Columban and Ireland’s Christian legacy

Dear Editor, Fr Sean McDonagh celebrated St Columban in your issue of October 10, and rightly so. This was the time when the Irish were the saviours of Europe, because of the great work our missionaries did in Scotland, and in western Europe as a whole. It was not just that they brought the Faith there, but also because Catholicism engendered so many other good things, which can be encapsulated in the word ‘civilisation’. This came about when the civilisation of the great Roman Empire just died. That was bad enough, but it became much worse from the invasion of the eastern pagans: Goths, Visigoths and others. There was no army to save us then. However, when our missionaries brought Catholicism to the continent, it also civilised the invaders, and the rest is history – a much more pleasant one. Later, in medieval Europe, the Church created the first universities, which sweetened civilisation even more. Alas, none of this is known now. That is what I have always known. And it was a great buffer during the time I represented an Irish firm in the European Union. My opposite numbers often teased me with the legend of the drunken Irish, some adding “Sure and begorrah, let’s all have a few pints”. I happily took part in this good-natured leg-pull, but I also opened their eyes to our great missionaries mentioned above. (I also confused them by being a Pioneer.)  In this context, I strongly recommend Thomas Cahill’s paperback, How the Irish Saved Civilisation.

Yours etc,

Colm Culleton,


Co. Carlow.