A little before Lent this year, I purchased the Manual for Men by Bishop Olmsted. As one of my Lenten devotions, I read a part of it each day. It has more parts than days in Lent, so I am still working my way through it, but I wanted to get a good sense of it before I recommended it.
First, let me comment on the physicality of the book. This is in some ways the least important aspect; however, they did such a good job executing on it, I thought it worth mentioning. We are, after all, incarnate beings, and so these things are not irrelevant. The feel is quite nice; it is imitation leather, but it’s decent quality, more suede than gloss–providing a nice grippiness. As you can see in the image above, the front has just an embossed lion rampant, which of course is very manly. 🙂 The spine simply says “MANUAL for MEN,” and the back just has the TAN crest/logo, which is primarily an icon of Christ. I like its simplicity. The printing is very high quality, with the use of reds and blacks to give a liturgical feel. The pages are not Bible-thin, but are pleasant to touch–no worries about accidental tears, and they are gilt on the edges. Finally, there is a single ribbon, which works perfectly to keep your place in it. It’s also a nice handbook size, so it’s easy to carry and stow. All in all, I’d give it a 10 out of 10 in this category.
The book starts with a recent exhortation by Bp. Olmsted, which is quite good in itself, and it continues with readings from the Catechism, Social Compendium, popes, Scripture, and lives of saints–all with a view to instructing and encouraging men to live as “real men,” that is, authentically living the Faith in a virtuous way. The last section provides a collection of prayers and devotions. I haven’t gotten through that, but I have no reason to think it’s not a good resource considering the rest of the book. As someone who has extensively studied the Catechism, the Compendium, and Scripture, I found the exhortation up front, the papal readings, and the hagiographies to be most rewarding, but it is always good to revisit the main sources of our formation as Catholics.
I admit I was a little wary buying this because I’ve run into a lot of stuff that claims to be “for men” that either is more culturally than religiously informed (often in a hipster kind of way), or it is too rigorist, exhibiting the misapprehension that being a faithful Catholic man entails being a traditionalist, Conservative (in U.S. politics), and/or simply following a set of rules out of duty (sine caritas). I was glad to see that this little book doesn’t indulge in those things but rather provides a well-rounded, orthodox approach, drawing on many meaningful resources from the fountain of our Faith.
I like it well enough that I am giving a copy to my son, who is about to be confirmed. It may not be quite what I’d write/put together, but it is pretty darn close, and so I have no reservations recommending it as a good devotional resource for men. I am sure there’s plenty for women in there, too, but it is unapologetically targeted at men.
Overall, I’d give it an 8 out of 10. And trust me, that’s high marks from me. 🙂
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