“Why do we make the Sign of the Cross?” Father Brooke helps parents answer this question from kids, and provides some “bricks” for building their faith, too.
by Father Geoffrey A. Brooke Jr.
How do I teach my kids about why we make the Sign of the Cross when we pray?
We Belong to God
The first thing we are doing when we make the Sign of the Cross is that we are claiming ourselves for Christ, for God. We are reminding ourselves that by the nature of our baptism we belong to God as his adopted sons and daughters.
How might you explain that to your children? Look around the house. Do you label anything? Perhaps if you have multiple children, you put their names on various things so as to avoid confusion (and conflict). Maybe you have some special items monogramed with their name or initials? You can point out that in a way when we make the Sign of the Cross, we are “labeling” ourselves for God. We are “etching” his name on us.
Interestingly, the Catechism of the Catholic Church provides three times, not just prayer alone, when we should make the Sign of the Cross: When one “begins his day, his prayers and his activities” (CCC 2157).
By beginning the day with the Sign of Cross, we offer the day for God, no matter what blessings or challenges may come our way. By beginning prayer with the Sign of the Cross, we set aside that time in a particular way for God. While “activities” remain somewhat ambiguous, we can see how we offer up the various activities throughout the day for his greater glory. This could be household chores offered up in sacrificial love for example. A popular place we see this everyday is in sports. By making the Sign of the Cross we can try to deflect attention away from the individual and offer one’s successes for God’s greater glory.
A second approach to understanding this question is through an understanding that in prayer by making the Sign of the Cross we are directly addressing God. To explain this to your child, perhaps point out that when they talk to their teacher, they address them as “Mr. or Mrs. or Miss.,” but when they talk to a priest they call him “Father.” Similarly when we make the Sign of the Cross we are addressing God. No, this doesn’t mean that God won’t hear our prayers if we don’t make the Sign of the Cross. However, it does help to focus one’s prayers. To set aside this time as time for conversation directed toward God.
- More specifically, ask your children to lead prayers when you gather as a family to pray, so that they can learn the importance and value of prayer.
- For something a little different, have your children begin the day with the Sign of the Cross. When you go to get them out of bed in the morning, instead of just flashing the lights until they reluctantly arise and offer a mumbled, “good morning,” have them make the Sign of the Cross with you. You could also repeat this when leaving the house in the morning.
Father Geoffrey A. Brooke Jr., is a priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City. He has an S.T.L. in fundamental theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Additionally, he contributes columns to Catholic News Service. He can be found on all social media platforms with the handle @PadreGeoffrey, and his web site www.padregeoffrey.com