Live Out Your Lent Like an Ent

In the novel of life, Lent is the rising action of the plot in which our will is tested and tried. We become like our favorite fictional characters when we willingly (or unwillingly) enter through this purgatorial portal and into the great story that Our Creator has penned with his life-giving fingertips. Of course, we already know the ending, but in an act of free will, God allows us to turn the pages and choose our own adventures. Our story, then, is in our journey. 

J. R. R. Tolkien, famed author of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, is known to us moderns as the father of high fantasy. In his fictional universe of Middle Earth (and beyond), he managed to create an opus of intermingling fantastical creatures with what might be the richest collection of Catholic symbolism within the genre to date.

One of the most genius of Tolkien’s literary inventions, and the most richly Catholic in my opinion, is the mystical beast known as the Ent. Ents are animated tree-like beings (like Groot from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy) who are the shepherds of the forests of Middle Earth. They protect the woodland plant and animal life from those who would rather strip the woods bare. For millennia, the ents lived in peace, but after their entwives go missing mysteriously, they travel through every forest in the known world for eternity in hopes of finding them again.

The Ents, like us, are on a journey.

I propose, then, that this Lent, we take the Ents as our spiritual guides. Note that even if you aren’t well-versed in Tolkien’s epic lore, this article will still be of value to you. Just hang tight and I’ll lend you a limb.

Animate Your Soul Like the Ents

As I mentioned before, Ents are trees with humanoid qualities. Their physical characteristics differ as much as the human races, their bark varies in hue and hardness, their trunks differ in hight and girth, even their fingers and toes vary in number. Over time, Ents loose their animation and become more “tree-like.” They bury their feet into the ground establishing roots and they loose their abilities to move, to speak, and to reason. They are then herded by the next generation. However, if they do not succumb to their “treedom,” they remain one of the most powerful beings in Middle Earth– that they make forests flourish, they can can crunch iron like tin, and they can destroy solid rocks with their barked hands.

Human beings experience something similar. Although we are born sentient, years of monotony combined with repetitious bad habits make us less human than we should. Our innate desires manifest themselves as sins or virtues and, if we succumb to the former, our hearts are hardened and we too loose the ability to move spiritually, to see imaginatively, to reason humanly. However, if we will our spirits to pursue the good, we animate our souls and become even more powerful that we could ever imagine, for we fuse ourselves with the source of all existence in the Trinity. We become animated.

“Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle…” (Ps. 32:9)

Be Not Hasty Like the Ents

The trademark personality trait of the Ents is their seemingly sluggish pace. They walk slowly. They make decisions slowly. Ents even speak slowly. They constantly warn the non-Ent characters to “noot bee too haasty,” as non-Ent beings often tend to be. Their patience is summarized succinctly by their leader, Treebeard, who once said, “”Things will go as they will; and there is no need to hurry to meet them” (The Two Towers).

Humanity is always on the go. We’re told that we have to pick up the pace to win rat race, to constantly be a productive member of society, and to work hard to win every competition. Even during Lent, we make sacrifices for the shadow-promise of becoming more healthy, more productive, more… something other than what God wants for us.

We don’t have to. On the contrary, it would do us more good to take a step back before we take another forward. It’s better for our spiritual development if we were to ground ourselves in intentional contemplation with God before we go out and save with world with our acts. 

Essentially, this means cutting the horse before the cart. Prayer should come before deed because if we don’t keep first the holiest of the commandments—to love the Lord with our heart, all our soul, and all our mind”, then we cannot properly take part in the second greatest commandment: to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mat 22: 37-39)/

Don’t be hasty to do God’s will. Contemplate it long and hard. Then, once He makes your purpose clear, go after it. You have all the time in the world.

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9).

Focus on Your Holy Longing Like the Ents

One of the biggest mysteries in all of Tolkiendom is “what happened to the entwives?” The lone male trees do not know the answer and are forced to search for their female counterparts endlessly. They seek, but do not find. As a result, they are unable to multiply. They long for the day when they will be reunited with their beloved.

We too long for the day when we will be reunited with our Beloved. For those of us who are married, we experience a portion of this holy longing in our physical, emotional, and spiritual connections to our spouses. For those who are ordained or consecrated religious, they penetrate these truths in community, service, and fraternal relationships. For the single non-religious, our families and friends help us understand the pure gift of love.

This Lent, keep your eyes on the promise of the everlasting experience of eternal love, but don’t close them to the reflections of grace that shine into your present, earthly state. 

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mat. 6:31-33)

Lent Like an Ent

Fantasy worlds have been a part of the fabric of humanity for as long as we have existed. The ancient Egyptians fashioned fictional stories to explain nature, their gods, and humanity’s place in the world. As time passed, the Greeks and Romans followed a similar template in their storytelling so that their cultural traditions would be safeguarded and passed down. Community after community, tribe after tribe prolonged their legacies by telling the stories of how other-worldly gods intermingled with human heroes in the natural world.

As the human mind grew in our abilities to tell stories, so did our imaginative ability to create unique characters within our fiction. Pixies painted our pages, imps were integrated into our imaginations, wizards and warlocks became the whimsical warriors of our words. In homage to Mr. Tolkien, it’s safe to say that fantasy achieved its existential apex in his creation of Middle Earth. 

This Lent, make it your mission to achieve your existential apex in the current chapter of your life. 

Become powerful. 

Become patient. 

Become holy.

Just like the Ents.


T.J. Burdick the author of several books and articles on the Catholic faith. He writes and speaks on how to grow in holiness amongst the distractions and difficulties of the current age. When he is not spending time with his family or writing books, you can find him teaching courses on the Catholic faith through Signum Dei ( For more about T.J., visit his site at

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