Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day

You didn't think this community organizer would let this day pass without an acknowledgement of the memorial of Joseph the Worker and International Workers' Day, the real Labor Day, did you? For me, this is a high holy day.

For me, there is no insuperable conflict, no irreconcilable contradiction, between my Catholic faith and May Day. The principle of solidarity is the same in church and union.

Thanks be to God for the Catholic Worker movement, inaugurated on this day in 1933. Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, pray for us.

Thanks be to God for the Catholic labor priests and labor schools of the 20th century. I am thinking fondly of the Labor Guild in the Archdiocese of Boston. Fr. Edward Boyle, pray for us.

Thanks be to God for Interfaith Worker Justice, which taught me so much about the links between faith, work, vocation, and of course, justice.

Thanks be to God for the Catholic-Labor Network and Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice. Thanks be to God for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, whose statements on labor, employment, and economic justice are well worth reading.


Joseph, patron saint of workers,
Blending skill with charity,
Silent carpenter, we praise you!
Joining work with honesty,
You taught Christ with joy to labor
Sharing his nobility.

Joseph, close to Christ and Mary,
Lived with them in poverty,
Shared with them their home and labor,
Worked with noble dignity.
May we seek God's will as you did,
Leader of his family!

Joseph, workmen's inspiration,
Man of faith and charity,
Makes us honest, humble, faithful,
Strong with Christ's true liberty,
Make our labor and our leisure
Fruitful to eternity!


"We need to change the system. We need to overthrow, not the government, as the authorities are always accusing the Communists of conspiring to teach to do, but this rotten, decadent, putrid industrial capitalist system which breeds such suffering in the whited sepulcher of New York."

Dorothy Day, Catholic Worker, 1956. A popular but inaccurate (and less cutting) rendering of this quotation, often seen nowadays in the Occupy movement, is “Our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy, rotten system.”


Jesus Christ was a man who traveled through the land
A hard-working man and brave
He said to the rich, "Give your money to the poor,"
But they laid Jesus Christ in His grave

Jesus was a man, a carpenter by hand
His followers true and brave
One dirty little coward called Judas Iscariot
Has laid Jesus Christ in His Grave

He went to the preacher, He went to the sheriff
He told them all the same
"Sell all of your jewelry and give it to the poor,"
And they laid Jesus Christ in His grave.

When Jesus come to town, all the working folks around
Believed what he did say
But the bankers and the preachers, they nailed Him on the cross,
And they laid Jesus Christ in his grave.

And the people held their breath when they heard about his death
Everybody wondered why
It was the big landlord and the soldiers that they hired
To nail Jesus Christ in the sky

This song was written in New York City
Of rich man, preacher, and slave
If Jesus was to preach what He preached in Galilee,
They would lay poor Jesus in His grave.

Woody Guthrie, "Jesus Christ"


"Those who neither make after others' goods nor bestow their own are to be admonished to take it well to heart that the earth they come from is common to all and brings forth nurture for all alike. Idly then do men hold themselves innocent when they monopolize for themselves the common gift of God. In not giving what they have received they work their neighbors' death; every day they destroy all the starving poor whose means to relief they store at home. When we furnish the destitute with any necessity we render them what is theirs, not bestow on them what is ours; we pay the debt of justice rather than perform the works of mercy....Of Dives in the Gospel we do not read that he snatched the goods of others but that he used his own unfruitfully; and avenging hell received him at death not because he did anything unlawful but because he gave himself up utterly and inordinately to the enjoyment of what was lawful."

St. Gregory the Great


In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old
For the union makes us strong.
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
Solidarity forever,
For the union makes us strong.

"Solidarity Forever"

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