Holy Innocents’ Day

Today, December 28, is Holy Innocents’ Day, and we are sharing a manuscript poem, found in St. Paul’s archives, that was written for this day by William Prall, our rector from 1902 until 1905.

William Prall

William Prall

Holy Innocents’ Day

Jesu, pure and undefiled,
Make me as a little child
Wash my soul from grief and sin
Keep me good and true within.

Only as a child may I
Hope to see Thee when I die.
As a child I long to be
Now and for eternity.

In the fullness of Thy grace
Turn upon me Thy dear face
Assuage the tears that I have shed;
Lay Thy hands upon my head.

Bless me as Thou once didst bless
The children that around Thee press’d;
In thy blessing I shall be
A child for all eternity.

William Prall

William Prall was born 6 April 1853 in Paterson, New Jersey[1], a son of Edwin T. Prall and Rachel More Thomson.[2] He earned the A.M. and Ph.D. degrees at Heidelberg University in 1873 and the LL.B. at Columbia University in 1875 and then took up the practice of law in Paterson.[3] He served a term in the New Jersey State Assembly (1883-1884), during which he wrote and sponsored the state’s free public library statute.[4]

William Prall married Lilian Porter Clapp in 1881[5] and the couple had a daughter, also named Lilian. Mother and daughter died within a year of each other[6], in 1884 and 1885 respectively. Weeks after his daughter’s death, Prall was accepted as a candidate for the priesthood by Thomas A. Starkey, St. Paul’s former rector, and by then bishop of Northern New Jersey.[7]

Thomas A. Starkey

Thomas A. Starkey

Prall began study at the De Lancey Divinity School (associated with Hobart College, Geneva, New York) in the spring of 1886.[8] He was ordained a deacon in 1886 and priest in 1887, both ordinations by Bishop Starkey.[9]

Prall’s first assignment was as assistant to J. Livingston Reese at St. Paul’s, Albany, where he served from 1887 to 1889. He next served as rector of the Church of the Holy Comforter in South Orange, New Jersey (1889-1891) and St. John’s Church, Detroit Michigan (1891-1900).[10] In 1900 he chose to return to St. Paul’s Albany as rector, to the “intense surprise” of an anonymous New York Times columnist, who described St. Paul’s as “the very reverse of rich and marked by the signs of decrepitude sometimes incidental to advanced age”.[11] Prall was to stay at St. Paul’s from 1900 until his retirement in 1905.[12] In 1903, he briefly accepted the wardenship of St. Stephen’s College (now Bard College) in Annandale, New York, but changed his mind and returned to Albany after he and his wife “expressed dissatisfaction with the accommodations afforded”.[13]

William Prall was awarded an honorary Doctor of Sacred Theology degree by the De Lancey Divinity School in 1893.[14]

In 1897, during his stay in Detroit, Prall married Helen Ames Lothrop.[15] There is no evidence of children from that marriage.

Among William Prall’s publications are:

The State and the Church (New York: T. Whittaker, 1900)

Civic Christianity (New York: T. Whittaker, 1895)

Book Chapters:
“The Priest in the Organized Parish” Chapter VII (pages 92-110) of Edward Macomb Duff (ed.), The American Priest at Work: A Symposium of Papers (Milwaukee: The Young Churchman Co., 1900)

Books translated and edited:
Giovanni Visconti Venosta Memoirs of Youth: Things Seen and Unseen (Boston and New York, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1914)

Almira Strong Lothrop, The Court of Alexander III: Letters of Mrs. Lothrop (Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Company, 1910)

Published sermons and lectures
“Past, present and future; a sermon preached January 26th, 1902, in commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of the parish of St. Paul’s, Albany, N.Y.”

“The Reformation and the Origin of the Church of the Huguenots: A Study” (New York: The Huguenot Society, 1924)

William Prall died 22 March 1933 at his home, 1130 Park Avenue in New York City.[16]

[1] Frederick S. Hills (ed.), New York State Men:Biographic Studies and Character Portraits (Albany: The Argus Company, 1910), page 186

[2] “Dr. William Prall Dies in 80th Year,” New York Times, 24 March 1933

[3] New York Times, 24 March 1933

[4] Hills, New York State Men, page 186

[5] New York Times, 24 March 1933

[6] The Churchman, 26 Sep 1885, page 343

[7] New York Times, 18 October 1885

[8] New York Times, 18 October 1885

[9] The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography (New York: James T. White & Company, 1897), Volume VII, page 113

[10] Frederic E. J. Lloyd (ed.), The American Church Clergy and Parish Directory for 1903 (Cleveland: Frederic E. J. Lloyd. 1903), page 208

[11] “Topics of the Times,” New York Times 21 Jan 1900

[12] Hills, New York State Men, page 186

[13] New York Times 23 September 1903

[14] Journal of the Fifty-sixth Annual Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Western New York 1893 (Buffalo: printed for the Council, 1893), page 54

[15] John W. Leonard (ed.), Who’s Who in America 1899-1900 (Chicago: A.N. Marquis & Company, c. 1899), Volume I, page 579

[16] New York Times, 24 March 1933

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