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Sirico Parables book

    The dust is still settling from our latest Acton University. On the last day of this year’s event, I was able to celebrate my birthday. In both instances, it’s difficult delineating whether we’re celebrating the end of a cycle or the beginning of another.

    It’s all a matter of perspective, I suppose, but one needs only to persevere to celebrate one more birthday. Wrapping up one Acton University and immediately preparing for the next, however, is somewhat another story. Both incidents should prompt examination and introspection, of course. In the interest of continuous improvement, we take into consideration the observations shared by our guests so we can better serve their spiritual and intellectual needs moving forward. As for myself, I’m left with prayer, my relationship with God and the support of close friends and coworkers as the catalysts for self-improvement.

    Birthdays and AU are cyclical but should never represent a stagnant, closed system that simply repeats itself like some mindless perpetual-motion machine lacking any significant purpose. I’m reminded of chapter three of Ecclesiastes: “God has made everything appropriate to its time, but has put the timeless into their hearts so they cannot find out, from beginning to end, the work which God has done.”

    Birthdays and mapping the AU continuum also are linear. Timelines for both can be drawn easily. This year, for example, marked the first year since the inaugural AU that our good friend Michael Novak could join us only in spirit. Yes, he couldn’t attend every AU while he lived, but his wise counsel was reflected in nearly every aspect of our conferences, keynotes and conversations, and the same holds true today even after his death last February. Losing Michael was a great loss to the Acton community in general and to his friends—of whom I am but one of many hundreds, if not thousands— specifically. Ecclesiastes again: “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.”

    Once again this year we honor Michael’s significant contributions to our cause by bestowing the award bearing his name upon a worthy recipient. This year’s Novak Award is granted to Wim Decock, a Belgian who, carrying on the rich tradition originally stoked by Novak, conducts research on the nexus of theology, religion and economic history.

    Time marches on, but the rich traditions in which the Acton Institute is so thoroughly steeped continuously replenish and repeat.

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    Rev. Robert A. Sirico is president emeritus and the co-founder of the Acton Institute. Hereceived 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.