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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

The Egyptian Contribution to Christianity 325
most secluded places available where there were no deserts. One
of these was founded about 400 at Lerins (St. Honorat) and
became a great centre of monastic activity, sending out mission-
aries and founding monastic colonies in other lands. There, it
is said, the young Patrick was trained and, if this be so, it would
help to explain the presence of several Egyptian details in the
Celtic Church of Ireland, for the monastery of Lerins was
organized and conducted on Egyptian models. Thus it came
about that the Irish Church was monastic rather than diocesan.
There were a few diocesan bishops, but the ruling dignitaries
of the Celtic Church in Ireland were abbots who kept a bishop
in their monastery ready for use at ordinations and consecra-
tions, but otherwise living as an ordinary monk. The old Celtic
monasteries of Ireland did not resemble the medieval abbeys of
England: like the Egyptian coenobia they were simply villages
where the huts of the ascetes were gathered round a modest
oratory used for the week-end Eucharist. There were no deserts
in Ireland, but it was the fashion to call the place where a
monastery stood a desert, and so we find the term 'Disert' or
'Desert' in many Irish place-names, as Disertmartin, Disert in
Westmeath, Killadysert in Clare, and many others. All this kind
of thing was so utterly strange to the English invaders under
Henry II that it received no toleration and the Celtic Church
of the far west had to undergo a drastic reconstruction.
In spite of its remoteness the Celtic Church of Ireland re*
tained direct contact with the monasteries of Egypt. In the
Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris there is still preserved a guide-
book for the use of Irish monks travelling to Egypt in order to
visit the Fathers of the desert. As late as 1320 Simon FitzSimon
and Hugh, Franciscans of Dublin, made the pilgrimage to
Egypt and left us a record of their journey.
In some parts monasticism did not receive an enthusiastic
welcome, and amongst these was Rome. The Romans were
intensely conservative and resented innovation because it was