Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Day

The First of May is called May Day, and is also the Memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which was added to the General Roman Calendar in 1955.

This is also the major celebratory day for communists, socialists, and anarchists, and so this day is called Labor Day in many countries. This commemorates the Haymarket riot in Chicago, Illinois, on May 4th, 1886, which took place after several days of increased labor-business tension, which started on May 1st.

The founders and leaders of most of these movements were atheistic, and any Christianity associated with them tends to be in name only. It was explicitly for this reason that the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker was promulgated by Pope Pius XII, to encourage a Christian working life, where labor and management cooperate responsibly and peacefully with each other for the good of all society.

Because of the violence associated with this movement, the United States government moved the observance of Labor Day to the first Monday of September. May Day was instead proclaimed by President Eisenhower as Loyalty Day and Law Day, in opposition to subversion and anarchism, although these days aren't popularly observed.

We shouldn't be too surprised that the factory owners, against whom the laborers battled, tended not to be Christian either, and that the Industrial Revolution was an outgrowth of the Enlightenment's rejection of the Faith. They treated workers as merely expendable commodities, and maintained their position with the force of arms. The Church's social doctrine instead prefers an economic system where capital, property, and the means of production are owned by the family, with the bulk of the economy being made up of small farmers, merchants, artisans, and professionals, who freely and cooperatively organize with each other for the good of all. Very few persons should be wage laborers in this system. In this economy, labor and management tend to be one and the same person!

May 1st was also the traditional first day of summer in Ireland. It is for this reason that Midsummer's Day occurs in late June, just a few days after the start of the astronomical season of summer (defined as starting at the Summer Solstice). This very late, Modern definition of Summer is almost meaningless in Saint Louis, which experiences clear, warm, summer weather throughout May, and autumn weather in late September. It was in Saint Louis, Missouri, that May Day became first associated with labor: on this day the contracts for the summer construction season were signed, because in this month the torrential rains have mainly passed. The economic influence of Saint Louis was brought to the many new cities in the United States, including Chicago, and so this tradition of observing May 1st as a day of labor has passed from here to the whole world.

The radio distress signal, "Mayday, Mayday, Mayday", used for vessels in grave and imminent danger, is said to come from the French m'aidez (help me), although it became famous and memorable since it was first used on May Day of 1927.

The Church dedicates the month of May to Mary, with the last day of the month being the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the traditional calendar. Queens are crowned, and so in this month, images and statutes of Mary are traditionally crowned, often with flowers.

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