With eyes of grace

Happy Advent everyone! 

I sit here typing this from the San Jose airport after an amazing weekend at the National Conference of Catholic Youth Ministry. It was such a fantastic way to experience Advent! The theme of the conference was “Connect in Christ” and it was exactly that kind of experience. 

I knew going into the conference that I would have a chance to sit back and hear amazing keynote speakers, inspirational workshops, and all the praise and worship music that my little heart desired. Every bit of that turned out to be true. I got to start my morning with 30 minutes of music and prayer, then listen to a great keynote speaker and then head off to workshops of my choosing. During my down time, I had the chance to go the prayer room and the exhibit hall. 

This was my first time in California, my first time flying alone, and my first time traveling to a conference alone. It was such a great opportunity for me to be out there on my own and take the time for myself to go with my flow. Everybody who lives a life a faith needs to take that time to refuel their faith. You cannot give what you do not have and if you are not connected to Christ you certainly cannot give Christ!

So as I said, going into the conference I was excited about all the great experiences that NCCYM had planned for me. What was just as grace-filled were those moments that were not planned out for me! When I arrived at the San Jose airport, I had no idea how I was getting to my hotel. I asked the information desk and a nice woman named Kat overheard me and told me she was heading to the conference and to follow her. We traveled together for the next 45 minutes and I got to know about her life, her ministry and her joys and struggles. She was kind and compassionate and without any food we broke bread together. 

When we switched from the bus to the train, we quickly spotted another group of youth ministers heading to the conference (Youth Ministers are easy to spot! They are usually the loud, happy friendly ones in a group where most strangers sit quietly). On the train I met another incredible man. His ministry he said was to go around and tell people that they were amazing. I got to witness this first-hand. As a bunch of ministers sat around sharing our stories a college kid got stuck in a seat in the middle of us. This man turns to him and asks him his name and where he’s from and then what he is studying. They have a quick conversation and then the man says to him, “You’re amazing. If no one has told you that I just wanted you to know that. And I’m sorry if anyone has hurt you because you are amazing and loved by God.” Wow! The change in this college kid was instantaneous! It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. It also made me check myself. I was quite content sharing my faith with people who were quite content sharing their faith with people. I wouldn’t have reached out to this guy and that is a sad commentary on me but it was such an awe-inspiring moment to witness.

After the second night of the conference, I had planned a dinner with two of my closest friends from high school who currently live in California. Hearing that I was not going to be able to see much of the city in my time there, I was surprised with an impromptu trip to San Francisco to see the Golden Gate Bridge! As I stood overlooking this beautiful sight, I was reminded of something I had heard in a workshop that day. The presenter said that we as people of faith see the world differently than everyone else. He said that the process of life’s journey is contextualized in a prayerful, Sacramental community. We see the world through the eyes of grace. It was in that moment, looking down on the Golden Gate Bridge from the overlook, with my arms around two people I have lived more of my life with than without, that this thought smacked me in face!

Everything we see should be seen through the eyes of grace! That is what we should be using this season of Advent for; to retrain our hearts to see the world through the lens of grace. I pray that all of us recognize the birth of Christ in all those unexpected moments in life! Those are the moments that will help us to see bits of the future that God has planned for us! God bless and have a merry and blessed Christmas! 

Anchor columnist Amanda Tarantelli has been a campus minister at Bishop Stang High School in North Dartmouth since 2005. She is married, a die-hard sports fan, and resides in East Providence, R.I. 


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