Welcome to the Happy Are You Poor blog and podcast! We will be discussing a wide range of topics related to living a radically Christian life in the modern world, with an emphasis on voluntary poverty and informal but intentional community building. For full transcripts, related blog posts, and discussion, visit our website, happyareyoupoor.com
We welcome comments from readers and listeners, and will do our best to respond to all comments. We also welcome guest blog posts on related topics, and are looking for podcast guests, in particular those who are involved in building local community. For a more detailed explanation of our principles and purpose, see the “Principles of Community” page on our website.
Our name comes from the book Happy Are You Poor by Fr. Dubay; for more on this book, see the summary on our site.
The Story of Moriah Pie
In this episode, Malcolm and Peter interview Robert and Erin Lockridge. They are self-described “parish farmers” and the founders of Moriah Pie, a pay-as-you-can restaurant in Norwood, OH. (During the episode, they mentioned The Moriah Pie Cookbook; you can find it here.) Parish Farming As parish farmers, Robert and Erin maintain a network of vegetable gardens in Norwood. They grow food to share with their neighbors and consider their work to be a form of prayer. While they are both Orthodox Christians, their work is not a formal church ministry as such. Rather, it is a personal way of inviting others into a Christ-like attitude. Practical Gnosticism Too often, we tend to confine our religion to what happens in church, or to a personal relationship with God; the rest of life gets left out. In this way, we can become “Gnostic” without realizing it. Gnosticism was an early heresy that denied the goodness of the physical world. Instead, Gnostics focused on an intellectual pursuit of truth and on attaining a purely spiritual salvation through acquiring secret knowledge. Robert experienced this disconnect while he was studying theology in Vancouver. He had done a lot of gardening while growing up. As his Faith life deepened, however, he begin to feel that the physical world and material concerns were irrelevant to the important mission of saving souls. Yet his theological studies didn’t seem relevant to the lives of people in his rough neighborhood. He felt that he needed a way to integrate all the sorrow that he felt and that he needed a way to pray with his body. In this spirit, he began gardening again. He found the process of tending the soil, planting seeds, and receiving the gifts of God through the bounty of nature to be deeply healing and nourishing. He also found that his gardens allowed him to exercise a pastoral ministry that didn’t require being stuck in an office. He was able to work outside, tending the land, and receiving gifts from God through the people that he met. The Incarnation In part through reflecting on this experience, Robert came to realize how limited his earlier perspective had been. As he studied theology, he came to realize that every aspect of the Faith is based on the Incarnation of Christ. In Jesus Christ, God came in the flesh. By doing so, he consecrated the material world. As man, God became fully dependent on this created world to reveal who he is, and to reveal what it is to be fully human and made in the image of God. We’re called to love God with everything we have, and that includes the body. God’s Gardeners In one sense, the world was created for us. But in another sense, we were created for the world. God placed us here to tend and care for it so that it might flourish. We were made in the image and likeness of God, and so we are supposed to initiate his act of creation. This is raised to a new level in Christ. At the very heart of the Gospel is the giving of life so that life might exist and flourish. As those made in the image of God, we get to participate in this self-giving love. In the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we see the true image of God that we are called to imitate. The way of the world is that either life is taken so that life might exist, or life is given so that life might exist. The temptation is to take life to protect our own. But as Christians, we are learning to be free of the fear of death so that we can imitate Christ in laying down our lives for the life of the world. We’re called to serve, rather than to strive for domination. Sacramentality Peter noted that we experience the undying eternal reality through the physical reality. This is the meaning of the sacraments, and in one sense all of the created world is sacramental. In this way, tending the earth is a good metaphor for the cultivation of our souls. And this interior cultivation becomes a reality through our interaction with the physical reality. We can’t cultivate ou
Let Us Dream Episode 5
In this episode, Malcolm and Peter start discussing the second chapter of Let Us Dream, by Pope Francis. This is the fifth part of a series of episodes. The first episode is here, the second episode is here, the third here, and the fourth here. The following are some of the points we discussed. Individual Discernment and the Community In the first chapter, Pope Francis talked about the importance of seeing clearly so that we are aware of the reality of the world around us. In the second chapter, he talks about the importance of discernment. We need reflection, silent prayer, and study to discern; but we also need a community. How are individual discernment and the private conscience of the individual related to the communal teaching of the Church? It might seem like these things are opposed. In reality, however, the guidance of the community is there to keep individual discernment from going off the rails. It provides accountability and helps us to see beyond ourselves. We also need authority to keep private interpretations from producing division. This is why the Church has the final say on any private revelation. Growth as a human person always includes a history, a tradition that we’ve inherited, and feedback from others. Even Jesus himself built on the Jewish tradition that he inherited as a man. As Catholics, we have the community of the saints and the rich tradition of Catholic thought and practice. None of us can claim to have formed our own ideas of religion and morality for ourselves; we’ve all been shaped by others. Learning in community is much more than just coming to understand concepts. Concepts are presented to us by fellow members of our community, but they are not learned primarily through intellectual thought. We learn by doing, being part of a community that has certain kinds of practice, through the witness of others. As St. Paul said, imitate me, as I imitate Christ. The tradition grows like a tree in the living tradition of the community. If concepts become isolated from their lived surroundings, they can become idolized. When that happens, we are left with these dead concepts and no way to grow. Unless concepts are enfleshed, they are of no use. Values and Unity Pope Francis says that all values are non-negotiable. Division occurs when values that should be together end up separated. A good example of this is the Protestant/Catholic split, in which one side represents the importance of the personal and the other side represents the importance of the institutional. That’s why we can learn from those on both sides of these historic splits; we can learn from what they do well, and learn to correct what we might do poorly. Currently, the Church is undergoing a split between progressives and reactionaries. Those in both of these camps tend to appeal to their own personal judgment and discernment and use this personal discernment against the Church. Progressives appealed to conscience against Humanae Vitae, and reactionaries are currently appealing to their own understanding of Church teaching to reject Pope Francis. Such moves further division and destroy the chance for authentic dialogue. To keep this from happening, we need to give our own vision to the Church; that way, our vision can enrich the Church, instead of tearing it apart. That is why Pope Francis is calling for a synodal process of listening to one another during these difficult times. As Pope Francis says, all values are non-negotiable. Dialogue is not about deciding which values to drop; rather, dialogue is about coming to a deeper appreciation of the values that we share. If we cling to our own personal understanding of a particular value without taking the views of others into account, our understanding will be stunted.We can learn about our own values from other people, who may practice them better than we do. St. Augustine said that we can never exhaust the meaning of scripture because scripture is the word of God, and th
The Grace and Main Fellowship
In this episode, I interview Joshua Hearne from the Grace and Main Fellowship, an intentional and ecumenical Christian community located in Danville, Virginia. We discuss what it means to be a community for the poor and marginalized, rather than being a community that merely serves the poor and marginalized. We also talk about community life, organic growth, Asset Based Community Development, urban farming, and hospitality. The History of the Community The Grace and Main fellowship started as a bible study group in Danville, Virginia. It was very simple; just five people meeting once a week to discuss Scripture. They had no real intention of doing anything more than that. Over time, however, the members started eating with one another, praying together, and generally spending time together. They started to discuss the possibility of reshaping their lives around a more radical commitment to the Gospel. As Joshua put it, they eventually stopped and said “Maybe this isn’t a Bible Study like we thought it was! Maybe God is trying to do something more here…Maybe we’re one of those intentional community things we’ve heard about…Or maybe we could be one, anyway.” From this small beginning, the community has grown and evolved and changed over time. But the members are still eating, praying, and working with one another, and are still committed to living life in solidarity with the marginalized. Ecumenism in The Grace and Main Fellowship The Grace and Main Fellowship is an ecumenical community. Joshua said that in one sense, that’s just a statement of fact; the community has included members from many different Christian backgrounds. At the same time, it is also an aspirational statement. The community is united by some basic commitments and tries to focus on that unity regardless of the diversity of thought on other subjects. It is important to keep in mind that when Christ portrayed the Last Judgement, he didn’t describe it as a theology quiz! Instead, he described the judgment as being focused on a basic question: how did you treat the least of these? While searching for the truth is important, it is even more important to seek unity with fellow Christians and to give one’s life to Jesus without reservations. A Spectrum of Participation There is a wide spectrum of commitment among those who participate in the Grace and Main Fellowship. At the center, there are those who have discerned membership as a vocational way of life, and who have committed to sharing resources and leading an intentionally simple way of life. At the other end of the spectrum are those who occasionally drop in for events. Between these two extremes, there is a whole range of different commitment levels. These levels are fluid; they can change over time, depending on individual availability. This forms a porous barrier between the “inside” and the “outside”. Such a porous barrier can help to keep a community healthy and integrated into the wider local community. Commitments and Formative Influences Despite this range of participation, the core members do share a set of commitments; they hold the Apostle Creed as a basic statement of belief and are committed to non-violence, solidarity with the marginalized, sharing life, and practicing radical hospitality. Some of the most important formative influences for Grace and Main are the Catholic Worker movement and the writings of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, Koinonia Farm, Rutba House, the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Asset Based Community Development. A Shared Life The core members of the community live in a network of houses, all within walking distance of one another. Some of these houses are owned by the community, others by individual members, and others are rented by the community. The community also maintains a common fund to make sure that all the members have a place to stay and enough to eat. Core members are expected to donate
Friendship with the Poor: Christ in the City
In this episode Malcolm interviews Matthew Flaherty, a Christ in the City missionary. They discuss the human dignity of the poor, the spiritual lessons of living in community, and the work Christ in the City does in Denver. Christ in the City Christ in the City is a small missionary organization of young adults who serve the unhoused in Denver. The missionaries live in community. Every day, they walk the streets and befriend those they meet. Their mission is to show the love of Christ to the poor and marginalized, particularly the unhoused. Matthew Flaherty grew up in Los Angeles, California. While attending college in Humboldt county, he heard about Christ in the City and their mission. He traveled to Denver and volunteered with them for two weeks. He was deeply impressed by the intentional life of prayer and fellowship in the community, and by the way their work grew out of their life of prayer. In particular, he was struck by the way that the missionaries developed friendships with the poor. Friendship, rather than just Aid There are many great aid organizations. In major American cities, it is easy to find free meals. That’s a good thing. It isn’t sufficient, however. Too many of the aid organizations are bureaucratized and professional. They can’t provide the friendship and relationships the marginalized need. In fact, at times they can further erode the dignity of the poor. The poor and particularly the unhoused suffer material hardships, but the loss of human dignity is even worse. Many of them never hear their own names spoken. They are socially marginalized, modern day lepers. The world ignores them. People walk by on the street, purposefully avoiding eye contact. We subconsciously block them out, because it is uncomfortable to see reality. Many of the unhoused become “resource resistant”. They know all about the resources available. But they lack the motivation and assistance necessary to navigate what is on offer. For instance, many of them lack IDs. Without identification, many services become unavailable. Getting a new ID card is a difficult and lengthy process, particularly for the unhoused. They have no secure places to store documents and paperwork. One theft can undo weeks of work, and give a fatal blow to their motivation to get off the street. That’s where Christ in the City comes in. Instead of an emphasis on aid, the Christ in the City missionaries have an emphasis on friendship. They treat those on the streets with dignity and respect. Through this friendship, they can learn about the unique struggles and needs of each individual person. The missionaries can then provide assistance, just as they would for any other friend in their lives. Our Brothers and Sisters in Christ We’re called to see every other human being as a brother or sister in Christ. How would we react if a brother or sister was sleeping on the street? We might not all be called to work with Christ in the City, but we are each called to give the poor the respect and recognition that they deserve as fellow human beings. To often, we shunt our charitable duties over to organizations. We throw money at problems, because we can’t think of anything else to do. Giving money is good, but not enough; we have to show others the personal love of Christ. Aid through Friendship The Catholic teachings of solidarity and subsidiarity would seem to suggest that we can only truly help those we know. If we don’t know them, we don’t know what they need! This is a widespread problem in our society. St. James condemned those who say “go in peace, be warm and fed” without taking concrete steps to make this sentiment a reality. But if we don’t know others, we won’t know if they need help! It is perfectly possible that we’re attending Sunday Mass with a family who has just got their power shut off, but we don’t know them. This lack of knowledge makes us unwittingly fal
Let Us Dream, Episode 4
(Originally recorded during Advent 2021, so references to “last year” are references to 2020.) In this episode, Malcolm and Peter finish discussing the first chapter of Let Us Dream by Pope Francis. This is the fourth part of a series of episodes. The first episode is here, the second episode is here, and the third here. The following are some of the points we discussed. Viewing the Past In Chapter 1 of Let Us Dream, Pope Francis discusses our relationship to the past in light of the racial justice protests of 2020. He voices his support for those protesting against racial prejudice and injustice, but also notes that he is concerned by the growth of a flawed attitude toward the past. He writes: What worried me about the anti-racist protests in the summer of 2020, when many statues of historical figures were toppled in several countries, was the desire to purify the past. Some wanted to project onto the past the history they would like to have now, which requires them to cancel what came before. But it should be the other way around. For there to be true history there must be memory, which demands that we acknowledge the paths already trod, even if they are shameful. Amputating history can make us lose our memory, which is one of the few remedies we have against repeating the mistakes of the past. A free people is a people that remembers, is able to own its history rather than deny it, and learns its best lessons. In chapter 26 of the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses prescribed what the Israelites were to do after taking possession of the land the Lord had given them. They were to take the land’s first fruits to the priest as an offering, and pronounce a prayer of gratitude that recalls the people’s history. The prayer began: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor.” Then came a story of shame and redemption: how my ancestor went down into Egypt, lived as an alien and a slave, but his people called on the Lord’s name and were brought out of Egypt, to this land. The ignominy of our past, in other words, is part of what and who we are. I recall this history not to praise past oppressors but to honor the witness and greatness of soul of the oppressed. There is a great danger in remembering the guilt of others in order to proclaim my own innocence. Of course, those who pulled down statues did so to draw attention to the wrongs of the past, and to deny honor to those who committed those wrongs. But when I judge the past through the lens of the present, seeking to purge the past of its shame, I risk committing other injustices, reducing a person’s history to the wrong they did. The past is always full of situations of shame: just read the genealogy of Jesus in the Gospels, which contains —as do all our families—quite a few characters who are hardly saints. Jesus does not reject his people or his history, but takes them up and teaches us to do likewise: not canceling the shame of the past but acknowledging it as it is. Of course, statues have always come down and been replaced by others, when what they stand for no longer speaks to a new generation. But this should be done through consensus-building, by debate and dialogue rather than acts of force. That dialogue must aim to learn from the past, rather than judge it through the eyes of the present. Attacking the Past rather than the Present Sometimes the past is attacked because attacking the past is safer than attacking evils in the present. For instance, large corporations that currently use slave labor can easily score points by condemning the racism and slavery of the past. Similarly, it is easy for modern individuals to “like” social media posts that condemn past slave owners—on mobile devices that are made with slave labor. In this way, too much attention to past evils can actually serve as a way to white-wash the present. A Spirituality of Humility As Pope Francis pointed out, the way the People of Israel related to the past w
Interview with Simone Weil House
In this episode I interview Bert Fitzgerald and Emma Coley from the Simone Weil House, a new Catholic Worker in Portland, Oregon. They explain the ministry and vision of their house of hospitality and outline an exciting new pilot project: demonstrating how an existing faith community can become a community of mutuality within a credit union, able to provide interest free loans to one another. Origins Bert founded Simone Weil House almost three years ago. Prior to moving to Portland, Bert served as a live-in volunteer at the South Bend Catholic Worker and experimented with a number of alternative economic projects. In Portland, he hoped to start a project that would model some of the less emphasized aspects of the movement. As well as hospitality, he hoped to develop an alternative model of Christian economics. Emma had volunteered for a Catholic Worker house while she was in high school, and when she was in college she got to know a self organized community for the homeless called Second Chance Village. On a visit to Portland she encountered the newly formed Simone Weil House, and eventually came back to join the project a little over a year ago. Simone Weil The French mystic and philosopher Simone Weil was chosen as the patron of the new Catholic Worker House. Bert described her as the Christian answer to Nietzsche. She wrestled with basic questions with the same exacting honesty, but found truth rather than dissimulation in the mystery of Christ. Simone Weil’s thought can also help us to overcome the “right/left” dichotomy and the compartmentalization of life in general. I recently wrote an article that draws on Weil’s spirituality of attention. Milestones The project started out in a simple and humble way. Bert stressed that he wanted it to provide an example of “Christ Room Hospitality”, something that any home could participate in. By working with a local provider of services for the homeless, Bert had got to know several individuals who were in need of housing. So with his landlord’s permission he invited them to share his house. Over time, the number of people being housed increased. Simone Weil house acquired tiny houses and converted storage units to provide more living space. Eventually they were able to clean up and use the “Hell House”, a trashed drug house across the street. After a thorough cleaning and two exorcisms, this became “Dorothy Day House”. On any given day, there are now between 11 and 14 people living in the two houses. Interest free loans As well as providing hospitality and other services such as free laundry facilities, the Simone Weil house has started a community of economic mutuality that has partnered with Notre Dame Federal Credit Union to make interest free loans available to its members.. This project is grounded in Christian spirituality. We all tend to treat members of our families in one way, and members of the wider public in a different way. But what if we broadened the circle of people we treated as family? Isn’t that part of a truly Christian outlook on the world? We are all part of God’s family now, and should treat one another accordingly. This attitude can even be found in the Old Testament. Much of the Old Testament law was concerned with social justice. The people of God were supposed to make sure that individuals or families didn’t fall “through the cracks” due to inter-generational poverty. The Jubilee years were designed to prevent this from happening. Similarly, there was an obligation to redeem the debts of relatives so that they did not fall into debt bondage. Under the New Covenant, we have an even deeper obligation to redeem debts for one another. Christ died to redeem us from our spiritual bondage. Having received such a great grace, how could we begrudge the effort to redeem others from their earthly debts? This was actually the origin of Credit Unions. Today they ope
Stumbled upon this podcast, and I absolutely love it! Incredibly inspired by the call to community and Gospel poverty. Thanks for making these episodes, keep up the great work!
PHENOMENAL Podcast on Building Christian Community
I am ever so grateful for having this podcast in my life! Hearing Malcolm and his guests’ take on intentional communities is a breath of fresh air. It’s great to see so many people out there are creating SUCCESSFUL communities that are still somewhat intentional, but not so overbearing that the community fails.
I had done so much research on the how and why create a Christian community before this podcast existed. But even then I had never come across the large wealth of knowledge that Malcolm has uncovered in his short time as a podcaster. These interviews truly are priceless gems.