Father David Mowry
Exodus 90 - Day 30
Updated: Feb 18, 2020
On Saturday morning my shower exploded.
Soon after turning on the cold water, I heard a loud POP and suddenly water was spraying from all the wrong places. I managed to shut the water off, avoiding giving the rest of my bathroom an unscheduled power wash. There was a large crack in the shower head just behind the housing for the nozzles. I wasn’t going to be able to use it for the rest of the weekend. Fortunately, there is a spare room down the hall that I was able to commandeer so that I wasn’t causing people to pass out at Mass with my odor of not-quite-sanctity.
It seems like the cold showers broke my shower before they broke me!
In truth the cold showers, like many of the disciplines of Exodus 90, are starting to feel normal. Granted, I was visiting a priest-friend this week and there was an entire box of chocolate chip cookies just sitting there in his kitchen looking absolutely delicious and I have never wanted anything more than to just take one tiny bite because it feels like I haven’t had dessert in approximately 500 years. But I reminded myself of all my Exodus brothers and how they were facing the same kind of temptation. That gave me the spiritual fortitude necessary to enjoy the glass of water I had and not think about those golden, chewy, delicious examples of humanity’s ability to participate in the goodness of God’s creation by….
I apologize, I appear to have drooled all over my keyboard. What was I saying?
Right, the disciplines feeling normal! You start to turn a corner as you spiritually and mentally settle into the new routine of the exodus. The same kind of thing happened during my 30 day silent retreat last July. At a certain point, the silence and prayer became normal, and I was able to experience the grace of God in new and profound ways that I couldn’t have imagined before. On Exodus 90, I am still very much in the world, so these past 30 days have gone much quicker than the 30 days I spent on retreat. But I am finding the same surprise of grace now as I did then.
A lot of that has to do with my “Why” for doing Exodus 90. At the start of the program, every man needs to determine a reason why he is doing Exodus 90, and it has to be a why for someone else. For example, I’m doing Exodus 90 to break my habit of relying on solitary activities like watching TV or playing video games for my recreation. I’m doing that for the seminarians on my floor. I want to be more present to them, and by being with them, get recharged.
And it’s happening! The hours of my downtime that used to be filled with YouTube, running around irradiated Boston, or catching the latest movie I’m now spending in conversations, dinners, and game nights. I’ve found several seminarians who share my love of board games. Now two or three nights a week I’m sitting down to laugh and strategize. I look forward to those moments more than I ever looked forward to stretching out in my recliner in front of the TV.
The difference in that intrigues me. I think part of it comes from the intentional choice required. In a way, I don’t so much choose watching TV as it just happens to me. The sounds and images wash over me and I don’t have to think about grading papers or giving feedback on homilies. That kind of passive entertainment has a place in my life, of course. I do miss my regular trips to the movie theater, and I’m disappointed I missed out on seeing PARASITE before it won Best Picture. Those movie nights, though, are different from the YouTube binge sessions or the Castle marathon I went on before Exodus 90 started. They, too, were filled with active choice: which movie to see, what showing to get to, when to leave, and so on were all part of an intentional plan surrounding the moment of recreation and relaxation. I had to exercise my will just enough to get to that movie and then be rewarded by relaxing into a two hour film. Now without the delights of the silver screen or the escapism of the small screen, the intentional choices go toward game nights, which carry those benefits of anticipation and reward I found on movie nights, but now carry the added pleasure of good company and the challenge of finding the best move on the board.
But I think that’s only part of the reason why I look forward to my downtime with more relish than before. Another joy I’m finding in these game nights falls right in line with the principles of Exodus 90. One of the spiritual principles Exodus 90 tries to nurture is a death to self, that is, a detachment from a need to be in control of my life. So much of our contemporary life is built on the assumption that I am a sovereign self, solely responsible for providing for all my needs and happiness, and that any reliance on another would be a betrayal of my own self-sufficiency. In order to embrace Exodus 90 as a time of spiritual growth means actively working against that desire for control—or to name it for what it truly is, the deadly sin of pride. When I relied on that solitary time for recreation, I was totally in control of that time. What I watched, how much I watched, and when I watched it were all up to me. No other person’s plans or schedules could change anything about that time, save some emergency of course.
Now, I’ve surrendered that control over my recreation. My relaxation now depends upon others. I have taken a risk by pinning my fun to the availability of other people. There’s a chance for a game night to fall through because life intervenes and people have more important things they need to do. The anticipation I feel about my downtime comes from acknowledging the relationship I have with others, even if it is as simple as the relationship formed over plastic playing pieces and cardboard. When everything goes right, my act of will to choose to show up for that shared activity is met by the act of will of everyone else who shows up. There’s a communion there around the game table. And as I think about it, it’s a communion that reflects, however dimly, the communion of the Church as each baptized member of the people of God choose to come together to worship God in order to engage the truest, deepest, and most profound act of recreation that we have this side of heaven.
Thank you for your prayers for me and my Exodus fraternity. We’re one month down and just two more to go!
St. Josemaría Escrivá, pray for us!