14
I’m reading an interesting book called How the Irish Saved Civilizaton by Thomas Cahill. I bought it on a whim but it is really, really interesting. Much of the book deals with the 5th Century. The world was at war: Due to an uncommonly cold winter Alaric was able to cross the frozen Rhine and pushed south. Rome fell 1n 409 AD to the barbarians. The western world descended into chaos.
Ireland, isolated and outside the farthest borders of the Empire, was the furthest thing from civilized. The Irish were a warlike people who practiced human sacrifice and worshiped horrifying, bloody gods. But as Rome fell from order to chaos, Ireland grew from chaos to order due largely to the efforts of one single individual–Saint Patrick.
I am not Catholic, and most of what I knew about St Patrick prior to reading this book had to do with wearing green on March 17th to keep from being pinched. But Patrick was a fascinating and holy man. Taken and kept as a slave in Ireland for six years from his home in England, he was treated miserably and in his distress he turned to God. He learned to pray and he prayed often. On his last night as a slave he heard a voice, “Your hungers are rewarded: you are going home. Look, you ship is ready.” Patrick got up and walked two hundred miles to the coast where a ship was waiting, ready to cast off. He asked for passage to England and returned home.
Despite his poor treatment Patrick had the missionary spirit. He eventually returned to Ireland and dedicated the last thirty years of his life to his “warrior children that they might seize the everlasting kingdoms.”
Patrick by his example gave the warring Irish an alternative. He showed that “it is possible to be brave, to expect every day to be murdered, betrayed, enslaved–whatever may come my way–and yet be a man of peace and at peace, a man without sword or desire to harm, a man in whom the sharp fear of death has been smoothed away; not afraid of any of these things because of the promises of heaven, for I have put myself in the hands of God Almighty.”
What a great man. What an example. In turbulent times and in turbulent places can we learn to live in peace?
Peace. A true gift of God.