Monday, August 16, 2010

Of Saints and Kings

To everyone who took the time to send glad tidings on your narrator's onomastico, a ton of thanks... especially as, admittedly, it would've gone completely forgotten otherwise.

See, St Rocco's Day tends to get short shrift 'round here -- for starters, defying the venerable Italian tradition, there's no pastry affiliated with the memorial... not to mention that it doesn't even make the liturgical calendar anymore.

Above all, though, the commemoration of a (likely apocryphal) figure of the 14th century is roundly overshadowed behind the scenes by one of the house's principal feasts of the year, a solemnity of modern legend: the Dormition... of Dad's Patron.

Sure, this scribe's got a statue of St Roch (with dog) stashed proudly on a bookshelf. But having grown up under the watchful eye of a velvet Elvis in the basement, with a living-room phone that rings to showcase a gyrating, "Hound Dog"-singing Presley, and even a "Blue Christmas"-belting decoration (or, admittedly, several), it'd be even more remiss of this superfan's son to let slip that this Monday marks the 33rd anniversary of the King's death.

No doubt, some will gripe at the mention, but from the ritual movie-marathons on basic cable to the tens of thousands who flocked to Memphis for the latest edition of "Elvis Week," even for many of our own, this day is a signpost of the culture in which we live... and lest anyone forgot that, at its best, this church is without peer at integrating the rituals of its times, places and people (Saturnalia, anyone?), yesterday yet again saw the traditional 4pm Mass at Memphis' St Paul's Church -- Graceland's parish -- offered, as ever, for Elvis' happy repose.

Timed to allow the faithful to make the evening's candlelight vigil at the Mansion, the liturgy's prelude of "recorded music" -- which, er, wasn't chant -- began 45 minutes early... and if two decades of precedent held up, few, if any, Assumption Day Masses found themselves as teeming with God's people.

All that said, while it's become an annual rite on these pages (partly so the firstborn doesn't get kicked to the curb), these days make for an even more poignant time to send up one of the King's more soulful classics; early tomorrow, the River City horde begins a rare pilgrimage over Pharaohdom's Western Wall, to see the fold's most beloved and trusted shepherd -- and, with him, the John Krol legacy -- to his new home.

Ergo, just as it was the final hymn at last week's farewell -- and, indeed, just as Bishop Joe McFadden told the hometown crowd he'd forever remain "a Philadelphia priest" in his heart -- especially on another August 16th, there's no more fitting kickoff for a bittersweet handover than this town's time-honored closer of choice:

What's more, with the Golden One's presence sure to loom from beyond over Wednesday's capital welcome, bonus points for whoever remembers to intone that other Krol favorite during the reception.

Its Statehouse Dome inspired by St Peter's, more from "The Kremlin" as it unfolds.

PHOTOS: Getty(2)