MICHAEL BOOVER, Member of Annunciation House of Worcester and Sacred Heart/Saint Catherine of Sweden Parish.
SEVERYN BRUYN, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus Department of Sociology, Boston College
RAYMOND G. HELMICK, S.J.
JOHN PAUL MAROSY
PROF. LAURIE BRANDS GAGNE, Director of the Edmundite Center for Peace and Justice and teaches in the Peace and Justice Program at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, VT
THOMAS F. LEE, Ph.D.
DANIEL MARSHALL, Long-time Catholic Worker, writer and librarian
FR. EMMANUEL CHARLES McCARTHY, Agape Co-founder, International Retreat leader on nonviolence
BOB WEGENER, Brockton, MA Agape Mission Council, and Architect (The Narrow Gate, Boston, MA)
ALICE KAST, Member Pax Christi MA and of extended Agape Community
PAT FERRONE, Pax Christi Massachusetts
THOMAS GROOME, Prof. Theology and Religious Education, Chair, Department of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry, School of Theology and Ministry, Boston College.
PROF. DAVID O’BRIEN, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of history and formerly the Loyola Roman Catholic Studies at the College of the Holy Cross.
PROF. MICHAEL TRUE, Emeritus professor, Assumption College, and former president, International Peace Research Association Foundation and Center for Nonviolent Solutions, Worcester.
KATHY KELLY, Co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence
ARUN GANDHI, President, Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute
Brayton Shanley has long practiced what he preaches. He co-founded the Agape Community, a lay Catholic peace community nestled in the hilly backwoods of Hardwick, Massachusetts in 1982 with his wife and co-worker, Suzanne Belote. Brayton and Suzanne have been peace educators all these years. They are exemplary pioneers of Christian peacemaking on two fronts- resisting the violence of the status quo (the foreign wars and domestic injustice and horror resultant from the promulgation of American empire) and co-creating with the God of Love and Compassion, the God of Jesus, the “beloved community” here “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Brayton Shanley’s vocation has been (with Suzanne) to be a teacher. He is both a faithful and rightful starry-eyed idealist (one needs to keep one’s eyes on the prize after all) and equally a most focused practitioner of Gospel values day in and day out in the most practical and mundane of ways. Shanley writes eloquently, even elegantly, about the spiritual tradition and theory of Christian and faith-based pacifism as many committed authors have before him but he does so with a remarkably personal twist. He writes so uniquely in this genre precisely because he writes so personally. While his text is about the highest motives and rationales for embracing principled Christian nonviolence, he brings the legitimate celestial musings into the daily round such freshness that he seriously and creatively engages his readers in all the ethical questions surrounding the pivotal question that his writing asks: Will we be about the waging of war or the pursuit of peace? He goes into significant detail about how we might choose the latter for ourselves in the particulars by covering topics that range from the finding of good means for “nitty gritty” conflict resolution in families and also in institutions responsible for healing the wounded to the growing of fruits and vegetables organically and to building in stone and wood as good stewards of the land. His work is a contemporary echoing of Saint Elizabeth Seton’s sage advice that we “live simply that others may simply live.”
Each chapter of Shanley’s book is flavored with literary gusto and vivid illustration. His chosen themes make for writing that is to be savored, to be taken in slowly with spiritual and earthly delight. He writes of constructing his home of straw bale and stucco, of heating with wood and of time-honored methods for reverencing creation. He writes descriptively of his community’s making use of solar energy to power the electrical needs of the Agape homestead and of making use of a composting toilet, what he calls the “right way to go.” He ultimately encourages us all to be living in accord with Nature’s gift and bounty in line with the plan of the Divine.
Shanley’s The Many Sides of Peace: Christian Nonviolence, the Contemplative Life, and Sustainable Living, aptly takes up the task of fleshing out the spiritual premise of its title for the author teaches that pursuing genuine peaceableness in yourself, your family, your community and the world is, indeed, a multi-faceted project. By describing his own learning and experience over three decades of such synthetic labors, he invites his reader into their own examen of lifestyle and a possible shaking up of conscience as was the pathway to Shanley’s own episodic and adventurous spiritual growth.
As the world teeters more and more on the brink of environmental and military disaster, Brayton Shanley’s advice seems ever more precious and pertinent. He himself has moved intentionally and with quiet determination and faith further and further away from the precipice of social and ecological tragedy by taking his cues from the Jewish prophets and Jesus the Christ whose persons and teachings have been in his purview for many years. He shares his own prayer experience in concert with the work of educating the young and not so young. It is the combination of emphases that gives this book its most peculiar quality, one difficult to describe, except perhaps to allude to the fact that it bears the mark of a true contemplative who is also an activist, a father, a pretty good farmer- someone altogether deeply concerned about the fate of the earth and the human project from the vantage of Christian revelation and the mystical and wisdom traditions of the world’s major religions.
Brayton Shanley is a brave yet gentle purveyor of the most daring and demanding kind of Christian living. There is. to be sure, a kind of vigorous and rigorous Christian athleticism in him, but this is most appropriately tied to the place and work of grace, silence, and Sabbath in a life. Shanley tells that there is so much more than work to be done. There is most assuredly blessed gift to receive from the hands of the Most High and someone to be. I read Brayton’s book in between prayer, work and gardening labors of my own, completing, very providentially, the entire text on the Feast of Saint Benedict whose motto ”Ora et Labora” has long inspired monks but also devout lay persons as Brayton to “pray and work” in the spirit of his 1500-plus year old rule. Alasdair McIntyre, the celebrated University of Notre Dame philosopher, lamented some years ago that our age lacked a figure like Saint Benedict to guide it in this time of great societal confusion and stress. I sense that Brayton Shanley is just such a figure as McIntyre hoped for with regard to our age for he speaks with authority and great theological insight.
The many practical implications of living the Gospel tend to create “order out of chaos,” the work entertained and undertaken by Saint Benedict in the sixth century and by Peter Maurin, the beloved co-founder with Dorothy Day, of the Catholic Worker movement in the twentieth. The shared vision of these great Catholics is the cultivation of conditions most sympathetic to the pursuit of social justice and peace. Brayton surely shares the vision of Saint Benedict, Maurin and Day and his leadership over decades of apostolic labor is very much like theirs. Read his book. He will lead you and me along the best and “most needed to be taken” paths! He has done us the favor of mapping out the Way for People of the Way who know it not and for those of the Way who need to know the Way better. Brayton Shanley has given us a holy handbook with which to take up with the grace of God the blessed task of bringing more light, joy, and peace into our days.[/showhide]
—MICHAEL BOOVER, Member of Annunciation House of Worcester and Sacred Heart/Saint Catherine of Sweden Parish. He is also a part-time chaplain at the Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital, an urban farmer, and a long-time Catholic Worker.
Brayton Shanley has written a magnificent book about love in all it manifestations. It is about what it means to be fulfilled as a human being. It reads for me like a sacred text published in a secular age. All people should examine it because in fact love is at the root of all religions. It is the driving force of evolution.
For Brayton it is our mission to understand the meaning of love, feel its power, and realize it in practice through its highest dimension. Its highest dimension is found in the word Agape, something from the ancient Greeks. Agape is one form of love. It is not just philia (affection) eros (friendship and desire) but unconditional love. For Brayton, it is nonviolent absolute love and a gift from our creator.
—SEVERYN BRUYN, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus Department of Sociology, Boston College
Suzanne and Brayton Shanley embarked on a life’s work of non-violent living in 1982. Many of us have learned from them over the years since and value their friendship and example.
With a few core members and two families they founded the Agape Community, influence by Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker movement, the work of Gandhi and the spirit of St. Francis. Deeply imbued in anti-war activities from the start, they took their community to the deep countryside in Hardwick, Massachusetts, in 1987, where they have since entered determinedly into a practice of contemplative life and sustainable living, straw-bale buildings, solar power, compost toilets, simple lifestyle, reliance on hard physical work and all. Brayton now writes of this experience on occasion of their thirtieth anniversary as a community last year.
—RAYMOND G. HELMICK, S.J.
With his new book, The Many Sides of Peace: Christian Nonviolence, The Contemplative Life, and Sustainable Living, Brayton Shanley achieves something remarkable in a short, easy-to-read format: He seamlessly blends personal, historical and political perspective with inspiration and practical advice. Whether you are new to the study and practice of nonviolence, a long-time activist, or a teacher seeking a useful classroom tool, you will find excellent value in this text.
Brayton and his wife, Suzanne Belote Shanley, co-founded Agape Community thirty years ago and have served as its hub and life force ever since. An intentional community based in rural Ware, Massachusetts, Agape is rooted in the practice of Christian nonviolence while remaining strongly interfaith in embrace.
Smartly organized in six sections examining Peace is My Gift, Peace of Mind, Peace in the World, Peace and War, Peace with the Earth, and Peace with the Soul, the book takes us on a tour of internal and external perspectives, challenging our assumptions and re-framing issues. Brayton Shanley’s perspective is as truly radical as Jesus’ message of all-embracing love. The author gets to the roots of the political behavior and personal choices that shape our lives. Reading this book empowers the reader to discern truth amidst the barrage of mainstream media messages promoting our culture’s dominant values of consumerism and state-sanctioned violence in support of the status quo.
—JOHN PAUL MAROSY
Arun Gandhi quotes his grandfather, the Mahatma, in the Foreword, “We must live what we want others to learn.” Few have followed that maxim as closely as Brayton and Suzanne Belote Shanley at the Agape Community, in Ware, Mass. This book is a series of reflections, many of deep and startling insight, on working, teaching, praying and resisting the powers in the spirit of Christian nonviolence as Brayton and Suzanne have lived it. With Fr. Charles Emmanuel McCarthy, Suzanne and Brayton founded the Agape Community in 1982. They describe their project as a lay Catholic residential community, ecumenical and inter-faith in scope. They do not identify as a Catholic Worker community but they are certainly close, and approximate our ideal more closely that many of us. So this book can rightly be called a worthy addition to a growing corpus of CW literature.
I read Brayton Shanley’s book, The Many Sides of Peace, curious about what the author, who has lived off the grid in a community dedicated to non-violence for 30 years, might have to say to someone like me, a teacher of Peace Studies who leads a much more conventional lifestyle. The good news is that Shanley’s book did not leave me feeling guilty for lacking a compost toilet in my house, solar panels on my roof, and a grease-powered car in my driveway. The book didn’t even prick my environmentalist’s conscience for not growing my own vegetables. (As you might guess, the Shanleys grow almost all their own food.) I was relieved to find that the author is refreshingly non-judgmental as he shares the wisdom gleaned from a life-long devotion to simple living and Jesus’s message of non-violence.
—PROF. LAURIE BRANDS GAGNE, Director of the Edmundite Center for Peace and Justice and teaches in the Peace and Justice Program at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, VT. She is the author of one book The Uses of Darkness: Women’s Underworld Journeys Ancient and Modern (University of Notre Dame Press) and numerous articles on women’s spirituality and peace and justice. At the University of Notre Dame, where she received a doctorate in Systematic Theology, she wrote her dissertation on philosopher/mystic Simone Weil.
Make no mistake about this. Brayton Shanley’s book, The Many Sides of Peace: Christian Nonviolence, The Contemplative Life, And Sustainable Living, sets out to confirm and underscore each word of that demanding title. And it succeeds marvelously. Brayton and his wife Suzanne have dedicated their lives over the last three decades to living out an experiment in non-acquisitive, simple living – a life with an “…other-centered faith in the Nonviolent God of Love.” The driving passion and motivation of that life, shared with so many of you readers over the years, is now distilled in this book.
—THOMAS F. LEE, Ph.D.
This is an extraordinarily thoughtful and comprehensive book on Gospel-based nonviolence, as books on nonviolence go. Brayton Shanley is the person to write it, since what he writes about he has also lived at the Agape Community that he and his wife founded in western Massachusetts. At every step the treatment is fresh and insightful. When he writes of nonviolence toward children, he writes not only as a parent, but as the consultant at a home for boys where he has wrestled with staff about frustrations that they experienced in punishing these abused children.
When he writes about nonviolence in relation to the environment, he writes as someone who is practicing at the Community what he preaches and dreams of. When he writes about nonviolent action, he writes as someone experienced in peace educating, demonstrating, rescuing death row prisoners, and aiding the poor and sick. He knows the literature and the practice. Was it heavy or tedious? It held my interest from beginning to end. This is an indispensable book.
—DANIEL MARSHALL, Long-time Catholic Worker, writer and librarian
My friend, Brayton Shanley, has written a book on this subject, The Many Sides of Peace. He has written it out of forty years of praying on, dialoging about, reading on, and living out the truth of nonviolent love of all. Any truth whether it be the Sermon on the Mount or E=mc2 cannot travel the road from concept to operational reality in human history without committed hard work in a multiplicity of areas. Day, King and Gandhi are certainly witnesses to this in terms of the truth of Nonviolent Love of all, which is sometimes called agape, sometimes called ahimsa. And, so are many others who across thousands years have seriously and creatively committed their time, energy, talents and lives to proclaiming by word and deed—to a humanity riddled by governmental, commercial, religious and personal violence—the truth that Nonviolent Love toward all is the Way of the Holy One the way that human beings, individually and collectively, can be all they can be fully human. The Benedictine adage, ora et labora, “pray and labor,” is a call to a commitment to pray diligently for the truth for which you labor and to labor diligently on behalf of the truth for which you pray. The Many Sides of Peace is a memorable presentation of and witness to ora et labora on behalf of the truth of Nonviolent Love of all as being the Way of God with His/her sons and daughters as well as the Way that brothers and sister in God must committedly struggle long and hard to be with each other.
—FR. EMMANUEL CHARLES McCARTHY, Agape Co-founder, International Retreat leader on nonviolence
This book is real theology for our times; thoughtful, wide awake reflections by a Gospel-centered seeker of the fullness of peace. Brayton’s challenging insights rise out of a life time of living deliberately, including 26 years of homesteading for peace in the woods. Thoreau would have this book on his shelf. But the message of Christian non-violence isn’t limited by location. Brayton takes us into the streets, schools, prisons, houses of worship and anywhere people yearn to turn towards an authentic and enduring peace. Read this book. You will be challenged, but you’ll find inspiration from a trusted companion living and sharing the journey of peace.
—BOB WEGENER, Brockton, MA Agape Mission Council, and Architect (The Narrow Gate, Boston, MA)
A president wins the Nobel peace prize while saying peace is not realistic; corporations claim rights to modify and patent the basic ingredients of our food supply; industrial waste still destroys our lakes, rivers and oceans; the air we breathe leaves us sick; church bells ring songs of peace as their chaplains go off to bless war. We chase after terrorists all around the planet and in our own cities while we train the world’s most sophisticated, paid terrorists, our military. Without a whimper from taxpayers we pay for war while our schools and health care disappear. Is there even a chance that anyone can speak of peace and right relationships with mother earth in a meaningful way to today’s technologically gifted citizens?
—ALICE KAST, Member Pax Christi MA and of extended Agape Community
I have a long-standing habit of underlining, or in other ways noting, challenging or profound thoughts expressed in some of the books I read. This initiates a kind of ‘lectio divina’ in which I then reflect on the text and allow it to enhance or alter previously held ideas. Happily, Brayton Shanley’s new book, The Many Sides of Peace qualified for just such appraisal. Many underlined, notated, starred passages can be found in my copy of his book, elucidating points that hadn’t occurred to me in my years of soul-searching and peacemaking.
—PAT FERRONE, Pax Christi Massachusetts
“The Many Sides of Peace: Christian Nonviolence and Sustainable Living is vintage wisdom from a person who has faithfully borne the heat of the day in commitment to non-violence. These essays distill the best of the passion and wisdom of Brayton Shanley to a radical Christian faith. Read these and be both confronted and inspired.”
—THOMAS GROOME, Prof. Theology and Religious Education, Chair, Department of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry, School of Theology and Ministry, Boston College.
“Brayton Shanley is a peacemaker. He now offers us a stunning account of a life lived for peace, guided by nonviolent love. This is a personal report of a remarkable experiment: a lifelong effort to live with full integrity that is to live each day by one’s most basic commitments of mind and heart. The story speaks of the inner life, of the intimate relationships of marriage and family, of building community, and of facing the world as it is and accepting responsibility for the human family. In Christian terms Brayton Shanley and his wife Suzanne have attempted to live “the integrated life” in which discipleship and citizenship are one and the same. Most discourse about religious and moral responsibility struggles to blend idealism and realism, faithfulness to universal ideals and hard-headed assessment of the realities of life. With the great figures of nonviolence Shanley rejects world-denying asceticism and ideal-denying accommodation. Instead he and his friends have tried to turn peace, and justice, and sustainability into verbs, moral ideals defined by action, personal, communitarian and political. It is a story that will show a path to hope, and to renewed commitment to building what Shanley’s greatest predecessors called “the beloved community”. The book, with the advice of colleagues and editors, merits publication and wide public attention.”
—PROF. DAVID O’BRIEN, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of history and formerly the Loyola Roman Catholic Studies at the College of the Holy Cross.
“The Many Sides of Peace is a thoughtful account of a family and community deeply committed to nonviolence as a way of life and to sustaining themselves on the land. AGAPE, over twenty-five years in the making, involves living a life of voluntary poverty and a commitment to building a peace culture. The teachings of the apostles of nonviolence, from Jesus to Gandhi to Dorothy Day, are made concrete by the community’s involvement in nonviolent resistance to war and injustice.
The author faces the challenges of the dominant culture, commenting on recent events and miscarriages of justice, and offering an alternative to the violence of the status quo. The book’s philosophical and theological reflections are applied to events in recent history, reminiscent of the approach of earlier important experiments such as Adin Ballou’s Hopedale Community, Gandhi’s Tolstoy Farm, and Peter Maurin’s Catholic Worker.”
—PROF. MICHAEL TRUE, Emeritus professor, Assumption College, and former president, International Peace Research Association Foundation and Center for Nonviolent Solutions, Worcester.
“Brayton Shanley aims to give readers a clear, coherent and practical message about ways to work toward peaceful relations among ourselves and, as much as possible, with all of planetary being. Through quietly courageous and exemplary lifestyles, the Agape community refuses to support militarism in our modern time. Their faith in nonviolent love awakens earnest energy. Why not work, every day, to build rational communities capable of transforming our world? Here is a thoughtful, absorbing book, offering a way forward for peacemakers enamored with “agape.””
—KATHY KELLY, Co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence
“We must live what we want other to learn, my grandfather, Mohandas K. Gandhi, said and I believe, Brayton Shanley has demonstrated this well throughout his life. The Many Sides of Peace is an excellent compilation of his experiences in living peace and sowing seeds of peace and not only deserves to be published but also widely circulated so that newer generations can understand that peace is not something one can wish for, it is something one needs to work for. Peace can only be achieved when we stop exploiting each other, stop discriminating because of race, color, gender, religion, politics and economics and the countless other ways in which we compartmentalize human beings. It is only when we are able to create a human society that is based in love, understanding, respect and compassion that peace will become possible. Brayton and Suzanne have demonstrated this through their lives. May the fruits of their sacrifice be sweet.”
—ARUN GANDHI, President, Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute