Zeal for founding religious houses was one of the characteristics of the age. Even the men who spent their lives in desolating the sanctuaries erected by others, and in butchering their fellow-creatures, appear to have had some thought of a future retribution—some idea that crime demanded atonement—with a lively faith in a future state, where a stern account would be demanded. If we contented ourselves with merely following the sanguinary careers of kings and chieftains, we should have as little idea of the real condition of the country, as we should obtain of the present social state of England by an exclusive study of the police reports in the Times. Perhaps, there was not much more crime committed then than now. Certainly there were atonements made for offending against God and man, which we do not hear of at the present day. Even a cursory glance through the driest annals, will show that it was not all evil—that there was something besides crime and misery. On almost every page we find some incident which tells us that faith was not extinct. In the Annals of the Four Masters, the obituaries of good men are invariably placed before the records of the evil deeds of warriors or princes. Perhaps writers may have thought that such names would be recorded in another Book with a similar precedence. The feats of arms, the raids, and destructions occupy the largest space. Such deeds come most prominently before the eyes of the world, and therefore we are inclined to suppose that they were the most important. But though the Annals may devote pages to the exploits of De Lacy or De Burgo, and only say of Ainmie O’Coffey, Abbot of the Church of Derry-Columcille, that he was “a noble ecclesiastic, distinguished for his piety, meekness, charity, wisdom, and every other virtue;” or of MacGilluire, Coarb of St. Patrick, and Primate of Ireland, that “he died at Rome, after a well-spent life,"—how much is enfolded in the brief obituary! How many, of whom men never have heard in this world, were influenced, advised, and counselled by the meek and noble ecclesiastic!
The influence of good men is like the circle we make when we cast a little stone into a great stream, and which extends wider and wider until it reaches the opposite bank. It is a noiseless influence, but not the less effective. It is a hidden influence, but not the less efficacious. The Coarb of St. Patrick, in his “well-spent life,” may have influenced for good as many hundreds, as the bad example of some profligate adventurer influenced for evil; but we are quite sure to hear a great deal about the exploits of the latter, and equally certain that the good deeds of the former will not be so carefully chronicled.