The peculiar feature of Cahill’s book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, is the necessity to be read and understood in a particular context. The author describes the period of the European changes and religious improvements based on the Irish monastic movement and its spread in Europe through to the ideas of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages.
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The book under analysis informs the reader about how the Irish intentions to migrate but never forget the power of knowledge and the role of books in their lives saved civilization and brought love to learning and reading the sources that described the importance of the monastic movement and its relation to the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages.
In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages was an influential period in terms of the religious interventions and the development of the impact of the Catholic Church. Ireland is a unique country where Christianity was introduced and developed without bloodshed and conflicts because no martyrs were on the land (Cahill, 1996).
The development of monasticism was one of the brightest moments in the Middle Ages. The life of Saint Patrick, his contributions, and his followers turn out to be the core of the book under consideration as well as the development of Christianity. Besides, this person plays a crucial role in the establishment of the institutions of the Irish monasteries and the explanation of the importance of the monastic movement in regards to the Catholic Church.
The Irish were eager to abandon their past beliefs and accept the ideas of Christianity and monasticism, “a movement which, though it could support and even nurture oddity and eccentricity, subjected such tendencies to a social contrast” (Cahill, 1996, p. 155).
The spread of monasticism was quick and gained recognition in Ireland due to the absence of serious competitors and alternatives. “Since Ireland had no cities, these monastic establishments grew rapidly into the first population centers, hubs of unprecedented prosperity, art, and learning” (Cahill, 1996, p. 155). It was also hard to criticize the activities of monasteries because people knew little about the possible power and impact of religion on their lives, and the representatives of the monastic movement used books and experience to prove their appropriateness and worth.
In Ireland, there was one local church that took a certain place in the lives of all Irish people. As soon as Christianity was introduced in the church, people had nothing to do but believe in the power of this religion and accept it with all its strengths and weaknesses. People brought everything possible to their libraries they could find about Christianity. It was also necessary to build special places, where monks could spend their time and learn other people about the power of a new belief. Some monasteries were built for the representatives of the monastic movement where they could talk to God and develop their ideas. People were eager to support new ideas, and they explained their generosity as an outcome of being unconcerned about monastic practice.
At the same time, the Catholic Church turned out to be rather sensitive to the changes that were based on the development of the monastic movement. Though no conflict situation took place, some people were not ready to understand the essence of the changes and the importance of monasteries on their land. Human practice to accept any possible religion and beliefs was rather shocking for the representatives of the church, who were trained to underline the values of Christian beliefs.
Still, being sensitive and uncertain, the Catholic Church underwent considerable changes and improvements that were based on the ideas developed by the representatives of the monastic movement.
The monks began writing new texts, developed new rules and orders, explained the power of monasticism, and described the options people could get with a new movement. The Catholic Church was not ready to deal with new sources of information. The monks decided to share their knowledge and books that could be used for educational purposes. They decided to migrate to the European shores where several philosophers lived (Cahill, 1996).
To prove their rights for existence, the Irish took their books and provided Europe with a chance to use new knowledge. The Irish also introduced their love to the process of learning and their skills that could be used in the sphere of bookmaking (Cahill, 1996). Europe was eager to accept all those new ideas, and the Catholic Church represented in Ireland was saved from the interruptions and crucial corrections from the monastic movement.
In general, the relations between the monastic movement and the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages cannot be ignored. If all those misunderstandings, uncertainties, and concerns did not take place, the Irish could miss their chance to migrate to the European shores and save civilization with the help of their knowledge. In its turn, the Catholic Church became stronger in its beliefs and possible impact on human life.
Cahill, T. (1996). 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, NY: Anchor.