So, as we chatted about last time, there was a Bishop of Ireland before Patrick. There were also Saints other than Patrick. St. Ailbe was one of these. He was from humble birth (which is a common background for most saints). And actually, that contrasts pretty heavily with Patrick, doesn’t it? Patrick was a toff.
Anyway, so Ailbe was apparently the child of a slave and was raised by a wolf, and then baptized by Palladius, the first Bishop of Ireland. The story goes that, after travelling europe and even meeting the Pope, Ailbe returned to Ireland and brought Christianity to the island through miracles and wonders. And supposedly this was before Patrick.
There were other saints too. And from the tales, they were present before Patrick arrived. In fact, according to one story Ailbe, Declan, Ibar, and Ciaran had a rather heavy debate on whether or not to accept Patrick as their superior. As you might recall, this wasn’t just a matter of religious import, or even xenophobia, but there was a financial and political consideration to take into account. Patrick, in the north, wanted control and that meant that money and power would flow up there and out of the southern lands, some of which had probably been Christian long before Patrick showed up. So some of the saints weren’t convinced and a debate broke out. Now this story involves an Angel interceding on behalf of Patrick, so take that how you will. But the interesting thing about this is that there were Saints in Ireland before Patrick and not all of them were impressed by this Briton from across the Irish sea. Hell, Ibar wanted to nut him.