26 January 2011

"It Is Important To Make It Well"

For the word of the Cross, to those indeed that perish, is foolishness; but to those that are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18). With Christ I am nailed to the Cross. And I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me. And that I live now in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and delivered Himself for me (Galatians 2:20). God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).

As Catholics, the Sign of the Cross is something we make often. Perhaps it is so repetitious that it is often a robotic gesture, something that is done without much thought or personal attention. But the Sign of the Cross is also a prayer and should be made with the same care as the most urgent petitions that approach the Throne of grace. The Sign of the Cross expresses the belief in our redemption and our belief in the Most Holy Trinity.

Tertullian, an early Church Father, wrote: "In all our travels and movements, in all our comings and goings, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the Sign of the Cross" (Liber De Corona Militis). And from Saint Cyril of Jerusalem are these words: "Let us not be ashamed of the Cross of our Saviour, but rather glory in it. For it was not a mere man who died for us, but the Son of God, God made man. Many have been crucified throughout the world, but by none of these are the devils scared; but when they see even the Sign of the Cross of Christ, Who was crucified for us, they shudder (Catechesis XIII).

There is more than one way that the Sign of the Cross can be made. In her book, 'An Infinity of Little Hours' the author, Nancy Klein Macguire, writes: "They [the Carthusian monks] have their own Carthusian Sign of the Cross: to honor the Trinity, they make the Sign of the Cross with their first two fingers and thumb held together, their gesture describing a uniquely large cross, with their hands brushing the outside of each shoulder." Eastern rite Catholics and Orthodox Christians make the Sign of the Cross similar to the Carthusians only the direction is different. In the East they touch the right shoulder first and then the left.

Saint Bernadette Soubirous had the great pleasure of being taught by our Blessed Mother how to make the Sign of the Cross. Father Robert F. McNamara, author of 'Saints Alive' wrote: "Whether in the Rosary or at any other time, from the days of the Lourdes apparitions on, Bernadette was noted for the wonderful way she made the Sign of the Cross. One observer at the grotto later wrote, 'If the Sign of the Cross is made in heaven, it can only be made in this manner.' Everybody marveled at the way she crossed herself -- slowly, reverently, 'with majesty.'

'It is important to make it well,' she told one of her fellow novices in the convent. The sisters respected the way she blessed herself, because they knew who had taught her. It was Our Lady herself, during the Lourdes apparitions."

It has also been said that there are those, after witnessing Saint Bernadette make the Sign of the Cross, had a conversion experience. Regardless of what style or tradition one follows, the Sign of the Cross should be made with great reverence, because like genuflecting and bowing, it is yet another way that we pray with the physical body.