What's your Intention?

Your one stop for all of those clarifying questions

Stephen Zepp avatar
Written by Stephen Zepp
Updated over a week ago

We have responses for many of the common questions we receive. But before you search for a specific answer to your situation, read this:

"Lord, you have probed me, you know me: you know when I sit and stand; you understand my thoughts from afar."

-Psalm 139:1-2

There are so many ways to find loopholes and work-arounds in Exodus 90. The same is true of life. But at the end of time when we stand before the throne of judgement, how nervous do we want to be about the decisions we've made? How much do we want to rely on our persuasive skills to justify all our actions before the one who knows all things, all minds, all hearts?

Do you want to go to the church movie night during Exodus 90? Do you want to add syrup to your pancakes? Do you want to drink a protein shake between meals? All of these decisions have grey area to them. All of them can be justified. While that is true, it is not what is most important. What is most important is our hearts. 

What's your intention? Why do you want to go to the church movie night? Is it because your wife has asked you to take the children there? Or is it because you want to get in a movie fix amidst your abstinence? See the difference? The intention makes all the difference in the answer to this question. 

Here are some steps:

  1. Assess what act is in question 

  2. Ask yourself specifically what intention is behind taking up this act. (This takes honesty.)

  3. Ask the Lord if this intention is a better intention than simply following the spirit of the disciplines that he has called you to in the days of this exercise. [If your time in prayer does not bring you a clear result, bring this question up to your fraternity spiritual director if you have one, or to your fraternity for further counsel.]

  4. Communicate the result with your fraternity so everything is in the light and your brothers can continue to hold you accountable well.

We are not looking to be legalistic. At the same time, we need to be men of integrity and hold each other to the commitments we have made. Whatever the result, know that God, the all-good Father, always has your best interest in mind. It may not feel like it in the moment, but he knows and sees far more factors than we ever will. Trust in his goodness. 

Not find the answer you're looking for? Never fear! We get asked these things a lot:

Table of Contents

Do I abstain if I'm offered something when I am a guest?

Do I have to alienate myself from friends when they are watching TV?

Can I listen to podcasts, audiobooks, or Christian media?

What about sport drinks, protein shakes, or energy drinks during intense exercise?

Music that raises the soul to God FAQs

Do I abstain if I'm offered something when I am a guest?

When you are guest, it is important to be a gracious guest. At the same time, having resolve to uphold a commitment is a good thing. Can you have steak on a Wednesday if it is offered to you? The answer may be yes, within reason. When it's not insulting to pass on something, do it. Such as, only have water not soda, beer, or sweet drinks. Pass on desserts when possible, especially in large group settings where it is easier to do so.

In addition, pass when your brother, who knows you are doing Exodus 90, offers you something. He understands, thus it's ok to pass. But yes, if you are at a dinner with your grandma and she made steak on a Friday just the way you like it, please eat the steak. In turn, have greater resolve to commit to the other disciplines.

Watch out for Pride.
Never should your passing on something purposely be a means of drawing attention to yourself. One is not growing in holiness if they are subtly boasting about how holy they are for abstaining from beer and sweets. Satan wants to rob you of graces whenever possible. Making you act pridefully when fasting or abstaining is one of the ways he does this. Complaining is another. Be humble and as silent as possible when you are abstaining. Further, be grateful for the grace given to you to abstain from good things for the salvation of others.

“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to others to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you." (Matthew 6:17-18)

Do I have to alienate myself from friends when they are watching TV?

The Exodus 90 Spiritual Exercise is ninety days long. For these ninety days, abstinence from televised sports, movies, and television programs is part of the practice. Why did the Lord call you to take up this practice? Was it to alienate you from your friends? It's something real to consider. What is God's intention here? What does he have in store for you that is better than watching television with friends? Is it time in the chapel? Is it time with other friends who don't like watching sports games or movies and feel alienated when everyone else is watching them? Is it time with your family? Is it time in nature to practice good, holy leisure like never before?

I can't answer this question for you. But I can attest to the truth that, if God is calling you to abstain from television in these ninety days, he has something better for you that he really wants you to be willing and open to receiving. Be willing. Be open. Receive the gift our Father has for you.

Can I listen to podcasts, audiobooks, or Christian media?

Even good things can be a distraction from God. During these ninety days you will take a break from even some of the best catholic content. Allow the Lord more windows of silence to speak to you throughout the day. Allow yourself more opportunities to engage your family, your work, and your surroundings in a fuller way.

Though podcasts, faith-formation movies, recorded preaching, audio books, and other good mobile apps are not specifically listed in the set of disciplines, the following two ascetic disciplines make non-essential media nearly inaccessible.

  • Only use the computer for work, school, or essential tasks (e.g., paying bills).

  • Only use mobile devices for essential communications; cut out non-essential texting, app, and internet use.

What if you are in a bible study that meets weekly and is video based? Yes, you may participate in this communal activity if you are doing it with proper intention. Going just to watch a video, would not be proper intention. Going because a cute girl is there (possibly future wife) is a better intention, but may or may not be proper. Going because a cute girl is there, and that cute girl is your wife and she wants you to go, quickly makes for a great reason and purifies one's intention.

The Lord has many hidden blessings to give you through your adherence to these disciplines. Open yourself to receiving them in these coming days.

What about sport drinks, protein shakes, or energy drinks during intense exercise?

Sports Drinks

Most sports drinks, such as Gatorade or Body Armor are sweet. If they are sweet, they are most of the time to be abstained from. Most of us will have a sufficient intake of sugars, salts, electrolytes, and water in our diet to not "need" a sports drink during our intense exercise. In this case, you are called to abstain from sports drinks that are sweet.

For those of us who are athletes in season with an athletic trainer who is prescribing good and healthy things during your workout, something like Gatorade or Body Armor, could be permissible. Consider your athletic regimen and your diet. If your diet is not getting you sufficient nutrients and thus such drinks are necessary, you may have them. That is, so long as the intention is right. See the section on intention below.

What's your intention

Consider why you are deeming yourself an exception to the discipline here. Is it because you desire something sweet to drink? Is it because you are so used to drinking things other than water that you are finding a loop hole to drink something sweet more regularly? Or is it because your body absolutely needs it? Your intention is important here. I don't know you personally. I don't know your health situation, nor your athletic situation. The Lord does. If you are considering whether or not it is permissible for you to have a sports drink during Exodus 90, bring the question before the Lord. Assess your situation with him, and allow him to speak truth into you. Allow him to guide you to the right answer. Then communicate that to your fraternity so they can hold you accountable. (If you are struggling to hear what God is saying on the topic, bring it up to your fraternity. Explain your situation to them and ask your brothers for honest guidance.)

Protein shakes

You can drink protein shakes with your meal without problem. Athletes are permitted to drink protein shakes after a work out or at the time they normally would for performance purposes, but not solely as a snack. The rest of us athletic observers and recreational golfers shall abstain from protein shakes outside of meals.

Energy drinks / caffeinated beverages

Good trainers don't suggest energy drinks (caffeinated beverages or supplements) as a healthy option for working out. Most athletic trainers and physicians alike, strongly discourage such things prior to work outs. Such products manipulate your body in a way that is harmful in high doses long term and dangerous for your heart short term, especially when performing to intense exercise. For this reason, and because they are a sweet drink, energy drinks are to be abstained from during Exodus 90.

For information on Caffeine and Coffee click here and scroll to the related area:

Music that raises the soul to God FAQs

The high standard that we set for music is that you listen only to music that lifts the soul to God. This is a high and good standard. But a bit more clarification may be helpful for some. The answer will generally come done to one question: what is your intention?

Is it okay to shop at stores that play music?

Here's the thing, everyone plays music. You can't go shopping or walking down a busy street without hearing music, and most of it will not be lifting your soul to God. But don't worry; we encourage men to hold the high standard when you can, but do so in moderation. We would not tell you to avoid the grocery store on account of their popular background music (though, if you find you go more often and take longer to shop, consider switching stores). In much the same way, you do not need to avoid the normal activities of life in order to avoid hearing any music.

I always listen to soft rock while working, do I have to stop?
That depends. If you are a mechanic in an auto shop and it is your boss choosing the music, you don't have to put together a resume and start job hunting. However, in places where you do have fair control, you are free to abstain well. So, as with all disciplines, we invite you to be prudent. If you are wondering about a more specific situation, we invite you to use this article to your advantage.

What about my family listening to music?
Take an example from a married man: you're at home and your wife asks you to put on John Denver. Though West Virginia is almost heaven, "Rocky Mountain High" doesn't exactly lift your soul to God. So what do you do? Out of love for her and by her request you go down that Country Road and play her John Denver. Your disciplines are not her disciplines. But watch this grey area closely. For example, you asking your wife the leading question of, "Honey should I play John Denver?" and her saying, "Sure," isn't the same as her independently making the request.

Can I go dancing?

Some activities necessarily include music. Can you imagine dancing a salsa to silence? Of course not!

Let's say you and your wife regularly go ballroom dancing. There is no need to stop this practice for your Exodus, as you are going not so much to enjoy the music, as her company. But, let's say you go from time to time to dance at a club. This should not be done during Exodus. This is to say, once again, that you must examine your intention as you begin an activity with music.

What about the other grey areas?

As long as you are not seeking out music and do not find yourself listening to the music rather than those around you, we encourage you to simply be aware and strive for the disciplines, but always within reason.

If you are ever struggling with a discipline, we encourage you to read the following bit on Asceticism:

"Probe me, God, know my heart;

try me, know my thoughts..."

-Psalm 139 23-24

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