There is something strikingly sad and unnerving when you discover that you have been betrayed, regardless of the severity. The bitterness intensifies when it is at the hands of another Catholic. In silent protest we wrestle with the truth: “But Catholics aren’t supposed to treat each other like that! How can this be?”
The response to betrayal runs the gamut from plotting vengeance, deep sadness, raging anger and everything in between. Few of us can brush it off without some interior grappling. There are, however, things we can do instead of plotting perfect revenge.
Move Beyond Incredulity
We are fallen, and being Catholic offers no guarantee that our fallen-ness will not rear its ugly head in any given situation. Our religious affiliation does not ensure that we act in a saintly manner — which is why confession so readily available.
Our culture has left so many of us deeply wounded and/or gravely vulnerable to vice and Catholics are not immune to these diseases. The Church and the world really are a field hospital. We shouldn’t be surprised that miserable things happen at the hands of the broken, the proud, and the vicious.
Make a Decision
Like any challenge in life, our response to it is what matters most. If thrown a knife, do we catch on the handle or the blade? You can let this betrayal drag you down or you can use it to help you find a deeper faith and closer relationship to Christ.
A priest once wisely pointed out to me that the more we become like Christ, the more Christ-like experiences we have, including ignominy, slander, betrayal. Why should we expect to not have these experiences if we truly are following him?
Work Through the Emotional Baggage
As always, prayer is the best recourse. It is okay to go to God and tell him why you are seething. Of course, he already knows, but somehow the act of explaining it to him has a way of lightening the load.
It is a natural human response to want to talk through your struggles, but it is not always fruitful or beneficial to do so. Be careful with whom you share information — such conversations, particularly if thrown like seeds into the wind on social media, can devolve into gossip and slander — making your situation worse, not better. As St. Ambrose said, “No one heals themself by wounding another.”
Beyond talking to a trusted friend, writing, exercising, or going for a drive can also help work through the mental struggles, either when the poison is fresh or months later when memories may still haunt you.
Depending on the depth of the wound, professional help is always something to consider, but even professional help needs to be wrapped in prayer. Ask others to pray with you for your intentions.
Consider Your Unique Vocation
God has allowed this to happen for a reason. Let him show you what it is.
There is a subtle pattern among those who experience suffering — often it relates to their vocation or to a special call they have from God to intercede for others. For example, the child conceived in rape becomes a voice for the unborn; the pediatrician who helplessly watches her own child suffer cures others; or the Catholic apologist who endures the disdain of his atheistic relatives helps bring others back to the faith. Our betrayals can, if we don’t let them destroy us, be a signal of what types of souls God wants us to help. Anna, having suffered a great injustice by a priest, felt led to pray not only for the priest but to pray and intercede for those who have had similar situations.
Remember the Ransom
In Les Miserables there is the iconic scene where the saintly old bishop, just after telling the police that Jean Valjean was actually given the silver he stole, says to the hardened criminal, “Jean Valjean my brother you no longer belong to evil. With this silver, I have bought your soul. I’ve ransomed you from fear and hatred, and now I give you back to God.”
Just as we have all been ransomed by Christ, sometimes Christ asks us to ransom others; to pay the price another cannot pay. This is the heart of mercy. We are called to forgive those who trespass against us and to reclaim them through, not in spite of, our pains and sacrifice.
Carrie Gress has a doctorate in philosophy from the Catholic University of America and was the Rome Bureau Chief of Zenit’s English Edition. She is the author of Nudging Conversions: A Practical Guide to Bringing Those You Love Back to the Church and co-author, with George Weigel, of City of Saints: A Pilgrim’s Guide to John Paul II’s Krakow. A mother of four, she and her family live in Virginia.