James Baxter
Those Catholic Men
April 25, 2017 // Special

Exodus 90: a Catholic man’s 90-day challenge to freedom

James Baxter
Those Catholic Men

Exodus 90 is the fruit of a priest’s prayer and priestly experience. This 90-day challenge emerged from a seminary years ago in response to a profound need. Today, it’s transforming thousands of Catholic men — priests, seminarians and laymen alike — across the country and beyond.

In 2011, Father Brian Doerr of the Diocese of Lafayette was appointed vice rector of Human Formation at Mount St. Mary’s Theological Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., where Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades previously served as rector and where the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend currently sends many seminarians. During his time at the Mount, Father Doerr joined his men in the trenches of formation. He knew them because he spent time with them. He knew what they cared about, what they struggled with and what they looked forward to in ministry. He soon realized that many of these good and generous seminarians were not as free as they could be as they approached ordination to the priesthood.

What did their slavery look like? For some, it was addictions. For others, it was wasting away their lives on Netflix, videogames, news and other technological distractions. For still others, it was using food and alcohol as crutches to medicate the tough times. Perhaps this is scandalizing? But the lament of the Lord was their prayer: “Let my son go, that he may love me” (Ex 4:23).

Father Doerr took five of these struggling seminarians and issued them a 90-day challenge that would change their lives forever. He did not uncover a secret formula, but simply re-presented to them the tradition of the early church and her emphasis on asceticism. The number 90 was not coincidental or for some kind of secular marketing purpose, such as a “Catholic P90X”. Ninety was based off his reading of the sciences regarding the time it takes to return the brain to a normalized state and to begin forming new, lasting and healthy habits.

The men prayed and practiced penance as they never had before, with the support of a band of brothers. Some said it was the hardest thing they had ever done, but after only a few weeks, they would come to their fraternity meetings with smiles on their faces. They were experiencing joy once again. The story of the people of Israel, traveling from the slavery of Egypt into the freedom of the Promised Land, was becoming their own.

The experience was so fruitful for these men that Father Doerr would go on to launch 10 more 90-day fraternities over the next three years at the seminary, with increasing success. Taking what he had learned, and with the help of a few millennial friends, he issued the challenge online, at Exodus90.com, over a year ago.

From the beginning, the Exodus 90 regimen was accused of many things. “This is too extreme; no one will make these sacrifices.” “Exodus is great in a seminary, but impossible within the hustle and bustle of family life.” “Intentional fraternities are exclusive.” “Why aren’t you doing something for women?”

The proof that Exodus 90 works is not only the original seminarians, but the faces of men across the country who have been given new life through this challenge. Some have broken decades of addiction. Others have simply been freed to be more present to their parishes, wives and children in an age “distracted from distraction by distraction,” as T.S. Elliot wrote in “Four Quartets.”

One man, Dr. Taylor Marshall, president of the New Saint Thomas Institute, describes the course of the 90 days in a way that is representative of many men’s experience.

“My journey through Exodus 90 began with the first 10 days of sheer joy of something new and refreshing: Silence. Reflection. New fraternity with guys in my fraternity. Around day 20, the disciplines felt unbearable and unrealistic. I had doubts in myself and considered quitting. I craved distraction and my old comforts. By day 39, our team was feeling the weight of self-denial and discouragement. ‘We have almost finished a 40-day Lent … and we aren’t even halfway yet.’ Fifty more days felt like too long. However, around days 50-60, our team became more naturally habituated to the disciplines. One can only understand this by experiencing it. A sense of resolve and peace entered into my life. By day 90, I did not want it to end. I had become a new man and I liked sincerely the man who I had become. I now feel as if there is a secret tabernacle within my chest into which I can retreat and be silent with Jesus Christ. I had felt this place before, but during Exodus 90 I found this inner core and learned to retreat there. The rhythm of prayer and the asceticism of Exodus 90 helped me find this inner place of peace, and I’m grateful for that. Even after the 90 days are over, I still have it.”

There are two essentials for Exodus success: a) brotherhood and b) submission to the Exodus regimen. A man must have a fraternity to which he’s accountable; this kind of growth is not possible in a co-ed setting in which true vulnerability is compromised. And the disciplines of Exodus 90 are not to be altered. This need to control is one of the major reasons men fail to be free in the first place. Control must be surrendered to the Lord.

Many men are afraid of this challenge at the outset. But, by the end of the experience, they are more afraid that they resisted the summons to conversion. Here’s the secret: Exodus 90 is not a one-time challenge, but an ascetical lifestyle rooted in the sacramental life of the church. And it’s growing all around the country. The nonprofit that runs Exodus 90 is called Those Catholic Men and, unknown to many, resides and operates in Fort Wayne with the blessing of Bishop Rhoades. Visit Exodus90.com for more information, and to find information about how to launch launching an Exodus fraternity in a local parish.


The ascetical 90-day Exodus regimen

Cold showers

• No alcohol

• No desserts or sweets

• No eating between meals

• No soda or sweetened drinks

• No television or movies
(without permission of the fraternity)

• Only music that lifts the soul to God

• No televised sports
(without permission of the fraternity)

• Computer and phone for research and communication purposes only

• Regular and intense exercise

• Daily holy hour
(minimum of 20 minutes of silent prayer each day)

• Weekly fraternity meetings

• No major material purchases
(without permission of the fraternity)

• Minimum of seven hours of sleep each night

In Addition

Brotherhood: Uncompromising weekly fraternity meetings. Also consider time together outside of the meeting each week. For example: a weekly meal. Lastly, consider taking a fraternity pilgrimage or adventure at the end of Exodus 90. Past Participants in Exodus 90 report that the fraternity is essential for personal success.

Fasting: Wednesday and Fridays are to be more serious fast days. Eat one regular meal and two smaller meals. Abstain from meat.

Sundays and Solemnities: These are days of relaxed discipline, but not abandon. Enjoy one of the disciplines (e.g. a dessert).

Imperative: Know Christ. Be joyful. 



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