Catholic men take up spiritual disciplines to draw closer to God.
Numerous groups of men at Notre Dame have undertaken the disciplines of Exodus 90, a ninety-day spiritual exercise which began January 9.
The program is based on three pillars: prayer, asceticism, and fraternity. Known for cold showers and holy hours, the program is designed to help Catholic men draw closer to God and to live in greater freedom through responsibility.
Nearly fifty thousand people have participated in Exodus 90 since it was conceived in 2016, and its increasing presence on the Notre Dame campus comes as the program has built up significant popularity within the Catholic media sphere. Because of its emphasis on detachment from the world, Exodus 90 is also often recommended by priests and catechists as a means of deepening men’s spiritual commitments during the Lenten season, with which the second half of the program overlaps.
The first pillar of the program, prayer, calls participants to spend an hour before God each day. Whether they are done continuously or broken up into intervals, the holy hours are supplemented with readings from the Book of Exodus and brief reflection passages. The program emphasizes that each participant must spend time in prayer as the basis of its other disciplines.
Ascetic practices, the second pillar of Exodus 90, are perhaps the most well-known aspect of the program. These disciplines include cold showers, regular exercise, and abstinence from alcohol, sweets, snacking between meals, television and movies, and nonessential technology use. Wednesdays and Fridays are designated for fasting and abstinence, which means that only one full meal and two smaller meals without meat are consumed. Additionally, participants are permitted to listen only to music that lifts the soul to God.
The final pillar is fraternity. Participants live fraternity through weekly meetings with other men who are involved in the program as well as check-ins with an “anchor.” The anchor is an accountability partner with whom each participant is paired at the beginning of the ninety days. Fraternity enriches the other two disciplines by providing men with mutual support, encouragement, and authentic community.
Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Diocese of Fort Wayne–South Bend is a spiritual advisor for the executive team behind Exodus. On the program website, founder James Baxter cites Bishop Rhoades’ support as a primary reason that Exodus did not fail in its early stages. In promotional materials, Rhoades explained: “after Exodus, men experience true freedom. I have seen this fruit with my own eyes.”
Sophomore Daniel Martin serves as the group leader for Exodus men living in O’Neill Family Hall. After meeting with Exodus representatives at the SEEK23 conference this January in St. Louis, Missouri, he decided to form a community in his home dorm: “I knew that there were guys in O’Neill that were interested in doing this and that needed it. Exodus seemed like the perfect way to bring a group of men together and orient ourselves toward a higher purpose.”
Martin emphasized the centrality of prayer for the entire program: “Asceticism without grounding in prayer is useless. We need to make ourselves receptive to God in order to properly enter into the disciplines.” While he noted the challenge of getting his group together for fraternity meetings due to busy schedules, he said that sharing failures and triumphs has been incredibly rewarding.
Brian Buttner, another member of the O’Neill Hall Exodus community, told the Rover, “while each discipline is fruitful for growing in virtue, particularly humility and self control, the personal commitment and subsequent growth proves that you can change. This is gratifying and humbling, as you know that this change was not through the work of your own hands, but through emptying yourself so much that God truly worked in and through you to accomplish His will.”
Junior Mike Florin leads a group of men in Alumni Hall nicknamed the “Ascetic Dawgs.” Reflecting on his experience with Exodus, he said, “I think the most valuable thing that Exodus offers men is radical availability; availability to both God and others. The life of men today—especially men at Notre Dame—is so busy, full of constant noise and distraction between classes, work, technology, and relationships.” Florin continued, “Even if these are good things, they can keep us constantly occupied and prevent us from hearing God’s voice in our lives and truly encountering those around us.. We are integrated beings, and we need to be disciplined and strive for holiness in all areas of our life, otherwise we will slide back into the mediocrity that is so prevalent in our culture.”
Junior Daniel Schermerhorn reflected on how his experience with Exodus 90 in Baumer Hall has brought him closer to Christ’s redemptive suffering: “I am so encouraged by all the other guys around campus doing Exodus. It gives me so much hope that people like me are being transformed in the same way. I think with the fate of the Church at Notre Dame at stake, Exodus is a beacon of light in the midst of the darkness of college life.”
PJ Butler is a junior from St. Louis, Missouri majoring in political science and theology and minoring in constitutional studies. Since beginning his Exodus, he has enjoyed listening to Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli and Allegri’s Miserere. Share your sacred music recommendations with him by emailing email@example.com.
Photo Credit: Promotional Material from Exodus90.com
Subscribe to the Irish Rover here
Donate to the Irish Rover here