Why Do Catholics…Part 7 – Make the Sign of the Cross

Are your children old enough to notice that others do not make the Sign of the Cross before and after they pray?  Or that some people visiting church don’t join in the Sign of the Cross?  Have they ever asked why we do when others don’t?

This question presents a perfect time to give your children some Church history without giving a history lesson!

According to Church tradition, the practice of making the sign of the cross dates back to the apostles.  They used it as an outward display that they were claimed for Christ.  They used it in baptisms to claim new converts for Christ as well.  Usually, they made it only on their foreheads with their thumbs, but it eventually changed to the sign we know now.  Perhaps it was used only on the forehead originally because so many Christians were persecuted.  Over time Christianity became more accepted and making the Sign of the Cross would no longer result this persecution (like being fed to lions!).

sign of the cross2The words themselves, “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit…” honor the Holy Trinity that is our Lord.  So in making the sign, we are expressing our belief in that beautiful mystery!

We can use the Sign of the Cross at the beginning and ending of our prayers to give that time to God.  I often start my evening prayers on my knees but continue talking to Him after I get into bed and drift off to sleep.  I like to think that, somehow, my whole slumber is given for Him since I never finished that prayer.

The Sign of the Cross can also give us courage in times of trouble or great struggle.  Just knowing that we belong to Christ can give us the strength we need to persevere.

For you adults, the Sign of the Cross, the sign that you have made hundreds if not thousands of times in your life, can have a much deeper meaning as well.  sign of the cross Every time you make the Sign of the Cross, it can be a renewal of your faith, saying that you believe in salvation through Christ’s sacrifice for us.  In addition, you can make the sign because you recognize Christ’s suffering on the cross and you are willing to take up your own cross for Him while you are here on earth.

I have begun using the Sign of the Cross in blessing my children as they leave for school each morning because, really, who couldn’t use a little extra blessing!  They all love to line up as I (hurriedly) make the Sign of the Cross on their foreheads with a little bit of holy water, saying, “May God bless you and keep you and guide you.  May all that you do be for the glory of God!”  The smiles on their faces (most days) show me that they truly love to be blessed.  So why don’t we all make the Sign of the Cross more and enrich our lives with His blessings!


Next week – Why Do Catholics…Part 8 – Have Crucifixes

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