Given to You

When you are at a religious education conference and someone at your hotel asks you to bring her a copy of the Lord’s Prayer, you really can’t refuse.

Last weekend, I attended the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress,  a wonderful celebration of everything that is alive and blossoming in the Catholic church. As our group was leaving the hotel one morning, a young woman in the room next to us opened the door and, catching sight of my name tag, asked if we were going to the conference. When I replied in the affirmative—you also really can’t lie—she asked me to bring her a copy of the Lord’s Prayer. She said she was Jewish and had never had a copy.

The whole conversation made me uncomfortable. I’m not big on converting people, and I don’t know many practicing Jews who are searching for the Lord’s Prayer. I hesitated, but she insisted.

So I said I would and proceeded to spend two hours walking around the exhibit hall searching for a printed version of said prayer. Lest you fear that the rise of Catholicism will bring about the demise of capitalism, let the exhibit hall at the largest religious education conference in the country put your mind at rest. Hundreds of booths offer everything from the kitschy to the sublime. I wandered past cards, candles, crosses of the metal, glass and wooden varieties, rosaries, priest’s vestments (one of my favorites because they are simply gorgeous, almost tapestries), countless spiritual books and Christian music recordings in English and Spanish, not to mention representatives from charities, universities, and every flavor of religious order.

In all this abundance, I found exactly one copy of the Lord’s Prayer with a horrible picture of a white, shiny Jesus on the back. I bought it for seventy-five cents. I left this and a Psalm 23 bookmark that a sympathetic Capuchin monk had given me in a bag on the woman’s door handle and went to my afternoon session, a music workshop.

In the music workshops you always receive a printed copy of the songs so you can sing along. On the last page of the handout was, of course, a new arrangement of the Lord’s Prayer.

When I knocked on the woman’s door that night, there was no answer, and so I still have the musical version of the prayer, along with a new understanding: If we are asked to give somebody the Lord’s Prayer—or anything else—it will be given to us.