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Issue Date:  February 8, 2008

Catholics turn 'magical' Friday into 'mystical' commemoration

SUBANG, Indonesia -- On a night when Javanese traditionally go to the graveyard to appease the spirits and communicate with ancestors, local Catholics meet in parishes or shrines to remember Jesus’ passion and pray for special intentions.

This night happens every 35 days when Kliwon, the last day of the five-day Javanese, or Pasaran, week coincides with the Friday, or Jumat, of the seven-day Western or Arabic calendar.

On the eve of Jumat Kliwon (Jan. 17 was the first one this year), Javanese people believe good and bad spirits roam the earth. Traditionally the people visit their ancestors’ graves to give sesajen, offerings to the spirits, or stay at home and burn incense, and perform tirakatan, ascetic practices such as fasting.

For the latest Jumat Kliwon, about 300 Catholics attended the 11 p.m. Tirakatan Mass at the Marian grotto behind Christ the Sower Church in Subang, southeast of Jakarta. Fr. Stephanus Sumardiyo Adipranoto celebrated the special Mass at the shrine, where the Way of the Cross features larger-than-life statues.

Rubertus Hadi Susanto and his wife rode 31 miles on his motorcycle to the shrine for the two-hour Mass. Susanto is a pro-deacon, a non-ordained layperson who does the work of a deacon, such as distributing holy Communion and conducting funeral rites, for a certain period of time with the approval of the local bishop.

His parents are followers of kejawen (Javanese mysticism), he said. “But I am not. I attended the late-night Mass because its atmosphere helps me to have intense communication with God.” Other pilgrims agreed with Susanto, calling the vigil experience “exciting” and “engrossing.”

Vincentia Efrata, a university student from Yogyakarta, said he “can stay all night with Jesus.”

Fr. Franky Paskalis Pitoy, the Subang pastor, said the parish started the special Masses in 2006. “ Jumat Kliwon has a magical atmosphere,” he said, “But I turn it to a mystical meaning by reminding pilgrims of how Jesus struggled after the Last Supper on a Thursday night. I ask them to leave behind their egotism and come together to accompany Jesus.”

Pilgrims write prayer intentions on slips of paper. The prayers are read out during Mass, and afterward, the priest burns the papers inside a bowl beside the altar.

-- UCA News

National Catholic Reporter, February 8, 2008

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