Monday, May 4 is the Feast of Catholic Martyrs of England and Wales on the liturgical calendars of England and Wales. I'll be on the Son Rise Morning Show Monday morning for our annual commemoration of this Feast, which celebrates ALL the martyrs who suffered during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and have been beatified or canonized in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Matt Swaim and I will talk after the news break at 7:45 a.m. Eastern time/6:45 a.m. Central. Listen live here.
Today, Friday, May 1 is the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. My late father took St. Joseph's name when he was confirmed upon his conversion. He always identified with St. Joseph the Worker because he had worked hard all his life. Pope Pius XII instituted the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1955 as a way to present a different option for the laborer--not the May Day parades of the Soviet Union but the Holy Family working in St. Joseph's carpentry shop.
May 1 is also May Day, a celebration of Spring, which in England was observed, before and after the Puritans banned it, with Morris Dancing, the Maypole, and crowning a May queen. For about the last two hundred years, Catholics have also had a tradition of May crowning of statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, sometimes on May 1 as a way of beginning the month especially dedicated to the Mother of God.
Pope Benedict XVI beatified his predecessor, now Pope St. John Paul II, on Divine Mercy Sunday, May 1 in 2011. In his homily, he highlighted the significance of choosing that date:
Six years ago we gathered in this Square to celebrate the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Our grief at his loss was deep, but even greater was our sense of an immense grace which embraced Rome and the whole world: a grace which was in some way the fruit of my beloved predecessor’s entire life, and especially of his witness in suffering. Even then we perceived the fragrance of his sanctity, and in any number of ways God’s People showed their veneration for him. For this reason, with all due respect for the Church’s canonical norms, I wanted his cause of beatification to move forward with reasonable haste. And now the longed-for day has come; it came quickly because this is what was pleasing to the Lord: John Paul II is blessed!
I would like to offer a cordial greeting to all of you who on this happy occasion have come in such great numbers to Rome from all over the world – cardinals, patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches, brother bishops and priests, official delegations, ambassadors and civil authorities, consecrated men and women and lay faithful, and I extend that greeting to all those who join us by radio and television.
Today is the Second Sunday of Easter, which Blessed John Paul II entitled Divine Mercy Sunday. The date was chosen for today’s celebration because, in God’s providence, my predecessor died on the vigil of this feast. Today is also the first day of May, Mary’s month, and the liturgical memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker. All these elements serve to enrich our prayer, they help us in our pilgrimage through time and space; but in heaven a very different celebration is taking place among the angels and saints! Even so, God is but one, and one too is Christ the Lord, who like a bridge joins earth to heaven. At this moment we feel closer than ever, sharing as it were in the liturgy of heaven.
UPDATE: Here's an excellent essay on the different aspects of May Day from David Warren on The Catholic Thing.