This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May 1 -- Beatification of Pope John Paul II

Trust me. I will work my way around to JP2. If you're all about him and don't want to suffer through my ramblings, seek him here.

May 1 is of course International Labor Day. It was a day for workers, and later for unions, to have parades and make speeches celebrating themselves. Then it became a day for Marxist-Leninist regimes to have parades and make speeches celebrating themselves in the name of the working people they were exploiting.

Having been that kind of kid, I have powerful memories of the Soviet May Day parades, when legions of lock-stepped soldiers preceded columns of tanks which preceded massive trucks with giant missiles, all of them passing a dais full of grim-faced men standing behind Leonid Brezhnev's eyebrows.

in 1955, while those men were still knotted behind Nikita Khrushchev's bald dome, Pope Pius XII was determined to reclaim May Day for the free and faithful. Okay, I don't know that, but it is what I surmise. What I do know is that he chose that day to celebrate St. Joseph the Worker. Joseph already had a feast, celebrating him as an all-around saint, but this one focused on him as a carpenter, a working man, a provider for his family.

The Vatican had good cause to be concerned about Communist regimes. Ever since Karlo Marx (the least funny Marx Brother) declared that religion is the opiate of the masses, Marxists have worked to close the churches and eliminate the clergy. They weren't real gentle with synagogues and rabbis (or any Jews) and the mosques and imams either. For that matter, ask the Dali Lama how they feel about Buddhism. But I think I might be ranting.

None knew this better than Karol Wojtyla. Having survived (just barely, on a couple of occasions) the Nazi occupation of Poland while studying in a clandestine seminary, he rose from priest to cardinal in Communist (Soviet-dominated) Poland. After a long deadlock over the replacement for poor John Paul I, the cardinals settled on Cardinal Wojtyla of Krakow, the first non-Italian pope in four hundred fifty years.

There are more cool things about this Pope than I want to list here. There are some criticisms, too. Most of these are detailed at the wikipedia for easy access. What I want to stress, since His Holiness the Pontifex Maximus John Paul II is being beatified in Rome today is that the pope I remember for standing up to Communist countries, even after one of their agents put a bullet in him. At the same time, he was no shill for the west, often criticizing the excesses of capitalism that led to the exploitation of the poor. To beatify him on May Day makes it just a little bit sweeter.

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