The Sign of the Cross
The Sign of the Cross, like each of the other foundational prayers, comes from the time of Christ & His Apostles. This is not something that worldly intellectuals & other people of modern times wish to believe, but here is not the place to go into the logic & evidence ‘proving’ them wrong. That can be done in another section at another time (such as in Questions & Answers or Books & Articles). My concern right now is simply to provide the prayer for those of good will --- for those who take the Catholic Church seriously, or who are actually converting to Her --- that they may learn to use the Sign of the Cross rightly, along with enough details that they may do so with intelligence of mind & fervency of heart.
Almost immediately after the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the 120 disciples in Jerusalem at Pentecost (10 days after Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven and 50 days after His Resurrection from the Dead), the Twelve Apostles, under the inspiration of this same Holy Spirit, sanctioned this short prayer for the edification of all Catholics everywhere until the end of the world. The words of the prayer are simultaneously combined, under normal circumstances, with the ‘making’ of the Sign itself upon the head & chest. That is to say, as one says the words of the prayer, one at the same time uses the fingers of his right hand to trace upon his head & chest the outline of a cross. This tracing of a Cross begins at the forehead (“In the Name of the Father…”), proceeds vertically down the chest to near the heart (“…and of the Son…”), then goes to the left shoulder (“…and of the…”), from there moving horizontally across to the right shoulder (“…Holy Ghost.”), where it ends (“Amen.”).
Probably most people have seen this prayer mimed by someone somewhere, if only in a movie or TV program that tends to mock the teachings & practices of the Catholic Church. Such mockery is contemptible, albeit to be expected during our wicked times and given the ignorance of most people toward the things of Heaven. Good Catholics may say about such persons, along with Jesus on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34b-c DRC) However, Catholics must not willingly consent to this mockery. For instance, if part of an ‘entertainment’, then the usual response for a Catholic to take would be to turn the television off or walk out of the theatre lest he not only offend God by failing to uphold His Honor, but allow men to think the ridicule is acceptable. For how are they to conclude otherwise when they see a man who calls himself Catholic sitting there quietly in sight of the mockery, obviously unperturbed? Actions indeed speak louder than words!
A Catholic should say this prayer both before & after another prayer. He should make the Sign of the Cross (though not necessarily having to say the words aloud) when passing a church sanctuary that he knows contains the Eucharistic Flesh & Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (this is rare today due to the scarcity of Catholics & complete absence of real Catholic priests, nevertheless, there are enough illicit priests that, every once in a while, one may encounter a place where the actual Body & Blood of Jesus are reserved, being held captive by heretics), or, if ever fortunate enough to have a lawful priest, when he enters the sanctuary in which this priest performs Mass and keeps the Eucharist in the Tabernacle. He should pray the Sign of the Cross when in physical danger or upon entering a place that he suspects is afflicted by demons. A Catholic should pray the Sign of the Cross prior to any significant endeavor or going on a journey, even a short distance. He may also make the Sign of the Cross toward the area in front of himself instead of upon his head & chest. To wit, if seeking to bless a room, area, object or other person, he may trace the cross with his right hand held out in front of him away from himself, or over the object or person, saying the words of the prayer while, of course, always synchronized with the reverent motions of his hand as he starts from the top of the sign, moves to the bottom of the sign, and completes the sign with a horizontal trace from left to right.
Yet what is the significance, you may ask, of this prayer & its accompanying sign? Very simple. The Catholic Faith is founded upon the twin doctrinal pillars of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Viz., all Catholic Teaching rests upon the fact of God being One Divine Being in Three Divine Persons (Father, Son & Holy Ghost) and upon the fact of the Second Person of that Holy Trinity (God the Son) become a Man, via the Holy & Sacred Womb of the Blessed Ever-Virgin Mary, Who offered up His Divine Self in Eternal Sacrifice on the Cross for the debt of men’s sins. In saying the words of the prayer we plainly affirm our belief in the Existence of the Holy Trinity; in tracing the Cross upon our heads & chests we clearly affirm our belief in the Sacrifice of the Incarnation.
Directly beneath this explanatory note are the words of the prayer in both English & Latin. It is not necessary to know the Latin. However, it is helpful to learn it at some point in the future: Latin is the ancient language of the Roman Catholic Church, a language now no longer spoken apart from religious purposes, and, as such, the language has itself become a ‘sacramental’. I.e., the words of Latin are now hallowed by long sacred use, the supernatural power of God Almighty operating through their reverent enunciation. I therefore provide the Latin form of most prayers so that good Roman Catholics may, wherever they wish, obtain its benefits.
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In the Name of the Father,
And of the Son,
And of the Holy Ghost.
In Nómine Patris,
Et Spíritus Sancti.
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© 2008 by Paul Doughton.
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