Manual for Men
by Bishop Thomas J. Olmstead, Compilation by Dr. Travis Cook
“One of the key reasons that the Church is faltering under the attacks of Satan is that many Catholic men have not been willing to ‘step into the breach’ – to fill this gap that lies open and vulnerable to further attack” (p. 4). Although the Church has been under attack since her conception, attacks against the Church have been even more abundant in recent decades. Manual for Men serves as a call to spiritual arms of all men—calling them to enter into the spiritual battle Satan is waging against the Church.
The book is split into two main sections. The first section consists of Bishop Olmstead’s Apostolic Exhortation Into the Breach. In the second section, Dr. Travis Cook has compiled wisdom and prayers for men as they seek to step into the breach.
In order to grasp the man’s role in this spiritual battle, one must understand God’s purpose for manhood and masculinity in light of Christian tradition. Bishop Olmstead focuses on three primary questions. First, what does it mean to be a Christian man? Secondly, how does a Catholic man love? Lastly, why is fatherhood, fully understood, crucial for every man? Bishop OImstead is systematic as he builds upon each topic, painting a picture of the Christian man and his role in the world. He argues that manhood, properly understood, must be placed within three contexts—the New Evangelization, the Church as a Field Hospital and Battle College, and the Complementarity of Masculinity and Femininity.
One aspect of Bishop Olmstead’s picture of manhood stands out. Often, when discussing masculinity and femininity, the two are often set at odds with one another. “A man is this, and in contrast, a woman is that.” Bishop Olmstead intentionally avoids this ideology. If masculinity includes a particular virtue, such as courage, that does not mean that femininity does not also include that virtue. Rather, Bishop Olmstead focuses on the complementarity of masculine and feminine and on the beauty of the sexual difference, appealing to Pope Francis’s exhortation to defend this difference against gender ideologies (p. 15).
Bishop Olmstead relies on the rich tradition and history of the Church to develop his presentation of masculinity, especially relying on the saints and their examples of heroic, Christian virtue. While taking note of what has come before, he also seeks to give practical advice to today’s men, commending daily prayer, reception of the Sacraments, and Christian brotherhood that all help to live as a friend, husband, and father. While not all men are called to get married and raise children, manhood inherently involves loving as a husband and as a father in some way. All men are called to a spousal love, a gift of self, “a committed love, a love that gives life, seeking the good of those to whom the man has committed” (p. 42). Bishop Olmstead especially warns against Satan’s attack on fatherhood and the void of fatherlessness. All men are called to be a father, whether married or celibate. Quoting Pope Francis, Bishop Olmstead reminds us that “fatherhood is giving life to others” (p. 55).
The second section of this book makes it clear why this book is described as a “manual.” Dr. Travis Cook has compiled a collection of wisdom and prayers to help men seek true Christian manhood. Dr. Cook depends upon the rich treasury of the Church, taking writings from the Catechism, its compendium, papal documents, and the saints. They cover a range of topics, from the man’s role in evangelization to virtues and overcoming vice.
At the end of this section, Dr. Cook presents a collection of prayers that will assist men as they seek to properly live out this call to holiness and to manhood. These prayers range from general prayers useful for all Christians (e.g. the Rosary, Memorare, Prayer to St. Michael), to prayers specifically for men as men, as husbands, as fathers (e.g. prayers to St. Joseph, prayers for children and families).
Manual for Men is designed to be just that—a manual for men as they seek out authentic manhood. Beginning with the foundation of Bishop Olmstead’s Into the Breach, men can learn what they are called to as they battle against Satan’s war on masculinity and fatherhood. The second part of the book is organized in a way that can help men grow and work on specific aspects of masculinity and virtue. Organized topically, men can seek out inspiration from the words of the Church, or they can seek to develop their prayer life by relying on and learning the prayers provided.
Men of every walk of life would benefit from this book. Whether single, married, or celibate, all men can learn from Bishop Olmstead’s exhortation and from Dr. Cook’s compiled treasury of wisdom and prayers. Satan is waging a battle on masculinity, and men can arm themselves by taking up this Manual for Men.
About the Reviewer
Ryan Burke holds a Bachelors of Arts in Theology and Catechetics from Franciscan University of Steubenville and a Master of Education in Secondary Education from Providence College. Ryan currently lives with his wife Caty and their cat Rosie in Fort Wayne, IN. In his spare time, he enjoys reading and woodworking.