For the last two years at around 8 p.m. every day, 13-year-old Yohanes Ervin Mulyana goes to his bedroom, shuts the door and recites the rosary
. His devotion to the Blessed Mother began when he received his first Holy Communion at St. Michael Church, his local parish in Kranji village of Bekasi, a suburb of Jakarta
. "My devotion wasn't deep enough in the beginning. I only prayed the rosary when we gathered once a week in my community," he told ucanews.com. Since the early 19th century, Catholics have adopted the practice of honoring Mary with a month of devotion in May, as well as reciting the Rosary continually through October
and honoring Jesus for a month in June. Mulyana, a third-grader at the Catholic-run Strada Bhakti Wiyata Junior High School in his hometown, said the rosary became part of his daily ritual after he found it gave him a deeper sense of inner peace and spiritual strength.
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"Reciting it does put me at peace. It gives me the strength to fight against things like lustful feelings. It leads me to the path of holiness," he said. He has since received many "blessings" from God, some big and some small — trivial even — and yet he feels the watchful eye guarding over him, he said. Mulyana's father is retired while his mother runs a small bakery. He said the Blessed Mother, for him, represents a motherly figure as well as a sister and friend. A group of Catholics pray before a Marian grotto at St. Joseph Parish in East Jakarta on Oct. 20. (Photo by Katharina R. Lestari/ucanews.com)
"I can share all the problems I face with her in the hope that she will lead me to her son [Jesus]. So it's not only about gaining access to Jesus through Mary but also connecting with mankind through Mary," he said. Mulyana belongs to the Third Order Carmelites (TOC) and wants to become a priest one day so that he can share his devotion to the Blessed Mother with the rest of his parish and beyond. The TOC are lay Catholics aged 17 and over who follow the mission of Carmel, who sought to transform the secular world based on Jesus' teachings. The Carmelites
put a special emphasis on the importance of prayer and contemplation and are believed to have been founded sometime around the 12th century. "The first thing I would do [as a pastor] would be tell people about God's blessings that I have received. By doing so, I think young people would become more interested in the significance of the rosary," said Mulyana, who is also a member of the Jakarta-based Marian Center Indonesia (MCI). For Victoria Rara Gita, a 27-year-old parishioner from St. Albert the Great Church in Bekasi, her devotion to the Blessed Mother through the rosary and novena prayers has changed her life. "In the past, it was alright for me to wear a short skirt at Mass. Now I always wear a long skirt and even a mantilla [silk headscarf]. The mantilla wasn't easy in the beginning, though, due to objections from my mother," she said. Victoria joined the Most Sacred Trinity, a group of lay Catholics who want to deepen their faith, in August. She said she recites the rosary every second day. "I routinely seek help from the Blessed Mother. I often turn to her when I have problems I can't share with my mother," said Victoria, who teaches cinematic studies at the Jakarta Institute of Arts. Carmelite Father Stefanus Buyung Florianus, a moderator at the MCI, sees such devotion as an expression of love by the Catholic faithful. "There are some steps to follow," he said. "First, knowing who the Blessed Mother is; second, understanding her virtues; and third, following the example she set." There are believed to be many communities of Marian devotees spread across Indonesia but statistics on their numbers are hard to find. "At the MCI alone, we have 11 such communities," Father Florianus said. Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta says devotion to the Blessed Mother has enlivened the church in the country. "She is the absolute disciple of Jesus, so when we show devotion to her, we are, either consciously or unconsciously, following her example, which is to become a disciple of Jesus," the prelate said.