Members of Ryerson University Catholic Students’ Association close their weekly meeting at the university’s library with a prayer from the Exodus 90 program. Front to back are Ian Beveridge, Judel Villardo and James Delos Reyes. Photo by Jean Ko Din

Exodus 90 offers ‘worldly’ challenge

By 
  • February 27, 2019

No social media. No alcohol. No sweets. No hot showers. No secular music. 

These are only a few of the spiritual fasts that young Catholic men are doing across North America. About 6,000 men in the United States and Canada are taking on the Exodus 90 challenge

Participants are following a strict 90-day regimen which forces men to rid themselves of “worldly distractions” and dive deeper in prayer.

On Jan. 21, 20-year-old Ian Beveridge joined 16 other men at Ryerson University Catholic Students’ Association in Toronto who are taking on the challenge as a lead-up to Easter. Together, these university-aged men have commited themselves to intense prayer, fasting and fraternity. 

“I thought I would not live without social media but once I deleted it, I didn’t have to worry about it,” said Beveridge. “Once it was gone, it was like it was never there in the first place.”

Every week, he and his friends gather together to check-in on their progress. They share their hardest challenges and personal triumphs. 

So far, Beveridge said it is the hardest thing that he and his friends have ever done but they are embracing the challenge for the promise of who they will become at the end of their 90 days. 

“Looking at the end of what I would become, at the end of Exodus 90, was nothing but a better man for myself and for others,” said Beveridge. “I told myself, ‘Be a man, take up this challenge and become another soldier for God.’ ”

Exodus 90 was originated by Fr. Brian Doerr, who was vice rector of human formation at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., from 2011-2016. Spending time with seminarians, Doerr came to understand the worldly distractions the men were struggling with. 

For some, it was addiction to pornography. For others, it was video games, sports, social media and other technological distractions. 

He invited five seminarians into a 90-day spiritual exercise inspired by an early Church tradition’s emphasis on asceticism — a complete abstinence from worldly indulgences. Word began to spread outside the seminary and lay Catholic men began to take up the challenge, too. 

It gained new momentum last summer, as clerical sexual abuse investigations began to surface in the United States and in other countries. Prominent Catholic speakers like Matt Fradd and Fr. Mike Schmitz endorsed the challenge as a response to the evils that were being uncovered in the Church.

“This is a movement for greater masculinity and for greater men in the Church and I wanted to be a part of it, so I pitched it to the guys at Ryerson and at CCO,” said Ben Turland, campus coordinator for Ryerson Catholics and Catholic Christian Outreach missionary. “There’s two groups here (at Ryerson) and it kind of took off from there.”

Exodus 90 participants are challenged to take cold showers, no alcohol, no sweets, no snacking between meals, no soda, no television or movies, no televised sports and no major material purchases. 

Men should only listen to music that “lifts the soul to God.” Computer and cellphone use is limited for research and communication purposes only. Regular exercise is encouraged as well as daily prayer for 20 to 60 minutes. 

Exodus 90 encourages men to participate in small groups called fraternities in which they can organize weekly meetings to report their progress. They are also encouraged to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays, limiting themselves to one meatless meal and two smaller meals. 

Sundays and solemnities are days of relaxed discipline where they can treat themselves with one indulgence from the disciplines listed. 

“Surprisingly, it was not a hard sell,” said Turland. “I actually thought there would be more pushback. I think a lot of them probably didn’t know how hard it was going to be but they’re doing well. They have mercy on themselves and they’re growing in fraternity.” 

Turland said that although Catholic women can be tempted with these same worldly indulgences, the heart of the program is about the fraternity among Catholic men and understanding who God calls the men of the Church to be. 

“Men need like-minded individuals to help them along their journey,” he said. “I think it’s good for men to rely on other men... We think the same, we act the same and we get triggered the same way. You need someone to call you out to greatness.”

As Ryerson Catholics’ two fraternity groups finish their first 30 days of the challenge, Turland said he can already see a change in many of the men participating. He said that many of them are realizing the distractions they had in their lives. 

Some found themselves eating healthier. Some were becoming more productive students. Others were delving deeper into their spiritual lives.

“I have a sweet tooth, so giving up the sweets and snacking... Also, I’m a gamer so I liked playing video games as a stress reliever,” said 21-year-old James Delos Reyes. 

“To give up all of that and when I did drop all of that, I felt better. I could see the health benefits... I felt more productive at school.”

Without the brotherhood they formed in their small fraternity groups, Delos Reyes said this 90-day challenge would be impossible to do alone. Growing and sharing their struggles as brothers in Christ, they said, is the most life-changing aspect of the process. 

“To pick ideas off each other to improve each other’s prayer life and be challenged by it, I think it benefits everyone as a whole,” said Delos Reyes, a fourth-year youth and child care student at Ryerson University. “If there’s a question or something that’s big, being there for each other and walking with each other, it encourages us to keep going even when we fail.”

Beveridge said that doing Exodus 90 made each of them realize the secular trappings that were part of their daily life. A simple invite to hang out at a bar with a friend can be an awkward conversation. 

“One of my friends, who is pretty secular, we got into a kind of argument of why I was doing this,” he explained. “He was like completely put off by the idea of doing this for God. Like, ‘Why are you going to get on your knees for 20 minutes to an hour to pray.’ ”

For the most part, Beveridge said that friends and family are supportive of their Exodus 90 challenge.

Judel Villardo, 18, is a third-year computer science student at Ryerson University. He said that doing Exodus 90 has made him realize that this practice can be a great response to “toxic masculinity” that plagues the secular world. 

“The biggest thing is the reliance you need to be open and vulnerable,” he said. “You know, you’re a guy. You only have to show that you’re strong and you don’t show weakness. Exodus 90, you’re telling your guy friends that you’ve failed in spite of your best efforts... You can’t keep up this impervious front for 90 days.”

Exodus 90 (exodus90.com) is a spiritual exercise program available online and on smartphone app stores. For a monthly fee, the program provides a daily prayer regimen and other practical tips to support local fraternities throughout their 90 days. 


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Unlike many other news websites, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our site. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

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