The Jews started it all-and by 'it' I mean so many of the things we care about, the underlying values that make all of us, Jew and Gentile, believer and aethiest, tick. Without the Jews, we would see the world through different eyes, hear with different ears, even feel with different feelings ... we would think with a different mind, interpret all our experience differently, draw different conclusions from the things that befall us. And we would set a different course for our lives.
Wherever they went the Irish brought with them their books, many unseen in Europe for centuries and tied to their waists as signs of triumph, just as Irish heroes had once tied to their waists their enemies' heads. Where they went they brought their love of learning and their skills in bookmaking. In the bays and valleys of their exile, they reestablished literacy and breathed new life into the exhausted literary culture of Europe. And that is how the Irish saved civilization.
In becoming an Irishman, Patrick wedded his world to theirs, his faith to their life…Patrick found a way of swimming down to the depths of the Irish psyche and warming and transforming Irish imagination – making it more humane and more noble while keeping it Irish.
We normally think of history as one catastrophe after another, war followed by war, outrage by outrage - almost as if history were nothing more than all the narratives of human pain, assembled in sequence. And surely this is, often enough, an adequate description. But history is also the narratives of grace, the recountings of those blessed and inexplicable moments when someone did something for someone else, saved a life, bestowed a gift, gave something beyond what was required by circumstance.
Throughout our world the cry of the poor so often goes unheard. The prophets harangued Israel and Judah unceasingly about the powerless and marginalized, the overlooked widows, orphans, and "sojourners in our midst," who are still with us today as single mothers, hungry children, and helpless immigrants, wraiths invisible in our prosperous societies.
The Irish innovation was to make all confession a completely private affair between penitent and priest - and to make it as repeatable as necessary. (In fact, repetition was encouraged on the theory that, oh well, everyone pretty much sinned just about all the time.)
One of my rigid goals is to keep each book under 300 pages because I think so much nonfiction is literally weighty that people don't get through these books, .. If people don't finish your book, then they don't know what you're talking about.