Acton Institute Powerblog

Karen Laub-Novak, RIP

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The Acton Institute, and I personally, have lost one of our most enduring and earliest friends in the peaceful (and I am told, beautiful – if such a word can be used) death of Karen Laub-Novak, wife of our long-time collaborator and mentor Michael Novak.

During the time I lived in Washington, D.C., some 25 years ago, the Novak dinner table became a veritable salon of the free society. As Michael would be mixing up his magical Manhattans (where I learned to make them), Karen and I would be busy in the kitchen churning out Italian dishes: antipasti, pollo caccitore, broccolini in padella – all served into the midst of sparkling conversations and debates around that table. Here were the likes of Clare Booth Luce holding formidable court against Bill Bennett, Irving Kristol and his wife Gertrude Himmelfarb; Bob and Mary Ellen Bork would be conversing with the late Jack and Joan Kemp or Charles and Robyn Krauthammer.

Karen, an artist of note, had a natural ability in such an intellectually charged atmosphere to exude an infallible and gracious hospitality, making anyone who visited her domain feel fully at home.

A bit of beauty has gone out of the world in Karen’s passing. RIP.

Rev. Robert Sirico Rev. Robert A. Sirico received his Master of Divinity degree from the Catholic University of America, following undergraduate study at the University of Southern California and the University of London. During his studies and early ministry, he experienced a growing concern over the lack of training religious studies students receive in fundamental economic principles, leaving them poorly equipped to understand and address today's social problems. As a result of these concerns, Fr. Sirico co-founded the Acton Institute with Kris Alan Mauren in 1990. As president of the Acton Institute, Fr. Sirico lectures at colleges, universities, and business organizations throughout the U.S. and abroad. His writings on religious, political, economic, and social matters are published in a variety of journals, including: the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, the London Financial Times, the Washington Times, the Detroit News, and National Review. Fr. Sirico is often called upon by members of the broadcast media for statements regarding economics, civil rights, and issues of religious concern, and has provided commentary for CNN, ABC, the BBC, NPR, and CBS' 60 Minutes, among others. In April of 1999, Fr. Sirico was awarded an honorary doctorate in Christian Ethics from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and in May of 2001, Universidad Francisco Marroquin awarded him an honorary doctorate in Social Sciences. He is a member of the prestigious Mont Pèlerin Society, the American Academy of Religion, and the Philadelphia Society, and is on the Board of Advisors of the Civic Institute in Prague. Father Sirico also served on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission from 1994 to 1998. He is also currently serving on the pastoral staff of Sacred Heart of Jesus parish in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Fr. Sirico's pastoral ministry has included a chaplaincy to AIDS patients at the National Institute of Health and the recent founding of a new community, St. Philip Neri House in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


  • I had never heard of Karen Laub-Novak until August 11, 2009 when I looked at Michael Novak’s web site to send him a request to examine my evangelartistry art exhibit at (I thought he might be a Catholic philosopher who had at some point lamented “the lack of meaningful Catholic art in the Christian world” in our time.)

    On that site I noted information about Karen’s own web site and so ventured onto and discovered with great delight her expressions of what I see also as evangelartistic works (paintings mostly) for which she – I do not think – has received any recognition as such. But then perhaps I have been out of touch.

    I sent Karen an email asking her (lazy fool that I am) to please read the email I sent to her husband regarding my work, but to also visit the above web site and then to please comment on it to me at her convenience. I had no idea of her health situation or God’s plans for her at this point.

    On August 12th I viewed her web site again and read down to the middle of her second literary entry regarding mysticism, etc. which blew me away! I then came to realize I was out of my league trying to communicate with this Great One… and wrote back to her saying, “You are too good, don’t waste your time on me!”

    Obviously God wasn’t going to give her that time. But surely there are other evangelartists – Catholics who implement cultural media (the arts and things in the environ in general whereby to convey the Gospel and Christian culture) who will as “servants of the rest” carry on where Karen left off.

    And though we may anticipate that she is “Resting In Peace”, let’s nominate her as unofficial female patron saint of evangelartists… and invoke her spirit to actively inspire us to continually seek a mystical union between the action of Martharian evangelization and living in charity with the Marian contemplation of Being in the Art of God!
    Karen Laub-Novak, inspire, motivate, and pray for us!
    Kevin R. Landry