In Remembrance

by Ismael Hernandez

The Freedom & Virtue Institute mourns the loss of a giant for faith and freedom, Michael Novak, who passed away at the age of 83. I met Michael several years ago at the campus of Ave Maria University. He wanted to meet me as he have heard of me from another intellectual giant, Father Robert Sirico. He came down driving a golf cart and we sat for coffee for two hours. It was simply a delight to discuss deep thought with that intellect! There I was with a man who counselled popes and politicians, a diplomat, a novelist, a theologian, and a philosopher. I had the opportunity to interact with him many, many times after that. I was so honored and humbled when he wrote the preface to my book, Not Tragically Colored.

Michael Novack

But I have met him long before, through his books. The first book of his I read was Will It Liberate?:Questions About Liberation Theology. As I once embraced liberation theology, I was so happy to discuss it with him. His incisive critique of that theory was extraordinary and I remember telling him that I wished I have read his book 20 years earlier, as it would have saved me from much turmoil. I want to offer just a glimpse of his ideas from the Introduction to Will It Liberate?:

“For it seems to me the true case that in our time the theology of the entire Western Hemisphere—the theology of the Americas—is coming of age. It is not only Latin America that has a liberation theology. North America does, too. North American liberation theology is, however, buried in institutions, practices, and habits; it exists much more powerfully in reality than in books. North American liberation theology has hardly yet begun to achieve self-consciousness.”

Michael Novak served as a scholar at American Enterprise Institute from 1978 until his retirement in 2010. There, he had a distinguished career as the George Frederick Jewett Scholar in Religion, Philosophy, and Public Policy.

His masterful book, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (1982), advanced presented America’s economic system as a functional one where the political, economic, and moral-cultural systems work together, needing each other. You deserve reading that book.

 After his retirement he remained very active and for a time resided in SW Florida as a visiting scholar at Ave Maria University, where he was completing his Memoirs and where I met him. At the time of his passing, he was finishing another novel, set around the Johnstown flood in Pennsylvania in 1889. He wrote more than 35 books in his lifetime and his entire body of work gained him more than deserved recognition, among them, 26 honorary degrees, the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion (1994), and the prestigious Lincoln Literary Award (2016). We grieve him but find ourselves fortunate that he existed. May he rest in peace.