A great voiced was silenced over the weekend, the voice of a theologian, philosopher, diplomat, witness to Vatican Council II, a prolific writer, speaker and teacher, a mentor to countless numbers of people and, above all, a friend – Michael Novak.

Michael died Friday at the age of 83.

Over the years I’ve shared many special, indeed unique, moments with Michael, in Rome and in the U.S. We’ve broken bread together at a number of meals – mostly in Rome! – and had many fascinating conversations, on the set of television shows, waiting in green rooms to go on air, over dinner in a diplomat’s home, in the courtyard of the Swiss Gaurds residence in Vatican City (as you’ll see in the video below).

If Michael was present at an event, you knew that event would be special, that the day would just be better. He was soft spoken and that was one reason why you leaned in and listened intently to him when he spoke — that, in addition to the priceless stories he told, the insights he shared about Popes and presidents, the advice he’d give when asked.

Praise for a life well-lived is coming from around the world for Michael – all of it deserved, none of it exaggerated.

I am grateful the Lord put Michael in my life, even if only for brief moments. Because every moment with Michael was an enriching experience. Thank you for those moments, Michael.

Here is one of our last exchanges – the endorsement he wrote for my book, A Holy Year in Rome:

“I have been going to Joan Lewis for at least 35 years for practical guidance around Rome, and what she is hearing on the streets and from her many contacts in every sort of Vatican office.  Readers will be delighted by her newest guide to this city, from which scores of thousands will be in touch with what her many friends have been learning from her for years.  Joan Lewis is an unusual guide for two reasons: She loves Rome, and as an American has been soaking up its daily joys for more than three decades.  Second, she loves those who ask guidance from her and presents Rome in an informal, personal, and friendly way, like a companion walking at your side. Enjoy!”

And here is the video I took as Michael spoke at a reception offered by the Swiss Guards in 2014 on the occasion of the canonization of Saints John XXIII and John Paul II: