May 1st ~ Mystics, Nazis, Saints and Terrorists

Welcome to This Day in Today,

My name is Tom Keefe, and I’m the Babbling Professor!


On this day, May 1, 1881, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., was born in Orcines, Auvergne, France. Chardin (May 1, 1881 – April 10, 1955) was a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and took part in the discovery of Peking Man. He created the field of vitalism and conceived the vitalist idea of the Omega Point (a maximum level of complexity and consciousness towards which he believed the universe was evolving) and further developed upon Vladimir Vernadsky’s concept of the noosphere concerning the third phase of evolution based upon human consciousness. Although many of Chardin’s writings were censored by the Catholic Church during his lifetime because of his views on original sin, Chardin has been post-hum-ous-ly praised by Pope Benedict XVI and other eminent Catholic figures, and his theological teachings were cited by Pope Francis in the 2015 encyclical, Laudato si.


On this day, May 1, 1945, a German newsreader officially announced that Adolf Hitler has “fallen at his command post in the Reich Chancellery fighting to the last breath against Bolshevism and for Germany.” The Soviet flag was then raised over the Reich Chancellery, by order of Stalin. Allegedly the last picture of Adolf Hitler before he committed suicide was Hitler and his adjutant Julius Schaub looking at the ruins of the Reich Chancellery, April 28, 1945.


On this day, May 1, 1955, just twenty days after the death of Chardin, the Catholic Church established the feast day of Saint Joseph the Worker.  May 1 was already known around the world as #MayDay or #InternationalWorkerDay. This had begun in late 19th century America as an effort by labor unions to institute an eight-hour workday in the United States—a movement that culminated in the horrific Chicago riot of May 4, 1886, in Haymarket Square.

Saint Joseph had already been venerated as the patron saint of workers, particularly Carpenters, for centuries. The decision to establish a new Feast Day for one of the oldest Catholic Saints, Saint Joseph, was made in clear in solidarity with the international labor movement and the rights of workers.


On this day, May 1, 1987, Pope John Paul II beatified Edith Stein, a Jewish-born Carmelite nun. Growing up, Stein was an observant Jew, but became an atheist in her teenage years. During WWI, Stein worked in nursing, later went to college and earned her doctorate in philosophy. In her studies, she was drawn to the writings of Teresa of Avila and was baptized into the Catholic Church in 1922.  After teaching for several years Stein joined the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Cologne, Germany, and received the religious habit, and taking the religious name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (“Teresa blessed by the Cross”). In 1938, she was sent to the Carmelite monastery in Echt, the Netherlands for their safety. Even prior to the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, Stein believed she would not survive the war and so created a will. Her fellow sisters would later recount how Stein began “quietly training herself for life in a concentration camp, by enduring cold and hunger” after the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands. She also wrote to her Prioress that Stein was preparing to “offer [her]self to the heart of Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement for true peace.” The Nazis did invade the Netherlands in May 1940, and Stein remained safe for two years. She was finally arrested on August 2, 1942, because of her Jewish heritage, and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. She died in an Auschwitz gas chamber seven days later, on August 9, 1942.


Finally, in a late-night appearance in the East Room of the White House on May 1, 2011, US President Barack Mr. Obama declared that “justice has been done” as he announced that American military and C.I.A. operatives had cornered Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, in a Pakistani compound. American officials said Bin Laden resisted and was shot in the head. Osama’s death occurred on May 2nd, local time, but May 1st in the United States. Osama bin Laden was later given Muslim burial rites and buried at sea in the Indian Ocean.


That’s all for today’s segment of This Day in Today, and remember,

Today’s Tomorrow’s yesterday.

Thank you for listening!

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