40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic-#36 The Sign of the Cross

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

I’m including the Sign of the Cross as a part of Catholic coolness, even though it’s not the exclusive property of the Catholic Church, because I think when most non-Catholics see someone crossing themselves, they assume that person is Catholic.  Yesterday, we dealt with an 800 page book that contains everything we need to understand our faith.  Today we deal with the fastest, simplest way to express what we believe; Father, Son, Holy Spirit.  It’s something we do ourselves and something we can have done to us.  At Baptism, we ask the parents and godparents to trace the sign on the baby’s forehead.  This is called the “small cross” and dates back to at least the second century, probably all the way back to the Apostles. The priest blesses us with the sign of the cross at mass and at other times.  The SOTC can also be made over objects.  For example, just a few days ago on Ash Wednesday, the priest or deacon made the sign over the ashes, blessing them for their use.

This simple sign dates back centuries.  Theodoret wrote about the blessing of the sign of the cross way back around 400 AD.  It’s so much a part of our Catholic culture that we often do it without thinking.

The sign of the cross is sort of a shorthand way to ask God for any number of things and to thank him for those same things.  When we sit down to a meal, we make the SOTC to say, “Please, God, don’t let there be any arsenic in these mashed potatoes.”  Or a soccer goalie, especially those from the Latin American countries may make the SOTC before the game begins as a way of saying, “Please, God, don’t let me slam my head into the goal post.”  Think how much better a place the world would be if all of us blessed ourselves before we started work.

Of course, the reverse also applies.  The SOTC after a meal is a shorthand way of saying, “Thank you God.  There wasn’t any arsenic in the mashed potatoes.”  Or the goalie might make the SOTC to say thanks to God for not letting him crash head first into the goal post.  Hopefully you get the idea.  Baseball players often sign themselves before they enter the batter’s box and when they cross the plate after scoring.

Here’s a fun fact that you might use to amaze your friends at the next cocktail party.  Here in the west we make the Sign of the Cross from forehead to stomach to left shoulder then to right shoulder.  Eastern Rite Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians do it the other way.  Forehead/stomach/right shoulder/left shoulder.  Try it the opposite way.  It feels weird.

When we make the sign of the cross we ask God for His blessing which is always a good thing.  When we sign ourselves in public, we’re proudly declaring that we’re members of the Catholic Church, the Church founded by Jesus Himself.

And that’s really cool!

4 Responses

  1. Hello ML,

    Just wanted to let you know this was really a reflective post. How often I have made the Sign of the Cross, and never really thought about what I was doing??? Thanks for sharing all that you do. God Bless, SR

  2. You’re welcome. Thanks for the comment.

  3. […] even know it.  For instance, reading the Bible earns a partial indulgence.  So does making the Sign of the Cross.  Reading this blog might even be worth a few seconds.   Catholic Answers has a good article on […]

  4. Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon every day.
    It’s always exciting to read articles from other authors and practice something from other web sites.

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