Those of us over 50 we remember well when communism and the Soviet Union were the great fears of our day. Eastern Europe was all but lost, and our fear of the spread of communism around the world at sometimes pasted paranoid. Each year on May 1 the communists would hold great celebrations "to honor workers" and show of their military might.
It was against this backdrop that in 1955 Pope Pius XII added today's optional memorial to the calendar, St. Joseph the Worker, as a counterbalance to the communist celebrations.
While "The Red Menace" has all but faded into history, we as a church still need this day on our calendar to remind us of of what our church teaches about the role and the rights of workers. On this day in 1991, Pope John Paul II published his encyclical Centissimus Annus which marked a hundred years of Catholic social teaching aimed at protecting the dignity of workers.
Today there are still millions of people around the world working in squalid conditions, little more than slave labor. Even in the US the sweat shop is still a reality. We all love a bargain, but how often do we ask ourselves about the human cost.
On this one day, let us think about it.
St. Joseph the Worker, pray for us.