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St. Dominic and praying with homework

Published: August 17, 2023   
Laritza Chena

As I was reflecting on my first year at college, I started to think about the goals I had set for myself throughout the year. 

Since I was struggling a lot with time management, one of my biggest goals for the year was to set more time aside for God. I felt like I kept prioritizing school and other things over God, and I really wanted to change that, but I wasn’t sure how. Going to Mass and an occasional prayer throughout the week did not feel like enough time with him, but it was hard for me to find a balance between doing homework and studying. I was struggling with this until February when I attended a retreat at a monastery with the Columbia Catholic Ministry.

During the retreat, a nun explained St. Dominic’s nine ways of prayer: inclination, prostration, penance, genuflection, contemplation, earnest intercession, supplication, thoughtful reading and praying on a journey. It was the first I had ever heard of it. 

  • Inclination was done to humble himself before the altar and he would do this every time he passed by an altar. 
  • Prostration was done to ask for forgiveness for his sins. 
  • Penance was done to acknowledge his own sins or for those of others whose gifts support them. 
  • He would do the fourth way of prayer, genuflection, before the altar with his gaze on the crucifix and would genuflect over and over, sometimes for hours. 
  • For contemplation, he would stand before the altar with his hands out in reverence and devotion, as if reading in the presence of God. 
  • For earnest intercession, this prayer consisted of him praying with his hands and arms spread out like a cross. 
  • Supplication was when he would stretch his hands above his head toward heaven.
  • During thoughtful reading, he would go off in a place where he could be alone, open a book, start off with the sign of the cross and read. 
  • When praying on a journey, he would isolate himself from his companions and pray as he walked.

While we were discussing St. Dominic’s nine ways of prayer, one of the girls said she offered her homework up to God as a form of prayer. While doing homework, it helped her focus on God and offered motivation to finish it. 

I was intrigued because I had never thought about doing homework as being a way I could pray. I’ve always seen homework as a chore I have to do to get a good grade in school. I thought about that form of prayer a lot, but I was unsure as to how to go about it. I eventually realized that reminding myself why I am doing the assignment, or studying for said exam was the best way to get me to start. That reminder served as a way for me to think about the future and remind myself of the things God has planned for me, and it worked. 

Especially during finals I would pause my work and do a guided meditation so I could just pray that I do well. Doing little things like that helped me throughout the rest of the semester to dedicate more time out of my day toward God.

At our last Bible study of the semester, we discussed the women at the well and how Jesus met her halfway on her journey. He was willing to take the time to change her heart, so that she could do the same for others. It wasn’t until later that I realized this form of prayer that involved homework was one of the ways that God meets us where we are at. He knows we have busy schedules and a lot of stress, but taking a small portion of our day to meet him halfway means a lot for both of us. In the end, the small talk with him is him taking the time to change our hearts and meet us on our journeys, wherever we are.

Laritza Chena is a sophomore at Columbia University in New York City. St. James Church in Searcy is her home parish.

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