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    Monday, May 01, 2006

    Happy May Day!


    I hope that the great majority of you are taking part in A Day Without Immigrants and that, therefore, I am reaching you at home before you leave for a march or rally. I think it's wicked cool that the Immigrant Rights smarties made the boycott on May Day, playing on its radical history.

    As I'm sure my educated readers know, May Day is International Workers' Day, a day with a tremendous and exciting history, beginning with 1884 and the demand for the 8-hour workday. It is best known for the Haymarket Riot.

    The Catholic Church made it a Saints Day in 1955: the Day of Saint Joseph, the Worker. Prior to that, and still today in many congregations, the day was a celebration of the Blessed Virgin that often blended secular European May Day traditions, like the maypole and the exchange of fresh flowers.

    Dorothy Day wrote this piece for the Catholic Worker in 1957.

    The May Day holiday also has pagan roots:

    Halloween is a festival of death, a time for letting go and mourning. May Day, on the opposite side of the Wheel of the Year, is about life, about falling in love and frolicking in the woods. Death is an ending but also a beginning. Fallin in love is a beginning which is also a death. The Goddess who manifests herself at May Day calls you out of yourself and you may never return, at least to the same world you knew.

    Famous Catholic poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote the renowned poem,
    "The May Magnificat"
    in honor of the day:

    The May Magnificat

    MAY is Mary's month, and I
    Muse at that and wonder why:
    Her feasts follow reason,
    Dated due to season -

    Candlemas, Lady Day;
    But the Lady Month, May,
    Why fasten that upon her,
    With a feasting in her honor?

    Is it only its being brighter
    Than the most are must delight her?
    Is it opportunest
    And flowers finds soonest?

    Ask of her, the mighty mother:
    Her reply puts this other
    Question: What is Spring? -
    Growth in every thing -

    Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
    Grass and greenworld all together;
    Star-eyed strawberry-breasted
    Throstle above her nested

    Cluster of blue eggs thin
    Forms and warms the life within;
    And bird and blossom swell
    In sod or sheath or shell.

    All things rising, all things sizing
    Mary sees, sympathising
    With that world of good,
    Nature's motherhood.

    Their magnifying of each its kind
    With delight calls to mind
    How she did in her stored
    Magnify the Lord.

    Well but there was more than this:
    Spring's universal bliss
    Much, had much to say
    To offering Mary May.

    When drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple
    Bloom lights the orchard-apple
    And thicket and thorp are merry
    With silver-surfèd cherry

    And azuring-over greybell makes
    Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
    And magic cuckoocall
    Caps, clears, and clinches all -

    This ecstasy all through mothering earth
    Tells Mary her mirth till Christ's birth
    To remember and exultation
    In God who was her salvation.


    Source: Written by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889); Provided by the courtesy of Catholic Information Network (CIN)

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