ROME – On Wednesday, Pope Francis said that to make the sign of the cross is to mark ourselves as Christians, and that it is something we should do often to remind ourselves that we belong to God.
“The cross is the badge that shows who we are: our speaking, thinking, looking, working [we are] under the sign of the cross, that is, the love of Jesus, to the end,” the pope said April 18.
“Making the sign of the cross when we wake up, before meals, before a danger, to defend against evil, [at] night before sleep means to tell ourselves and others who we belong to, who we want to be.”
Francis spoke about the sign of the cross during the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Reflecting on its connection to the sacrament of baptism, he offered the suggestion of keeping a small dish of holy water at home, so that, “every time we come back or go out, making the sign of the cross with that water, we remember that we are baptized.”
“In fact, what happens in the celebration of baptism arouses a spiritual dynamic that passes through the whole life of the baptized; it is the beginning of a process that allows one to live united to Christ in the Church,” Francis stated.
He explained that it is good for us to increase our understanding of the gift we received on the day of our baptism, in order “to renew the commitment to respond to it in the condition in which we find ourselves today.”
For this reason, the pope explained the process of the Baptismal Rite, which he said begins with the welcoming rite, when the priest or other celebrant asks what the name is of the person to be baptized.
This, Francis pointed out, is like when we meet someone for the first time and we immediately introduce ourselves in order to remove “anonymity.”
“God calls each one by name, loving us individually, in the concreteness of our history,” he said, explaining that in a Baptism we use the person’s individual name because God’s call is “personal” and not a “copy and paste” situation.
“In fact, Christian life is interwoven with a series of calls and answers: God continues to pronounce our name over the years, making his call to conform to his Son Jesus resound in a thousand ways,” he said.
“So, the name is important!” he continued, urging parents to choose the name of their child carefully, even before the child is born.
Francis also noted the importance the sign of the cross plays in the Baptismal Rite, like in the baptism of children, when the parents and godparents express the desire for the sacrament on behalf of the child, demonstrating it through the sign of the cross traced on the forehead of the child.
“The sign of the cross expresses the seal of Christ on the one who is about to belong to him and signifies the grace of redemption that Christ has acquired for us through his cross,” he said, quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
He also explained the way adult catechumens are marked with a cross, on each of the senses.
They are crossed with the following words, he said: “Receive the sign of the cross on your ears to hear the voice of the Lord; On the eyes to see the splendor of the face of God; On the mouth, to answer the word of God; On the chest, because Christ dwells through faith in your hearts; On the shoulders, to support the gentle yoke of Christ.”
“Christians become the extent to which the cross is imprinted in us as an ‘Easter’ mark, making visible, even outwardly, the Christian way of facing life,” he said.