The Sign of the Cross: It’s one of the most basic prayers we learn as kids, but it’s possibly the most significant external gesture that we make. Do you rush through and mumble the words, or do you pray it with profound reverence?
These outward signs of faith make visible the prayer and devotion of Catholics. “This is why you and I use our bodies to pray,” explained Fr. Matthew Spencer. We make the Sign of the Cross so frequently that we might not think much of the words and action, but it’s time to wake up to the power that this prayer has when we pray it boldly and devotedly.
“As Catholics, we find this to be a very important part of our prayer. So when we make the Sign of the Cross, we are doing it to pray more deeply, in order to manifest externally this important reality that you and I witness to: that Jesus Christ has come into this world to save us, but he didn’t just save us in an abstract way—he saved us by suffering and dying on a cross. And when you and I make the Sign of the Cross, we are professing our belonging to Christ and our entry into the cross of Christ,” said Fr. Matthew.
This prayer can be prayed, among other things, as a blessing, a renewal of our baptism, or as sign of solidarity with Christ’s suffering and acceptance of our own suffering.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in Spirit of the Liturgy, “I shall never forget the devotion and heartfelt care with which my father and mother made the sign of the cross on the forehead, mouth, and breast of us children when we went away from home, especially when the parting was a long one. This blessing was like an escort that we knew would guide us on our way. It made visible the prayer of our parents, which went with us, and it gave us the assurance that this prayer was supported by the blessing of the Savior.”
Do you bless your family? “This is a special duty, responsibility, privilege that fathers and mothers have to bless their children,” says Fr. Matthew. “That is a faculty given to you by your vocation that you should exercise frequently.” This can be exercised by tracing a cross on the forehead of your children and sending them off with protection and prayers.
The Sign of the Cross is also a public witness to our faith. When you say a meal prayer in a restaurant and make the Sign of the Cross, others may identify you as a Christian. This simple gesture shows the world that you are not afraid or ashamed to authentically live your Catholic faith.
Will you now put more thought and care into your prayer when you make the Sign of the Cross? Don’t rush through it or skip over it, but give it the reverence it deserves. After all, you are invoking the Holy Trinity and marking yourself for Christ.
“I believe that this blessing which is a perfect expression of the common priesthood of the baptized should come back in a much stronger way into our daily life and permeate it with the power of the love that comes from the Lord.” – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Spirit of the Liturgy
Listen to the full segment for more ways to invoke the Sign of the Cross.
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