MANUAL FOR MEN
By Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted
TAN Books, 2018
304 pages, $30
In Manual for Men, TAN Publishers has combined a bold wake-up call to Catholic men from a leading bishop with a complementary anthology of catechesis, prayers, vignettes of saints, papal teachings and more, all in a smart and compact leather-bound book the size of a smartphone.
As the title suggests, this is a guide to inspire Catholic men in an authentic faith journey, a book that can be read cover to cover or used as a reference on an ongoing basis.
The first segment of the book consists of “Into the Breach,” the 2015 apostolic exhortation written by Phoenix Bishop Thomas Olmsted to the men of his diocese.
The exhortation begins with a “call to battle” against the many threats to the faith and a criticism that too many men today have shirked this most important duty. To pick up this mantle, he encourages men to adopt a patron saint and presents the saints as role models akin to favorite ballplayers, though on a far deeper and more meaningful level.
Bishop Olmsted notes that, too often today, men are looking not at the saints and faith, but to other pursuits, such as career successes and amassing wealth and possessions, to develop their identities:
“All of these things can serve as distractions or obstacles to recognizing ourselves as, first and foremost, sons of God. While some of these must be a part of life to an extent, they are not the core of our being. … We must be aware of being distracted by false identities and remain grounded in Jesus Christ.”
Particularly apt for a manual, Bishop Olmsted goes on to propose several practical actions men can take to grow in their faith on a daily basis in an array of scenarios, including as husbands, fathers and friends.
He does not mince words in taking on threats such as pornography, out-of-wedlock births, a distorted view of masculinity and a culture that is increasingly inclined to shirk responsibilities in favor of leisure and individual pursuits as he encourages the reader to fight back against these trends and threats. On the dangers of pornography, he writes: “Pornography not only leaves a man in danger of hell, but it also destroys the bond that unites him with his wife, a destruction similar to that wrought by adultery. In other words, think of pornography as just as serious and no less grave than adultery. To attempt to love another person while engaging in this practiced narcissism will surely bring grave harm.”
Upon completing the exhortation, the reader will find a compact trove of accessible resources that include brief biographies of several saints and quotes or excerpts of their writings, as well as a diverse array of prayers and other practical sources of inspiration and guidance.
The second part of the book nicely complements Bishop Olmsted’s exhortation by providing the practical resources a man striving to achieve his vision of a Catholic man today can use to achieve this aim.
This includes vignettes from saints on the daily challenges of life most men face, such as avoiding anger, being satisfied with what one has rather than always longing for more, avoiding temptations and slowing down the pace of life. The featured saints are Joseph, Joachim, Paul, Benedict, Raphael, George, Augustine, Francis, Michael, Vincent de Paul and Alberto Hurtado, as well as Blesseds Pier Giorgio and Franz Jagerstatter.
It also contains the complete mysteries of the Rosary, including brief entries on each miracle, numerous prayers and a daily examination of conscience.
The compact size of the volume makes it extremely portable for the daily commuter’s briefcase, the traveler’s suitcase and the college student’s backpack.
I would highly recommend Manual for Men. It packs much into about 300 pages and should be a resource for all Catholic men, regardless of where they are on their faith journeys.
Nick Manetto writes from