Diocesan News

Men undertake 90 days of penance

‘Exodus  90’ a program of fasting, fraternity

Story by Reagan Scott

LINCOLN (SNR) - While the season of Lent has just begun for most Catholics, 10 men from North American Martyrs Parish in Lincoln have just reached the halfway mark of a penetential period.

The men started an intensive program of fasting and fraternity known as “Exodus 90” Jan. 1.

This 90-day program for men looking to free themselves from life’s daily distractions requires many sacrifices, but has the potential for significant rewards for those involved. 

Exodus 90 is based on three pillars: prayer, asceticism and fraternity. Together, the three help participants to find the freedom to engage one’s love of God and neighbor.

At North American Martyrs, two groups of men formed to take part in the program. Both groups are made up of five married men, and each has a priest in charge of spiritual direction.

Both groups started their Exodus 90 journey Jan. 1 and will end on Easter Sunday.

As part of the fraternity pillar, each group meets once a week in person and stays in contact throughout the week in order to encourage one another and hold them accountable in their completion of the other two pillars.

The prayer pillar for the program requires that the men complete a holy hour each day, or spend at least 20 minutes in prayer, to spend time strengthening their relationship with God.

As part of the asceticism pillar, the Exodus 90 participants are to refrain from warm showers, sweets, eating between meals and watching television, to name a few examples. They are also asked to work out regularly and get seven hours of sleep every night.

Participants of the program are asked to refrain from advertising their participation. For this reason, a member of one of the groups at North American Martyrs asked to remain anonymous.

Now halfway through the program, he said he has already seen benefits of his participation despite all of the sacrifices that he has been required to make.

“We all feel like we are constantly bombarded by distractions, but when you turn those distractions off ‘cold turkey’ you realize how distracted you really are,” he said. “Exodus 90 helps you find freedom from the things that weren’t bringing you closer to God.”

The participant said that once many of his distractions went away, he realized that he had freedom from many things that weren’t bringing him closer to God and his focus turned toward what he was doing with his free time.

For all the participants in his group, their focus has been able to turn more toward their families.

“Our wives have noticed how much more we play with our kids,” he said.

For those men interested in participating in the program or forming their own groups, he had advice to give.

“Exodus 90 is definitely not something to enter into lightly, but don’t be afraid,” he said. “You definitely have to be mentally prepared in the beginning, but a key component is fraternity, and everyone helps support each other.”

Tim Elder is a member of the other group at North American Martyrs and like the members of the other group, began his Exodus 90 journey Jan 1.

Elder was invited to join the program by one of his friends at the parish and agreed.

“It was much more powerful to get that personal ‘ask,’” he said. “I was looking for an accountability group, and this was the way I knew it was going to happen.”

Like the member of the other Exodus 90 group, Elder noted that all of the sacrifices together make the program more challenging, but he has already seen benefits in his personal life.

“I’ve become less focused on the things of this world and more focused on prayer time and spiritual growth,” he said. “The point of the program is to find the true freedom that God provides, and I’ve definitely found that now.”

Elder also found the brotherhood that he was looking for in the program.

“I enjoy the weekly and daily contact with my Exodus brothers,” he said. “We support each other. I’m not just doing this on my own; these guys are doing it with me.”

Elder knows that he won’t give up Exodus 90 entirely when Easter comes.

He said, “I think we’re all going to take some time to reflect on what is most helpful to keep our spiritual lives growing, and I have a feeling we’ll continue to meet after the 90 days are up.”

Exodus 90 was developed by Father Brian Doerr and seminarians at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md. There have been participants from every state in the U.S., as well as seven other countries.

For those interested who fear they missed the Jan. 1 opportunity to start Exodus 90, the organization’s website, exodus90.com, reminds that Feb. 19 marks 90 days to Pentecost. Participants also begin on Michelmas (July 1), to end on the feast of St. Michael the Archangel Sept. 29; on Aug. 27, to end on the feast of Christ the King Nov. 25; and Sept. 26 to end on Christmas Day.

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