Divorce, Divine Mercy, and Evangelization

By Marc Massery

Divine Mercy has the power to heal hearts broken by the tragedy of divorce. At least, it did for Madeleine Prendergast of Denver, Colorado. 

When Madeleine was young, she witnessed her parents endure a bitter divorce. Though Madeleine's parents split, they continued to raise her and her two siblings Catholic.

"I always had a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. At age 9, I took seriously His promises to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque," Madeleine said. She went to Catholic schools and attended Mass every day. 

In her adult life, as Madeleine pursued a career in magazine design, she continued to remain devoted to her faith. "I could, and frequently did, lecture people on being a good Catholic and a believer in Jesus Christ," she said. Madeleine, however, admits to living a somewhat duplicitous life herself. "Fearful of life's challenges — earning a living, developing a career, finding friendship and love — I misappropriated many of the gifts that God gave me," she said. 

In her early 30s, not unlike her own parents, Madeleine briefly married and then divorced. "I thought I could love my first husband with Christ's love," she said. "I employed contorted logic to find in this marriage a solution to life's challenges. When it didn't work out, my first marriage and divorce embittered me toward God."

For a while, in her anguish, she turned her back on the Lord. "I left the Catholic Church, but I couldn't leave Jesus," she said. For 25 years, she went to evangelical and charismatic churches. "I benefited tremendously from these churches," she said. "My eyes were opened with amazement to the Bible and to prayer." 

For a couple years during that time, Madeleine regularly drove with her sister from Boston, where they had been living, to Stockbridge, Massachusetts. "While my sister went on her errand, though I wasn't Catholic at the time, I stayed at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy and prayed. This gave us both a sense of peace and hope," Madeleine said.  

Around that same time, Madeleine's nephew taught her to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. "Eventually, Divine Mercy would bring me back to the Catholic Church," she said. 

Around 2010, even while she was still away from the Church, Madeleine felt so inspired by the message of Divine Mercy that she started handing out Divine Mercy pamphlets to strangers. 

"I remember a lot of snow one winter. The plows on those rural roads pushed snow higher than the mailboxes. People had to shovel out their mailboxes! I [would tuck] a leaflet for every household, safe in a clear plastic bag, into every mailbox door, along with a prayer for their salvation," she said. 

Though Divine Mercy consoled her and gave her a sense of purpose, at age 45, Madeleine had all but completely given up hope that she would one day find love. "This made me sad, but I concentrated on other things," she said.

Then she met a man named Mike at a social event after church. "God must have known that I was very lonely, even though I didn't talk about it openly anymore, or even pray about it," she said. "When Mike and I were engaged, I couldn't believe that I could be so genuinely happy."

After marrying Mike and moving across the country, Madeleine finally returned to the Catholic Church. "A Catholic church was always nearby. So I began to attend daily Mass again," she said. "Once I was going to Mass again, I began to realize what a tremendous avenue the Church was for grace and holiness."

Madeleine says that she's received many gifts from the Lord through praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. "It's wonderful to pray at the 3 o'clock hour in the church, along with other faithful. It's something I can recollect, no matter where I am," she said. 

Madeleine has even volunteered at the Shrine in Stockbridge for Divine Mercy Sunday. "I can't say enough about how kindly the volunteers were treated. Every consideration was given to answering questions in advance, so we knew what to expect," she said. 

Today, she continues to distribute Divine Mercy pamphlets to virtually anyone. "I've walked through small towns in Massachusetts, distributing leaflets, and I'm doing the same here in Colorado. I really enjoy being in touch with like-minded people at the Shrine about this task," she said. 

On a recent trip through Kansas, Madeleine was excited to see a Divine Mercy Image on the side of I-70, which inspired her to write in to the Marian Helpers Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and tell her story.  "How many people are introduced to the love and mercy of Jesus, portrayed on these images by the side of the road?" she said. 

One might ask the same question about Madeleine and her years spent handing out hundreds of Divine Mercy pamphlets. 
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