Modern media make much of the concept of “toxic masculinity.” Many commentators have dealt with this pernicious idea and its damage to men in today’s society.
Helping young men overcome the pull of toxic masculinity is the unspoken purpose of a new book called Manual for Men. The principal author is the Bishop of Phoenix, the Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmstead.
Defining Toxic Masculinity
For those unfamiliar with the idea behind “toxic masculinity,” author John Horvat II explains the concept in this way:
The sexual revolution created, cultivated and nurtured a man-monster. A whole culture has been involved in making sure these men misbehave the way many are now doing. The media have celebrated the destruction of the traditional notions of what a man should be. This effort has created a crazy mixed-up creature. Now the Frankenstein’s creators have turned upon him and condemned him, hanging a sign around his neck with the words “toxic masculinity” scribbled in bright pink.
Media, entertainment and academia everywhere reinforce a portrait of this man-monster. They have imposed models of what men, especially young men, must be. Many of today’s men have obliged by shedding the constraints of traditional male behavior and embraced a sinful life of promiscuity, unrestraint and contradiction.
Clearing Out Confusion
Feminism has sown great confusion among young men, even those attempting to live virtuous lives. It is not clear what it means to be a man in a culture that appears to despise all that is appropriately masculine. This is now the third generation of a society conditioned by feminist ideology. Few young men have any appropriate masculine role models to light the way. A young man is beset by pornography, a “hook up” culture and the loneliness that comes from trying to do right when all conspires against him.
That young man – and anyone who is trying to help him should read Manual for Men.
Part one of the book is a reflection on Catholic manhood by Bishop Olmstead. Titled “Into the Breach,” it alone is worth the price of the book. The Bishop understands that being a Catholic man in this society is a battle, and he is urging young men to join the cause.
What is a Catholic Man?
Perhaps the best way to give a flavor of the reflection is to provide several quotes.
The Church is, and always has been, a school that prepares us for spiritual battle, where Christians are called to “Fight the good fight of the faith (1 Tm 6:12), to “put on the whole armor of God”, and to be able “to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph 6:11). (p.11)
Herein lies the fullness of masculinity; each Catholic man must be prepared to give himself completely, to charge into the breach, to engage in spiritual combat, to defend women, children, and others against the wickedness and snares of the Devil!. (p. 18)
There is no shortcut to holiness, to being the great Catholic men we are called to be. There is no avoiding the age-old interior fight that each of us must engage…. We may be tempted to say, “When I get this three-fold battle behind me, I can start living a life of holiness,” but this is a lie! It is precisely in the course of this fight that we become holy. (pp. 28-29)
We need faith like that of our fathers who defended the children of previous generations and who gave up their own lives rather than abandon their faith in Christ. My sons and brothers, men of the Church in the United States and beyond, we need you to step into the breach! (p. 62)
Reflections, Meditations, and Prayers
The rest of the book contains spiritual resources designed to help men reach the ideal that Bishop Olmstead so nobly laid out before them. There are short readings from Scripture, the Catechism, and papal documents. Examples from the lives of the saints highlight the virtues and characteristics found in the Bishop’s reflections.
The icing on the cake, as it were, is a section devoted to prayers, devotions, and hymns. A set of rosary meditations incline the thoughts to spiritual warfare, as seen in this passage from the meditation on the Nativity: “Heaven’s strategy to overthrow Satan’s kingdom was brilliant in its humility…. In his immense pride, the Devil was taken by surprise: He could not understand, he could not anticipate, that God would humble Himself this way for the sake of a weak and wayward human race.”
The paragon of all fatherly virtues, Saint Joseph, is featured prominently, as are the archangels Saint Michael and Saint Raphael.
There is a tendency to over-represent more modern Church figures. While the quotes are well-chosen, the book would be made stronger by appeals to Doctors of the Church, warrior saints or more militant figures from the past.
This is not a book to be read once and then put away. It is intended to rest on the nightstand. Its construction reflects that purpose. The covers are leather and flexible. The pages are solidly-bound. The paper is of high quality and notes and highlights do not bleed through to the next page.
The book will help the young man who read it to reaffirm his masculine role in life. Purchasing a copy of Manual for Men for a confused Catholic young man might even rise to the state of a spiritual work of mercy.