Pilgrimage or Paganism?

During the April 29, 2009 Wednesday Forum, Agus Tridiatno Yoachim, a first year ICRS-Yogya student, spoke about the Sacred Heart of Jesus Temple in Ganjuran, Bantul; a place where Catholic Christians go for pilgrimage. The place is teemed with water which is considered as a medium of God?s blessing to his people. The water flows from a wellspring. The pilgrims relate the water to their faith to Jesus Christ. Through the water, their hopes will be answered and their diseases will be healed too.

Historically, the existence of the temple was started by the Schmutzer family who were into sugar industry in Ganjuran. They bought sugarcane field and a sugar factory called Gondang Lipoero. They built a Catholic church in Hindu style in 1924, and then build the Sacred Heart of Jesus Temple, a monument to worship Jesus Christ; the construction of the temple was from 1927 to 1930.

In 1988, when a priest named Romo Gregorius Utomo became the bishop in Ganjuran, an effort to reinterpret and renew the temple was made. The temple was considered a symbol of God?s love and it has God?s blessing (berkah dalem). In 1997, the people started to do pilgrimage again. In 1999, Bapak Y. Suparno found a wellspring in the temple. They named the spring Tirta Perwitasari which is taken from the name of Bapak Perwita who was the first person who experienced healing when he used the water from the spring. Since that time, the water is an important element to the pilgrimage.

For Agus, the water in the temple has the power to heal and answer the hopes of the pilgrims. He himself experienced the blessing after his pilgrimage and after using the water. The power of the water is related to Jesus? power, they believed. Thus, every pilgrim who wants to have blessing always has to pray to Jesus Christ. The figure of Jesus is represented by a statue where pilgrims pray.

This tradition looks like another kind of paganism. So, when Agus was asked about this, he knows that there were debates about this thing among Catholic leaders. He said that half of them thought that the tradition is paganism, and the others thought that it is not a problem.

The tradition is not paganism as long as Jesus Christ is the center of worship, and the water is believed as a medium for His blessing after praying to Him. Agus added, whatever the medium, including the statue and water, the most important thing is how the medium can make them closer to God.

Agus realized that he does not know exactly what makes the water unique for the pilgrims, whether the place and some chemical in the water that could heal some diseases or God?s blessing. If it is really caused by blessing, can some water outside the sacred place heal diseases? What about the other people whose prayers were done by others? ?The answers to these questions are still pending for research,? Agus said.

By doing research about Javanese and Hindu traditions connected to the pilgrimage would be helpful for Agus to obtain a comprehensive portrait of the phenomena of the pilgrimage. Javanese and Hindu traditions in defining the water and in using statue for worship clearly influenced the pilgrimage. In fact, we still do not know whether this tradition is practiced by the Catholics outside Java who do not have Javanese and Hindu culture.

(JMI)

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