Monday, November 3, 2008

Jubilee - A Magazine of the Church & Her People

First Edition of Jubilee, May 1953
I finally found them.

Ever since I first heard about the Jubilee magazines, I have been anxious to see them. There were many reasons I was intrigued with the magazine: the name (I even named my dog, “Jubilee”), the connection to Merton and his college friends, the Catholic era in which it was published. Many of my older friends remembered the magazine with fondness - “I used to have a whole box of them” - but no one could seem to put their hands on one. I researched around and found that the libraries of many Catholic Universities had some of the magazines on hand, but I never seemed to be in the vicinity. Until now.

I find myself temporarily situated just outside of St. Louis, Missouri. Every now and then I attend the noon Mass at St. Louis University – and finally it dawned on me that those magazines had to be in the University library.

Last week I approached the librarian at the University Library, asking if they had any copies of Jubilee – a Catholic magazine published in the 1950s.

“A magazine of the Church and her peoples?” she asked.

“That’s it!”

Her computer indicated that there were at least a few, maybe more, in the Lewis Annex. So she directed me to an elevator that I should take up to 2R, then exit the elevator from the back, cross the room, and take another elevator down to the 3rd floor. There I would find my magazines: BX801.J8

I easily made my way through the maze of books and, lo and behold, there they were,on the top shelf. The full set, from the very first issue – May 1953 – to the last – July 1968 – each year bound into an orange book. Fifteen years.

My gosh, each issue would take me a month to digest, and I only had an hour or so. I spent most of this time reading the very first magazine, May 1953, but I also quickly scanned through some of the later, and last, editions.

The photography was stunning. I assume that much (most?) of these are the work of the editor, Ed Rice. The magazine truly is “unique … because it is the first national picture magazine for a Catholic audience.” And though it is a national (American published) magazine, its scope appeared to be international, with many articles about the European Church.

The very first article of the first magazine was political, “The Church and Cold War”, with much discussion of “the heresy of Communism” (quoting Maritain).
The first edition also included an article about the men who worked New York City’s docks, the longshoremen, a poem by Robert Lax about the Cristiani Circus family, First Communion dresses that could be adapted for other occasions, an archeological story about the place in Turkey where Mary went with St. John after the Crucifixion, and 8 pages of frame-able woodcuts by artist, Walter Melmen. All for 35 cents.

Each issue contained a story for children about the adventures of Don Camillo, a young and ardent defender of the Faith. Large families are celebrated.

The art and tone changes in the later issues. Here are some photos that I took, mostly just randomly, of some of the pages.

The very last page of the last issue is an advertisement for the National Catholic Reporter, which is, perhaps, the true successor of Jubilee.

I intend to go back to the St. Louis University library to read more of the Jubilee magazines. I'll probably have much more to say about them. Don't you love the name? (I wish I could identify and find that font.)


  1. So happy you found Jubilee at last. One thing I remember is the great photography. Another thing, the quality of the articles. I used to buy it off the magazine rack in my parish. I was surprised it was there. After a while, it disappeared. It always seemed a New York-centered magazine, but maybe that is because I was an insular New Yorker at the time.

  2. How exciting that you found the original Jubilee, Beth! I hope somehow you will find the time and the means to explore the issues more fully.

  3. Stay tuned, Sally! I'm hoping to do a weekly exploring of these magazines.

    Barbara, I think that Kentucky was too far away from NYC to be in the loop at the time. My parents, who were avid and active Catholics, got a lot of Catholic literature, but somehow neither Jubilee or the Catholic Worker ever caught their attention. I doubt that they ever even heard of them. Lucky for me, though, Gethsemani was close by and my Dad brought home the Merton books as they were published. But I don't think he ever read them.

  4. As a part-time bookseller who specializes in rare periodicals, it's a pleasure to see someone take such a heartfelt interest in this sort of thing. I come across mountains of these sorts of periodicals that have been forgotten or remain unappreciated.

    And thanks for the great Merton content all around.

  5. I'll trade you an autographed Berrigan bookplate for a quality scan of that Berrigan at Cornell photograph.

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Philip. Do you have any Jubilee magazines for sale?

    Marc, I'm heading back into SLU tomorrow. I'll see what I can do. Not sure if they have scanners available in the library or not.
    I'll bet they have a few Jubilee Magazines at the Jesuit University Library in Omaha.

  7. I've always been curious about Jubilee, too: thanks for a fascinating entry, and for your whole fabulous blog here, which I've just discovered.

    – Mike

  8. I grew up on that. I wasn't even fully aware it was gone. It was like a Life magazine for the missions, with moody Rolleiflex photography taking up half the editorial. The leftism following Vatican II is probably what killed it off; it became difficult to market Christian social concern when social welfare and liberal Christianity had become so abused and tainted.

  9. Beth, Thanks for digging up the wonderful Jubilee issues. As a Carmelite seminarian I read Jubilee avidly, loving its arty, bohemian and deeply spiritual character. Rice, Lax and Merton were all interested in the east, in a deep and truly catholic take on life. Ed

    1. agree, agree, agree! You've described Jubilee well: "arty, bohemian, deeply spiritual character!"

  10. You are welcome, Ed. I wish there was something Jubilee around today - artsy, prophetic, and Catholic!

  11. I thank you, Beth, for finding a full stash of the treasure we knew as Jubilee magazine. As a teener coming of age in slightly post-Beatnik San Francisco, reading it every month was part of my intellectual formation. Other parts were the Catholic Worker and Commonweal, Christopher Dawson, Henri de Lubac, Maritain, Rexroth, Snyder, Antoninus, Corso, and daily Mass in English (late 50s, pre-Vat-II) in a Russian Orthodox monastery. Jubilee was revelatory: eye-opening, mind-enlightening, not afraid to cross boundaries and borders - yet it always felt like home. A BIG home. I tried tracking down a poem by Robert Lax, struck out, so i tried Jubilee - and HERE YOU ARE! Gracias, Juan Pedro
    post scriptum: If you like Latin American choral music, write me at and I'll send you some of our CDs. pax et bonum, JP

  12. Thank you Juan Pedro! I would love to hear some Latin American choral music, especially now that we have a Latin American Pope!

    I love Lax poems too! There are a few on this website, I think, if you search the LAX label.

  13. Beth, are you still interested in these magazines? I came across a stash while cleaning my aunt's house. The articles are great, but I have no where to store them. Would you like them?

  14. I would LOVE them Patrice! I will pay for postage and packaging! My address: Beth Cioffoletti - 4275 Hazel Avenue, Palm Beach Gardens FL 33410 - THANK YOU!!!

  15. No problem. Let me find a box for them and find out how to ship them. I may peruse a few of the articles myself. Just finished a great one on Paschal. VERY informative and well-written.

  16. Let me know how much the packaging and shipping is, Patrice. I want to pay for it! THANKS!

  17. Jubilee was bread in the wilderness. I still miss it. One remarkable aspect of the magazine was the steady attention it gave to "eastern" Christianity and the Orthodox Church.

  18. I have a copy of the first issue of Jubilee which I would like to give to someone who might care to have it. All that I remember at this point was going in to NYC every month to help with the mailing along with other volunteers. I was a charter subscriber for which I received common stock.

    1. Would LOVE to have it, Ed. My mailing address:

      Beth Cioffoletti
      4275 Hazel Av
      Palm Beach Gardens FL 33410

      THANK YOU!!!

  19. Franciscan University of Steubenville also has copies of "Jubilee."



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