Well, I replied, nothing wrong with worshipping trees. In fact, today of all days we do just that as good Catholics. It is September 14, the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross." We don't worship the Cross, of course, but we exult it with the highest affection and esteem, such that most law-abiding pagans would see no difference between our awe before the wood of the Cross and their awe before the wood of a maypole. Consider how we address the Cross as if it were a person, from today's Liturgy: "O Cross, more splendid than all the stars, towering above all cedars, on whom hung the life of the world."
The wood of the Cross is different than that of any tree, however. Bavarians erect Maypoles in their town squares to point to the Cross, not to compete with it. The Cross was just a piece of wood before Christ joyfully ascended onto it. In fact, the Cross was just another form of imperial torture, which is why the enemy of life never suspected that the author of life would use it to destroy him. Christ beat Satan with his own weapon, taking violence and death upon himself.
And so, violence was undone by violence, and God trampled death by His own death. When we take up a cross ourselves, we will take the enemy by surprise every time. He will never come to believe that a human being can willingly, even lovingly, take violence upon himself for love of another. And so, each of us has seen how easily a little person can disarm a strong person with simple charity. One of my favorite Mother Teresa stories is her interview with Daniel Ortega. She had asked for a building in Managua to serve the poor. She was escorted into a dark room to find Mr. Ortega seated between four large soldiers brandishing impressive machine guns. He harangued her for 30 minutes about the great Satan Capitalism and how he was saving the country through Marxism. Mother simply replied "works of love are works of peace" and asked him how many children he had. President Ortega was flummoxed but replied "seven." Mother reached up to give him seven miraculous medals, and one for his wife, and ... one for him, even showing him how to wear it. The strongman was disarmed, and smiled, and gave the little nun a few buildings downtown to begin their work.
I am aware that Daniel Ortega has rearmed and is causing great suffering in Nicaragua today. But anyone who takes the cross upon herself can disarm him again, for truly, Ave Crux Spes Unica (see the motto on my webpage).