Should Christians perform the sign of the cross?

By Paul Dion, STL

No matter where you go, in front of your mirror, your friend's house, your favorite restaurant or church on Sunday you will see someone tracing the sign of the cross over their body. It is the most prominent prayer of the Catholic church and is even believed to be somekind of secret membership signal of Catholics.

When I first head that, I was shocked. Secret Signlal? Whoa! I was never told that even in Massachusetts, home of the Congregationalists.

So, what do you think of the Sign of the Cross? Do you fearlessly start your prayer before meals with the sign of the cross in the restaurant with your children? Do you make the sign of the cross at your company picnic before digging in to the chili pot? Why do you make the sign of the cross in the first place?

Let us know what you think. Post your comments below.


  1. Oh Boy!
    I remember I made a comment about people making the sign of the cross by habit and almost by reflex. I did not think twice about it in my own mind. But wait! Maybe I was right. How do I
    know ?
    I was at my Bible study sessions last week and as is my habit, I choose a Psalm or part of one to open and close the session. After the prayer, I end, as is the church monastic tradition, with the doxology, "Glory be to the ..." Instead of aiming my eyes to the floor I kept them up and sure enough, there were people signing themselves with the cross during the "Glory Be..." I'm not saying that it is wrong, just that it is automatic. I ask of you, please make it a sincerely symbolic prayer.

    Paul Dion, STL
    Theology Editor

  2. After reading your qyestion, I feel guilty that the sign of the cross has become to me like an ordinary reactionary gesture. Thank you for reminding me to put more thought and meaning into what it truly is.

  3. Although, like most Catholics, I certainly have my times where the sign of the cross is performed less than reverently, I will say that when my heart, mind, and soul are working harmoniously, the sign of the cross rallies my strangth with the very first word, "In..." How powerful, when you think about it! IN the name of the Father... What permission we've been given in that special word "In" to join the Most Holy Trinity and allow the curtains of time and space to open...

  4. When I make the sign of the cross I don't think of it as symbolic, I think of it in term of honoring the Father the Son, and the Holy Ghost, whic tell me in everthing you do you do for the greater Glory of God the Fathe, Son, and Holy Ghost.

  5. After going to Pennsylvania with friends for a traditionalist student conference, we are even more fervent in our public witness to pray before meals. hehe... we do the sign of the cross in Latin... to your great discomfort, Paul :-)

    +In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spirtu Sancti. Amen

    After discovering the Tridentine Mass I discovered there were other parts of the Mass which gave us opportunity to do the sign of the Cross. When I went to a Melkite Divine Liturgy, I went into Sign of the Cross overload, with close to 50 signs of the cross during the Liturgy. Having been studying the Latin of the Mass of Paul VI, I realize that there are still more opportunities to do the sign other than the standard before and after the Mass...


  6. Laurence:
    Do you make the sign of the Cross verbally, or physically? If verbally, then you don't "cross yourself" with your hand, right? If physically, then you really don't need language, right, since it is a sign? For those of you who live on tghe other side of the planet, Laurence and I know one another, so I can treat him this way.
    By the way, all of you,remember the question was, "What does it mean?" the follow-up question is, "What hand do you use?"

    Paul Dion

  7. Yes,

    My therapy bills go straight to Paul's mailbox...

    This was probably another trick question. The sign of the cross never did refer to the vocal formula, In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritu Sancti. For the SIGN, by its very definition points to the true image.

    Scripture speaks of the cross being traced on the forehead of bealievers. Elsewhere we find the mark of the tau cross on the heads of those to be spared.

    So the sign of the cross is specifically the non-verbal sign we do physically.

    The sign and the Trinitarian forumula: in the beginning and the end of liturgy or prayer.

    The sign alone: during Holy Mass at the "Indulgentium..."(May almighty God have mercy... or any other part of Mass where it mentions blessings.

    The Trinitarian formula alone: never

  8. Dear Readers:
    Please indulge Laurence and me and our brand of humor. The point to all of this is, the sign of the cross is the sign of the Christian. The personal Sign of the Cross that Catholics fervently DO with their right hand and SAY fervently from their hearts is the distinctive sign of Catholics. We wear it proudly, in private and in public.


    Paul Dion, STL
    Theology Editor,

  9. “Humanity, once marvelously endowed with gratuitous riches in the state of original justice, has been still more marvelously redeemed from its sin under the sign of the cross.” (Philippe De La Trinite, OCD, What is Redemption, p. 39)

  10. harald5:05 PM

    What is a Sign? it is curtisy/ respect. We All Do it. in one way or another Look around you even animals do it.WE Have So Manny Signs, if you take 10 min you can come up with 20+ for Church aloun.and more for the out side of Church!

  11. Harald:
    More than a "sign" this is a call to "remember." Do this in memory of me. Remember my Passion, Death and Resurrection." Remember that God is Triune, "Father, Son and Holy Spirit." When Catholics bless themselves with the sign of the Cross, they bring themselves up to God just as Jesus did while on the Cross. They also Invite God down to them in a sacramental way. Yes, it is a sign, a sign that is productive. It causes a real connection between the human and the divine. In 10 minutes you cannot come up with 20+ that are this effective.