"Labor Day" in Italy and The Feast of St. Joseph the Worker | Michael Severance | CWR blog
Today May 1 is Labor Day in Italy and in virtually all of Europe. Alas, it is hardly festive. There is not much to celebrate here in terms of job growth and wealth creation. Economic figures across this Old and Aging Continent are like proverbial diamonds in the rough: there is much potential for glory, but with a lot of precision cutting and polishing still to do.
Simply read the latest statistical lampoon on European GDP in The Economist on April 14: "Taking Europe’s Pulse". With a walking-dead growth of 0.3% in the first quarter of 2015, nation after European nation is stifled by union strongholds on hiring and firing practices, crony capitalist deals born in Brussels' backrooms, governments’ insatiable appetite for taxation to prop up bankrupt social welfare programs, and many other politico-economic and cultural tentacles holding back a not-so-free European Union.
Here in Rome, few are celebrating in an anemic peninsula with 12.70% unemployment and virtually no growth in the last 20-plus years. Absolutely no fist pumps are raised on this day in traditionally leftist Spain (23.78 %), nor in the communist party-run Greece (25.70%), and by no means in the rebuilding nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (43.78%).
Nonetheless today, for good measure, is a public ‘holiday’, whether the economic mood is truly merry or not. At least it is a day to put workers’ worries aside. It is a day to forget about the sorry state of many economies on this extended weekend when Europeans head to the mountains, sea and its many cities of art.
May 1 is also a ‘holy day’, the Catholic Feast of St. Joseph the Worker instituted by Pius XII in 1955 in response to the May Day communist celebrations installed across Europe. Therefore, it is no small coincidence of calendar or etymology.
According to the American Catholic web site, Pius XII’s intention was, in effect, to give deeper meaning to a public holiday de-christened merely as ‘Labor’ Day in a hyper-secularized and socialist Europe. It was a day, though mixed with revelry and parades, that had become, spiritually speaking, a hum-drum day off from routine of production lines and cubicles:
In a constantly necessary effort to keep Jesus from being removed from ordinary human life, the Church has from the beginning proudly emphasized that Jesus was a carpenter, obviously trained by Joseph in both the satisfactions and the drudgery of that vocation. Humanity is like God not only in thinking and loving, but also in creating. Whether we make a table or a cathedral, we are called to bear fruit with our hands and mind, ultimately for the building up of the Body of Christ.
When divorced from God’s plan, work is merely labor, a rudderless everyday job. It even can turn us into hunchbacks, as if debilitated and humiliated by meaningless, repetitive, backbreaking activity.
This is exactly what I find lamentable about today.