I’m so happy to share the following Catholic Book Spotlight interview with Ellen Prozeller, author of Waiting on Jesus.
Briefly introduce yourself and your family to our readers.
I have been a teacher and writer, wife, mother and grandmother. I have enjoyed all these roles and hope to continue to do so. I’ve taught most age groups, from second grade through college, and as a communications consultant in business. Volunteering as a Religious Education teacher for many years has been an important part of my life. Also, I’ve published stories and articles in such periodicals as St. Anthony Messenger and America. My husband Paul, a retired electrical engineer, and I have been married for 40 years, and we have two grown daughters, a son in law, and two granddaughters, aged 17 and 8. Currently I’m taking a Bible Study course and another in pottery making.
Please share a brief synopsis of Waiting on Jesus.
The central character of the story is a young boy, Daniel, who meets Jesus face to face and is forever changed by the encounter. Over the time period from Palm Sunday to the Ascension, Pentecost and beyond, Daniel observes Jesus, listens to him, and becomes his follower and friend.
Set in Jerusalem, Galilee and environs, the story unfolds as Daniel is informed by his father that he will be going to Jerusalem to help his Uncle Joseph, the proprietor of the Upper Room. The reason for this is that, although Daniel is bright, he is not physically strong or suited to the life of a farmer. The closeness of his family life with his parents, brothers and sisters and pet goat, Priscilla, is detailed. In Jerusalem, Daniel takes on his new life in the city with its homesickness and daily challenges. He also sees Jesus for the first time. In fact, the title of the book is derived from Daniel’s experience at the Last Supper, waiting on table and pouring water for the Lord. It is where his heart is stirred as he learns what Jesus wants of him, to be a servant of everyone, in his name. As time goes on, Daniel becomes a direct observer of the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost. Finally, he understands how Jesus served his people and how and why he should try and do the same. The book is divided into chapters and is suitable for children 8 and up to read on their own. It is illustrated with woodcuts by the great medieval artist, Albrecht Durer, and there are photos and pictures of aspects of life during Jesus’ time that would be of interest to children.
What blessings and benefits do you hope families will get from enjoying Waiting on Jesus together?
I hope families will enjoy spending time together, learning about Jesus—who he really is, how much he loves us, and how he showed us the way we should live. It frames it in terms of something everyone, even children, can do. The more children learn about Jesus at their parents’ knee the more they will love him and want to serve him, as Daniel in my story did. Children and parents learning, sharing and praying together is one of the best ways to become a truly Christ-centered family, one that can be an example for others to emulate.
Also, the book presents the basic truths of the faith in a way children can understand.
What prompted you to write a children’s book, and specifically this book?
The initial reason I chose to write this book was as a gift for my elder granddaughter’s first Holy Communion. I thought a story that centered on the Last Supper, when the first Eucharist was instituted and the first Mass was said, would be a powerful lesson for her, one she could immediately identify with. I wanted her to understand also how much Jesus loved us to have suffered and died for us in the way he did. In addition, I thought it was important for her to understand some basic facts of the faith, for example, the Resurrection and Ascension, Pentecost and the life of the early Church. I knew a story was the way to do it.
The main character, Daniel, came to me before I ever sat down to write. I “saw” him in my mind’s eye as a boy at the Upper Room, the night of the Last Supper, concealing himself behind a pillar, but observing everything that went on. After that, I wrote the story around him. I gave him a reason for being in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ entry into the city on Palm Sunday, and the rest fell into place. I felt guided by the Holy Spirit throughout the writing of the book. Thoughts just seemed to come to me.
What plans do you have for future writing projects?
I’m considering two different ideas. One is the French legend of the Three Marys, Mary Magdalen, two other Marys and Lazarus, who were persecuted by the Jews of Jerusalem and set adrift in a boat without sails or oars. Miraculously they survive the journey and bring the Faith to southern France. It’s a charming story with lots of potential, I think. The other idea is a book about four women Carmelite saints, all named Theresa or with variants of that name: Teresa of the Andes ( a 19 year old saint from Chile canonized by Pope John Paul II), St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Holy Cross. I thought it would be interesting to explore their spirituality in the light of their vocation as Carmelites, and also how they related to their own eras.
Are there any additional thoughts or comments you’d like to share?
I think it’s vital for parents, and adults in general, to share their faith with children. The children are the future of the Church, and I don’t think enough attention is paid to their innate spirituality and desire for God. The young are so innocent and impressionable in this world where violence, cruelty and greed are ubiquitous. It is our responsibility and our privilege to help show them the way. I urge Catholic adults to be evangelizers of the young.
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