St. Patrick and JBFA in the British Isles?


I’m not sure where this particular objection to Catholicism originated, but I’ve been presented with it some time ago, and occasionally it pops back up. A Refomed preacher in my denomination outlines it the best in his “History of the Protestant Reformation” mega-series (like 40 sermons). I’ve got the tape set, and I’d like a t-shirt :slight_smile:

St. Augustine of Canterbury was sent to convert the monks in the British Isle’s to Catholicism, and to be under the Pope. (I"d correct him here and say that he was sent to bring them under the Benedictine Rule, a rule for monks). And he didn’t stand up to greet their leader monks, and so they knew he wasn’t humble and therefore didn’t want anything to do with him.

The preacher then goes on to say that these British Isle’s Christians (monks) were almost thoroughtly Reformed, and believed in Justification by Faith Alone.

The local Catholic priest here said they were a strange lot of folks, like they painted their eyelids and things like that.

Anyways, any information on that. It’s hard to come by anything solid on this particular issue.


Now for the St. Patrick part:

This particular pastor claims that St. Patrick was essentially a Reformed-type Christian!!!

I have a problem believing that, mainly because reading through “Catholicism for Dummies” this issue is addressed on p. 352. It says basically that St. Patrick (bishop) was sent to Ireland in 433 A.D. by Pope Celestine I, to convert the nation to the Catholic faith. He brought monks with him, and this missionary journey was the foundation for evangelizing most of the British Isles. Also, these monks were responsible for introducing private auricular confession in the 600’s and 700’s. That doesn’t sound very Reformed!

The reason I think this is worthy of being brought up here on this forum, is that many non-Catholics make a big to do about some first millenium group of Christians that aren’t Catholic, and they say “look, not everybody was under the Pope! There were people before Luther and Calvin that believed this stuff, centuries before them!” Well, you could easily say “yeah, but they were heretics!” I personally wouldn’t want to claim the British Isle monks as early Reformed Christians.

Any discussion?


The best way to respond to these is, “Documentation, please?”

Also, see Jimmy Akin’s “Was Saint Patrick Catholic?”

The Celtic Church was always Catholic, never formally in schism. After Saint Patrick and others evangelized it, ties with Rome were informally severed due to several geopolitical factors. Because this part of the world was so far away from Rome, and at the time so remote, contact with Rome was eventually dropped (mostly because of war by “barbarian” tribes). Celtic Christians continued to practice the Catholic religion, but their practices and disciplines (for example, their date for Easter) eventually drifted away from those of Rome. Saint Augustine of Canterbury’s missions began the long and arduous process of conforming their own practices to those of Rome. But they were always Catholic.


One suggestion… join a group such as Celt List which is a mixture of Reformed people, Catholics, Orthodox, Baptists, etc., etc. The discussions there can be very interesting and helpful.

Two ways to join the List:

  1. Go to the Home page at Yahoo Groups and subscribe there

  2. Send a blank e-mail to and follow the instructions which will come back to you automatically.


i’m not too sure what by faith alone but i know the early irish church was very big into big penances. do they qualify for faith alone . i challenge anyone of you to take the tochar phadraic- the way of patrick to the base of croagh patrick then climb it doing the full rounds. st patrick did the walk followed by the prayers for 40 days at the top in lent. without tent and rain gear. i don’t know if he did it bare foot as some pilgrims do it rid himself of the last of his temptations ,said to be pride the hardest demon to conquer. he went to lough derg where he fasted and prayed again the pilgrims of today do a much less vigorous penance that long ago but it is still a big challenge. also great challenges were faced by patrick and his converts. notably the leader whose foot patrick stabbed with his staff accidentally while baptising him. when patrick saw what he had done he apologised profusely and asked why the chieftain hadn’t said anything. the chieftain replied he thought it was part of the ceremony as one must suffer for something as worthwhile as the faith.



Thanks for those remarks. I’m checking out the Akin article about St. Patrick. Fr. Ambrose, thanks for the suggestion about the chat group. I’ll look into it perhaps.


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