The Rev. Randy Melton, the Rector of St. Jame in Kemp, has proposed adding Mr. Elvis Presley to the calendar of minor commemorations in the Episcopal Church. Father Melton does it in very good fun—referring to the death of Mr. Presley (a/k/a St. Elvis) as his “dormition,” encouraging daily prayers facing South, singing three Elvis songs daily in the shower, and so forth.
Secular saints, I have observed, are normally observed on their birthday. For instance, Mr. George Washington is remembered on February 22. But in the church we have the strange custom of remembering saints on the day of their death—colloquially, their “birthday into paradise.” For the record, that’s August 16 for Mr. Presley.
Last January 8, on the way to the theatre, I stopped in a hamburger joint and asked the young man at the counter what their special was. “Well, it’s Elvis’s birthday,” he said smilingly. I said, “Really? I didn’t know.” “Yes, and we have a special Elvis burger: meat, peanut butter, slices of banana . . .” I hope you will not think less of me to learn that I ordered the special. And in truth, it was pretty good.
On my personal calendar, on January 8 I remember the Reverend Richard John Neuhaus, because that is the day he died. Father Neuhaus was a controversialist and something of a public intellectual; among other things he founded First Things and argued against doctrinaire secularization and for a place for religious voices in what he called “the public square.” And I have a small personal connection: he helped me conceive a newsletter some 30 years ago.
So this past January 8, as I was walking into that hamburger joint, I was thinking of all this when the penny dropped. Neuhaus died on Elvis’s birthday.
Maybe we should commemorate them jointly?
Out & About. On Sunday, August 25, I will be at St. John’s in Pottsboro, Texas, to speak on friendship at 9 a.m. and to preach.
What Theologians Read. I’m finally getting around to A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle. She’s masterful, but I’m not sure how this one will come out. I continue heartily to recommend her Wrinkle in Time. One of my wife’s insights—it came out at the end of a seminar, late in her life when she spoke little, and it blew our minds—is that the three witches in that book have striking parallels with the persons of the Trinity. Like Flannery O’Connor or Muriel Spark, L’Engle makes Christian belief strange so we can see it afresh.