Father Ankido Sipo, a priest and monk in the Chaldean Church, discusses Monasticism, the things peculiar to it, and what sort of traits are helpful when considering becoming a monk.
Jacob Miller: What are the charisms of a monastic life?
Father Ankido Sipo: That really depends on what, exactly, you’re asking. I could tell you what the general charisms of monastic life are, but really, all I can say to encapsulate everything are the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. What you have to remember is that every order varies wildly and has a unique mission.
JM: Which order do you belong to?
FAS: Sons of the Covenant.
JM: Like the Jewish organization?
FAS: Haha, yes. We did find out, after founding our order, that we shared a name with an old Jewish society. However, their legal name is actually just a transliteration, so we’re safe from any lawsuits.
JM: Why the name, “Sons of the Covenant?”
FAS: In early Christian Syria, there were communities of men and women who took vows of celibacy and agreed to live communal lives. They were referred to as Sons of the Covenant, or Daughters of the Covenant for women. These groups are some of the earliest precursors for our modern monks and nuns. Furthermore, the name evokes a Biblical idea and hearkens to the teaching of essential, ancient truths.
JM: Is teaching an important aspect of your order?
FAS: Yeah, actually, teaching is our main charism. Not only that, but we specifically try to teach using media.
JM: What, exactly, does teaching through media look like?
FAS: I can tell you what it has looked like for us, thus far. For awhile, we ran our Eparchy’s media stuff. Unfortunately, a lot of that is no longer up. If I’m completely honest, I do not know how we are going to implement our charism in the future, but our goal is to find some way to teach the Catholic faith through media.
JM: What is the essential differentiation between a monk and a priest?
FAS: Originally, the main difference would have been a monk’s vow of chastity versus a priest being married [in the Eastern right]. Obviously, that changed in the West, but monks still take vows of obedience to their specific rule and superior that differ from priests’. On a day-to-day basis, however, a monk’s life is surrounded by stability and community. A monk is called to stay in his monastery and live by an observance of the liturgical hours and other activities. He is also supposed to hold things in common [with] and be immersed in serving his brothers.
JM: Any thoughts for anyone discerning a monastic life?
FAS: I would start by asking them what their goal is, if they would be happy ultimately surrendering themselves to follow Christ and to give all of their possessions for him. Ultimately, though, I would warn anyone to avoid discerning this for any reason other than a love which draws them out of themselves. These decisions should always be made for a love of God and neighbor, and always require one to forget themselves. When people pursue these kinds of vocations because of self-interest, it can cause a lot of harm.