Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

Oct. 11, 2004

Round-up time in Texas

"The world is charged with the grandeur of God." (Gerard Manley Hopkins, "God's Grandeur")

I think I know, now, what it means when it says that the world is charged with the grandeur of God. I just spent three days on a silent retreat at Lebh Shomea, a place 60 miles south of my home in Corpus Christi, Texas.

"Lebh Shomea" means "a listening heart," and it exists deep in the heart of Texas. The grandeur of God was all over the place, from the skies above to the brilliant wildflowers below.

Lebh Shomea is a Christian community under the auspices of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. There is no predetermined schedule, no imposed structure, only the freedom and creativity of solitude. All are invited to share daily Mass. Silence is observed at all times, except at the daily Eucharist, of course.

Lebh Shomea is part of the former Sarita Kenedy estate. Lebh Shomea's portion comprises 1,100 acres of wilderness.

Frosting on the cake, for me, was the chance to go for long walks and see armadillos, javelinas, wild turkeys, raccoons, cottontails, birds galore (including seemingly tame roadrunners) and of course, deer of all sizes everywhere, including right outside my cabin.

Two quotations mark the place:

"Yahweh says: ‘I will allure you and lead you out into the desert, and speak to your heart,'" (Hosea 2:16)

"Jesus would always go off to some solitary place where he could be alone and pray." (Luke 15:16).

I have never been on a ship far enough to be out of sight of land, but that sensation came to me during those three days. I was "out of sight of land." No radio, no newspaper, no television, no campaign stump speeches.

I did hear a train whistle, perhaps 10 miles away. I did hear birds and animals. And I did try to listen to God.

But God was mercifully silent.

I happened upon this quotation in the huge and wondrous library at Lebh Shomea:

"Silence is God's respect for cosmo vastness!

"Silence is God's voice, disturbing comfortable people, and comforting disturbed people!

"Silence is God's outrage at social, economic injustice, crushing people's helplessness!

"Silence is God's mourning over assassinating unborn, unwanted people's lives."

Since Lebh Shomea is on a ranch, I think I got "rounded up," myself, by God. (Let's see how long that lasts!)

The ranch is called "La Parra," the "grapevine," because there are lots of grapes growing wild there. I think I am part of a Grapevine, a connection with people of all religions and races and continents who listen to God.

On one of my walks, I went a couple of miles to the so-called "Cowboy Cemetery," where so many of the early ranch hands lie buried. The Kenedy family always gave the day off for every funeral, and they attended all the funerals themselves. All of the names on the tombstones and crosses were Spanish, except for one name, that of a William Hodge, born in Nashville, Tenn. in 1810, and buried there, in the cowboy cemetery, in 1870.

As the memorial at the cemetery notes of this lone Anglo, "Perhaps he was just passing through, as indeed, each one of us is."

Of course I read the Bible. I decided to read the whole thing in alphabetical order, so I started with Amos.

According to the notes in the Oxford Annotated Bible on Amos: "During the long and peaceful reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.), Israel attained a height of territorial expansion and national prosperity never again reached. The military security and economic affluence which characterized this age were taken by many Israelites as signs of the Lord's special favor that they felt they deserved because of their extravagant support of the official shrines.

"Into this scene stepped the prophet Amos, probably sometime during the decade 760-750 B.C. Amos was called by God from a shepherd's task to the difficult mission of preaching harsh words in a smooth season. He denounced Israel for reliance upon military might and for grave injustice in social dealings and shallow, meaningless piety."

In the words of Amos: "The end has come upon my people Israel . . Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land . . ."

Hmmm! Could one of those "official shrines" be the Pentagon, maybe? That certainly has the extravagant support of the U.S. government, doesn't it? We seem to be proud that no other country "relies on military might" more than the United States.

"Grave injustice in social dealings?" Guilty as charged, when far less than one percent of our gross national product goes for foreign aid to the millions of hungry in a world where most people subsist on less than a dollar a day.

Or even worse: this summer, on a trip of a few thousand miles, I visited a new Catholic Church that cost $23 million dollars to build. I also drove by many Evangelical churches on the outskirts of cities that cost more millions. They had huge parking lots filled with SUVs sporting bumper stickers saying, "God Bless America!" and "United We Stand!"

"Shallow, meaningless piety?" Well, I guess. Let the Evangelicals prove otherwise.

Where, oh where, is Amos when we need him?

I didn't get much beyond Amos in my Bible reading, truth be told, but I will get back to it. And I will get back to Lebh Shomea ASAP, providing they let me through the gate again.

I left there still in sorrow over our world, but rejoicing, too, because God, clearly, is in charge. How is that? As Gerard Manley Hopkins puts it at the end of his poem "God's Grandeur:"

". . . Because the Holy Ghost over the bent World broods with warm breast and with, ah!, bright wings."

You can visit the website for Lebh Shomea at www.lebhshomea.org; or contact them by email: admin@lebhshomea.org; phone: (361) 294-5369; or by mail: Lebh Shomea House of Prayer, La Parra Ranch, P.O. Box 9, Sarita, Texas 78385-0009.

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