The Catholic Sign of the Cross is absolutely ancient, rooted not only
in the Old Testament but the New. When Catholics undergo the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Bishop seals the sign on our foreheads
with holy chrism.
Crossing one's self recalls this seal, and the invocation that is said
while making this holy sign calls on our God -- In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen. -- and is a sign of
our of belief; it is both a "mini-creed" that asserts our belief in the Triune God, and a prayer that invokes Him. The use
of holy water when making this sign, such as we do when we enter a church, also recalls our Baptism and should bring to mind
that we are born again of water and Spirit, thanks be to God.
Because of what the Sign indicates the very Cross of
our salvation, Satan hates it, and our using it makes demons flee. Make the Sign in times of temptation and confusion for
great spiritual benefit.
Most Western Catholics make the Sign of the Cross with their right
hand by touching the thumb and ring finger together, and holding your index finger and middle finger together to signify
the two natures of Christ. Our method is to hold your thumb, index finger, and middle finger of your right hand together,
signifying the Trinity, while tucking the ring finger and pinky finger, signifying the two natures of Christ, toward
your palm. It is customary after signing oneself to kiss the thumb
as if kissing the cross with which one just signed oneself with.
I think it appropriate at this point to sum up with a brief passage
from Parkminster's book, First Initiation into Carthusian Life:
"The gestures we make during the Liturgy
are the prayer of our bodies. Like everything else in the liturgy, they should be beautiful and evocative of the sublime mystery
of God. They can be very helpful both in developing and expressing profound attitudes of humility, adoration, etc.
us therefore acquire the habit of making them with respect, attention and an awareness of their deeper meaning. A gesture
made in a slovenly way is like a word badly pronounced -- its meaning is obscured. To give an example: a profound bow should
be made with dignity, slowly, as a visible sign of our interior adoration.
"A sign of the Cross can be at one and the
same time, a profession of faith and the consecration of our whole being to the Blessed Trinity. ... So let us make all these
gestures just as carefully and meaningfully in private as we do in Church for we are always in the Lord's presence. This is
a discipline which helps to deepen our prayer." [pp. 80-81]