Maurice Prater embraces the outreach of the Missionaries of the Holy Family, an order of more than 1,000 priests and brothers who emphasize the Holy Family as the standard of holiness for all families. He is advancement director for the Missionaries of the Holy Family and a member of the parish staffed by the order, St. Wenceslaus.
Prater’s embrace of their mission led him to write two children’s books published by Divine Providence Press.
Tell me about the first book you were involved in.
That was the “Holy Family Prayer Book,” and it was published by Liguori in English and Spanish. It came out in 2012 and is still available. It was something printed in-house originally, especially for the Prayer Association of the Missionaries of the Holy Family (Friends of the Holy Family), mainly laypeople who agree to pray three prayers every day for the Missionaries of the Holy Family and for all families. On the first Friday, they do an extra prayer, the Consecration to the Holy Family. We had the idea that if we made it a little broader, a publisher would be interested in it. We tweaked the manuscript and sent it to Liguori to see if they were interested, and they were.
Why was it important to publish it in Spanish?
Because in 1927 the bishop of Corpus Christi, Texas, asked the Missionaries of the Holy Family to come to the United States to serve the growing Spanish-speaking population in Texas.
What was the next book?
In 2014, I did “Counting on Faith,” a scriptural counting book for children, where every number from 1-10 represents a truth found in the Bible. The idea came from a pilgrimage I took to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wis., the first approved apparition site in the United States. In the apparitions, which occurred in 1859, Our Lady told Adele Brise to catechize the children, to teach the basics of the faith. I was inspired to write something about the faith that would be easy for children to learn. I thought while they’re learning to count, they can learn about the Catholic faith at the same time.
What came next?
Joshua Hren, a professor at Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., and editor of Divine Providence Press, suggested an alphabet book for children based on Scripture. The Bible, especially the Old Testament, is so rich with so many characters that it is not hard to find a character to match A through Z. There are other ABC books out there based on the Catholic faith, but I couldn’t find one based on people in our family of faith who play a role in our salvation history. It’s the people who make our faith come alive — all these wonderful characters and adventures they deal with, the trials they overcome. That gave birth to “Saved by the Alphabet,” which just came out.
What about the illustrations?
The pictures have to make the text come alive. Jason Koltuniak really captured the spirit in both books.
How did you pick the characters?
I wanted a somewhat equal number from the Old Testament and New Testament. Also I included prominent females to make it well-rounded. Sometimes I worked in more than one character for a letter. For example, Z is for Zechariah but also Elizabeth, the parents of St. John the Baptist. The letter S is for Susanna, Joanna and Mary Magdalene. They are three women who supported Jesus in His ministry. M could have been for Mary Magdalene, Mary or Moses. So I included Mary under V for Virgin Mary and used M for Moses and worked Mary Magdalene in with Susanna and Joanna.
What’s your favorite letter?
It’s H for the Holy Family. Because I work for the Missionaries of the Holy Family. But really, it’s my favorite illustration. It’s beautiful, a very tender illustration.
What’s your favorite number from that book?
It’s the number three. Because there’s three people in the Holy Family. The letter nine also — the depiction of the Nine Choirs of Angels. I like them all. Everyone has their favorite.
Why is a ministry to families important?
It seems like families are too busy. We’re not spending as much time together. Reading together, especially stories about the faith, brings them together and develops a love for reading and the faith.
PARISH: St. Wenceslaus in south St. Louis
POSITION: Mission advancement director for the Missionaries of the Holy Family in St. Louis
BOOKS: Recently released “Saved by the Alphabet,” a picture book for children through age 7, available in local bookstores, at www.divineprovidencepress.com and on Amazon. Also wrote “Counting on Faith,” another children’s book; edited “Holy Family Prayer Book.”
ALSO: Responsible for production of the Family Moment videos which air periodically on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN).