Book Review: Bishop Thomas Olmsted, Into the Breach
Earlier this year, I discovered a treasure – a short masterpiece written by the Bishop of Phoenix, Arizona, to the men of his diocese. This treasure is the Apostolic Exhortation titled Into the Breach.
In my life as a Catholic man (46 years) and as a Priest (19 years), I have read quite a few books and articles, but never before have I read something quite like this Apostolic Exhortation by Bishop Thomas Olmsted. In a few short pages (22 in the English version; 24 in the Spanish translation), Bishop Olmsted speaks directly and succinctly to all Catholic men. He speaks with the heart of a true shepherd, and yet he speaks as one of us – one with us in our struggles, one with us in our common call to holiness and courageous witness to Christ, precisely as MEN.
Bishop Olmsted sets out to address three primary questions:
- What does it mean to be a Catholic man?
- How does a Catholic man love?
- Why is fatherhood, fully understood, so crucial for every man?
In my opinion, he addresses all three of these questions masterfully. He never pulls punches, and yet he challenges us with the truth of our vocation as Catholic men. He clearly, and yet gently, leads us to a deeper understanding of the importance of our role as men, as believers – in other words, as Catholic men. True masculinity and fatherhood are under attack today. Bishop Olmsted explains these attacks, and shows us how to fight back against them. He shows us that, as the old saying goes, “the best defense is a good offense,” and gives us clear direction on how we can go on the offensive, spiritually and in living our vocation as fathers, to fight back against these vicious attacks.
Maybe the best way of presenting this masterpiece is to share some excerpts:
- “Through Christ’s mercy and truth, we are healed and revitalized for battle. In Christ’s mercy and truth, we become strong in his strength, courageous with his courage, and can actually experience the joie de guerre of being soldiers for Christ.”
- “Only in Jesus Christ can we find the highest display of masculine virtue and strength…. Looking at what the secular world holds up as ‘manly’ is in fact to look at shadows – or even at outright counterfeits – of masculinity.”
- “Fasting is training in self-knowledge, a key weapon for mastery over oneself. If we do not have dominion over our passions, especially those for food and sex, we cannot possess ourselves and put the interests of others in front of our own.”
- “There is no shortcut to holiness, to being the great Catholic men we are called to be. There is no short-cut past the age-old interior fight that each of us must engage!”
- He quotes Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati in saying: “’To live without faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for truth – that is not living, but existing.’” And then he asks: “Are you and I merely existing? Or are we living our Christian faith as men fully alive?”
- “Satan is also ‘spiritual, but not religious!’ A man who lives life without a single, self-giving bond in his life deserves our pity, not our admiration.”
- “Those who arrive at the judgment seat of God, after this life, without the scars of a sacrificing husband, will ‘hold their manhoods cheap whilst any speaks who fought with us.’” [quoting Henry V].
- “Pornography not only leaves a man in danger of Hell, but it also destroys the bonds with his spouse, a destruction wrought like adultery. In other words, think of pornography as just as serious and no less grave than adultery.”
- “I encourage you to put aside your fears and insecurities, those that keep you from engaging head on in the fight for chastity. Christ wants to help men be formed after His own heart in each confessional of the Church and at each Mass where the power of His Blood poured out on the Cross [is] offered in Holy Communion.”
- Speaking about the various kinds of fatherhood (husband and father, spiritual fatherhood of a priest, religious brother or consecrated single man): “The question for every man is not, ‘Am I called to be a father?’ but rather, ‘What kind of father am I called to be?’”
To all my Catholic Brothers, and all Christian Men of good will, I would like to encourage you to read and reflect on this powerful letter from one of the successors of the apostles. It is both an encouragement and a challenge: encouragement to value and treasure the gift of our vocation as Catholic men, and a challenge to embrace the spiritual battle of our times. If we truly live this message – a message of joy and hope, as well as of sound teaching – we will be Joyful Warriors for Christ, and will fulfill our great calling as Men, purchased by the Blood of the Lamb, and will be welcomed into the Everlasting Dwelling Places of Heaven!
Fr. Ben J. Cameron, C.P.M.