On Not Praying For World Peace

If you’re like me and have been reading the news over the past couple of years, it is hard not to be concerned about the bees… or more importantly, the lack thereof.  The phenomenon of “Colony Collapse Disorder” has been going on for at least the past few years as the nation’s beekeepers have noticed a steep decline in colonies with each progressing year.

BeekeeperSo, being the student for the priesthood, I thought recently that I would do what a man in my position could do; I prayed for the return of the bees during the prayers of the faithful.  When I offered this petition to God, I did hear some giggling in the pews after offering my intention, but I did not care… these are Biblical issues we are dealing with.

After Mass at dinner, a fellow Paulist brother could not help but comment on my somewhat unconventional prayer. The main gist of the commentary was that I could have been praying for something more important, a petition for “world peace” for example.  That perspective, however, landed on a particular nerve.

“I hate praying for World Peace.  I mean, it’s kind of a BS prayer that very few people ever mean….”

My unexpected response to his evaluation of my prayer life resulted in a very emphatic yet indignant, “What?!?!”

“Seriously, how long have people been praying for ‘world peace’? And after all of that, do we still have war? It seems to me that God has given His answer on the issue of ‘world peace,’ so I figure that we might as well move on to other matters.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“It’s just a cliché prayer, that’s all.  It’s just one of those prayers that people dust off when they have to come up with something ‘profound.’  It’s as if people say ‘I have to come up with three original prayers during service today and I have NO idea what to say… what the heck, let’s just pray for world peace.’  It turns Mass into a Miss America pageant.”

“Wow… you, my friend, need Jesus.”

“Chill out. It’s not like I’m ANTI-world peace. If it makes you feel any better, I am personally very pro-world peace.

“It’s just that it’s just such a generic prayer.  I mean, at least the people who want to buy the world a Coke and teach them how to sing are at least willing to take specific action.  But too many people just mouth the “world peace” prayer under their breath and think they’ve done their work for the day.”

“So YOU have never just mouthed prayers? Does that mean that you did not mean those prayers?”

“Of course I have mouthed a lot of prayers in my day… I’m Catholic!  We have so many standardized prayers that it would be impossible for me to truly comprehend and fully mean every prayer I have ever uttered… but that’s part of belonging to the faith and I’m Okay with that.

“But for the prayers we’re supposed to create ourselves, I just think that we should be held to a higher standard, even if it happens to be off the beaten track every once and a while.  I’d just rather that people be “weird” and yet honest and specific rather than being proper while mailing it in during prayer time.

“Look, if people want to pray for Sudan or Afghanistan, they’re at least putting in some effort to be somewhat specific; they’re at least putting more meaning into it.  It also indicates they might be willing to change themselves in order to make their prayer come true (if that’s what’s necessary). It means they’re willing to open up and share what they really care about. I’m not saying that there aren’t some people who do sincerely pray for world peace, but let’s get real.”

“Still, I think you’re being a little ridiculous…”

“Okay then, what would a world-wide food shortage… because there are no bees to pollinate plants… do for the prospects of world peace?”

[No response]

“Thank you for playing.”

Father Tom Gibbons was ordained a Paulist priest in 2012. Prior to becoming a priest, he spent time as a Jesuit Volunteer in Phoenix, AZ, working with immigrants in El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. He's also worked as a graphic designer and web developer, serving nonprofits like Success For All Foundation, Baltimore City Head Start, and Catholic Relief Services. He previously wrote a blog entitled “Kicking and Screaming” for Busted Halo. After serving as a deacon at Holy Trinity Parish in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., Father Tom was sent to St. Peter’s Church in Toronto, where he first served as Associate Pastor and then as the Parish Administrator. In 2016, he produced a documentary on the founder of the Paulist Fathers, entitled “Isaac Hecker and the Journey of Catholic America” – featuring celebrity voices of Martin Sheen, Matt McCoy, and Bob Gunton. Father Tom is currently at work on a new documentary investigating the complicated legacy of the Catholic Church in California with the film “Junipero Serra: Statue of Limitations,” scheduled for release in 2022. In addition to his work as Vice President of Paulist Productions, Father Tom also performs pastoral work at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church and Transfiguration Catholic Church in Los Angeles, CA.