From Saint Patrick by Jonathan Rogers
“Before the Irish, no people had ever submitted to the Christian gospel who had not first submitted to Roman rule. The Irish were a fierce people. They had never bowed to the yoke of a foreign ruler. Why, then, did they yield to a bishop?
One of the Patrick legends may give a clue. Patrick came upon two brothers whose quarrel over their inheritance had just turned into a swordfight. Moved by ‘pity of these unpitying men’ (a most Patrician sentiment), Patrick froze the two brothers in mid-blow. Thus immobilized, the men had no choice but to listen to the gospel of peace as presented by the saint. Having heard his speech, the quarrelsome brothers ‘returned unto the mutual kindness of brotherly love,’ received Patrick’s blessing, and together decided to build a church where once they had tried to kill one another.
Ireland was a violent place, where brother fought brother – or, in any case, tribe fought neighboring tribe – as a way of life. Patrick brought to the Irish a whole new way of living, of seeing the world and their fellow men. He came wielding no earthly power. Such institutional authority as he had would have meant nothing to the Irish. They paused long enough to listen – and they heard a gospel that made sense to them. They saw in Patrick’s person – in his very presence among them – that forgiveness was possible, that hardship need not result in bitterness – and that the meek just might inherit the earth after all.” pages 101-102