If you’ve ever been afraid to make the sign of the cross in public, you’re not alone. A lot of us Catholics have done that. Sometimes we make the sign of the cross really quickly, so that people won’t notice. We might even pretend to be swatting a fly or scratching our fore head to begin making the sign as we say grace before lunch in the cafeteria or in a crowded restaurant.
I certainly have been guilty of this. Once in high school I tried to make a mini sign of the cross in hyper speed so my friends wouldn’t see and mock me. When I went to begin with “In the name of the Father . . . ” I raised my hand towards my forehead so quickly and haphazardly that I poked myself in the eye. I remember feeling pretty silly afterwards, and when I got home I prayed about it. I decided I no longer wanted to be ashamed of my faith. God had to (almost) let me become blind so that I could see what was really happening.
Did you know that Christians have been marking themselves with the sign of the cross for almost 2,000 years? Many of us think of the sign of the cross as a way to “sign in” or “sign out” of prayer. While we typically do start and end prayer this way, it’s not because its just another rule we follow. The sign of the cross is actually a simple prayer, inviting God to be present and bless us. There is power in the name of the Lord. So we call upon “the name which is above every other names” and trust that He hears us.
It’s also a sign of protection. To be afraid of making the sign of the cross in public shows we are missing some of the truth about it! In marking ourselves with the cross, we invite God and all the holy saints and angels to swarm us and protect us. Now that is some seriously awesome stuff. Read this quote by St. Cyril of Jerusalem:
“Let the cross, as our seal, be boldly made with our fingers upon our brow and on all occasions; over the bread we eat, over the cups we drink; in our comings and in our goings; before sleep; on lying down and rising up; when we are on our way, and when we are still. It is a powerful sign indeed, for it is a grace from God, a badge of the faithful, and a terror to the devils . . . For when they see the cross, they are reminded of the Crucified; they fear Him who has smashed the heads of the dragons.”
At one point in my life I thought it would look silly to make the sign of the cross in public. Now I see it's silly not to make the sign of cross as often as I can! So I encourage you to no longer be afraid or hesitant to publicly pronounce who you are and Who you belong to.
Let worry of ridicule no longer keep you from making a reverent gesture, a simple prayer, an expression of unwavering faith in the Triune God. And now when someone asks “what the heck did you just do?”, you can tell them a little more about it.
Be bold. Be Gods.