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  • Writer's pictureMichaela A de Guire

Why do Catholics use the Sign of the Cross?

“In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.” This is always found at the beginning and the end of each prayer said by a Catholic, while the motion of the sign of the cross is being made on our body, using our right hand. Why is this? Why is the prayer said at the start and end of each prayer? And, why the right hand?

Saint Rosalia holding the Crucifix

When we are preparing to pray to the Lord our Father, to the Son of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, one or all three persons in God, we are reminding ourselves that when we pray we are always engaging the whole God. All three persons in One are always present, you cannot separate them just because you are only praying to One. Thus, it is a reminder that we are addressing the Trinity in our prayer.

Another reason we say the Sign of the Cross as we cross our body, is it is a reminder that we come to God in humility. By actively doing this gesture, while saying the words we are reminded that we are saved by Jesus’s sacrifice for us on the cross. Without His sacrifice we would not have this wonderful relationship with God. Just as our prayers begin and end with the Sign of the Cross, our relationship with God begins and ends with the selfless act of Jesus dying for us on the cross.

Palm branch cross

Everyone's journey to faith and a deepening of faith and their relationship with God looks different from others. Your faith journey is unique. I have wondered why the right hand is so important when gesturing the “Sign of the Cross”, I do not yet know where to find the correct answer, however, this is what I believe thus far. We use our right hand to motion the cross, from our forehead, to our breast, then to our left shoulder, and finally to our right shoulder, because we believe as it is stated in the Nicene Creed and the Bible, “Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father Almighty”. Thus, using our right hand is a reminder of this.

Therefore, with each prayer started and ended with the Sign of the Cross we are reminding ourselves of the Trinity and what Jesus has done for us. With each of these reminders we are humbled and come to God in our prayer in a deeper, more beautiful way than we could without these small meaningful reminders.

The sign of the Cross is found at the beginning and end of the Mass, at the beginning and end of the Rosary, at the beginning and end of the meal prayers, at the beginning and end of each prayer I say, and I hope the same for you.

The Sign of the Cross might be a small prayer, but it has a huge impact. When you have no words to say, but are feeling a little down, off, or the like, I find the sign of the Cross can work wonders. I often say it when I need just a little boost of energy, a small bit of assistance, or just as a prayer for another.

This small and mighty prayer is used by so many Catholics around the world. If you have not incorporated it in your everyday life, I encourage you to do so now.

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