Today’s find: Free advice

Ever wonder how much free advice a priest might dispense over the course of 40 years?

That question occurred to me recently, as I gathered with the extended family to help my brother-in-law celebrate the 40th anniversary of his ordination. Today, Fr. Bob Reiker is Pastor at Mary, Queen of Peace parish in Glendale. And in his remarks to the congregation that day, he mentioned some of the other communities he’s served in the past four decades.

It was striking to consider just how many homilies he’s prepared in that time. How many men, women and children he’s baptized. How many First Communions he’s presided over. How many Masses he’s said. How many confessions he’s heard. How many people have sought out his counsel.

Like the good priest that he is, Bob wasn’t seeking credit for having touched all those tens of thousands of lives. Rather, he talked about how they had blessed him…and how they continue to bless him today.

But I’m here to tell you that Bob does good work.

In fact, in reminiscing about all the time I’ve known him, I recalled a life-changing conversation we’d had in the early 1980s. His advice on that occasion wasn’t just free—it turned out to be priceless. I was working for a Fortune 500 corporation at the time, and considering a promotion and transfer to another state (the second such move in less than a two-year span). ‘I don’t particularly want to uproot my family again,’ I said. ‘But I really don’t have a choice.’

‘You’re right,’ Bob said. ‘You don’t have a choice—not if you buy into their system.’ And that’s when it crystallized for me: It wasn’t just about building a career…or bringing home the bacon. I was buying into a value system—one that happened to conflict with many of the things I held dear.

That chat with Bob around the kitchen table probably lasted less than five minutes. But it’s had an enduring impact on me and my family. It gave me the courage then to seek (and find) a different way to make a living. And that, in turn, helped us sink our roots more deeply into a parish community – and to stay closely connected to family and friends through the years.

Looking back, I know that my life is inestimably richer today because of the Christ-centered perspectives Bob helped me bring into my career decisions way-back-when. It hardly seems adequate to say ‘thanks’ for such an incredible gift.

But perhaps it’s a good reminder that we don’t have to wait for special occasions to acknowledge the people—like our pastors, or even our brothers-in-law—who pour out some truly profound blessings in our lives.

It’s really true, isn’t it: Christ comes to each of us in just such a way.

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