That is, until a mid-20s, confident, athletic, law degree-d youth leader happened to visit the Blessed Sacrament chapel while my son and I were still doing our weekly holy hour. Said son is non-athletic like his parents (bless him!), and has much less confidence. Said youth leader did the 'fish in the barrel' thing that greatly upsets me, ergo, 'I need another bloke to make the fraternity part of Exodus 90 work, here's a bloke, he's here, maybe it is meant to be, let's go ask him' without taking into account any discernment of whether Exodus 90 was a good fit for my son's needs and personality and his current place on the spiritual journey of life.
Life is not at all easy for young men who go to church and who aren't athletic and don't ooze with confidence.
Case 1: Every visiting priest does the 'fish in the barrel' vocation chat. Listen, please, you only have the right to do that chat if you have taken the time to get to know the young man in question, and have attained a good grasp of his strengths and talents, and can say with truth 'I think you have what it takes to be a good (insert vocation here) because (insert observed behaviour A), (insert observed talent B), (insert observed charism C), would you please consider it, or at least come and have a deeper chat with me about it.'
Case 2: Then the young men who go to church and who aren't athletic and don’t ooze with confidence go to various Catholic summer school offerings that are presented by gung-ho extrovert on-fire young men that make the others feel woefully inadequate and lacking in faith and commitment.
End of mini rant.
But a brief look at the Exodus 90 program got my hackles up, and it has taken me a few hours and reading blogs on the topic to get a better handle on why.
I can understand that for a unmarried Catholic male who has walked The Camino, and who is ready for an equally satisfying challenge, that this is cat-nip.
I can understand that if your life was out of order, and you have had a massive conversion experience, then the desire to get your life into God's order, and the desire to do significant penance for past mis-deeds, would make Exodus 90 a really good fit for you.
I can understand that if you have an inkling that a vocation in one of the rigorous religious orders might be in your destiny, then doing the Exodus 90 would be a prudent step on the discernment path. But with the caveat that the temptation to do it on human power alone, with human boasting of same when completed should be enough to make a wise person run in the opposite direction.
I can understand that if you have a major prayer intention (eg return of a prodigal child, return of a separated spouse, needing clear direction on vocation, starting up a new ministry) that an Exodus 90 process would add lots of power to those prayer intentions.
I can understand that if you have a major habit or addiction that you want to break, that Exodus 90 could be very helpful with that.
But I can also see
That it is suited to unmarried men, particularly if they are living alone or in a household of like-minded individuals.
That you will have to have very strong social relationships, capable of surviving lack of maintenance for 90 days, because snacks, dessert, going to a movie, sharing a soft drink, re-posting a joke on social media, are the ways we usually connect with our loved ones and friends for fun and conversation. The fraternity part of Exodus 90 is going to be focussed on survival, mutual support and spiritual growth, and not on those lighter moments that make life worth living.
That the Exodus 90 days of deprivation are as tough as an elite warrior boot camp, and most will not be able to complete the challenge and feel or be made to feel that they are failures and have let themselves, God and their loved ones down. That's a pretty big risk if you are already emotionally or mentally fragile.
I am concerned
That although there is a component of prayer and spiritual reading, there is no overt commitment to sacramental life.
That those whose livelihoods depend on regular blogging or posting on social media (artists, journalists, interior designers) would be greatly disadvantaged career-wise.
That the Exodus 90 lifestyle is unsustainable, you can't continue at that pace, and those who in actual life do so are specially called and gifted by God for the rigours of such a penitential lifestyle in religious orders or as hermits.
That too many will take up the challenge because a buddy invited them, and try to achieve it on human power alone, rather than as a response to a call of God, depending on Him for the grace and power to complete each day.
That going 'cold turkey' on so many ascetical practices at once is a recipe for disaster. It would be better to commit to three of them over the first 2 weeks of the challenge and then decide in the fraternity group whether to add another one in week 3 or not.
That keeping going for the Lenten distance of 40 days is hard enough, and that there's some ancient wisdom in our liturgical cycles of feasts and fasts.
That there are reports on YouTube of people having major counter-reactions to the extreme disciplines when they reach day 91 and beyond; think about the behaviour of boarding school types when they hit the undisciplined life of university because that's what the counter-reaction looks like. People who go on long fasts with liquid diets know that when the fast finishes that it is important to return to normal eating patterns at a slow and gradual pace.
That there are many housebound people who depend on social media for their connection to the outside world, and for whom the departure of swathes of good people from social media for Lent or Exodus 90 vastly impoverishes their lives. Fasts from social media don't have to be total, limiting it to only after 6pm of an evening or for an hour daily are quite effective.
The bottom line?
I don't doubt that God can do great things in the lives of those who undertake an Exodus 90 process, as long as the goal is God and not a bucket-list item or a badge of honour or bragging rights, but a response to a personal call from God to go deeper through penance and reparation for a specific purpose.