St. Patrick was a Celt of Roman Briton (possibly Wales?) and was taken as a slave to Ireland by the Irish themselves. As a young man, he then escaped Ireland and returned to the land of his birth. But after a small conversion on a moral matter, he gave his entire life to Christ, was ordained a priest (and later a bishop) and then he returned to his land of slavery to convert them. St. Patrick nearly-singlehandedly converted the entire Island of Eire to Jesus Christ and the Roman Catholic Church.
Very early on in the history of Christianity in the UK, the UK still needed a huge conversion. Up until recently, I had erroneously believed that by the end of the 6th century, all of England was Christian. Reading ON SAINT COLUMCILLE [521-597] by Raymond O’Flynn, we find the following account of Christian history where nearly everything was mystical and intense on those two islands in the 6th century:
Fisherfolk in the Hebrides still invoke Columcille in their Shieling Hymn, and his name is engraved imperishably on the “fleshy tablets” of countless Irish hearts; but he is almost unknown in a land which owes its Christianity, and in great part its civilization, chiefly to him and his disciples. Even Catholics hear mention of him in England only in a prayer which enumerates “Our Fathers in the Faith”. And yet, without his far-flung apostolate, there would hardly have been a Christian foundation among the Anglo-Saxons.
After Augustine’s [of England, not of Hippo] death, the semi-converted tribes relapsed for the most part into heathenism, with little hope of recovery in the welter of barbarism and internecine warfare now dignified as the Heptarchy. But when the Hibernicized Oswald of Northumbria appealed to the monks of Iona, he introduced the force which definitely established Christianity through the whole extent of Anglo-Saxon occupation. Bishop Lightfoot summed up the situation when he wrote: “Augustine was the apostle of Kent, but Aidan was the apostle of England.” Aidan was the spear-head of the Celtic invasion which was launched from Iona only thirty-eight years after the arrival of the Roman missionaries, and which continued supreme in the island until the coming of the Norman-French.
Then another foreign influence began to mold the Anglo-Saxon races. But if they got their political organization and “Parliament” from the French, they got their Religion and Church from the Irish. It is true Columcille was in his grave when a mission on a national scale was projected for England. But his memory was still recent in Iona, and it was his spirit that became the tradition of his successors. Courage, scholarship, humanism were vividly present in the monks of St. Columcille, and no more pleasing amity ever sprang up between two peoples, nor one more prolific of the fruits of Religion and Culture than that which subsisted from first to last between the pupil Saxon and the tutelary Gaedhal.
It was the triumph of the “Irish Way” in the sphere of missionary enterprise. And that “Irish Way” had been pointed out by the greatest of their apostles—the devoted, affectionate, and scholarly Columba; the man who effected a more enduring conquest of Britain than Caesar, and brought a greater blessing than any comprised under the “Roman Peace”. Iona is desolate, and Canterbury a mere simulacrum. But when Englishmen are recalled to a true sense of their past, it is of Iona they will think with affectionate reverence, as the cradle of their ancient Religion and the fount of their purest civilization.—From Saints are Not Sad, edited by Frank Sheed