A call to holiness

Even some trees find holiness at the Center

On one of the trails at the Catholic Conference Center, I noticed an unusual sight:  two trees standing next to each other.  Both appeared to be the same age and type, sprouting together from the same mother tree.  One, however, was riddled with holes, probably from the nearby pileated woodpecker I see darting from tree to tree making monkey noises.  The other was not.  In other words, one tree was ‘holier’ than the other (pardon the pun).

Why did the woodpecker find one tree more appealing than the other?  It probably had some bugs underneath the bark.  To achieve this remarkable level of holiness, the bugs had to go.  The other tree might have had an equal number of bugs, but for some unexplained reason the woodpecker did not perceive that tree as one receptive to its probing. 

Past the midpoint of my Lenten journey.  I wonder:  which tree am I?  Stretching the metaphor a little further, the woodpecker could be the Holy Spirit, searching for receptivity among all the trees in the woods.  Having found the object of its search, it proceeds to remove the ‘bugs’, the bad habits and vices that lurk underneath the impenetrable facade. 

The process leaves some ‘holes’, visible wounds from the purification process.  But holes are better than bugs.  They are also visible signs of holiness to others.  

The other lesson I gleaned while looking at the two trees is that I cannot make myself holy.  This is sometimes the mistaken attitude I take during Lent.  Giving up ice cream (which BTW has not gone so well) is not going to make me holy.  Holiness is something that comes from outside of myself.  It’s a gift.  Describing our universal call to holiness in the Vatican II documents, Lumen Gentium says, “By God’s gift, [the followers of Christ] complete in their lives this holiness they have received. (40)

In other words, holiness comes from being receptive to the gentle tap-tap-tap of the Holy Spirit. 

I realize that throughout this Lent, I more resemble the unmarked tree – surface intact but shielding a lot of bugs underneath.  And wondering, what’s keeping me from acquiring the virtues that will lead me to the Easter joy?  There are still a couple of weeks left, and with God, it’s never too late to receive the Holy Spirit and answer once again this universal call to holiness.  It’s a call not just for some trees, but for all. 

Which tree best describes your Lent?