The sixth and seventh centuries of the Christian era must be regarded as the Golden Age of Ireland. The story of our country during this period is one of the most glorious epochs in the history of European Christianity. St. Patrick had not been half a century in his grave when the whole island was studded with the monasteries and schools of the new faith. The doctrines of Christianity were received by the people with a burst of enthusiasm which has scarcely been equalled in the history of any nation. Learning became the handmaid of faith, and art and letters followed rapidly in the train of the churches and monasteries.
While Science and Sacred Studies were almost extinct, Thomas Merton writes "There was a golden age of Irish culture of Celtic culture when Ireland was the most civilized in the western world this is no exaggeration." Ireland was the secure abode of European culture, my hometown of Armagh the birthplace of the 11th-century Saint Malachy who was born only a ten-minute walk from my home, my city is steeped in religious and cultural treasures the older I get a newfound respect has grown, hence why Armagh is called the city of saints and scholars and retained its importance as the city was defined as one of the important Christian universities of the west. The whole island was awakened with energy and enthusiasm.
Early Irish monastics would travel extensively mainly to collect religious artefacts directly from Syria as the early desert fathers who preceded those of Celtic times and profoundly influenced the Irish monastics. At times they would gather in boats and simply although the wind to carry their sails it was the Vikings who first discovered Irish monks in Iceland far north of Ireland the Irish energy appeared omnipotent and inexhaustible, I often wondered what the first Vikings thought upon seeing a bunch of Irish lads around a campfire before the inevitable happened. The striking characteristics of the Irish monks were their passion for pilgrimage and preaching and the imperious necessity which seemed to impel them to spread themselves over western Europe, in both seeking and carrying knowledge and faith afar, Walafried Strabo a writer of the ninth century remarks that the custom of travelling appeared to have become a part of the Irish man's nature as they travelled not in weariness but in delight as they seemed to have been born under a wandering planet, the monks did not yield to the Norsemen in their passion for travel the Irish saints had a real vocation for the apostolate and had a powerful influence which they were able to exercise in every country to which they went, and how men and women of all ranks were attracted to them, as the rivers of the intellectual life and drawers of souls as they travelled through Europe mostly on foot clothed in coarse woollen garments, worn over a white tunic carrying long staves, and bore at their sides leather water bottles and wallet's in which they kept their food, writing tablets and manuscripts.
The French contemplative saint Bernard of Clairvaux speaks of the multiple saintly men and women who descended from Ireland on the Continent like an overflowing stream, they through themselves with a passionate enthusiasm into the struggles of masses that hungered for more. St Bernard of Clairvaux had a deep soul connection with my hometown Saint, Malachy who would eventually die in the arms of St Bernard. In the sermon of St Bernard on the passing of his saintly friend he stated that Malachy was distinguished in meekness, obedience, humility, honesty, truth and diligence in his studies. I'm not surprised my town holds the mantle of the city of saints and scholars. Historians conveyed that during the sixth and seventh centuries, Ireland stood in the full beauty of its bloom, the spirit of the Gospel of Christ imbued with inexhaustible and omnipotent energy, there was not a country in the world during this time that could boast of pious foundations or religious communities equal to those that adorned this island, I am fortunate to be surrounded and reminded by this cultural richness that is just a stroll from my door. In the centuries to follow saints and scholars from Ireland were to be found in every cathedral and monastery of the empire and were so identified with the new intellectual movement which was taking place. During the three centuries that followed St Patrick, there were numerous Saints in every province of Ireland the most household names such as St Brigid, St Colmcille, St Kevin of Glendalough and St Malachy and many hundreds more that blessed and walked through the generations pointing the way for future generations of seeking souls that St Patrick foreknew to be enlightened by heavenly wisdom, to glow like the sun with the pale audience of the moon to shine like the aurora.