The Catholic Corner


Q. Why do we make the sign of the cross?

A. The sign of the cross is an action by which Christians profess their belief in Jesus Christ's redemption of mankind by his Death on the cross and their belief in the Holy Trinity, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

According to Our Sunday Visitor's Catholic Encyclopedia, the early Church Father Tertullian (230 A.D.) attested to "the tracing of the sign of the cross on the forehead as a personal gesture of piety to sanctify the actions of daily life." It was also used early on in the rites of baptism and confirmation and later developed as a Mass gesture at the beginning and end of each liturgy.

The sign of the cross is regularly used as one begins and ends personal prayers and with holy water as one enters a church or chapel. It is a powerful religious gesture and should be used devoutly and reverently, both publicly and privately, by us who have been "marked with the sign of faith" (Roman Canon, No. 1).

As Blessed John Henry Newman says so beautifully in his poem, "The Sign of the Cross":

Whene'er across this sinful flesh of mine
I draw the Holy Sign,
All good thoughts stir within me, and renew
Their slumbering strength divine;
Till there springs up a courage high and true
To suffer and to do.

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