In the 5th century barbarians began invading and overthrowing the fading Western Roman Empire. Roman civilization was destroyed and replaced by small kingdoms ruled by illiterate, barbaric warrior-kings. Some have referred to this as the Dark Age.
It was at this same time that Patricius, a British boy was seized and kidnapped and enslaved by a group of Irish slave traders. Patricius had given up on the religious ways of his parents but during the 6 years of his enslavement he began to pray.
One night he was awakened by a voice that said, “Your ship is ready. Though unsure of the voice or exactly what it meant Patricius set out for the sea. Two hundred miles later he found a ship bound for England and escaped back to his family.
In time Patricius fully came to faith in Jesus and sometime later felt called to return to Ireland as a missionary named Patrick.
To shorten an inspiring story, within Patrick’s lifetime, barbaric warriors cast aside their swords of battle and the slave trade ended. The culture was transformed into one that cared for the poor, the oppressed and the illiterate. A culture of compassion and education was developed.
Irish monasteries became centers for not only copying the Bible but many other works of literature. Much of the literary work of Europe during this age was preserved by the monasteries which also taught Latin, music and painting.
By the early 7th century there were about 700 monastic communities across Great Britain so that some historians contend that the Irish saved civilization. The monastery became the center of culture.
The late Chuck Colson contended that this is how Christianity is meant to function in society-not just as a private faith but as a creative force in the culture. The inner life of faith must shape our actions out in the world. In every choice and decision we make, we either help to overcome the forces of barbarism—whether medieval or modern—or acquiesce to those forces; we either help build a life-giving, peace-loving ethos, or fan the flames of egoism and destruction.
For a fun, 2 minute history of Patrick check out this video--