Irish Race in the Past and the Present
by Aug. J. Thebaud
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Had Europe remained in its entirety as steadfast to the true Christian spirit as the small island which dots the sea on its western border, what an incalculable happiness it would have proved to the whole globe, resting as it does to-day under the lead of the race of Japhet !

But where now are the pure waters which should vivify and fertilize it? Innumerable elements are floating in their midst which can but destroy life and spread barrenness everywhere.

Let us see what Europeans believe; what are the motives which actuate them; what they propose to themselves in disseminating their influence and establishing their dominion; what the real, openly-avowed purposes of the leaders are in the vast scheme which embraces the whole earth; what becomes of foreign races as soon as they come in contact with them.

The bare idea causes the blood of the Christian to curdle in his veins, and he thanks God that his life shall not be prolonged to witness the successful termination of the vast conspiracy against God and humanity.

For, in our days, spite of so many deviations in the course of the great European stream, it is truly a matter of wonder what power it has obtained over the globe in its mastery, its control, its unification. What, then, would have been the result had its course remained constantly under Christian guidance!

It is only a short time since the whole earth has become known to us; and we may say that, for Europe, it has been enough only to know it in order to become at once the mistress of it; such power has the Christian religion given her! The first circumnavigation of the globe under Magellan took place but yesterday, and to-day European ships cover the oceans and seas of the world, bearing in every sail the breath and the spirit of Japhetism. The stubborn ice-fields of the pole can scarcely retard their course, and hardy navigators and adventurous travellers jeopardize their lives in the pursuit of merely theoretical notions, void almost of any practical utility.

The most remote and, up to recently, inaccessible parts of the earth are as open to us, owing to steam, as were the countries bordering on the Mediterranean to the ancients. The Argonautic expedition along the southern coast of the Black Sea was in its day an heroic undertaking. The Phoenician colonies established in Africa and Spain by a race trying for the first time in the history of man to launch their ships on the ocean in order to trade with Northern tribes as far as Ireland and the Baltic, though never losing sight of the coast; the attempts of the Carthaginians to circumnavigate Africa; the three years' voyages of the ships of Solomon in the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf, were one and all far more hazardous undertakings than the long voyages of our steamships across the Indian Ocean to Australia, or around Cape Horn to California and the South Sea Islands, through the Southern and Northern Pacifics.

From all large seaboard cities in any part of the globe, lines of steamers now bear men to every point of the compass, so that the very boards at the entrances of offices, to be found everywhere for the accommodation of travellers, are as indices of works on universal geography.

And the European, still unsatisfied with all he has achieved in speed and comfort, looks to more rapid and easier modes of conveyance. Scientific men have been for many years engaged in experiments by means of which they hope to replace the ocean by the atmosphere as a public highway for nations; and the currents of air rushing in every direction with the velocity of the most rapid winds may yet be used by our children instead of rivers, thenceforth deserted, and of ocean-streams at last left empty and waste as before the voyages of Columbus and De Gama.

All this constitutes a positive and stern fact staring us in the face, and giving to the Caucasian race a power of which our ancestors would never have dreamed. And if all this is to be the only result of man's activity—the attainment of merely worldly purposes—God, whose world this is, may look down on it from heaven as on the work of Titans preparing to attack his rights, and He will know how to turn all these mighty efforts of the sons of Japhet to his own holy designs. He may use a small branch of that great race, preserved purposely from the beginning unsullied by mere thrift, and prepared for his work by long persecution, a consideration which we shall examine later on.

Meanwhile the great mass of the European family is allowed to go on in its wonderful undertaking; and we turn to it yet a short while.

As if to favor still more directly this work of the unification of the globe, Providence has placed at the disposal of the prime movers in the enterprise pecuniary means which no one could have foreseen a few years ago.

In 1846, on a small branch of one of the great rivers of California, a colonist discovers gold carried as dust with the sand, and soon a great part of the country is found to be immensely rich in the precious metal. That first discovery is followed by others equally important, and after a few years gold is found in abundance on both sides of a long range of the Rocky Mountains; again in the north, nearly as high up as the arctic circle. North America, in fact, is found to be a vast gold deposit. Australia soon follows, and that new continent, whose exploration has scarcely begun, is said to be dotted all over by large oases of auriferous rock and gravel. In due time the same news comes from South Africa, where it has been lately reported that diamonds, in addition to gold, enrich the explorer and the workman.

It is needless to speak of mines of silver and mercury after gold and diamonds; but the result is that the European race is straightway provided with an enormous wealth commensurate with the immense commercial and manufacturing enterprises required for the establishment of its supremacy all over the globe.

There is work, therefore, for all the ships afloat; others and larger ones have to be constructed; and modern engineering skill places on the bosom of the deep sea vessels which few, indeed, of the greatest rivers can accommodate in their channels and bays.

All these means of dominion and dissemination once procured, the great work clearly assigned to the race of Japhet may proceed.

Intercourse with the most savage and uncivilized tribes is eagerly cultivated even at the risk of life. New avenues to trade are opened up in places where men, still living in the most primitive state, have few if any wants; and it is considered as part of the keen merchant's skill to fill the minds of these uncouth and unsophisticated barbarians with the desire of every possible luxury. Have we not lately heard that the savages of the Feejee Islands, who were a few years ago cannibals, have now a king seeking the protection of England, if not the annexation of his kingdom to the British empire?

Yes, the material civilization of Europe, the new discoveries of steam and magnetism, the untiring energy of men aiming at universal dominion, give to the Caucasian race such a superiority over the rest of mankind that the time seems to be fast approaching when the manners, the dress, the look even of Europeans, will supersede all other types, and spread everywhere the dead level of our habits.

This fact has already been realized in America, North and South. Geographers may give lengthened descriptions of the original tribes which still possess a shadow of existence; foreign readers may perhaps imagine that the continent is still in the quiet possession of rude and uncivilized races roaming at will over its surface, and allowing some Europeans to occupy certain cities and harbors for the purposes of trade and barter. We know that nothing could be more erroneous. The Europeans are the real possessors, north and south; the Indians are permitted to exist on a few spots contracting year by year into narrower limits. The northern and larger half of the continent is chiefly the dwelling-place of the most active branch of the bold race of Japhet. The first of the iron lines which are to connect its Atlantic and Pacific coasts has recently been laid. Cities spring up all along its track: the harbors of California, Oregon, and Alaska, will soon swarm much more than now with hardy navigators ready to europeanize the various groups of islands scattered over the Pacific. Already in the Sandwich and Tahiti groups the number of Europeans is greatly in excess of that of the natives. Those natives who, in the Philippine Islands, have been preserved by the Catholic Church, will too soon disappear from the surface of the largest ocean of the globe.

Then Eastern Asia will be attacked much more seriously than ever before. Since its discovery, Europeans could only reach it through the long distances which divide Western Europe from China and Japan. But within a short time numerous lines of steamships, starting from San Francisco, Portland, Honolulu, and many other harbors yet nameless, will land travellers in Yokohama, Hakodadi, Yeddo, Shanghai, Canton, and other emporiums of Asia.

Nor will the Americans of the United States be alone in the race. Several governments are preparing to cut a canal through the Isthmus of Panama, or Darien, or Tehuantepec, as has already been done with that of Suez; and soon ships starting from Western Europe will, with the aid of steam, traverse the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans successively as two large lakes to land their passengers and cargoes on the frontiers of China and India.

The Japanese, those Englishmen of the East, are ready to adopt European inventions. They are indeed already expert in many of them, and seem on the alert to conform to European manners. It is said that the nation is divided into two parties on that very question of conformity; before long they will all be of one mind. What an impulse will thus be given to the europeanization of China and Tartary!

In Hindostan, England has fairly begun the work; but the climate of the peninsula offering an obstacle to the introduction of a large number of men of the Caucasian race, it will be more probably from the foot of the Himalaya Mountains that the spread of the race will commence. Already the English and the Russians are concentrating their forces on the Upper Indus. The question merely is, Which nation will be the first to inoculate the dreamy sons of Sem with the spirit and blood of Japhet? It seems that Central Asia will form the rallying-ground for the last efforts of the Titans to unify their power, as it was thence that the power of God first dispersed them.

A glance at the rest of the world as witnessing the same astonishing spectacle, and we pass on. Australia is clearly destined to be entirely European; the number of natives, already insignificant compared to that of the colonists, will soon disappear utterly. Turkey, the Caucasus, Bokhara, are rapidly taking a new shape and adopting Western manners.

The African triangle offers the greatest resistance, owing to its deserts, its terrible climate, and the savage or childish disposition of its inhabitants. Yet the attempt to europeanize it is at this moment in earnest action at its southernmost cape, all along its northern line skirting the Mediterranean, in Egypt chiefly, and also through the Erythrean Gulf in the east; finally, on many points of its western shore, which, strange to say, lags behind, although it formed the first point of discovery by the Portuguese.

To condense all we have just said to a few lines: it looks as though all races of men, except the Caucasian, were undergoing a rapid process of unification or disappearance.

In America certainly the phenomenon is most striking.

In Asia all the native races seem palsied and unable to hold together in the presence of the Russians and the English.

In Africa, Mohammedanism still preserves to the natives a certain activity of life, but even that is fast on the wane.

Finally, in Australia and the Pacific Ocean the disappearance of the natives is still more striking and more sudden in its action than even in America.

This state of things did not exist two hundred years ago; and when the Crusades began the reverse was the case.

We cannot believe that this immense, universal fact is merely an exterior one resulting from new appliances, new comforts, new outward habits; what is called material civilization. We cannot believe that it is merely the dress, houses, culinary regime, the popular customs of those numerous foreign tribes or nations which are undergoing such a wonderful change. This outward phenomenon supposes a substratum, an interior reality of ideas and principles worthy our chief attention as the real cause of all those exterior changes; a cause, nevertheless, which is scarcely thought of in the public estimate of this mighty revolution.

It is the mind of Europe: it is the belief or want of belief, the religious or irreligious views, the grasping ambition, the headlong desire of an impossible or unholy happiness, the reckless sway of unbridled passions, which try to spread themselves among all nations, and bring them all up, or rather down, to the level of intoxicated, tottering, maddened Europe.

If the monstrous scheme succeeds, there will be no more prayer in the villages of the devout Maronites, no more submission to God in the mountains of Armenia, no more simplicity of faith among the shepherds of Chaldea, no more purity of life among the wandering children of Asiatic deserts.

Side by side with truth and virtue many errors and monstrosities will doubtless disappear, but not to be replaced with what is much better.

The muezzin of the mosques will no longer raise his voice from the minarets at noon and nightfall; the simple Lama will no longer believe in the successive incarnations of Buddha; no longer will the superstitious Hindoo cast himself beneath the car of Juggernaut; many another such absurdity and crime will, let us hope, disappear forever. But with what benefit to mankind? After all, is not superstition even better for men than total unbelief? And, when the whole world is reduced to the state of Europe, when what we daily witness there shall be reproduced in all continents and islands, will men really be more virtuous and happy?

We must not think, however, that there is nothing truly good in the stupendous transformation which we have endeavored to sketch. If it really be the accomplishment of the great prophecy mentioned by us at the beginning of this chapter, it is a noble and a glorious event. God will know how to turn it to good account, and it is for us to hail its coming with thankfulness.

There is no doubt that the actual superiority of the race of Japhet, by force of which this wonderful revolution is being accomplished, is the result of Christianity, that is, of Catholicity. It is because Europe, or the agglomeration of the various branches of the race of Japhet, was for fifteen hundred years overshadowed by the true temple of God, his glorious and infallible Church; it is because the education of Europeans is mainly due to the true messengers of God, the Popes and the bishops; it is because the mind of Europe was really formed by the great Catholic thinkers, nurtured in the monasteries and convents of the Church; it is, finally, because Europeans are truly the sons of martyrs and crusaders, that on them devolves the great mission of regenerating and blending into one the whole world.

But, unfortunately, the work is spoiled by adjuncts in the movement which have grown up in the centuries preceding us. In fact, the whole European movement has been thrown on a wrong track, which we have already pointed out as mere material civilization.

Still, in spite of all the dross, there is a great deal of pure metal in the Japhetic movement. Underlying it all runs the doctrine that all men are sprung from the same father, and that all have had the same Redeemer; that, consequently, all are brethren, and that there should be no place among them for castes and classes, as of superior and inferior beings; that the God the Christians adore is alone omnipotent; that idolatry of all kinds ought to disappear, and that ultimately there should be but one flock and one shepherd.

These are saving truths, still held to in the main by the race of Japhet, in spite of some harsh and opposing false assertions, truths which the Catholic Church alone teaches in their purity, and which are yet destined, we hope, to make one of all mankind.

But her claims are yet far from being acknowledged by the leaders in the movement. And who are those leaders? A question all-important.

England is certainly the first and foremost. Endowed with all the characteristics of the Scandinavian race, which we shall touch upon after, deeply infused with the blood of the Danes and Northmen, she has all the indomitable energy, all the systematic grasp of mind and sternness of purpose joined to the wise spirit of compromise and conservatism of the men of the far North; she, of all nations, has inherited their great power of expansion at sea, possessing all the roving propensities of the old Vikings, and the spirit of trade, enterprise, and colonization, of those old Phoenicians of the arctic circle.

The Catholic south of Europe, Spain and Portugal, having, through causes which it is not the place to investigate here, lost their power on the ocean; the temporary maritime supremacy of Holland having passed away, because the people of that flat country were too close and narrow-minded to grasp the world for any length of time; France, the only modern rival of England as a naval power, having been compelled, owing to the revolutions of the last and the present centuries, to concentrate her whole strength on the Continent of Europe; the young giant of the West, America, being yet unable to grasp at once a vast continent and universal sway over the pathways of the ocean, England had free scope for her maritime enterprises, and she threw herself headlong into this career. Out of Europe she is incontestably the first power of the whole world. To give a better idea of the extent of her dominion, we subjoin an abridged sketch from the "History of a Hundred Years," by Cesare Cantu:

"In Europe she has colonies at Heligoland, Gibraltar, Malta, and the Ionian Isles.

"In Africa, Bathurst, Sierra Leone, many establishments on the coast of Guinea, the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigo, Sechelles, Socotora, Ascension, St. Helena, and, most important of all, the Cape Colony.

"In Asia, where she replaced the French and Dutch, she has, besides Ceylon, an empire of 150,000,000 of people in India, the islands of Singapore and Sumatra, part of Malacca, and many establishments in China.

"In America, she is mistress of Canada, New Brunswick, and other eastern provinces; the Lucayes, Bermudas, most of the Antilles, part of Guiana, and the Falkland Isles.

"In the Southern Ocean, the greater part of Australia, Tasmania, Norfolk, Van Diemen's Land, New Zealand, and many other groups of Oceanica are hers.

"What other state can compete with her in the management of colonies, and in the selection of situations from which she could command the sea? Jersey and Guernsey are her keys of the Straits of Dover; from Heligoland she can open or shut the mouths of the Elbe and Weser; from Gibraltar she keeps her eye on Spain and the States of Barbary, and holds the gates of the Mediterranean. With Malta and Corfu she has a like advantage over the Levant. Socotora is for her the key of the Red Sea, whence she commands Eastern Africa and Abyssinia. Ormuz, Chesmi, and Buschir, give her the mastery over the Persian Gulf, and the large rivers which flow into it. Aden secures the communication of Bombay with Suez. Pulo Pinang makes her mistress of the Straits of Malacca, and Singapore, of the passage between China and India. At the Cape of Good Hope her troops form an advanced guard over the Indian Ocean; and from Jamaica she rules the Antilles and trades securely with the rest of Central and South America.

"Englishmen have made a careful survey of the whole of the Mediterranean Sea, of the course of the Indus, the Ganges, the Bramaputra, the Godavery, and other rivers of India; of the whole littoral between Cape Colony and China; England has steamships on the Amazon and Niger, and her vessels are found everywhere on the coast of Chili and Peru."

Other European families try to follow in her footsteps; at their head the United States now stand. Primitively an offshoot of the English stock, the blood of all other Japhetic races has given the latter country an activity and boldness which will render it in time superior in those respects to the mother-country herself.

Yet at this time, even in the presence of the United States, in the presence of all other maritime powers, England stands at the head of the Japhetic movement.

Unfortunately, her first aim, after acquiring wealth and securing her power, is, to exclude the Roman Catholic Church as far as is practicable from the benefit of the system, to oppose her whenever she would follow in the wake of her progress, and either to allow paganism or Mohammedanism to continue in quiet possession wherever they exist, or to substitute for them as far as possible her Protestantism. At all events, the Catholicity of the Church is to be crushed, or at least thwarted, to make room for the catholicity of the English nation.

And it looks as though such, in truth, would have been the result, had not the stubbornness of the Irish character stood in the way; if the Celt of Erin, after centuries of oppression and opposition to the false wanderings of the European stream, had not insisted on following the English lord in his travels, dogging his steps everywhere, entering his ships welcome or unwelcome, rushing on shore with him wherever he thought fit to land, and there planted his shanty and his frame church in the very sight of stately palaces lately erected, and gorgeous temples with storied windows and softly-carpeted floors.

And after a few years the Irish Celt would show himself as active and industrious in his new country as oppression had made him indolent and careless on his own soil; the shanty would be replaced by a house worthy of a man; above all, the humble dwelling which he first raised to his God would disappear to make room for an edifice not altogether unworthy of divine majesty; at least, far above the pretentious structures of the oppressors of his religion. The eyes of men would be again turned to "the city built upon a mountain;" and the character of universality, instead of being wrested from the true Church, would become more resplendent than ever through the steadfast Irish Celt.

Thus the spreading of the Gospel in distant regions would be accomplished without a navy of their own. As their ancestors did in pagan times, they would use the vessels of nations born for thrift and trade; the stately ships of the "Egyptians" would be used by the true "people of God."

For them hath Stephenson perfected the steam-engine, so as to enable vessels to undertake long voyages at sea without the necessary help of sails; for them Brunel and others had spent long years in planning and constructing novel Noah's arks capable of containing all clean and unclean animals; for them the Barings and other wealthy capitalists had embraced the five continents and the isles of the ocean in their financial schemes; the Jews of England, Germany, and France, the Rothschilds and Mendelssohns, had accumulated large amounts of money to lend to ship-building companies; for them, in fine, the long-hidden gold deposits of California, Australia, and many other places, had been discovered at the proper time to replenish the coffers of the godless, that they might undertake to furnish the means of transportation and settlement for the missionaries of God!

And, to prove that this is no exaggeration, it is enough to look at the number of emigrants that were to be carried to foreign parts, and that actually left England for her various colonies or for the United States. For several years one thousand Irish people sailed daily from the ports of Great Britain; and for a great number of years 200,000 at least did so every twelve months. When we come, to contrast the Irish at home with the Irish abroad, we shall give fuller details than are possible here. These few words suffice to show the immense number of vessels and the vast sums that were required for such an extraordinary operation.

This phenomenon is surely curious enough, universal enough, and sufficiently portentous in its consequences, to deserve a thorough inquiry into its causes and the way in which it was brought about.

It will be seen that it all came from the Irish having kept themselves aloof from the other branches of the great Japhetic race in order to join in the general movement at the right time and in their own way, constantly opposed to all the evil that is in it, but using it in the way Providence intended.

The chapters which follow will be devoted to the development of this general idea; the few remarks with which we close the present may tend to set the conclusion which we draw more distinctly before our minds.

There is no doubt that, taking the Irish nation as a whole, we find in it features which are visible in no other European nation; and that, taking Europe as a whole, in all its complexity of habits, manners, tendencies, and ways of life, we have a picture wholly distinct from that of the Irish people. England has striven during the last eight hundred years to shape it and make it the creature of her thought, and England has utterly failed.

The same race of men and women inhabit the isle of Erin to-day as that which held it a thousand years ago, with the distinction that it is now far more wretched and deserving of pity than it was then. The people possess the same primitive habits, simple thoughts, ardent impulsiveness, stubborn spirit, and buoyant disposition, in spite of ages of oppression. In the course of centuries they have not furnished a single man to that army of rash minds which have carried the rest of Europe headlong through lofty, perhaps, but at bottom empty and idle theories, to the brink of that bottomless abyss into which no one can peer without a shudder.

No heresiarch has found place among them; no fanciful philosopher, no holder of fitful and lurid light to deceive nations and lead them astray, no propounder of social theories opposed to those of the Gospel, no inventor of new theogonies and cosmologies—new in name, old in fact—rediscovered by modern students in the Kings_ of China, the _Vedas_ of Hindostan, the _Zends_ of Persia, or _Eddas_ of the North; no ardent explorer of Nature, seeking in the bowels of the earth, or on the summits of mountains, or in the depths of the ocean, or the motions of the stars, proofs that God does not exist, or that matter has always existed, that man has made himself, developing his own consciousness out of the instinct of the brute, or even out of the material motions of the zoophyte.

We would beg the reader to bear in mind those insane theories so prevalent to-day, out of which society can hope for nothing but convulsions and calamities, to see how all the nations of Europe have contributed to the baneful result except the Irish; that they alone have furnished no false leader in those wanderings from the right path; that their community has been opposed all through to the adoption of the theories which led to them, have spurned them with contempt, and even refused to inquire into them: with these thoughts and recollections in his mind, he may understand what we mean when we assert that the Irish have stubbornly refused to enter upon the European movement. Although, by the reception of Christianity, they were admitted into the European family, the Christianity which they received was so thoroughly imbibed and so completely carried out that any thing in the least opposed to it was sternly rejected by the whole nation. Hence they became a people of peculiar habits. Rejecting the harsh features of feudalism, not caring for the refinement of the so-called revival of learning, sternly opposed at all times to Protestantism, they would have naught to do with what was rejected or even suspected by the Church, until in our days they offer to the eyes of the world the spectacle we have sketched. Thus have they, not the least by reason of their long martyrdom, become fit instruments for the great work Providence asks of them to-day.

England, the great leader in the material part of the social movement which has been the subject of this chapter, for a long time hesitated to adopt principles altogether subversive to society. In her worldly good sense she endeavored to follow what she imagined a via media in her wisdom, to avoid what seemed to her extremes, but what is in reality the eternal antagonism of truth and falsehood, of order and chaos. Twenty years back there was a unanimity among English writers to speak the language of moderation and good sense whenever a rash author of foreign nations hazarded some dangerous novelties; and in their reviews they immediately pointed out the poison which lay concealed under the covering of science or imagination, and the peril of these ever-increasing new discoveries. If any Englishman sanctioned those theories, he could not form a school among his countrymen, and remained almost alone of his party.

But at last England has given way to the universal spread of temptation, and to-day she runs the race of disorganization as ardent as any, striving to be a leader among other leaders to ruin. Every one is astounded at the sudden and remarkable change. It is truly inexplicable, save by the fearful axiom, Quos Deus vult perdere, dementat. Hence not a few expect soon to see storms sweep over the devoted island of Great Britain, which no longer forms an exception to the universality of the evil we have indicated.

Which, then, is the one safe spot in Europe, whither the tide of folly, or madness rather, has not yet come? Ireland alone is the answer.



The introduction of Christianity gave Europe a power over the world which pagan Rome could not possess. All the branches of the Japhetic family combined to form what was with justice and propriety called Christendom. Ireland, by receiving the Gospel, was really making her first entry into the European family; but there were certain peculiarities in her performance of this great act which gave her national life, already deviating from that of other European nations, a unique impulse. The first of those peculiarities consisted in her preparation for the great reception of the faith, and the few obstacles she encountered in her adoption of it, compared with those of the rest of the world.

Providence wisely decreed that redemption should be delayed until a large portion of mankind had attained to the highest civilization. It was not in a time of ignorance and barbarism that the Saviour was born. The Augustan is, undoubtedly, the most intellectual and refined age, in point of literary and artistic taste, that the world has ever seen. A few centuries before, Greece had reached the summit of science and art. No country, in ancient or modern times, has surpassed the acumen of her philosophical writers and the aesthetic perfection of her poets and artists. Rome made use of her to embellish her cities, and inherited her taste for science and literature.

But art and literature embody ideas only; and, as Ozanam says so well: "Beneath the current of ideas which dispute the empire of the world, lies that world itself such as labor has made it, with that treasure of wealth and visible adornment which render it worthy of being the transient sojourn-place of immortal souls. Beneath the true, the good, and the beautiful, lies the useful, which is brightened by their reflection. No people has more keenly appreciated the idea of utility than that of Rome; none has ever laid upon the earth a hand more full of power, or more capable of transforming it; nor more profusely flung the treasures of earth at the feet of humanity . . . .

"At the close of the second century . . the rhetorician Aristides celebrated in the following terms the greatness of the Roman Empire: 'Romans, the whole world beneath your dominion seems to keep a day of festival. From time to time a sound of battle comes to you from the ends of the earth, where you are repelling the Goth, the Moor, or the Arab. But soon that sound is dispersed like a dream. Other are the rivalries and different the conflicts which you excite through the universe. They are combats of glory, rivalries in magnificence between provinces and cities. Through you, gymnasia, aqueducts, porticoes, temples, and schools, are multiplied; the very soil revives, and the earth is but one vast garden!'

"Similar, also, was the language of the stern Tertullian: 'In truth, the world becomes day after day richer and better cultivated; even the islands are no longer solitudes; the rocks have no more terrors for the navigator; everywhere there are habitations, population, law, and life.' "The legions of Rome had constructed the roads which furrowed mountains, leaped over marshes, and crossed so many different provinces with a like solidity, regularity, and uniformity; and the various races of men were lost in admiration at the sight of the mighty works which were attributed in after-times to Caesar, to Brunehaud, to Abelard!"

It was in the midst of those worldly glories that Christ was born, that he preached, and suffered, that his religion was established and propagated. It found proselytes at once among the most polished and the most learned of men, as well as among slaves and artisans; and thus was it proved that Christianity could satisfy the loftiest aspirations of the most civilized as well as insure the happiness of the most numerous and miserable classes.

But we must reflect that the advanced civilization of Greece and Rome was in fact an immense obstacle to the propagation of truth, and, what is more to be regretted, often gave an unnatural aspect to the Christianity of the first ages in the Roman world— a half-pagan look—so that the barbarian invasion was almost necessary to destroy every thing of the natural order; that the Church alone remaining face to face with those uncouth children of the North, might begin her mission anew and mould them all into the family called "Christendom." "Christianity," to quote Ozanam again, "shrank from condemning a veneration of the beautiful, although idolatry was contained in it; and as it honored the human mind and the arts it produced, so the persecution of the apostate Julian, in which the study of the classics had been forbidden to the faithful, was the severest of its trials. Literary history possesses no moment of greater interest than that which saw the school with its profane —that is to say pagan—traditions and texts received into the Church. The Fathers, whose christian austerity is our wonder, were passionate in their love of antiquity, which they covered, as it were, with their sacred vestments. . . . By their favor, Virgil traversed the ages of iron without losing a page, and, by right of his Fourth Eclogue, took rank among the prophets and the sibyls. St. Augustine would have blamed paganism less, if, in place of a temple to Cybele, it had raised a shrine to Plato, in which his works might have been publicly read. St. Jerome's dream is well known, and the scourging inflicted upon him by angels for having loved Cicero too well; yet his repentance was but short-lived, since he caused the monks of the Mount of Olives to pass their nights in copying the Ciceronian dialogues, and did not shrink himself from expounding the comic and lyric poets to the children of Bethlehem."

We know already that nothing of the kind existed in Ireland when the Gospel reached her, and that there the new religion assumed a peculiar aspect, which has never varied, and which made her at once and forever a preeminently Christian nation.

Among the Greeks and Romans, literature and art, although accepted by the Church, were nevertheless deeply impregnated with paganism. All their chief acts of social life required a profession of idolatry; even amusements, dramatic representations, and simple games, were religious and consequently pagan exhibitions.

We do not here speak of the attractions of an atheistic and materialist philosophy, of a voluptuous, often, and demoralizing literature and poetry, of an unimaginable prostitution of art to the vilest passions, which the relics of Pompeii too abundantly indicate.

But apart from those excesses of corruption and unbelief, which, no doubt, virtuous pagans themselves abhorred, the approved, correct, and so-called pure life of the best men of pagan Rome necessitated the contamination of idolatrous worship. Apart from the thousand duties, festivals, and the like, decreed or sanctioned by the state, the most ordinary acts of life, the enlisting of the soldier, the starting on a military expedition, the assumption of any civil office or magistracy, the civil oaths in the courts of law, the public bath, the public walk almost, the current terms in conversation, the private reading of the best books, the mere glancing at a multitude of exterior objects, constituted almost as many professions of a false and pagan worship.

How could any one become a Christian and at the same time remain a Greek or a Roman? The gloomy views of the Montanist Tertullian were, to many, frightful truths requiring constant care and self- examen. For the Christian there were two courses open—both excesses, yet either almost unavoidable: on the one side, a terrible rigorism, making life unsupportable, next to impossible; on the other, a laxity of thought and action leading to lukewarmness and sometimes apostasy.

Bearing in mind what was written on the subject in the first three ages of Christianity, not only by Tertullian, but by most orthodox writers, St. Cyprian, Lactantius, Arnobius, and the authors of many Acts of martyrs, we may easily understand how the doctrines of Christianity stood in danger of never taking deep root in the hearts of men surrounded by such temptations, themselves born in paganism, and remaining, after their conversion, exposed to seductions of such an alluring character.

Therefore this same "high civilization," as it is called, in the midst of which Christianity was preached, was a real danger to the inward life of the new disciple of Christ.

How could it be otherwise, when it is a fact now known to all, that, even at the beginning of the fifth century, Rome was almost entirely pagan, at least outwardly, and among her highest classes; so that the poet Claudian, in addressing Honorius at the beginning of his sixth consulship, pointed out to him the site of the capitol still crowned with the Temple of Jove, surrounded by numerous pagan edifices, supporting in air an army of gods; and all around temples, chapels, statues, without number—in fact, the whole Roman and Greek mythology, standing in the City of the Catacombs and of the Popes!

The public calendars, preserved to this day, continued to note the pagan festivals side by side with the feasts of the Saviour and his apostles. Within the city and beyond, throughout Italy and the most remote provinces, idols and their altars were still surrounded by the thronging populace, prostrate at their feet.

If in the cities the new religion already dared display something of its inherent splendor, the whole rural population was still pagan, singing the praises of Ceres and of Bacchus, trembling at Fauns and Satyrs and the numerous divinities of the groves and fountains. Christianity then held the same standing in Italy that in the United States Catholicity holds to-day in the midst of innumerable religious sects. This is not the place to show how far the paganism of Greece and Rome had corrupted society, and how complete was its rottenness at the time. It has been already shown by several great writers of this century. Enough for our purpose to remark that even some Christian writers, of the age immediately succeeding that of the early martyrs, showed themselves more than half pagans in their tastes and productions. Ausonius in the West, the preceptor of St. Paulinus, is so obscene in some of his poems, so thoroughly pagan in others, that critics have for a long time hesitated to pronounce him a Christian. How many of his contemporaries hovered like him on the confines of Christianity and paganism! When Julian the apostate restored idolatry, many, who had only disgraced the name of Christian, openly returned to the worship of Jupiter and Venus, and their apostasy could scarcely be cause for regret to sincere disciples of our Lord.

In the East the phenomenon is less striking. Strange to say, idolatry did not remain so firmly rooted in the country, where it first took such an alluring shape; and Constantinople was in every sense of the word a Christian city when Rome, in her senate, fought with such persistent tenacity for her altars of Victory, her vestals, and her ancient worship.

Yet there, also, Christian writers were too apt to interfuse the old ideas with the new, and to adopt doctrines placed, as it were, midway between those of Plato and St. Paul. There were bishops even who were a scandal to the Church and yet remained in it. Synesius is the most striking example; whose doctrine was certainly more philosophical than Christian, and whose life, though decorous, was altogether worldly. The history of Arianism shows that others besides Synesius were far removed from the ideal of Christian bishops so worthily represented at the time by many great doctors and holy pontiffs.

Such, in the East as well as in the West, were the perils besetting the true Christian spirit at the very cradle of our holy religion.

Nor was the danger confined to the mythology of paganism, its literature and poetry. Philosophy itself became a real stumbling- block to many, who would fain appear disciples of faith, when they gave themselves up to the most unrestrained wanderings of human reason.

The truth is, that Greek philosophy, divided into so many schools in order to please all tastes, had become a wide-spread institution throughout the Roman world. The mind of the East was best adapted to it, and those who taught it were, consequently, nearly all Greeks. Cicero had made it fashionable among many of his countrymen; and although the Latin mind, always practical to the verge of utilitarianism, was not congenial to utopian speculations, still, as it was the fashion, all intellectual men felt the need of becoming sufficiently acquainted with it to be able to speak of it and even to embrace some particular school. Those patricians, who remained attached to the stern principles of the old republic, became Stoics; while the men of the corrupt aristocracy called themselves, with Horace, members of the "Epicurean herd." Hence the necessity for all to train their minds to scientific speculation, converted the Western world into a hot-bed of wild and dangerous doctrines.

In the opinion of some Eastern Fathers of the Church, Greek philosophy had been a preparation for the Gospel, and could be made subservient to the conversion of many. Thus we find St. Justin, the martyr, all his life long glorying in the name of philosopher, and continuing to wear, even after his conversion, the philosopher's cloak so much derided by the scoffer, Lucian.

Still, despite this very respectable opinion, we can entertain no doubt, in view of what happened at the time and of subsequent events, that philosophy grew to be a stumbling-block in the path of Christianity, and originated the worst and most dangerous forms of heresy; that it sowed the seed, in the European mind, of all errors, by creating that speculative tendency of character so peculiar to most branches of the Japhetic race.

Persian Dualism, and, as many think, Pantheistic Buddhism, which were then flourishing in Central and Eastern Asia, infected the Alexandrian schools, and impressed philosophy with a new and dreamy character, which became the source of subsequent and frightful errors. The Neo-Platonism of Porphyry and Plotinus was intended, in the minds of its originators, to lay a scientific basis for polytheism; and, in Jamblichus finally, became an open justification of the most absurd fables of mythology.

But, though this might satisfy Julian and those who followed him in his apostasy, it could not come to be an inner danger to the Church. With many, however, it assumed a form which at once engendered the worst errors of Gnosticism; and Gnosticism was, at first, considered a Christian heresy; so that a man might be a pantheist, of the worst kind, and still call himself Christian. St. John had foreseen the danger from the beginning, and it is said that he wrote his gospel against it because the doctrine openly denied the divinity of Christ. But the sect became much more powerful after his death, and allured many Christians who were disposed, from a misinterpretation of some texts of St. Paul on the struggle between the flesh and the spirit, to embrace a system which professed to explain the origin of that struggle.

The Alexandrian Gnosticism failed to excite in the minds of the holy monks of the East that aversion which we now feel for its tenets, inasmuch as it did not openly anathematize the Scriptures of the Old Law, nay, even preserved a certain outward respect for them, on account of the multitude of Jews living in Alexandria, and particularly because the open system of Dualism, which afterward came from Syria and in the hands of Manes established the existence of two equal and eternal principles of good and evil, found no place in the teachings of Valentinus and his school.

But even this frightful Syrian Gnosticism, which gave to the principle of evil an origin as ancient and sacred as that of God himself—Manicheism barefaced and radically immoral—so repugnant to our feelings, so monstrous to our more correct ideas, bore a semblance of truth for many minds, at that time inclined toward every thing which came from the East. We know what a firm hold those doctrines took on the great soul of Augustine, who for a long time professed and cherished them. Rome, under the pagan emperors, had received with open arms the Oriental gods and the philosophy which endeavored to explain their mythology; and many gifted minds of the third and fourth centuries lost themselves in the contemplation of those mysteries which from out Central Asia spread a lurid glare over the Western world.

This first danger, however, was warded off by the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, St. Epiphanius, Theodoret, and others, long before the time of St. Augustine, the last of them. Gnosticism was prevented from any longer imparting a wrong tendency to Christian doctrines, and it died out, until restored during the Crusades to revive in the middle ages in its most malignant form.

But at the very moment of its decline, philosophy entered the Church; almost to wreck her by inspiring Arius and Pelagius. The teachings of the first were clearly Neo-Platonic; of the second, Stoic: and all the errors prevalent in the Church from the third to the sixth century originated in Arianism and Pelagianism.

In Plato, as read in Alexandria, Arius found all the material for his doctrine, which spread like wild-fire over the whole Church. Many things conspired to swell the number of his adherents: the ardent love for philosophy so inherent in the Eastern Church, to the extent of many believing that Plato was almost a Christian, and his doctrines therefore endowed with real authority; the natural disposition of men to adopt the new and a seeming rational explanation of unfathomable mysteries; the apparent agreement of his doctrine with certain passages of Scripture, where the Son is said to be inferior to the Father; but chiefly the satisfaction it afforded to a number of new Christians who had embraced the faith at the conversion of Constantine on political rather than conscientious grounds, and who were at once relieved of the supernatural burden of believing in a God-man, born of a woman, and dying on a cross. Faith reduced to an opinion; religion become a philosophy; a mere man, let his endowments be what they might, recognized as our guide, and not overwhelming us with the dread weight of a divine nature; all this explains the historic phrase of St. Jerome after the Council of Rimini, "The world groaned and wondered to find itself Arian."

Any person acquainted with ecclesiastical history knows how the Church of Christ would have surely become converted into a mere rational school, under the pressure of these doctrines, were it not for the promises of perpetuity which she had received.

We know also what a time it took to establish truth: how many councils had to meet, how many books had to be written, the efforts required from the rulers of the Church, chiefly from the Roman pontiffs, to calm so many storms, to explain so many difficult points of doctrine, to secure the final victory.

And, after all had been accomplished, there still remained the root of the evil engrafted in what we call the philosophical turn of mind of the Western nations—that is to say, in the disposition to call every thing in question, to seek out strange and novel difficulties, to start war-provoking theories in the midst of peace, to aim at founding a new school, or at least to stand forth as the brilliant and startling expounder of old doctrines in a new form, in fine to add a last name to the list, already over-long, of those who have disturbed the world by their skill in dialectics and sophism.

Pelagius followed Arius, and his errors had the same object in view in the long-run, to strip our holy religion of all that is spiritual and divine.

In the time of St. Augustine and St. Jerome, there existed among Christians an extraordinary tendency to embrace all possible philosophical doctrines, even when directly opposed to the first principles of revealed religion; and, within the Church, the danger of subtilizing on every question connected with well- known dogmas was much greater than many imagine.

From the previous reflections we may learn how difficult it was to establish, in pagan Europe, a thoroughly Christian life and doctrine; and that, after society had come to be apparently imbued with the new spirit, it was still too easy to disturb the flowing stream of the heavenly graces of the Gospel. This resulted, we repeat, from causes anterior to Christianity, from sources of evil which the divine religion had to overcome, and which too often impeded its supernatural action. In fact, the ecclesiastical history of those ages is comprised mainly in depicting the almost continual deviations from the straight line of pure doctrine and morality, and the strenuous efforts assiduously made by the rulers of the Church against a never- ceasing falling away.

Having taken this glance at the early workings of Christianity through the rest of the world, we may now turn fairly to the immediate subject we have in hand, and trace its course in Ireland. From the very beginning we are struck by the peculiarities—blessed, indeed—which show themselves, as in all other matters, in its reception of the truth. The island, compared with Europe, is small, it is true; but the heroism displayed by its inhabitants during so many ages, in support of the religion which they received so freely, so generously, and at once, in mind as well as heart, marks it out as worthy of a special account; and, from its unique reception and adherence to the faith, as worthy of, if possible, a natural explanation of such action beyond the promptings of Divine grace, since its astonishing perseverance, its unswerving faith, form to-day as great a characteristic of the nation as they did on the day of its entry into the Christian Church.

We proceed to examine, then, the kind of idolatry which its first apostle encountered on landing in the island, and the ease with which it was destroyed, so as to leave behind no poisonous shoots of the deadly root of evil.

In order to understand the religious system of Ireland previous to the preaching of the Gospel, we must first take a general survey of polytheism, if it can be so called, in all Celtic countries, and of the peculiar character which it bore in Ireland itself.

Of old, throughout all countries, religion possessed certain things in common, which belonged to the rites and creeds of all nations, and were evidently derived from the primitive traditions of mankind, and, consequently, from a true and Divine revelation. Such were the belief in a golden age, in the fall from a happy beginning, in the penalty imposed on sin, which gave a reason for great mundane calamities—the Deluge chiefly— the memory of which lived in the traditions of almost every nation; in the necessity of prayer and expiatory sacrifice; in the transmission of guilt from father to son, expressed in all primitive legislations, and to this day preserved in the Chinese laws and customs; in the existence of good and bad spirits, whence, most probably, arose polytheism; in the hope of the future regeneration of man, represented in Greece by the beautiful myth of Pandora's box; and, finally, in the doctrine of eternal rewards and punishments.

Each one of these strictly true dogmas underwent more or less of alteration in its passage through the various nations of antiquity, but was, nevertheless, everywhere preserved in some shape or form.

At what precise epoch did mankind begin wrongfully to interpret these primitive traditions? When did the worship of idols arise and become universal? No one can tell precisely. All we know for certain is, that a thousand years before Christ idolatry prevailed everywhere, and that even the Jewish people often fell into this sin, and were only brought back by means of punishment to the worship of the true God.

But if error tainted the whole system of worship among nations, it differed in the various races of men according to the variety of their character. Ferocity or mildness of manners, acuteness or obtuseness of understanding, activity or indolence of disposition, a burning, a cold, or a temperate climate, a smiling or dreary country, but chiefly the thousand differences of temper which are as marked among mankind as the almost in- finite variety of forms visible in creation, gave to each individual religion its proper and characteristic types, which in after-times, when truth was brought down from heaven for all, imparted to the universal Christian spirit a peculiar outward form in each people, an interior adaptation to its peculiar dispositions, destined in the Divine plan to introduce into the future Catholic Church the beautiful variety requisite to make its very universality possible among mankind.

To enter into details on the Celtic religion would carry us beyond due limits. The question as to whether the ancient Celts were idolaters or not still remains undecided, though in France alone more than six hundred volumes have been written on the subject. Julius Caesar believed that they were worshippers of idols in the same sense as his own countrymen; but he probably stood alone in his opinion. Aristotle, Pythagoras, Polyhistor, Ammianus Marcellinus, considered the Druids as monotheist philosophers. Most of the Greek writers agreed with them, as did all the Alexandrian Fathers of the Church in the third and fourth centuries.

Among the moderns the majority leans to a contrary opinion; nevertheless, many authors of weight, distinguishing the public worship of the common people from the doctrine of the Druids, assert the monotheism of this sacerdotal caste. Samuel F. N. Morus particularly, who, with J. A. Ernesti, was esteemed the master of antiquarian scholarship in Europe during the last century, maintains, in his edition of the "Commentaries" of Caesar, that "human beings, as well as human affairs, fortunes, travels, and wars, were thought by the Celts to be governed and ruled by one supreme God, and that the system of apotheosis, common to nearly all ancient nations, was totally unknown in ancient Gaul, Britain, and the adjacent islands."

The ancient authorities concurring with these conclusions are so numerous and clear spoken that the great historian of Gaul, Amedee Thierry, thinks that such a pure and mystic religion, joined to such a sublime philosophy, could not have been the product of the soil. In his endeavor to investigate its origin, he supposes that it was brought to the west of Europe by the Eastern Cymris of the first invasion; that it was adopted by the higher classes of society, and that the old idolatrous worship remained in force among the lower orders.

The unity and omnipotence of the Godhead, metempsychosis, or the doctrine and the transmigration of soul —not into the bodies of animals, as it obtained and still obtains in the East, but into those of other human beings—the eternal duration of existing substances, material and spiritual, consequently the immortality of the human soul, were the chief dogmas of the Druids, according to the majority of antiquarians. If this be true, then it can be said boldly that, with the exception of revealed religion in Judea, which was always far more explicit and pure, no system can be found in ancient times superior to that of the Druids, more especially if we add that, in addition to religious teaching, a whole system of physics was also developed in their large academies. "They dispute," says Caesar, "on the stars and their motions, on the size of the universe and of this earth, on the nature of physical things, as well as on the strength and power of the eternal God."

To bring our question home, what were the religious belief and worship of the Irish Celts while still pagans? Very few positive facts are known on the subject; but we have data enough to show what they were not; and in such cases negative proofs are amply sufficient.

It was for a long time the fashion with Irish historians to attribute to their ancestors the wildest forms of ancient idolatry. They appeared to consider it a point of national honor to make the worship of Erin an exact reflex of Eastern, Grecian, or Roman polytheism. They erected on the slightest foundations grand structures of superstitious and abominable rites. Fire- worship, Phoenician or African horrors, the rankest idol-worship, even human sacrifices of the most revolting nature, were, according to them, of almost daily occurrence in Ireland. But, with the advancement of antiquarian knowledge, all those phantoms have successively disappeared; and, the more the ancient customs, literature, and history of the island are studied, the more it becomes clear that the pretended proofs adduced in support of those vagaries are really without foundation.

In the first place, there is not the slightest reason to believe that the human sacrifices customary in Gaul were ever practised in Ireland. No really ancient book makes any mention of them. They were certainly not in vogue at the time of St. Patrick, as he could not have failed to give expression to his horror at them in some shape or form, which expression would have been recorded in one, at least, of the many lives of the saint, written shortly after his death, and abounding in details of every kind. If not, then, during his long apostleship, we may safely conclude that they never took place before, as there was no reason for their discontinuance prior to the propagation of Christianity.

There was a time when all the large cromlechs which abound in the island were believed to be sacrificial stones; and it is highly probable that the opinion so prevalent during the last century with respect to the reality of those cruel rites had its origin in the existence of those rude monuments. After many investigations and excavations around and under cromlechs of all sizes, it is now admitted by all well-informed antiquarians that they had no connection with sacrifices of any kind. They were merely monuments raised over the buried bodies of chieftains or heroes. Many sepulchres of that description have been opened, either under cromlechs or under large mounds; great quantities of ornaments of gold, silver, or precious stones, utensils of various materials, beautiful works of great artistic merit, have been discovered there, and now go to fill the museums of the nation or private cabinets. Nothing connected with religious rites of any description has met the eyes of the learned seekers after truth. Thus it has been ascertained that the old race had reached a high degree of material civilization; but no clew to its religion has been furnished.

As to fire-worship, which not long ago was admitted by all as certainly forming a part of the Celtic religion in Ireland, so little of that opinion remains to-day that it is scarcely deserving of mention. There now remains no doubt that the round towers, formerly so numerous in Ireland, had nothing whatever to do with fire-worship. For a long time they were believed to have been constructed for no other object, and consequently long prior to the coming of St. Patrick. But Dr. Petrie and other antiquarians have all but demonstrated that the round towers never had any connection with superstition or idolatry at all; that they were of Christian origin, always built near some Christian church, and of the same materials, and had for their object to call the faithful to prayer, like the campanile of Italy, to be a place of refuge for the clergy in time of war, and to give to distant villages intimation of any hostile invasion.

The fact in the life of St. Patrick, when he appeared before the court of King Laeghaire, upon which so much reliance is placed as a proof of the existence of fire-worship, is now of proportionate weakness. It seems, to judge by the most reliable and ancient manuscripts, that, after all, the kindling of the king's fire was scarcely a religious act.

McGeoghegan, whose history is compiled, from the best- authenticated documents, says: "When the monarch convened an assembly, or held a festival at Tara, it was customary to make a bonfire on the preceding day, and it was forbidden to light another fire in any other place at the same time, in the territory of Breagh."

This is all; and the probable cause of the prohibition was to do honor to the king. Had it been an act of worship, Patrick, in lighting his own paschal-fire, would not only have shown disrespect to the monarch, but in the eyes of the people committed a sacrilege, which could scarcely have missed mention by the careful historians of the time.

But the proof that we are right in our interpretation of the ceremony is clear, from the following passage, taken from the work of Prof. Curry on "Early Irish Manuscripts:" "We see, by the book of military expeditions, that, when King Dathi— the immediate predecessor of Laeghaire on the throne of Ire- land— thought of conquering Britain and Gaul, he invited the states of the nation to meet him at Tara, at the approaching feast of Baltaine (one of the great pagan festivals of ancient Erin) on May-day.

"The feast of Tara this year was solemnized on a scale of splendor never before equalled. The fires of Lailten (now called Lelltown in the north of Ireland) were lighted, and the sports, games, and ceremonies, were conducted with unusual magnificence and solemnity.

"These games and solemnities are said to have been instituted more than a thousand years previously by Lug, in honor of Lailte, the daughter of the King of Spain, and wife of MacEire, the last king of the Firbolg colony. It was at her court that Lug had been fostered, and at her death he had her buried at this place, where he raised an immense mound over her grave, and instituted those annual games in her honor.

"These games were solemnized about the first day of August, and they continued to be observed down to the ninth century"- therefore, in Christian times-and consequently the lighting of the fires had as little connection with fire-worship as the games with pagan rites.

A more serious difficulty meets us in the destruction of Crom Cruagh by St. Patrick, and it is important to consider how far Crom Cruagh could really be called an idol.

With regard to the statues of Celtic gods, all the researches and excavations which the most painstaking of antiquarians have undertaken, especially of late years, have never resulted in the discovery, not of the statue of a god, but of any pagan sign whatever in Ireland. It is clear, from the numerous details of the life of St. Patrick, that he never encountered either temples or the statues of gods in any place, although occasional mention is made of idols. The only fact which startles the reader is the holy zeal which moved him to strike with his "baculus Jesu" the monstrous Crom Cruagh, with its twelve "sub-gods."

In all his travels through Ireland-and there is scarcely a spot which he did not visit and evangelize-St. Patrick meets with only one idol, or rather group of idols, situated in the County Cavan, which was an object of veneration to the people. Nowhere else are idols to be found, or the saint would have thought it his duty to destroy them also. This first fact certainly places the Irish in a position, with regard to idolatry, far different from that of all other polytheist nations. In all other countries it is characteristic of polytheism to multiply the statues of the gods, to expose them in all public places, in their houses, but chiefly within or at the door of edifices erected for the purpose. Yet in Ireland we find nothing of the kind, with the exception of Crom Cruagh. The holy apostle of the nation goes on preaching, baptizing, converting people, without finding any worship of gods of stone or metal; he only hears that there is something of the kind in a particular spot, and he has to travel a great distance in order to see it, and show the people their folly in venerating it.

But what was that idol? According to the majority of expounders of Irish history, it was a golden sphere or ball representing the sun, with twelve cones or pillars of brass, around it, typifying, probably, astronomical signs. St. Patrick, in his "Confessio," seems to allude to Crom Cruagh when he says: "That sun which we behold by the favor of God rises for us every day; but its splendor will not shine forever; nay, even all those who adore it shall be miserably punished." The Bollandists, in a note on this passage of the "Confessio," think that it might refer to Crom Cruagh, which possibly represented the sun, surrounded by the signs of the twelve months, through which it describes its orbit during the year.

We know that the Druids were, perhaps, better versed in the science of astronomy than the scholars of any other nation at the time. It was not in Gaul and Britain only that they pursued their course of studies for a score of years; the same fact is attested for Ireland by authorities whose testimony is beyond question. May we not suppose that a representation of mere heavenly phenomena, set in a conspicuous position, had in course of time become the object of the superstitious veneration of the people, and that St. Patrick thought it his duty to destroy it? And the attitude of the people at the time of its destruction shows that it could not have borne for them the same sacred character as the statue of Minerva in the Parthenon did for the Greeks or that of Capitoline Jove for the Romans. Can we suppose that St. Paul or St. Peter would have dared to break either of these? And let us remark that the event we discuss occurred at the very beginning of St. Patrick's ministry, and before he had yet acquired that great authority over the minds of all which afterward enabled him fearlessly to accomplish whatever his zeal prompted him to do.

Whatever explanation of the whole occurrence may be given, we doubt if we shall find a better than that we advance, and the considerations arising from it justify the opinion that the Irish Celts were not idolaters like all other peoples of antiquity. They possessed no mythology beyond harmless fairy- tales, no poetical histories of gods and goddesses to please the imagination and the senses, and invest paganism with such an attractive garb as to cause it to become a real obstacle to the spread of Christianity.

Moreover, what we have said concerning the belief in the omnipotence of one supreme God, whatever might be his nature, as the first dogma of Druidism, would seem to have lain deep in the minds of the Irish Celts, and caused their immediate comprehension and reception of monotheism, as preached by St. Patrick, and the facility with which they accepted it. They were certainly, even when pagans, a very religious people; otherwise how could they have embraced the doctrines of Christianity with that ardent eagerness which shall come under our consideration in the next chapter? A nation utterly devoid of faith of any kind is not apt to be moved, as were the Irish, perhaps beyond all other nations, at the first sight of supernatural truths, such as those of Christianity. And so little were they attached to paganism, so visibly imbued with reverence for the supreme God of the universe, that, as soon as announced, they accepted the dogma.

The simple and touching story of the conversion of the two daughters of King Laeghaire will give point and life to this very important consideration. It is taken from the "Book of Armagh," which Prof. O'Curry, who is certainly a competent authority, believes older than the year 727, when the popular Irish traditions regarding St. Patrick must have still been almost as vivid as immediately after his death.

St. Patrick and his attendants being assembled at sunrise at the fountain of Clebach, near Cruachan in Connaught, Ethne and Felimia, daughters of King Laeghaire, came to bathe, and found at the well the holy men.

"And they knew not whence they were, or in what form, or from what people, or from what country; but they supposed them to be fairies—duine sidhe—that is to say, gods of the earth, or a phantasm.

"And the virgins said unto them: 'Who are ye, and whence are ye?'

"And Patrick said unto them: 'It were better for you to confess to our true God, than to inquire concerning our race.'

"The first virgin said: 'Who is God?

"'And where is God?

"'And where is his dwelling-place?

"'Has God sons and daughters, gold and silver?

"'Is he living?

"'Is he beautiful?

"'Did many foster his son?

"'Are his daughters dear and beauteous to men of this world?

"'Is he in heaven or on earth?

"'In the sea?—In rivers?—In mountainous places?—In valleys?

"'Declare unto us the knowledge of him?

"'How shall he be seen?-How shall he be loved?-How is he to be found?

"'Is it in youth?-Is it in old age that he is to be found?'

"But St. Patrick, full of the Holy Ghost, answered and said:

"'Our God is the God of all men-the God of heaven and earth-of the sea and rivers. The God of the sun, and the moon, and all stars. The God of the high mountains, and of the lowly valleys. The God who is above heaven, and in heaven, and under heaven.

"'He has a habitation in the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and all that are thereon.

"'He inspireth all things. He quickeneth all things. He is over all things.

"'He hath a Son coeternal and coequal with himself. The Son is not younger than the Father, nor the Father older than the Son. And the Holy Ghost breatheth in them. The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are not divided.

"'But I desire to unite you to a heavenly King inasmuch as you are daughters of an earthly king. Do you believe?'

"And the virgins said, as of one mouth and one heart: Teach us most diligently how we may believe in the heavenly King. Show us how we may see him face to face, and whatsoever you shall say unto us we will do.'

"And Patrick said: 'Believe ye that by baptism you put off the sin of your father and your mother?'

"They answered him, 'We believe.'

"'Believe ye in repentance after sin? 'We believe . . .' etc.

"And they were baptized, and a white garment was put upon their heads. And they asked to see the face of Christ. And the saint said unto them: 'Ye cannot see the face of Christ except ye taste of death, and except ye receive the sacrifice.'

"And they answered: 'Give us the sacrifice that we may behold the Son our spouse.'

"And they received the eucharist of God, and they slept in death.

"And they were laid out on one bed-covered with garments -and their friends made great lamentations and weeping for them."

This beautiful legend expresses to the letter the way in which the Irish received the faith. Nor was it simple virgins only who understood and believed so suddenly at the preaching of the apostle. The great men of the nation were as eager almost as the common people to receive baptism: the conversion of Dubtach is enough to show this.

He was a Druid, being the chief poet of King Laeghaire—all poets belonging to the order. After the wife, the brothers, and the two daughters of the monarch, he was the most illustrious convert gained by Patrick at the beginning of his apostleship. He became a Christian at the first appearance of the saint at Tara, and immediately began to sing in verse his new belief, as he had formerly sung the heroes of his nation. To the end he remained firm in his faith, and a dear friend to the holy man who had converted him. How could he, and all the chief converts of Patrick, have believed so suddenly and so constantly in the God of the Christians, if their former life had not prepared them for the adoption of the new doctrine, and if the doctrine of monotheism had offered a real difficulty to their understanding? There was, probably, nothing clear and definite in their belief in an omnipotent God, which is said to have been the leading dogma of Druidism; but their simple minds had evidently a leaning toward the doctrine, which induced them to approve of it, as soon as it was presented to them with a solemn affirmation. In order to elucidate this point, we add a short description of the labors and success of this apostle.

In the year 432, Patrick lands on the island. By that time, some few of the inhabitants may possibly have heard of the Christian religion from the neighboring Britain or Gaul. Palladius had preached the year before in the district known as the present counties of Wexford and Wicklow, erected three churches, and made some converts; but it may be said that Ireland continued in the same state it had preserved for thousands of years: the Druids in possession of religious and scientific supremacy; the chieftains in contention, as in the time of Fingal and Ossian; the people, though in the midst of constant strife, happy enough on their rich soil, cheered by their bards and poets; very few, or no slaves in the country; an abundance of food everywhere; gold, silver, precious stones adorning profusely the persons of their chiefs, their wives, their warriors; rich stuffs, dyed with many colors, to distinguish the various orders of society; a deep religious feeling in their hearts, preparing them for the faith, by inspiring them with lively emotions at the sight of divine power displayed in their mountains, their valleys, their lakes and rivers, and on the swelling bosom of the all- encircling ocean; superstitions of various kinds, indeed, but none of a demoralizing character, none involving marks of cruelty or lust; no revolting statues of Priapus, of Bacchus, of Cybele; no obscene emblems of religion, as in all other lands, to confront Christianity; but over all the island, song, festivity, deep affection for kindred; and, as though blood- relationship could not satisfy their heart, fosterage covering the land with other brothers and sisters; all permeated with a strong attachment to their clan-system and social customs. Such is an exact picture of the Erin of the time, which the study of antiquity brings clearer and clearer before the eyes of the modern student.

Patrick appears among them, leaning on his staff, and bringing them from Rome and Gaul new songs in a new language set to a new melody. He comes to unveil for them what lies hidden, unknown to themselves, in the depths of their hearts. He explains, by the power of one Supreme God, why it is that their mountains are so high, their valley so smiling, their rivers and lakes teeming with life, their fountains so fresh and cool, and that sun of theirs so temperate in its warmth, and the moon and stars, lighted with a soft radiance, shimmering over the deep obscurity of their groves.

He directs them to look into their own consciences, to admit themselves to be sinners in need of redemption, and points out to them in what manner that Supreme God, whom they half knew already, condescended to save man.

Straightway, from all parts of the island, converts flock to him; they come in crowds to be baptized, to embrace the new law by which they may read their own hearts; they are ready to do whatever he wishes; many, not content with the strict commandments enjoined on all, wish to enter on the path of perfection: the men become monks, the women and young girls nuns, that is to say, spouses of Christ. In Munster alone "it would be difficult," says a modern writer, Father Brenan, "to form an estimate of the number of converts he made, and even of the churches and religious establishments he founded."

And so with all the other provinces of the island. The proof's still stand before our eyes. For, as Prof. Curry justly remarks: "No one, who examines for himself, can doubt that at the first preaching in Erin of the glad tidings of salvation, by Saints Palladius and Patrick, those countless Christian churches were built, whose sites and ruins mark so thickly the surface of our country even to this day, still bearing through all the vicissitudes of time and conquest the unchanged names of their original founders."

According to the commonly-received opinion, St. Patrick's apostleship lasted thirty-three years; but, whatever may have been its real duration, certain it is that his feet traversed the whole island several times, and, at his passing, churches and monasteries sprang up in great numbers, and remained to tell the true story of his labors when their founder had passed away.

Nor was it with Ireland as with Rome, Carthage, Antioch, and other great cities of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Not the slaves and artisans alone filled these newly-erected Christian edifices. Some of the first men of the nation received baptism. We have already spoken of the family of Laeghaire. In Connaught, at the first appearance of the man of God, all the inhabitants of that portion of the province now represented by the County Mayo became Christians; and the seven sons of the king of the province were baptized, together with twelve thousand of their clansmen. In Leinster, the Princes Illand and Alind were baptized in a fountain near Naas. In Munster, Aengus, the King of Cashel, with all the nobility of his clan, embraced the faith. A number of chieftains in Thomond are also mentioned; and the whole of the Dalcassian tribe, so celebrated before and after in the annals of Ireland, received, with the waters of baptism, that ardent faith which nothing has been able to tear from them to this day.

Many Druids even, by renouncing their superstitions, abdicated their power over the people. We have mentioned Dubtach ; his example was followed by many others, among whom was Fingar, the son of King Clito, who is said to have suffered martyrdom in Brittany; Fiech, pupil of Dubtach, himself a poet, and belonging to the noble house of Hy-Baircha in Leinster, was raised by St. Patrick to the episcopacy, and was the first occupant of the See of Sletty.

Fiech was a regular member of the bardic order of Druids, a poet by profession, esteemed as a learned man even before he embraced Christianity; and during his lifetime he was, as a Christian bishop, consulted by numbers and regarded as an oracle of truth and heavenly wisdom.

Nevertheless, Patrick encountered opposition. Some chieftains declared themselves against him, without daring openly to attack him. Many Druids, called in the old Irish annals magi, tried their utmost to estrange the Irish people from him. But he stood in danger of his life only once. It was, in fact, a war of argument. Long discussions took place, with varied success, ending generally, however, in a victory for truth. The final result was that, in the second generation after St. Patrick, there existed not a single pagan in the whole of Ireland; the very remembrance of paganism even seemed to have passed away from their minds ever after; hence arises the difficulty of deciding now on the character of that paganism.

After its abolition, nothing remained in the literature of the country, which was at that time much more copious than at present—nothing was left in its monuments or in the inclinations of the people—to imperil the existence of the newly-established Christianity, or of a nature calculated to give a wrong bias to the religious worship of the people, such as we have seen was the case in the rest of Europe.

May we not conclude, then, that Ireland was much better prepared for the new religion than any other country; that, when she was thus admitted by baptism into the European family, she made her entry in a way peculiar to herself, and which secured to her, once for all, her firm and undeviating attachment to truth?

She had nothing to change in her manners after having renounced the few disconnected superstitions to which she had been addicted. Her songs, her bards, her festivities, her patriarchal government, her fosterage, were left to her, Christianized and consecrated by her great apostle; clanship even penetrated into the monasteries, and gave rise later on to some abuses. But, perhaps, the saint thought it better to allow the existence of things which might lead to abuse than violently and at once to subvert customs, rooted by age in the very nature of the people, some of which it cost England, later on, centuries of inconceivable barbarities to eradicate.

As to what exact form, if any, the paganism of the Irish Celts assumed, we have so few data to build upon that it is now next to impossible to shape a system out of them. From the passage of the "Confessio" already quoted, we might infer that they adored the sun; and this passage is very remarkable as the only mention anywhere made by St. Patrick of idolatry among the people. If it was only the emblem of the Supreme Being, then would there have been nothing idolatrous in its worship; and the strong terms in which the saint condemns it perhaps need only express his fear lest the superstition of the ignorant people might convert veneration into positive idolatry. At all events, there was not a statue, or a temple, or a theological system, erected to or connected with it in any shape.

The solemn forms of oaths taken and administered by the Irish kings would also lead us to infer that they paid a superstitious respect to the winds and the other elements. But why should this feeling pass beyond that which even the Christian experiences when confronted by mysteries in the natural as well as the supernatural order? The awe-struck pagan saw the lightning leap, the tempest gather and break over him in majestic fury; heard the great voice of the mighty ocean which laved or lashed his shores: he witnessed these wonderful effects; he knew not whence the tempests or the lightnings came, or the voice of the ocean; he trembled at the unseen power which moved them —at his God.

So his imagination peopled his groves and hill-sides, his rivers and lakes, with harmless fairies; but fairy land has never become among any nation a pandemonium of cruel divinities; and we doubt much if such innocuous superstition can be rightly called even sinful error.

In fact, the only thing which could render paganism truly a danger in Ireland, as opposed to the preaching of Christianity, was the body of men intrusted with the care of religion—the Druids, the magi of the chronicles. But, as we find no traces of bloody sacrifices in Ireland, the Druids there probably never bore the character which they did in Gaul; they cannot be said to have been sacrificing priests; their office consisted merely in pretended divinations, or the workings of incantations or spells. They also introduced superstition into the practice of medicine, and taught the people to venerate the elements or mysterious forces of this world.

Without mentioning any of the many instances which are found in the histories of the workings of these Druidical incantations and spells, the consulting of the clouds, and the ceremonies with which they surrounded their healing art, we go straight to our main point: the ease and suddenness with which all these delusions vanished at the first preaching of the Gospel —a fact very telling on the force which they exercised over the mind of the nation. All natural customs, games, festivities, social relationships, as we have seen, are preserved, many to this day; what is esteemed as their religion, and its ceremonies and superstitions, is dropped at once. The entire Irish mind expanded freely and generously at the simple announcement of a God, present everywhere in the universe, and accepted it. The dogma of the Holy Spirit, not only filling all—complens omnia- - but dwelling in their very souls by grace, and filling them with love and fear, must have appeared natural to them. Their very superstitions must have prepared the way for the truth, a change —or may we not say a more direct and tangible object taking the place of and filling their undefined yearnings—was alone requisite. Otherwise it is a hard fact to explain how, within a few years, all Druidism and magic, incantations, spells, and divinations, were replaced by pure religion, by the doctrine of celestial favors obtained through prayer, by the intercession of a host of saints in heaven, and the belief in Christian miracles and prophecies; whereas, scarcely any thing of Roman or Grecian mythology could be replaced by corresponding Christian practices, although popes did all they could in that regard. Nearly all the errors of the Irish Celts had their corresponding truths and holy practices in Christianity, which could be readily substituted for them, and envelop them immediately with distrust or just oblivion. Hence we do not see, in the subsequent ecclesiastical history of Ireland, any thing to resemble the short sketch we have given of the many dangers arising within the young Christian Church, which had their origin in the former religion of other European nations.

In regarding philosophy and its perils in Ireland, our task will be an easy one, yet not unimportant in its bearings on subsequent considerations. The minds of nations differ as greatly as their physical characteristics; and to study the Irish mind we have only to take into consideration the institutions which swayed it from time immemorial. They were of such a nature that they could but belong to a traditional people. All patriarchal tribes partake of that general character; none, perhaps, so strikingly as the Celts.

People thus disposed have nothing rationalistic in their nature; they accept old facts; and, if they reason upon them, it is to find proofs to support, not motives to doubt them. They never refine their discussions to hair-splitting, synonymous almost with rejection, as seems to be the delight of what we call rationalistic races. It was among these that philosophy was born, and among them it flourishes. They may, by their acute reasoning, enlarge the human mind, open up new horizons, and, if confined within just limits, actually enrich the understanding of man. We are far from pretending that philosophy has only been productive of harm, and that it were a blessed thing had the human intellect always remained, as it were, in a dormant state, without ever striving to grasp at philosophic truth and raise itself above the common level; we hold the great names of Augustine, Anselm, Thomas Aquinas, and so many others, in too great respect to entertain such an opinion.

Yet it cannot be denied that the excessive study of philosophy has produced many evils among men, has often been subservient to error, has, at best, been for many minds the source of a cold and desponding skepticism.

No race of men, perhaps, has been less inclined to follow those intellectual aberrations than the Celtic, owing chiefly to its eminently traditional dispositions.

Before Christianity reached them, the intellectual labors of the Celts were chiefly confined to history and genealogy, medicine and botany, law, song, music, and artistic workings in metals and gems. This was the usual curriculum of Druidic studies. Astronomy and the physical sciences, as well as the knowledge of "the nature of the eternal God," were, according to Caesar, extensively studied in the Gallic schools. Some elements of those intellectual pursuits may also have occupied the attention of the Irish student during the twelve, fifteen, or twenty years of his preparation for being ordained to the highest degree of ollamh. But the oldest and most reliable documents which have been examined so far do not allow us to state positively that such was the case to any great extent.

In Christian times, however, it seems certain that astronomy was better studied in Ireland than anywhere else, as is proved by the extraordinary impulse given to that science by Virgil of Salzburg, who was undoubtedly an Irishman, and educated in his native country.

It is from the Church alone, therefore, that they received their highest intellectual training in the philosophy and theology of the Scriptures and of the Fathers. It is known that, by the introduction of the Latin and Greek tongues into their schools in addition to the vernacular, the Bible in Latin and Greek, and the writings of many Fathers in both languages, as also the most celebrated works of Roman and Greek classical writers, became most interesting subjects of study. They reproduced those works for their own use in the scriptoria of their numerous monasteries. We still possess some of those manuscripts of the sixth and following centuries, and none more beautiful or correct can be found among those left by the English, French, or Italian monastic institutions of the periods mentioned.

During the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries, the Irish schools became celebrated all over Europe. Young Anglo-Saxons of the best families were sent to receive their education in Innisfail, as the island was then often called; and, from their celebrated institutions of learning, numerous teachers and missionaries went forth to England, Germany (along the Rhine, chiefly), France, and even Switzerland and Italy.

Yet, in the history of all those intellectual labors, we never read of startling theories in philosophy or theology advanced by any of them, unless we except the eccentric John Scotus Erigena, whom Charles the Bald, at whose court he resided, protected even against the just severity of the Church. Without ever having studied theology, he undertook to dogmatize, and would perhaps have originated some heresy, had he found a following in Germany or France.

But he is the only Irishman who ever threatened the peace of the Church, and, through her, of the world. Duns Scotus, if he were Irish, never taught any error, and remained always an accepted leader in Catholic schools. To the honor of Erin be it said, her children have ever been afraid to deviate in the least from the path of faith. And it would be wrong to imagine that the preservation from heresy so peculiar to them, and by which they are broadly distinguished from all other European nations, comes from dulness of intellect and inability to follow out an intricate argumentation. They show the acuteness of their understanding in a thousand ways; in poetry, in romantic tales, in narrative compositions, in legal acumen and extempore arguments, in the study of medicine, chiefly in that masterly eloquence by which so many of them are distinguished. Who shall say that they might not also have reached a high degree of eminence in philosophical discussions and ontological theories? They have always abstained from such studies by reason of a natural disinclination, which does them honor, and which has saved them in modern times, as we shall see in a subsequent chapter, from the innumerable evils which afflict society everywhere else, and by which it is even threatened with destruction.

Thus, among the numerous and versatile progeny of Japhet one small branch has kept itself aloof from the universal movement of the whole family; and, in the very act of accepting Christianity and taking a place in the commonwealth of Western nations, it has known how to do so in its own manner, and has thus secured a firm hold of the saving doctrines imparted to the whole race for a great purpose—the purpose, unfortunately often defeated—of reducing to practice and reality the sublime ideal of the Christian religion.

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