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  • Jubilee: A Magazine of the Church and Her People:Toward a Vatican II Ecclesiology
  • Mary Anne Rivera (bio)


This article explores the theology of the Church in the modern world from 1953 to 1967 as reported in Jubilee: A Magazine of the Church and Her People, which claimed to be the "first national picture magazine for a Catholic audience."1 It will examine the Catholic monthly as a vehicle for communicating Christian culture and will describe and evaluate the ways in which Jubilee drew on preexisting themes to prepare the Church and the world for its reception of Vatican II. This data will be used to interpret what the Church came to understand about its nature, identity, mission, and structure. Second, this study will show what aspects of Jubilee's ecclesiology lived on to be embodied in the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council: Sacrosanctum Concilium, Lumen Gentium, and Gaudium et Spes.

Through the eye of the camera and with the skill of writers and editors, Jubilee offered a new vision of the Church "in all her beauty: her intellectual eminence, her hard work, her charity, her spirit of true peace."2 As the first national pictorial monthly for a Catholic audience, Jubilee provided a unique window onto the Church in the modern world. Through this medium, the Church and her people [End Page 77] were seen in all their beauty and diversity, and there was nothing remote about the events or ideas of the Church and her people; they were contemporary. Through its use of modern journalistic techniques, Jubilee revealed a Christendom that "goes back to Adam, is as broad as the world and as deep as the wisdom of Catholicism."3 In this broad field, Jubilee's editors, writers, and readers were repeatedly reminded that Christianity was constantly being acted out in the daily lives of its people, in towns, cities, nations, and continents.

Its original editors, Edward Rice, Thomas Merton, and Robert Lax, were also well aware of the fact that atheistic propaganda had gained the loyalty of millions of Catholics by exploiting their religious indifference, ignorance, and complacency.4 They saw the need for Christians to reorient themselves in a changing world and addressed this religious need of the day—to communicate the living truths of Catholicism to a world that did not know her. For Rice and Lax, their dual goals were "to produce a Catholic literary magazine that would act as a forum for addressing issues confronting the contemporary church together with a practical discussion of issues that Catholics dealt with in their daily lives."5 Jubilee's message highlighted the Christian ideology and sociology to show how the Truth of Christ was borne "by the ordinary people of His Church: housewife, worker, teacher, mystic, farmer, businessman, monk, priest, brother and sister—the living, working, praying, thinking Church."6 Its photographic essays were designed to show "the breath of the Lord God to the farthest confines of His world."7 Jubilee magazine, the work of Catholics both lay and religious, witnessed the Church's existence and "documented the struggles of people (far from all of them Catholic) to live the Word given us so long ago."8 The goal of this study is to listen to the many voices speak, and to recover from their informal language the prevailing "popular" ecclesiology operative from 1953 to 1967. [End Page 78]

The Founding of Jubilee Magazine

Jubilee magazine was a public proclamation of "Jubilate Deo, omnis terra" (Shout with joy to God, all the earth). For its founder, Edward Rice, the magazine proclaimed the "cheerfulness and joy" of everyday life and was a concrete expression of the believers' experience of God.

Since their student days at Columbia University, Edward Rice, Robert Lax, and Thomas Merton speculated about starting "a really good" Catholic magazine. In 1936 Rice met Lax and Merton while working on the campus humor magazine, The Jester, and quickly joined the group of campus bohemians, "the beat community," led by "Chief Merton." Robert Giroux, a former classmate, described this troika as "the three musketeers . . . good pals, highly sophisticated, with good senses of humor and very artistic."9 Based on her reading of Merton...


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pp. 77-103
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