A General Overview of Christianity in Ireland During the Dark and Middle Ages
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A General Overview of Christianity in Ireland During the Dark and Middle Ages

I am not responsible for any errors in this paper, but it is only here for the viewing pleasure of interested people.
According to the historical evidence available, Celtic Christianity in Ireland during the Dark and Middle Ages was quite distinctive from Christianity on the European continent, partly characterized by the continuity of the beliefs and traditions formed by the integration of previous pagan traditions into the new faith: Celtic Christianity. Celtic Christianity in Ireland was unique because it was not the same as continental Christianity. Certain traditions were borrowed and others developed from the pagan beliefs and folklore. Irish Christianity remained unique over time partially because of its long isolation from Rome on the continent. Over time, the structure of the Irish Catholic Church changed somewhat as more influence came from Rome, England, and other invading peoples. However, many of the original beliefs held by the early Irish Christians have been preserved to this day. The aim of this paper, then, is to illustrate how and why, while they were still one church, the Irish Christian Church was so distinct from the Roman Catholic Church on the continent, but yet they were still one church.
It is widely believed that one man is responsible for successfully bringing Christianity to Ireland — Saint Patrick. Saint Patrick was born around the year 389 AD to a family of Celtic Christians living in Great Britain, but he rejected his Christian faith and had no desire for God.1 Patrick was kidnapped at the age of sixteen by the High King of Ireland, Niall of the Nine Hostages, and forced into slavery. During his captivity, Patrick experienced a profound conversion that changed the course of his entire life.2 Inspired by his resurgence with a new rebirth in Christ, Patrick escaped slavery after six years, and returned to Ireland to bring the good news of the Lord to the less fortunate.3 Saint Patrick spent over thirty years in Ireland, baptizing over one hundred thousand people, and establishing over two hundred churches.4 The ministry Saint Patrick founded confronted brutal pagan practices common in Ireland at the time, including human sacrifice and slavery.5 Consequently, Patrick completely altered the course of Irish history by bringing Catholicism to Ireland.
The beginnings of Celtic Christianity were a time of learning and conversion from paganism, but of little change or evolution of the Celts pagan roots. Because of their pagan roots, the Celts had a great admiration for, love for, and respect for nature. In fact, many cities that grew around monasteries had names associated with nature that reflected the old worship of nature:
1. Saint Bridget of “Kildare,” meaning “Church of the Oak,” and
2. Saint Columba of “Derry,” meaning “Place of the Oak.”
Oak groves were indeed sacred places for the Celts, both pagan and Christian.6 According to Timothy Joyce, oak groves were often a site for religious ceremonies, with the oak tree being a sign of the divine for its stature and strength.7 Oak groves were a place where the Celtic people, pagan and Christian, felt connected with nature, yet they also felt very close to God because the oak symbolized God to them, bearing traits, as earlier mentioned, which they believed were divine. Moreover, the fact that so many Christian monasteries, cities, and holy places bear an “oak” place name illustrates the important position these trees occupied in the culture and ceremonies of the Celts.8 The Irish picked up Christianity rather quickly due to the fact that the pagan beliefs they had held fit in well with the new Christian beliefs. For example, as Timothy Joyce points out, the Celts saw life as a circle, with no beginning nor ending, rather than as a straight line. In other words, the pagan Celts believed that life didn’t end with death, a belief shared by Christians, but that there was an after life, or heaven which one would enter into upon death.
The early Irish Christians held views on martyrdom that favored a life of penance and of voluntary exile. Irish Christians looked for an alternative to shedding one’s blood for his/her religion, or “red martyrdom.” As Timothy Joyce explains, they found what is commonly known as “green martyrdom” and “white martyrdom.” “Green martyrdom” referred to a life of penance. It was a way to follow and identify with Jesus, their High King in His passion and death.9 “White martyrdom” referred to going into voluntary exile. A monk would let go of the land he cherished to follow Christ, just as Christ has let go of His divinity to fully embrace humanity.10 It wasn’t that the Irish were afraid of death. They simply saw serving others and Christ on earth as more useful than dying and being able to serve Him no more on earth.
The change from paganism to Catholicism was not very difficult for the Celts because it really wasn’t a change, but more like an integration of the pagan ideals and traditions into the new religion. According to Robert Van de Weyer,
In every church and monastery of Celtic Britain and Ireland a fire was kept burning, day and night, summer and winter, as a sign of God’s presence. And at Kildare, the site of (Saint) Brigid’s great convent, the fire was sustained for a further thousand years, as a memorial both to the saint herself, and of that passionate Christian devotion which burst into flame in these remote islands between the 5th and 7th centuries.11
The light symbolized the light of Christ burning in the hearts of the Celtic people, and the fervent love and devotion they felt to finding, following, and serving Christ. All these things - light, love, and devotion, were remnants of old pagan worship. While the rest of Europe was entering a dark age of conflict and division, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Christian gospel was lighting the hearts of the rugged Celtic tribesmen, and thousands upon thousands of simple men and women became monks and missionaries, poets and pilgrims, ablaze with the love of Christ.12 In short, while Europe was in a dark time of feudalism and conflict, Ireland was becoming inspired by the Christian gospel to the point that one could say that the Celtic people actually pulled Europe back out of the Dark Ages.
The ancient Druid religion strongly influenced Celtic Christianity. With each battling to find whose miraculous powers were strongest, there are numerous accounts of Christian evangelists and Druid priests in direct contest with each other. As Robert Van de Weyer makes clear, the Christian Celts did not just all stand up and renounce the pagan Druid religion, but held it in great respect, bringing into the new faith many of its ideas, attitudes, symbols, and rituals. An unmistakable similarity between the two creeds was, as Robert Van de Weyer also describes, that “Druidic philosophy placed great emphasis on love and on forgiving the wrongs of others, and taught that those who were loving and merciful on this earth would receive eternal bliss. So conversion to Christianity involved no significant change in moral belief.” Likewise, this similarity between the faiths contributed a great deal to the prompt conversion of the whole island.
In addition, both men and women were included in the pagan Druid priesthood, having equal status, and this equality was kept in the Irish Christian Church.13 Besides the priesthood, the pagan Druid religion also had an order of wandering poets and prophets, called filid, who taught their religion to the common people. The Celtic Christian Church enthusiastically adopted this ministry. Ordained to the office of “bard,” men and women had the duty of proclaiming the messages of the Catholic gospel in songs and ballads.14 In pagan Ireland, as Elaine Gill describes, Beltane celebrated the balance of female and male energy in sexual, spiritual, and emotional ways. This idea was embodied in the dual monasteries, where men and women had separate accommodations, but shared a common concern for the well-being of the entire community. The acceptance by the Catholic Church at the time of the idea of equality in Ireland also probably contributed to the swift embrace of Catholic beliefs, in that the two ways of life, pagan and Catholic, were very similar. In that sense, the Catholic way of life was not completely foreign to the pagan Celts, but was adapted by them to their own customs and traditions.
Celtic crosses, a new major form of church structure, were made after Ireland’s golden age of Christianity (5th-8th centuries) and show the integration of pagan beliefs into Catholicism and the spirituality of the Irish Christian people. Viking raids had brought an end to the production of illuminated manuscripts and of monastic metalwork in Ireland. Furthermore, monasteries and shrines for saintly relics were being rebuilt of stone. Built to take the place of many older bronze crosses that had been looted or removed, Celtic crosses stood around 20 feet tall.15 Although they were built for many different purposes, most Celtic crosses were erected to serve as an sign of a holy place, as a place of prayer, to record a covenant or historical significance, and to teach biblical stories. They were sculptures with scenes from the Bible and the Lives of the saints. Most are from the tenth century.16 Celtic crosses are very unique in their physical features and symbolic importance. The most noticeable and distinctive aspect of these crosses is the circular ring around the horizontal and vertical bars of the cross. According to Timothy Joyce,
The circle may represent the sun, a vestige of old Celtic worship, but also a sign of the cosmic Christ, or it may represent a garland of victory for the figure of a victorious Christ. Perhaps it is even the symbol of the union of creation spirituality and redemption spirituality.17
In the twelfth century, there was another series of Celtic crosses that appeared with the ring being less prevalent and less dramatic. In conclusion, the erection of Celtic crosses was a signal of the end of the golden age of Christianity in Ireland. The rich artistic splendor of the golden age was no longer there, but only disappearing.
Communities of believers were formed and the Christian message was spread by the foundation of Celtic monasteries. In one distinct difference from continental Catholicism, the Celtic Christian Church in its early stages was not divided into dioceses, having never been a part of the Roman Empire. Rather, the Irish Church had abbots and abbesses as the leaders of large, flourishing monasteries in place of bishops.18 The author of The Church in Early Irish Society says that the Celtic Christian Church was united in its beliefs, but lacked a consistent system of government, liturgical practice, or guidelines for asceticism. Liturgical practices varied from one church to another, and diversity was given recognition and tolerated. During the golden age of Christianity in Ireland, while the rest of Europe was in a dark age of hatred and feudalism, Ireland became a center of learning for the rest of the world. One expert states, “The Irish monastic schools established great libraries and intensively pursued the study of the trivium and the quadrivium. In the early 7th century the Irish monks had the best centers of learning in western Europe, ….” It could be argued that the Irish preserved the learning of Europe while Europe worked itself through the Dark Ages.
From the time when Saint Patrick brought Catholicism to Ireland up to the twelfth century, the Irish Catholic Church advanced in almost complete detachment from Rome. Therefore, it had notable differences that distinguished it from the Roman Catholic Church. The Irish Catholic Church observed Easter Sunday on a different date than the Roman Catholic Church.19 Norman F. Cantor also points out that the clergy in the Celtic Church was exclusively monastic, unlike the Roman Church. However, the churches, despite these differences, were still one church, the Roman Catholic Church. The Celtic Christian Church had a great respect for monks and believed that everyone was called to holiness, not just to salvation. They believed that all were called to the life of a monks, even those who were married and with children.20 In other words, everyone was called to not just believe in Catholic teachings, but to fully participate in all aspects of Catholic life. There were numerous monks and nuns who journeyed by land and sea wherever the Spirit led them, bringing the message of Christ to the farthest regions and lands, even as far as North America.21 Conclusively, in the words of Norman F. Cantor, Catholicism in Ireland was “distinguished by an intense devotion to learning and missionary zeal.”
Celtic monastic women played a vital role in the formation of the Celtic Christian Church. Unlike Christian women on the continent, Irish women were able to achieve much and have so great an influence on the development of the church because of an idea from Ireland’s previous pagan religion – the idea that men and women were equal. In the days of Irish paganism, all members of a clan were equal, no matter if a king, a peasant, man, woman, or child.22 In contrast to the rest of the Christian world, women often headed great churches. There were, in fact, many dual monasteries, containing both men and women, with a woman in charge, such as the monastery of Kildare under Saint Brigid.23 In addition, many famous Irish saints were women. The most famous is Saint Brigid of Kildare, but others include: St. Ita, St. Darerca, and St. Ibar.24 In contrast to most of the Christian world, Irish women were considered equal to men and, therefore, were able to achieve great things and have lasting influence.
Although there was a push for monastic reform and some actually took place, many of the old beliefs held by the Irish Christians remained the same. Ireland’s golden age of Christianity had both its strengths and its weaknesses. It had bold men, and it had dedicated women of passion, conviction, and courage. Since the rules governing over monasteries were rather preliminary, much influence came from the personal power of the leaders.25 During most of the silver age of Irish Christianity (8th-12th centuries), monasteries were the center of worship, both personal and community worship. Dioceses and parishes did not come into being in Ireland until shortly before the 12th century. As a result, abuses lurked in the structure concerning power, property, and possessions. There was less regard to personal integrity and the capability to lead when positions of leadership and power began to be passed on to the offspring of abbots and abbesses. An increase in tribal warfare took place. Churches were burned and church leaders were murdered.26 Dark deeds seemed to be overpowering the good things that were taking place.
Not everyone was happy with the present church in Ireland. In 8th century Ireland, monks called the “Culdees,” or Célí Dé, translated as “servants of God,” began a reform movement.27 The leader of the Célí Dé, Maelruain, began a reform that demanded an increased piety, learning, and a return to a more severe asceticism. There was an increased emphasis put on the daily praying of the psalter. The need for a soul friends, or anamchara, was also accentuated. Portrayed during this time of change was a passionate commitment to the search for Christ, and an intense religion longing expressed in prayer and self-discipline.28
Many additional changes took place as well. The Sunday observance was also treated with a new humility with private prayer, solitude, liturgies, and abstemiousness from work. Celibacy became a more focused concern in order to stop hereditary succession of monasteries and positions of power.29 For women, the reform movement was not so favorable, as they lost much of the esteemed status they once held. The practice of dual monasteries was alive during the 9th and 10th centuries, but had disappeared by the 12th century. The loss of order in the Dark Ages, feudalism, and the male desires to defend women brought about a greater separation of men and women and also created a new strictness for women.30 The church in Rome seemed to slowly be gaining a tighter grip on the Irish church.
Even though some monastic reform took place at the hand of Maelruain, the early Irish spirituality kept burning with an even greater brightness. According to Timothy Joyce,
Despite the loss of sensitivity to nature among the Christians on the continent, the sensitivity to the goodness of creation, the beauty of nature, and the immanent presence of God within all of created reality did prevail among the Celts. In fact, it received new attention in a wonderful and unique flowering of nature poetry combined with hermit poetry. A monk sings of a lark which accompanies his morning psalm….another monk wishes to be a stream gently rolling through a mountain pass. The imagery and sensitivity are quite beautiful.31
Being one of the nobles of the forest (Airig fedo), it was an offense to cut down an apple tree under the Gaelic Brehon Laws. For the unauthorized chopping of these trees, the fine was five cows.32 This highlights the pagan Celtic tradition and connection towards nature, as it was linked into Irish Catholicism.
The Celtic way of prayer illustrated the difference between dark and light and strove to find a balance between all aspects of life. The Celtic way of prayer meant that one had to be conscious of the rhythm of dark and light, which were symbols of the Celtic refusal to renounce pain, darkness, and suffering, but still thrive in rejoicing, celebration of the fullness and goodness of life.33 Both the pagan and Christian Irish always had a view and understanding of life that was not held nor comprehended by the rest of the world at the time.
…looking back to the Celtic saints, …there is an impression of integration, of men and women who saw unity and meaning in the diversity of the world, just as the strands of the interwoven patterns of Celtic art thread in and out. The Celtic artist had the feel of the completed design, he knew where each strand reappeared and knotted in with the next.34
In short, the Celtic people realized that one cannot live with out finding a balance among all aspects of life (i.e. religion, work, pleasure, etc.). The knotwork patterns and designs symbolize this balance because all of the cords or strands connect in the end, just as the various parts of a person’s life combine in the end to form the person. Also, the maker of the design knew where each cord knotted in with the next, just as when we reach this balance, we know where we are going in life and know what to do. These knotwork designs were distinctly Irish and, moreover, linked the old pagan religion with the new Christian religion.
Death was not the end of life for the Irish, but the entrance into a new and better life with Christ. As Daphne D. C. Pochin Mould states,
…the Celtic saints [were] men to whom death was not the end but the entry into new and fuller life and activity, something to which the whole life led up, and which should be looked forward to and welcomed….it gave meaning to life here, because every action was related to eternity, …the Celtic level of scholarship, of technical achievement in metallurgy, in art, and in seamanship, … All these things can be integrated, brought into the pattern of life, if once the key to the design is discovered.35
The Irish Christians adhered to an idea, known as the “paradox of Christianity,” which said “that to secure your life, you must lose it, the total giving that ends in inheriting the earth….the violence of their ideal of penance and white martyrdom ended in making them freemen of the world, who could enjoy and handle and direct its affairs without becoming enslaved by them.”36 This meant that in order to achieve salvation, one must lose his life. This did not mean that he must physically die and be a martyr, but that he must lose an obsession with worldly goods, as well as other material things and ideas which enslave men and keep him from following Christ. Once he loses this passion for material things, he may direct and enjoy the world without being made prisoner by it. In short, the Irish Catholics believed that they had to free themselves from dependence on worldly goods in order to become free and achieve salvation.
Their belief in God, the Incarnation, and the Resurrection allowed the Celtic saints and Irish Catholics to achieve this integration of all elements of life. That philosophy of unity gave life a whole new meaning, for not just the individual, but also for the world around him. To the Irish, one who finds this balance is no longer rambling, lost in darkness, but has an aim and the means to achieve his goal. The author of The Celtic Saints says that with God seen as the controller of everything, life and the world become more meaningful, no longer just a bunch of events mashed together. The Trinity had its own distinctive place in Irish religious life because it was through the Trinity that most people were able to understand God – three parts, but one God.37 The Irish made lasting reminders of their religion and doctrines. By decorating and ornamenting everyday objects, such as tools, weapons, and clothing, each item was made holy and became an ongoing reminder of order in a time of disorder and confusion.38 Elaine Gill points out, for instance, that the detailed knotwork patterns found on Irish Christian objects, monuments, and in illuminated manuscripts symbolize how each part of creation is connected with every other part.39 The Irish believed in the Catholic idea that we are many members or parts, but we all form one body in Christ. This quote from the New American Bible, Corinthians 1 12:12-13, very well summarizes the Irish belief of integration, unity, and the Trinity:
As the body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.40
This quote can be related and applied to the ancient Irish Catholic way of life. The Irish believed that a person should try to make himself more unified in Christ by integrating all elements of his life into his search for Christ. According to this passage, the whole is weaker when a component is missing. This also states that God is the ultimate controller of everything and things were made the way they were by God for a reason. All of these beliefs the Irish Catholics sustained with strong faith.
Catholic liturgy always searches for symbolism and hidden meanings beneath an ordinary statement. This attitude came very naturally to the Celtic saints and people because of their pagan roots, which explains the symbols that gave meaning to the Irish pilgrimages that came about in their times.41 For the Celts, life was a learning process and a journey through good and bad times, but they preached that God would lead them safely throughout their journey.
For the Celtic saints the whole of life was to be thought of as a pilgrimage through the earthly valley of tears to the mountain of the Lord and the heavenly fatherland. At other times they thought of life as a voyage through stormy seas, like the Irish pilgrims heading out for Skellig rock [an Irish monastic community], the ship of the Church taking the bearings of her course from the Star of the Sea, the Blessed Virgin.42
The imagination and creativity of the Celts allowed them to see Christ in a whole new light, not experienced in the same way ever before by other cultures. They brought their pagan background and artistic talents and combined them with their religious lives to make themselves stronger individuals and believers in the Catholic faith. Their integration and talents allowed them to reach out to many more people who had not known the Catholic faith either. This made them successful missionaries as well and prevailing in preserving the knowledge of Europe during the Dark Ages.
The Irish had a way of expressing their religious feelings through their creativity and imagination. According to the authors of Celtic Christian Spirituality: An Anthology of Medieval and Modern Sources, the creative arts stood at the center of the Celtic Christian Church, as revealed through the social standing of the scribe in early Irish society. As earlier mentioned, poets and storytellers were central figures in Celtic Christian society because they helped to convey the message of the Gospels to those who had not heard it. This reveals that the Celts recognized that everyone is touched by the word of God in different ways, so there had to be different ways to deliver the message. The author of Irish Pilgrimage has stated that evident in the High Crosses, in the tradition of illumination, and in Christian bardic tradition is the value placed on a creative imagination. To the Celtic Christians, the creative people were deliverers of the word of God.
The Irish also had a respect for nature, which included water, the source of life, and for the pagan Celts who turned Christian, a rebirth into a new life. The Celts, both pagan and Christian, viewed water as the source of life. They believed it should be used wisely and enjoyed because they understood its value.43 When an Irish child was baptized with water, he/she was dedicated to the Trinity. Three drops of water were dropped on his/her head. The first drop being for God, the Father, and for wisdom; the second drop was for Christ, the Son, and for peace. The third drop was for the Holy Spirit and for purity.44 This tradition integrated the pagan view of the sanctity of water and the Catholic tradition of baptism and rebirth.
The Irish Catholics were traditionally accepting of all things because they understood that there is good and evil in the world, and dark and light, but believed that we must find the balance between the two in order to live. The Christian Celts were totally aware of their surroundings, and accepted both the natural world and their own man-made world.45 This goes back to the idea held by the Irish Christians that everything was made the way it was, by God, for a reason. The Irish Catholics had a heartfelt respect for creation, and understood how all is instilled with the divine spirit of Christ.46 They believed that everything was made by God, and therefore, God is present everywhere and in all things. As a result, they believed that everything thing was holy. The author of The Celtic Saints has reported,
Ireland still retains this feeling of intimacy with the unseen world round us, and, in the remoter districts, the milker may yet sign the cross of the cow’s flank with a finger dipped in the froth from the full pail. And it is worth setting this present-day Irish tradition against the actions of the Celtic monks, who sained [sic] everything they touched and used with a cross.47
The tradition of the milker shows how the ancient ideology of the Irish is still alive today, in the midst of division, change, and conflict.
Penance was an important and necessary part of life for early Irish Catholics. Kathleen Winifred Hughes has remarked that “The word used for the commutation of penance (Ir. arre, Lat. arreum) is Irish in origin and ‘proves beyond doubt that the practice itself is of Irish origin’.” In other words, the word used in Latin for the sacrament of penance was of Irish origin. This means that the sacrament of penance in its present day form in the Catholic Church originated in Ireland. Irish clergymen made penance a common practice, and spread the new idea with the Britons and then the Anglo-Saxons. Penance, which reminds us that we are sinful people of flesh and blood, is a way of including the physical body in one’s interaction with God. This inclusion was felt necessary by the Irish because of their idea of unity and integration of all aspects of life, which they inherited from their pagan forbears.48 According to the Celts, we, as people, are made up of a body and a soul. Therefore, physical actions are a necessity to praise God because the body and soul, one being seen and the other not, react one on the other.49 In other words, penance integrated several aspects of life for the Irish Christians by including the physical body and the soul.
Pilgrimages were a common form of penance in Ireland because they included the body in worship, rather than just the soul. The main emphasis of the age was of the devotion to the true presence of Christ in the sacrament. During the silver age (8th-12th centuries) of Christianity in Ireland, pilgrimages became more and more common within the country. On pilgrimages, penitential exercises took place, including fasting for the weekend, deprivation of sleep, and going barefoot while processing through the dark night, even in the cold and rain.50 Penitential tradition in Ireland was an expression of the spirit that greatly stressed that one should accept physical discomfort and deprivation out of his own free will as a way to Christ.51 The Irish church, as earlier mentioned, emphasized that one should not just believe the Christian scriptures, but should fully participate in all activities of the faith. Even though penitential tradition was common in Ireland, the church in Rome didn’t approve of the practice at that time. One of the most common sites for pilgrimages was Station Island on Lough Derg in County Donegal. According to legend, Saint Patrick was believed to have had a vision of purgatory at Station Island.52 Pope Alexander VI imposed the cessation of pilgrimages and the desolation of Saint Patrick’s Cave in the year 1497. Despite Roman opposition, weekend pilgrimages continued, and they continue to this site to this day.53 This continuity is testimony to the endurance of the ancient Celtic Christian traditions and the uniqueness of the Irish Catholic Church from the church in Rome. “After the Reformation the Celtic pilgrimages played a vital part in maintaining the faith of the Catholic Irish, and became a constant subject of Protestant attack. Today, they continue to flourish, a striking sign of Irish piety.”54 This portrays the depth of the Irish devotion to Christ and the saints, that they were willing to face anything in order to worship in their faith, even persecution and death.
The Book of Kells is one of the most famous illuminated manuscripts, and its beauty and ornamentation ideally demonstrate the greatness of Ireland’s golden age of Christianity. The Book of Kells, an early Irish illuminated manuscript from the eighth or ninth century, is a Latin copy of the four Gospels.55 It has been assumed that it originated in Iona, Scotland and was completed at the Irish monastery of Kells. Taking into account its large size, the book was more than likely intended to be an altar book.56 Even though it was probably only a mere altar book, the Book of Kells has become much more than just that. It has grown to be a largely recognized symbol of the golden age of Christianity in Ireland. The designs in the Book of Kells consist of little animals, plants, spirals, and swirls. The designs are Celtic symbols that were used in ornamentation on brooches, mirrors, and other objects that date from pre-Christian Ireland.57 In this way, the Book of Kells combined pagan creativity with Christian creativity.
Other literatures of this era include a number of monastic Rules, lives of the saints, Irish penitentials, and martyrologies, and the Stowe Missal. The Stowe Missal was composed in the eighth or ninth century. It is the oldest missal of the early Irish church to have ever survived. It contains extracts of the Gospel according to Saint John, the rites of baptism, visitation of the sick, extreme unction, viaticum, and treatise on the Mass.58 This leads one to assume that the missal contained only that which was most highly valued and important to the Irish.
Conclusively, according to the evidence presented, Irish Catholicism during the Dark and Middle Ages was quite unique from that on the European continent, partly characterized by the continuity of the beliefs and traditions formed by the integration of previous pagan traditions into the new faith: Celtic Christianity. Moreover, the golden age of Irish Christianity preserved the learning of Europe while Europe was in a Dark Age of treachery and conflict. Irish Catholicism joined pagan dogma with Catholic doctrines to create a lasting church that brought out the best in the Irish people. Despite changes in church structure and some church philosophy, many ancient traditions and beliefs continued through these times of change and survived. More and more of Irish culture seems to be surging into the limelight today. Perhaps the ideas of Irish Catholicism will be next. Even throughout all of the influences, the old ways of penance and creativity endured, proving that Irish Catholicism is quite distinctive from Catholicism on the European continent.
1“Patrick – to Ireland, First as Slave, Then as Servant,” Internet, http://www.gospelcom.net/chi/glimpses/seventyfive.html, 1995, n. p.
2Ibid., n. p.
3Ibid., n. p.
4Ibid., n. p.
5Ibid., n. p.
6“History of Derry,” Internet, http://www.interknowledge.com/northern-ireland/ukider01.html, 1995, n. p.
7 “History of Derry,” n. p.
8 Timothy Joyce, Celtic Christianity – A Sacred Tradition, A Vision of Hope (New York, Orbis Books, 1998), p. 4.
9Ibid., p. 36.
10 Robert Van de Weyer, Celtic Fire: the Passionate Religious Vision of Ancient Britain and Ireland (New York, Double Day, 1991), p. 1-2.
11Ibid., p. 1.
12Ibid., pp. 1-2.
13Ibid., p. 3.
14Ibid., p. 4.
15Joyce, pp. 74-75.
16Ibid., p. 75.
17Ibid., p. 77.
18Ibid., p. 77.
19Norman F. Cantor, The Civilization of the Middle Ages (New York, Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., 1993), p. 163.
20Cantor, p. 163.
21Joyce, p. 33.
22Van de Weyer, p. 4.
23Van de Weyer, pp. 3-4.
24Joyce, p. 7.
25Ibid., p. 45.
26Ibid., p. 67.
27Ibid., p. 67.
28Ibid., p. 67.
29Ibid., p. 68.
30Ibid., p. 68.
31Ibid., p. 68-69.
32Ibid., p. 68.
33Tom Kennedy, “Celtic Flavours,” Ireland of the Welcomes, 47 (May-June 1998), p. 21.
34Esther DeWaal, The Celtic Way of Prayer (New York, Doubleday, 1997), p. x.
35 Mould, The Celtic Saints, p. 144.
36Daphne D. C. Pochin Mould, The Celtic Saints (New York, MacMillan, 1956), p. 44.
37Ibid., p. 146.
38Fiona Bowie and Oliver Davies, Celtic Christian Spirituality: An Anthology of Medieval and Modern Sources (New York, Continuum, 1995), p. 20.
39Elaine Gill, Celtic Pilgrimages: Sites, Seasons, and Saints: An Inspiration for Spiritual Journeys (New York, Sterling Publishing Company, 1997), p. 48.
40New American Bible (New York, Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1992), The New Testament p. 258.
41Daphne D. C. Pochin Mould, Irish Pilgrimage (New York, Devin-Adair Company, 1991), p. 146.
42Ibid., p. 146.
43Gill, p. 58.
44Ibid., p. 58.
45Ibid., p. 48.
46Ibid., p. 48.
47Mould, The Celtic Saints, p. 54.
48Bowie and Davies, p. 20.
49Mould, Irish Pilgrimage, p. 146.
50Joyce, p. 69.
51Bowie and Davies, p. 19.
52Joyce, p. 69.
53Ibid., p. 69.
54Mould, Irish Pilgrimage, p. 145.
55Tracy Englert, “Book of Kells Research Paper,” Internet, http://www.ocean.st.usm.edu/~takoch/kell2.html, 1998, n. p.
56Ibid., n. p.
57Ibid., n. p.
58Joyce, p. 69.
Bowie, Fiona, and Davies, Oliver, Celtic Christian Spirituality: An Anthology of Medieval and Modern Sources, New York, Continuum, 1995.
Cantor, Norman F., The Civilization of the Middle Ages, New York, Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., 1993.
DeWaal, Esther, The Celtic Way of Prayer, New York, Doubleday, 1997, p. x.
Englert, Tracy, “Book of Kells Research Paper,” Internet, http://ocean.st.usm.edu/~takoch/kell2.html, 1998, n. p.
Gill Elaine, Celtic Pilgrimages: Sites, Seasons, and Saints: An Inspiration for Spiritual Journeys, New York, Sterling Publishing Company, 1997, pp. 48, 48.
“History of Derry,” Internet, http://www.interknowledge.com/northern-ireland/ukider01.htm, n. p.
Joyce, Timothy, Celtic Christianity - A Sacred Tradition, A Vision of Hope, New York, Orbis Books, 1998.
Kennedy, Tom, “Celtic Flavours,” Ireland of the Welcomes, 47 (May-June, 1998), p. 21.
Mould, Daphne D. C. Pochin, Irish Pilgrimage, New York, Devin-Adair Company, 1991, pp. 145-146.
__________, The Celtic Saints, New York, MacMillan, 1956, pp. 144, 146.
New American Bible, New York, Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1992, The New Testament p. 258.
“Patrick - To Ireland, First as Slave, Then as Servant,” Internet, http://www.gospelcom.net/chi/glimpses/seventyfive.html, 1993, p. 1.
Van de Weyer, Robert, Celtic Fire: the Passionate Religious Vision of Ancient Britain and Ireland, New York, Doubleday, 1991.
Last updated on April 13th, 2000.