When we look at the lives of the saints, we see this radical phenomenon that amidst suffering, trials, tribulation, and even, for some, death, they radiate joy, peace, and love. What in them gives them peace, comfort, consolation, joy? They are denied or choose to reject the pleasures we now have in our daily lives and often take for granted. These saints are left with the one thing that truly remains: Jesus Christ. The Divine Physician, the Good Counselor, the King of kings. These saints are not striving after the world. They are seeking what each heart truly longs for, which is the love of Jesus. The world tells us to seek comfort and pleasure, but Christ tells that, “Whoever wishes to come after me must take deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (MT 16:24) We are not called to follow the world of easy and pleasure, but to follow in the ways of suffering, sacrifice, fasting and prayer.
While many have accomplished this goal through their own efforts and programs, many of us don’t know of where to start. Luckily there are men out there that wish to see men convert themselves to Christ more, and have made programs to follow. After much prayer and consideration, I have chosen to take one of these programs up. The program is called Exodus 90 and is aimed at men who are looking to deepen their faith in a radical way. Following the way of the Israelites as they move from the bondage of slavery in Egypt to the Holy land of Israel, Exodus 90 is an opportunity to break free from the chains and slavery to sin and to move in to the freedom of the ascetical life. The program is to be discerned fully and is not meant to be taken on alone. A man, after discerning he is called to take it up, is to first find a fraternity to travel along this path with him. After finding the fraternity, they can start. The fraternity is essential to the success for the program due to the intensity of it. We look at saints throughout the ages and see that there is usually never just one. The apostles, St. John Paul II, St. Teresa of Calcutta, and St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Scholastica and St.Benedict. The goal of the fraternity is to grow together and keep one another accountable.
The program tends to start in January and run until Easter day. In those 90 days, we are asked to sacrifice, offer it up, and pray. We are to take cold showers, abstain from alcohol, dessert/sweets, soda and sweetened drinks, snacking in between meals, television, movies, televised sports, the computer (except for work, school, and essential tasks), phones (except when needed), and major material purchases. On top of that we are to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. We are also asked to take up 20-60 minutes in prayer, and regular intense exercises, a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night, and to read through the book of Exodus.
I have been on the program for three weeks now and working through the fourth, have found it to be a hard undertaking, but it is freeing. I have found myself more in tune with prayer, and focused more fully on God through my daily tasks. Being able to walk the path toward freedom I know wasn’t going to be easy, but the beauty of walking with other men and meeting each week to check in and see their personal trials and successes has been a great blessing and encouragement to continue the pursuit. Slaves often recognize their chains and oppression. I was very aware of those things in my life that shackled me to the world and saw Exodus 90 as a way to break free and I thank the men who are venturing to do the same with me.
I encourage everyone to seek programs like this, and if you are not yet called to a program to start practicing some of the fasts and practices they discern fit for them, but first start finding people that can keep you accountable, walk with you along the way, and meet with them more. Most of all, I encourage you to start praying daily and being more dependent on God’s Grace. Don’t not be afraid in all things and love in the the hardest of time.