Billy Graham; St. Patrick; and Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Billy Graham appears to have preached his “last sermon,” reports Bruce Nolan from New Orleans: Evangelist Billy Graham seemed to close out his 60-year career as the country’s most famous evangelist Sunday, calling thousands to Christian faith in wounded New Orleans with the acknowledgment that “this is probably the last evangelistic sermon I’ll ever preach.” Frail and tentative, the 87-year-old Graham shuffled behind a walker toward the pulpit set at one end of the New Orleans Arena as a crowd his organization estimated at 16,300 stood in a sustained roar of applause. His son and heir, Franklin Graham, gently assisted him into place. Thousands of flash bulbs exploded. An overflow crowd of 1,500 watched outside on jumbo TV screens.

In time for St. Patrick’s Day, Michele M. Melendez examines religious and other myths about the man at the center of it all: St. Patrick’s Day in the United States means clover-colored clothing, paper shamrocks, bagpipes, Irish folk music and dancing, corned beef and cabbage, green beer. Often, the man of honor gets lost. At its core, the holiday is a holy recognition of St. Patrick’s commitment to spreading Christianity through Ireland. It falls on March 17, the day he is believed to have died more than 1,500 years ago. Over the centuries, Ireland’s patron saint has become a mythical figure. Much that people believe about him is untrue. St. Patrick wasn’t Irish. He didn’t introduce Christianity to Ireland or drive its snakes from the land. And, he likely never used the three-leafed clover to teach about the Holy Trinity. But, in the United States, among the early Irish immigrants, St. Patrick came to represent the land they so missed.

Robert Finn reviews “A Year with Dietrich Bonhoeffer” on the 100th anniversary of the theologian’s birth: Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one of the authentic heroes of World War II. A German Protestant theologian who spoke out fearlessly against Hitler and participated in an assassination plot against him, Bonhoeffer was hanged on Hitler’s orders three weeks before the Nazi dictator committed suicide on the eve of Germany’s surrender in April 1945. Bonhoeffer’s fame today rests perhaps more on his political courage than on his theological views. In “A Year With Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” one of a series drawing on the writings of significant thinkers, editor Carla Barnhill arranges spiritual exhortations from Bonhoeffer’s work into a kind of Christian religious almanac, offering one item for each day of the year.

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