Filipinos’ ‘Eucharistic joy’ converts Belgian Protestant

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Catholic convert Maria Servaas gestures during her presentation at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) in Cebu City. (Photo: Dominic Barrios)

CEBU City, Jan. 27, 2016 – A recent convert to the Catholicism lauded the Filipinos’ deep faith and spirituality, encouraging them shun “artificial happiness” and instead continue to radiate the joy and hopefulness Filipinos show even in the midst of trials and suffering which she described as “Eucharistic”.

Belgian national Marianne Servaas expressed admiration for the Filipinos’ thankfulness and humility, which she said were attributed to being “sacramental”, during her testimony at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC).

Heart opened to joy

She said the way Filipinos represent Christ is “very sacramental” and “almost touchable.”

“You opened my heart to receive joy in life itself. And more so, your joy is related to thankfulness and to humility. Please do not lose it.”
Servaas left Belgium for France, married an Englishman and lived in England. It was there that they joined an Anglican community they then decided to come to the Philippines as missionaries. For seven years, she and her husband worked with an evangelical Filipino student organization.

She said it is in the Philippines and in Filipinos that their lives “were profoundly changed in such a way that it prepared – even cleared – our hearts to begin to see the beauty of the Eucharist and Eucharistic living.”

“Filipinos were and are genuinely sacramental. They opened my heart to receive joy and trust in life itself, something that we have lost in my country.

More so, the joy that is almost palpably present is related to thankfulness and to humility. My country, sadly, appears to thrive but actually dies due to an absence of thankfulness.”

Two ‘gifts’

She explained that joy, freedom, and hunger made the question “Where do I belong as a Christian?” burn more in her heart.

Servaas shared two events that she calls “gifts” changed her life.
First, when she witnessed the Litany of Saints. Second, the lifting of the Host at consecration.

Servaas describes that upon her conversion, “I was freed from the western thought that faith begins with a concept or idea. It does not.”

She also expressed that the joy of Eucharistic life is in the paradoxes of man’s deepest source of happiness: “lose to find, receive by giving, and live by dying.”

She urged Filipinos never to result to quick fix solutions in order to pursue one’s personal happiness, calling it “artificial happiness”. “In your joy, you are more human and it is a gift to the world,” she said.

Falling in love with the Eucharist

“I fell in love with the Eucharist, and therefore with the Church. It’s the Eucharist that drew me, that holds me.”

She said one of her sons noticed and asked her why she was so happy.

“I can say only one thing: Christ and Christ alone. I became a Roman Catholic due to the Eucharist and it is here that I have found my true home.

How I long for every single person as well as for whole nations to taste and see how great our God is and how indescribably beautiful his desire is for us to receive hope and grow in His glory.”

She admitted however, that being a Catholic is “weird” especially whenever she was asked about her conversion. She simply says, “I became a Catholic, as an adult by choice.”

In a separate interview with Eternal Word Television Network- Asia Pacific, Servaas further admitted her admiration of Filipinos, adding despite the dilemma of poverty and corruption, Filipinos remain positive and happy.

“You’re dealing with poverty. You’re dealing with corruption, and yet when there is a deep sense of joy and of thankfulness.”

She admitted that Filipinos “know much more what it is to live from the Eucharist”, adding this Filipinos can share this as “a gift you can give to the world.””

Prayers for Europe

She appealed to the IEC delegates to “not follow Europe on the road to secularization and unbelief.”

Servass said that Europe has “lost the ability to kneel and it makes us un-free.”

“We have lost humility and it makes us decrease in humanity. Only Christ Himself can save us and He is needed in the most joyful and real way possible, free from our interpretations and ideologies.”

She asked for prayers that Europe will return to God in the Eucharist, “where Christ is unconditionally present, so that we can be like Him present as peacemakers pure in heart and poor in spirit, empty of ourselves and so full of Him that it spills out in deeds of pure goodness.” (Rommel Lopez / CBCP News with Paul de Guzman and Krisha Socito)

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