Although I doubt that author Thomas Cahill meant it to be a missiological textbook, How the Irish Saved Civilization provides an almost step-by-step breakdown of the methods necessary to catalyze a continent-wide missional movement.
The book opens with a description of the western world on the precipice of the fall of Rome. The key player is Augustine, the brillia
nt thinker credited with inventing individualism, and medieval Catholicism. In comparison to the state backed, violence justifying Augustine stands Patrick.
Exiled as a shepherd in ancient Ireland, the Roman Patricious develops a deep faith and love for the Irish people. Despite being released back into the Empire, Patrick feels called back to his adopted homeland. In a single generation, the first recorded missionary since Paul is able to affect a change that can only be paralleled by the pre-Constantinian church, and perhaps today’s Chinese Christian movements.
Learning from his humble and trusting example, Patrick’s heirs take his mission back to the continent. Monasteries become starting points for cities that will gather and nurture civilization. Along the way, they painstakingly copy down the Old and New Testaments, as well as the great works of Latin and Greek literature.
Here we find an Irish model for missional living. While saving souls, bring people together and promote the best of what man has to offer. Perhaps it’s not too late for us to save civilization.