One of Return of Kings’s strengths is its ability to attract and hold the attention of men from startlingly diverse backgrounds. Just how diverse, readers will this week discover. Regular readers may recognize the name Cui Pertinebit. He has added his lengthy and informed opinions in the comments sections of many of my recent articles. I was surprised to discover several months ago that he was a tonsured monk of the Catholic faith as well as scholar proficient in both Latin and Greek, a man who lived a regimented lifestyle in pursuit of a higher purpose.
It is not a background that is familiar to most of us, certainly not to myself. Having been won over by his sincerity and good humor, I thought we would benefit from hearing him discourse at length on topics of concern for all of us. Hence this interview. Cui’s thoughts are acute, unique in perspective, and unrelentingly positive. In all of my dialogue with him, there was not one word of bile or calumny; on the contrary, I found him to be genuinely modest and self-effacing.
Even if we disagree with his opinions—and some no doubt will–we are all elevated by his example, and his patient devotion to a cause. Although he would gently admonish me for my praise of him, I will yet say it here: the man of virtue emits his own radiance.
Quintus. Thank you, Cui, for speaking with me today. I am glad you could find the time to do this interview.
C.P. No, it is my pleasure, Quintus.
Quintus. I’ll start off with a question that many of our readers may have thought about. Do you believe men are facing a spiritual crisis today? If so, why?
C.P. Yes. Crisis is a Greek word, meaning “judgment.” It is the nature of Truth, that to come in contact with it is to face judgment; it is therefore no surprise to me, that our judgment rises to the level of a crisis, precisely when “non-judgmentalism” has become our only “truth.” The underlying sickness, is the heresy of “modernism,” (sometimes called “liberalism”), which, boiled down to its very nub, is the irrational assertion of autonomy via absolute, abstract “rights,” while one denies, doubts or despairs of knowing the necessary causes of rights’ existence.
The modernist cares not whether something is Right and True; one only needs the “right” to do something without regard to what is Right and True. The core irrationality is to deny the Right in the name of “rights,” and even to believe that “rights” exist, if there is nothing Right. The modernist society inevitably develops irrationally, in accord with its premises.
Quintus. This is a good point.
C.P. But should we therefore deny human rights and impose the pure Right? Pope Pius XII spoke of the balance between stricture and leniency in society. “First: that which does not correspond to truth or to the norm of morality objectively has no right to exist, to be spread or to enjoy free action. Secondly: failure to impede this with civil laws and coercive measures can nevertheless be justified in the interests of a higher and more general good.” The distinction, philosophically crucial, is that it is often right to tolerate something objectively wrong; but it does not therefore follow that there is a right to do something objectively wrong. To establish the latter idea as a principle, is to plunge society into irrecoverable irrationality and injustice.
Quintus. But how did things get to the point we are now in society? Who do you think is responsible?
C.P. Every man is responsible for himself. Assigning responsibility before taking whatever responsibility is due, is shameful in itself. So, that is first. To the extent that we permit, participate in or fail to repent of the crisis, we are partly responsible.
I don’t go in for conspiracy theories as to who the precise instigators of the current events may be, but this is not because I find it unlikely that there are conspiracies and cabals fomenting the destruction of our civilization – I emphatically do. But there is an obvious dearth of information on conspiratorial activity, and many “useful idiots” implement the agenda unwittingly, so expository theories tend to disappoint.
I regard the first Protestants, the Freemasons, Jacobins, all those who advocate for redistribution of economic or social capital (especially socialists and Zionists), and all who defy the principle of “subsidiarity,” to be specially responsible. Those who will drink most deeply from the chalice of God’s wrath, in my personal opinion, are the clergy and religious of the Catholic Church, many of whom, even popes, seem to have completely derelicted their duties.
Quintus. Yes. There is no doubt that many of our institutions have let us down. Perhaps if these authority figures had been as concerned with the responsibilities of their offices, as they have been with their privileges, then we would not be in this situation. But what things should men be doing now to develop their spiritual sides?
C.P. First, they should cultivate a love of beauty and excellence. We are immune to heavenly beauties if we cannot even appreciate those of this world. Next, men should learn about the function of the soul in its three aspects, and the relationship of the virtues, especially those called Cardinal Virtues, to them. Finally, men should realize that the spiritual life, properly-so-called, consists of the three Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity. These are beyond human nature, and so man must ask them from God.
God may test your sincerity and expect you to do some work. Ultimately this will involve spiritual regeneration and a restoration of justice through repentance and union with Christ. If men ask God sincerely, and especially if they commend themselves to Him through the Blessed Virgin, by whom He commended Himself to us, I am sure the spiritual life will open up to them.
Quintus. What is your background, and what do you do now?
C.P. Well, I was a professional cellist, and studied music theory and composition. I converted from atheism to Christianity shortly before entering college, and left college in my second year to join an Orthodox monastery, after some reading in history convinced me that the first Christians were not Evangelical Protestants. The monastery felt I had a priestly vocation and sent me back to college. I got two Bachelor’s Degrees, one in Classical Greek and Latin, and another in Medieval and Renaissance Studies.
Learning more about history, and acquiring the ability to read more primary texts in Greek and Latin directly, convicted me of the truth of the Catholic Faith. I’m being received into the Catholic Church now, though I would caution modern men that much of what passes for Catholicism, even in “conservative” circles, is certainly not Catholic. I heartily recommend the SSPX for the Latin Rite; the Eastern Rite is not so damaged at present. I will be withdrawing from my doctoral studies to teach Latin at the seminary, where I will also be trained for the priesthood.
Quintus. I am glad to know that there are still such men as you, quietly influencing lives. How did you come to make this decision on the direction of your life?
C.P. I was drawn to the monastic or priestly ideal all my life. But I was an atheist, and then a Protestant! As I considered converting to the Orthodox Church, where monastic life was a possibility, I was in love with a girl. She was the only girl I had ever seriously dated (damaged women are unattractive to me, and modern women are a damaged bunch). Though this girl was not damaged, she still wrote me a powerful prescription for the “red pill.”
This caused me to reflect on the behaviour of women more generally; even the good ones were still beset by that inevitable weakness of their sex. Society once had conventions, which made life with women possible; but since modern society removed these conventions, I saw no need to waste my time. I’ve never regretted this decision.
C.P. For a positive motive, the celibate life has been recommended from the New Testament onwards, as the best form of life. “In the Kingdom of God they are neither married nor given in marriage;” through baptism, “lo, the Kingdom of God is within you.” Thus, to live this life here and now is already eminently suitable for a Christian man.
But what touched me the most, was St. Dorotheos of Gaza’s explanation: when we give God a return on His grace through faith and observance of the commandments, we merely give God His due. If we want to show our gratitude and give something extra, we can voluntarily sacrifice even good things for love of God. To make one’s whole life a sacrifice, is the best possible thing. Quid retribuam Domino, pro omnibus quae retribuit mihi?
Quintus. Are there any specific spiritual exercises or books that you might recommend?
C.P. Personalities are too different, the tradition is too rich, and the valid options are too many, to give much in the way of specific recommendations to a large group. I will say what I can, though. First, to heed the Virgin’s instructions at Fatima on the Rosary and other devotions, is the most important spiritual regimen of our age. I recommend meditation as described in The Cloud of Knowing, but mind that book’s warnings.
Observe the full rigour of the medieval fasting rules with the liturgical calendar, to find yourself aligned with a great mystery. Finally, rote prayers are good, since they impart the Church’s piety, but we must also pray freely if we hope to know God and be saved. I will give the advice that consistency in a bit of prayer, is better than failing to regularly pray more (shoot for a daily minimum of 15 minutes, though). Find a time, space and manner of prayer that separates the sacred from the profane…
As to books: the Scriptures go without saying, but read them as the Church reads them. Who cares what you think the Bible means? When Christ said the Holy Spirit “shall lead you into all truth,” it is the plural “you” in the Greek, and He was speaking to the Apostles.
For a crash-course in Christian spirituality, I recommend The Life in Christ by Blessed Columba Marmion, The Spiritual Combat by Lorenzo Scupoli, Christian Mortification by Cardinal Desideratus (Désiré) Mercier, and the regular reading of hagiography, since nothing distills the ethos of Christian spirituality so well as this.
In this latter genre, various works appeal to different backgrounds: my favourite is The Ecclesiastical History of the English People by the Venerable Bede (you may want to skip the first chapters), but there are many other choices. The Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith distills the patristic mind; The Catechism of the Council of Trent does, too, as refined and enriched by Thomism. The Conferences and Institutes of St. John Cassian give advanced spiritual instruction. But I could spend an afternoon recommending various books for various needs, so let’s leave it at that.
Quintus. I have to ask this. What is your daily regimen like?
C.P. When everything goes well, it is like this:
6:00 – Rise, morning prayers, Prime, Terce. 7:00 – Exercise, shower; 8:00 Tea/Coffee, Study and Intellectual Work; 10:00 – Light breakfast, free time to read news, blogs; 11:30 – Sext, None, Manual Labor; 1:30 – Freshen up, mental prayer, spiritual reading; 2:00 – Lunch, Productive Time ad libitum; 5:00 – Clean and straighten up room or work areas if needed; Walk with Rosary, Vespers; 6:00 – Cook Dinner, Eat, Clean; 8:00 – Compline, Matins, Prayer ad libitum; when Matins is done, if so desired, tipple some vespertinal spirits, listen to music, read for pleasure, wind down for sleep by 10:00-ish
Quintus. What are the big mistakes that you see young men making today? How can they correct these things?
C.P. The main ones are those outlined above, of modernism and liberalism – that sense of entitlement to pursue life on one’s own terms, rather than realizing that nature and reason have dictated their own terms to us, and wisdom lies not in resisting reality, but in harmonizing with it.
Past this, I would say that cynicism is a problem, especially when joined to hedonism. Man was created to have pleasure in serving the Good faithfully. To cynically serve nihilism, especially in hedonism, is the exact opposite of our natural state and purpose. It is no coincidence that this state is the natural consequence of Modernism and Liberalism.
I know that our times are bleak, and that dysfunction and societal breakdown are everywhere accelerating. I know that our fathers, physical and spiritual, have left us rootless as never before. I know that there is no longer any beauty, comfort or fidelity in our women, and that the simple pleasures of starting a family are overshadowed by perpetual wage slavery and divorce slavery. I know it often seems that there is nothing of enduring value to be acquired and preserved, and that the pleasure of the moment seems like the best we will get. This is all an illusion. Clean the garbage from your mind and reject the slow-acting poison that has been poured into your veins by every apparatus of the Modernist culture.
While it is true that present circumstances may limit our options, we see that every treasure of moral and spiritual excellence is yours to enjoy, and no power outside yourself can alienate it from you without your consent. So that is my advice to men on how to correct it. Refuse it your consent. Repent of the bad, adhere to the Good as to your very life. In a world without honor or integrity, consider your own honor and integrity all the more priceless. Struggle not to be corrupted. Those in this age who do so, I am sure, will receive from God a recompense proportionate to their struggle. The afterlife aside, a virtuous man lives the better life even here and now.
Quintus. These are noble words. It feeds my vexation not to be able to enjoy the benefits of your counsel, and I hope you will return to us again soon. I will say no more, except that few take more pleasure in your words than I. Thank you most sincerely.
C.P. No, such words are not necessary, Quintus.
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