Hello again my dearest Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
Here is the recount of our latest activity—besides our routine ones such as monthly mass and bible study and annual retreat—the pilgrimage trip to the peaceful Rawaseneng hermitage monastery and the legendary city of Yogyakarta, where Catholic tradition is well acculturated with the local customs.
There were two main destinations for our pilgrimage trip this time. The first destination was a hermitage monastery at Rawaseneng, Temanggung, Central Java (7°13’1″S 110°12’36″E), which is run by brothers from the OCSO (Order of Cisterians of the Strict Observance) order, who are also referred to as Trappists. The other destination was an artistic retreat house which is founded and run by Father Dr. Gabriel Possenti Sindhunata, S.J., or Father Sindhu as we usually call him, with the help of local artists of the Special Region of Yogyakarta. Both are very interestingly unique places with their own characteristics, details of which are nowhere else to be found. The group consisted of 16 adults who are members of the John Paul II Foundation Indonesia and 10 of us from JPII Youth. We travelled to Yogya by plane continued by a bus ride to reach Rawaseneng.
The joy began at a quarter to six in the morning on Thursday, 19th of March 2015, when we gathered at the airport to catch our 8:05 flight. After a two-hour flight we landed in Jogjakarta and went to a restaurant known for its mushroom specialty, Jejamuran. There, we were welcomed by Father Yohanes Dwi Harsanto, Pr. who gave us necklaces with last year’s Asian Youth Day cross pendants. We had all-about-mushroom lunch before we left to go to Rawaseneng. Five minutes past three in the afternoon it was, with thin mist and drizzle, we stepped out of the bus at the hermitage monastery. After a short briefing, we began unloading luggage and went straight to our room to get ready. Following the coffee break and some spare time, when we went out to look around, was the first activity of the monks’ daily religious activity series which we were going to follow, the evening prayer at 18:00 or Vesper. Feeling grateful for having a good trip and the beginning of the retreat, we joined the closing of the day prayer called Completorium after a surprise festive dinner to celebrate our group leader’s birthday, one of the foundation’s member, Mrs Telly Liando, which was prepared by some monks there who had good friendships with her due to her frequent visit.
Founded in 1953, Rawaseneng hermitage monastery is led by Dom Gonzaga Rudiyat as the current father superior, bearing a title of Abbot, meaning father. Being from a strict order, monks there follow the Rule of St. Benedict with “ora et labora”, meaning “pray and work”, as a motto and live a religiously strict way of life. Although they maintain contemplative silence such as only speak when necessary and discouraging idle talk, as it is also stated in Wikipedia, they do not take a vow of silence, which is contrary to popular belief. Even one of the monks emphasized that communication is important, albeit a considerate one. Another significant way of life they live is that they pray seven times a day plus a daily mass half an hour after the second prayer in the morning at 6, which we followed, having a retreat at their monastery. The earliest prayer of the day is called Vigilia, the eve prayer to listening to the God’s Words, which begins as early as 3.30 am in the morning. The next prayer is Laudes, or Morning Prayer, at 6 followed by the daily mass. After breakfast at 7 am is Tertia at 8.15 am, which is followed by Sexta at 11.30 am, Nona at 2.30 pm, Vesper, the evening prayer, at 6 pm, and finally the closing of the day prayer, Completorium at 7.45 pm after dinner. Meditation is also practised several times a day. Besides their religious life, they also run normal household activity to sustain their life, which is accordance with their motto, pray and work. For example, they run a coffee plantation with Robusta as their main variety, a small coffee processing plant, dairy farm with around two hundred Holland cows, bakery, and some other plantations. Instead of doing all the work by themselves, they also open some opportunities for local people to work and earn a living. With coffee, milk, bread, cheese cookies, and timber as their main product, complemented by some vegetables, they are self-sufficient. They always serve fresh milk for guests during breakfast from their dairy farm in the dining room.
What we were supposed to do in this individual retreat was to try to follow their religious life and in addition to that, we had two sessions on the second day, in between the prayer sessions. At first we thought that waking up that early as 3.30 am in the morning to attend and concentrate at the earliest prayer and then joining every prayer for the whole day could be very challenging for us or even difficult to follow, but it came out that it was not as difficult as we had thought and we did not have any difficulties keeping up with the schedule. We even felt that it was very relaxing, soothing, and comforting and it opened our mind, allowing us to pull ourselves away from our regular perspective and see things differently and from different point of views, which can be understood and trained through meditations. Having already started feeling the benefits of the retreat, we were even more eager to praise God through every psalm we chanted in each prayer. As mentioned, we had two retreat sessions between the first and the second late morning prayers, Tertia and Sexta, which were both about facing old age. At first the youth felt like it was unsuitable topic for us but as we went on, we enjoyed the sessions and they were useful because all of us have parents and older people we care about and because all of us will grow old one day. There were two more slots of spare times in our schedule; one is after lunch until before the third afternoon prayer, Nona, which was used for going around the complex and the surrounding village, and the other was between Nona and the evening prayer, Vesper, which we used for having a way of the cross or Via Dolorosa procession. At the end of the day, we tried to go to sleep quite early, way earlier than what we are used to back in Jakarta, so that we can wake up early for the next day’s prayers.
The third day was a colourful day, when we all wore “Keep Calm Do Good” shirt which is JPII Youth’s fundraising and uniform shirt. It comes in several solid colour options, making us look colourful together. After the morning prayers and mass, some of us went around the facility to see the milking process at the dairy farm, the coffee plantation, the cheese crackers and yogurt manufacturing facility. Leaving at around 9.30, we took a lot of photographs during spare times with acquaintances, monks, and the whole participants with some iconic features as backgrounds. With the same bus we used to get there, we left Rawaseneng towards Yogyakarta. Due to several light traffic jam, we got a delay and we arrived at 1 pm for lunch at Mang Engking, a delicious Sundanese restaurant with nature atmosphere. With full stomach we continued the journey at 2 o’clock and arrived around half past three at Karang Klethak, the second destination of our pilgrimage trip.
Karang Klethak is a multifunctional cultural house, which can be used for gathering, retreat, meditation, vacation, photo sessions, or even some cultural events. The location is at the slope of Mount Merapi at an altitude of 623 MAMSL (Metres Above Mean Sea Level), with a specific address at Kaliurang street km. 21, Wanareja Village, Hargobinangun, Sleman, Special Region of Yogyakarta, around 21 km from Yogyakarta city centre. With this height, the air temperature is cool and become fresh with many trees around, such as bamboo and Salacca Zalacca, which are virtually unexploited. Being next to Boyong River, which contains water from springs at Mount Merapi, this place has beautiful views to see and a peaceful atmosphere, which makes it suitable for contemplative events such as retreat and meditation. Father Sindhu had that place built with the help of local artists, which influenced the décor of the entire complex, with artistic wooden Joglo cottages to stay and accommodate indoor events, and a lot of artistic statues, one of which is a statue of The Virgin Mary in their own depiction with a traditional outfit next to a statue of a baby in a manger and several decorative stuffs in a model building on stilts. These artists with guidance from Fr. Sindhu had also written and performed several songs with a unique genre of Javanese rap, some of which was performed in front of us at their thanksgiving party besides the mystical traditional dance performance of Jatilan at the people’s party.
Although Karang Klethak is a place where we could have stayed and we were about to, we did not. So we only enjoyed several traditional performances and culinary, which were provided by nearby residents, after another festive dinner owing to the thanksgiving event and again, our group leader’s birthday celebration, which this time was prepared by the local artists instead of the monks. After that, at around 10 pm, we left for Kalyana Resort where we were to spend the night, took a bath, and went out again to look around Yogya. After a quick rest, with Gimo as the driver, we went down the mountain to Yogya to enjoy the nightlife in a hangout place and public amusements in the courtyard of the palace of Ngayogyakarta Hadiningrat, but thanks to the very heavy rain, we could not do anything but to sit in the car watching everything from the inside. Well, at least we managed to take some pictures of the public amusements and some good views of the palace. Still with the heavy rainstorm, we got back to the hotel sleepily after buying some fast foods and went to sleep a bit late at almost two o’clock in the very early morning.
Finally, here comes our last day when there was only one significant agenda left before the farewell, the Sunday mass at Karang Klethak, which was led by Mgr. Petrus Turang, who had already joined us on the second day. After the mass, Father Sindhu took a chance to express his gratitude and told us the more detailed story behind the thanksgiving event the previous evening and what it had been about. The mass was closed by a final blessing from the Monsignor and another blessing and prayer for each family in our group. Taking a lot more pictures, we were taken around by Father Sindhu, showing us some notable historical feature of that place including the statue of The Virgin Mary. Having some more time available, we also visited a church – the church of Maria Fatima – with a historical well next to its altar and washed ourselves with the water from the well, the story of which was also told by Father Sindhu. Having completed the agenda for our pilgrimage trip, we had a bit late lunch at another Sundanese restaurant with a concept of gazebos above fish ponds and natural decoration before we went to the airport, where we were busy distributing abundant souvenirs, most of which were in form of fruits, cookies and gudeg, among us and our luggage to conform the maximum weight limit. And that was it; a wonderful refreshing inspiring peaceful pilgrimage trip had come to an end, though the fun, spirit, fellowship among us, exemplary, and the inspiration is not to forget. It was such a fruitful retreat, both figuratively and literally, as it was said by some of the participants.
~ Peter Andi Wiguna (bb2010/JPIIYI)