In the thirteenth century, the brilliant theologian and saintly Dominican Thomas Aquinas was praying before a Crucifix when the Lord spoke to Him. “Well you have written of me, Thomas. What would you have in return?”
There is so much that Thomas, arguably the most intelligent man to ever live in the West, could have asked for. And yet his answer came in merely four words: “Non nisi te, Domine. Nothing except you, Lord.”
800 years later, I was kneeling on a gym floor at a diocesan retreat in my junior year of high school, speaking to the same God with whom St. Thomas spoke. It had been a retreat of unspeakable grace and beauty as the Lord began to reveal parts of myself and plans for my life that I had never before concretely envisioned. Jesus was walking among the crowd in a Eucharistic procession and as He passed the row of high school students in front of me, I asked, with hands open, “Lord, what do you want of me?”
His answer was identical to the one that Thomas had given Him: “Only yourself.”
What I do with my life matters. I firmly believe that “God has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.”1 And yet, my vocation and position in life is secondary to the most arduous, jubilant reality of all: I am made for an eternal covenant of Love with Love Himself. The Prime Mover stooped to become Man and to exist rejected in the tabernacle so that He could give Himself completely to me and so that I can offer my entire self to Him. How can I say no to a love that is so self-sacrifical, and yet so overflowing in beauty and joy and adventure?
As I was unpacking some of that retreat in my youth minister’s office, he suggested the phrase “Full throttle” to describe my desires for prayer. And, partially in thanks to my morbid mind misunderstanding the phrase and needing friends to set me straight,2 the phrase stuck.
I want to live a life that is full throttle. From pouring myself into my work as a trainee with a professional ballet company, to giving of myself in ministry, to loving my family, friends, and even myself as Christ loves, I want to live in the intense joy that is only found in the arms of the Crucified. I want to run after the Beauty that has captivated my heart and bring as many people as possible to gaze on that same Beauty.
One day, by God’s grace, “The grey rain curtain of this world [will roll] back,”3 and that gaze on the Beauty of the Lord, that deepest desire of our human hearts will be brought to its consummation. Until then, I invite you “to run with me; let us long for our heavenly home, let us truly feel that here we are strangers.”4
God bless you!
1 St. John Henry Newman
2 I honestly thought he was saying prayer should look like strangling something and making sure it was dead, and I was too scared to ask about a clarification. When I learned later that week that “full throttle” generally refers to the much more mundane concept of accelerating in a car, I fell out of my chair at Red Robin from laughing. Social anxiety, folks. Don’t let it keep you from asking clarifying questions.
3 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
4 St. Augustine