• He didn't come from money. Never seemed to acquire much money. Never seemed to care about such things. They were, after all, he said, just things.

    A man who defined the value of a life, not by the valuables you collected in it, but the values you brought to it. A good life. A full life. And I’m happy to report, a continuing life.

    But a life, one Monsignor Kevin Flanagan stopped and paused to assess this past weekend. Now he had good reason to do that. It was a big weekend. Celebrating a big number for Father Kevin.

    Fifty years in the priesthood. Fifty years in the same job. Different locales, of course. Same drill. Helping people. Thousands of people. Such is the life of a priest. That is what you do.

    You help people. You baptize them, console them, marry them, and yes, you bury them and pray for them. It is a noble calling. Until some time back it didn't seem very noble at all. And but for the sins of a few, all seemed singed.

    Others have quit jobs for less. Father Kevin never stopped wanting to do more. Fifty years. At a time when the average CEO lasts barely two years and the average worker switches jobs once every five years, Father Kevin and his 50 years devoted to God almost seem quaint. To some in this increasingly secular world, even passé. But clearly not to the hundreds in New Jersey who feted their good pastor this weekend. Those he baptized, those he counseled, those he simply hugged.

    Fifty years of remembering each name, each child, each story, each family member, each member that was sick, each family drama told. They were all his sheep. All his flock. The rich ones, the poor ones, the faithful ones, the wandering ones… all his charge. All his work. All his calling. The Lord's calling.

    A calling where the pay is never great, the hours never short, and the hurdles never few. It didn't seem to matter to Father Kevin. A life of greatness precisely because he sought no greatness at all. End of story.

    But not quite. I heard a deacon tell him, "God still has great plans for you, Father Kevin." To which this 70-something priest responded in that classic brogue, "then he better work fast."

    No need, Father Kevin, he already has. Take it from me. Someone who has talked to presidents and kings, dictators and deal-makers… They're important to remember. But you make us remember what's important. Big difference. Very big difference Father Kevin. Very happy 50th and many, many more.

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