The sign of the cross. (maybe IMHO).

This thread is part question and part opinion.
There is an article at wiki about the gesture, but I’m left with a couple questions: Does the gesture have another name? And is wiki correct about by whom it is used (Anglicans and lutherans etc)?
I’m an ex-catholic and we did it often, but I never knew any other religion to do so. And it’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone make the sign in public. I’m wondering if catholics still do. I do realize that there are a lot fewer than there once were.
Also, people from Mexico and South America would add a kiss to the fingers at the end of the gesture, and wiki doesn’t mention that.
When I was a kid, we ascribed (encouraged by the church) a magical aspect to the sign of the cross, using it as one would a luck charm. I’ve seen delinquents sign before doing something considered immoral. Shoplifting, for example, and worse.

“Lutherans” come in different flavors, like Baptists and Methodists. And in my experience, having been raised in the ELCA church, those particular Lutherans do not cross themselves. So the Wiki article in that respect is perhaps not exactly “wrong”, but merely indulging in too sweeping a generalization. The ELCA would also be miffed at finding themselves left out of “The gesture is mostly absent in the practice of Protestant denominations”, considering themselves as definitely Protestants.

We were taught in Lutheran Confirmation classes how to do it and probably when to do it, but I never saw anyone do it in church. I think we were also told it was optional.

When my brother was married in a Catholic church with my Lutheran pastor co-presiding, the Lutheran pastor did it. It was kind of funny because one half of the church (the bride’s Catholic family) did it and the other did not.

Haven’t you ever seen Greek Orthodox and/or Russian Orthodox make the sign, but do so a bit “backwards” at shoulder level?

Catholics touch the left shoulder, then the right.

Those other folks touch the right shoulder first. At least this is how I observed them making the sign of the cross.

At any rate, it isn’t just Catholics who make the Sign of the Cross.

I am an ELCA Lutheran, and I do it during the invocation, the absolution, and the benediction. It is optional, and we used never to do it (forty years ago).

My wife and I are unusual in our church, in that we do it. She was raised Roman Catholic, but I was doing it before I met her. I tend to be high church.


My wifes’s aunt crosses herself when just passing by a church in a car.

When I was in Ireland, I was told “spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch”.

It’s ubiquitous in Ireland - people in churches, even very lapsed Catholics like my wife, do this reflexively whenever they cross the sightline of the altar. I’ve also seen people doing this when passing churches too.

In Church of England services I’ve observed about 20% of people doing this during the service or when passing the altar, though in High Church a higher proportion, and often with a curtsey in the aisle.

I’m Catholic from childhood & a year during Grad school, but mainly raised in Evangelicalism & have been Charismatic for over 20 years. I still cross myself.

I’ve certainly seen it many times in an Episcopal church. It is quite rare in the United Church of Christ, however.

I wouldn’t think it was only catholics, but didn’t know. Ignorance has been vanquished.
BTW; Signing "backwards, that is left then right, was a “bozo nono” in my church circle. It was akin to being left-handed. “Left Hand Path” and all that. :dubious:

So what about the kissing of fingers? Some of anglos, especially the younger ones, affected the custom back then.

The only time I see people do this is when the make a cross with the index finger and the thumb. Thus, it’s akin to blessing oneself with a cross and kissing one.

all depends on whether you are eastern church or western church, barnowl. backward is in the eye of the beholder. i would figure each would see the other as going the wrong way with the wrong shape.

orthodox church goes right to left and has a different hand shape, than the catholic church.

i was given to understand that the “kissing” after blessing custom in the catholic church came from having a rosary in the hand. kissing the cross of the rosary, at the end. it continues even without a rosary. rather automatic.

I meant the “backward” thing lightly. I hope no Greeks or Russians took a fence.

In my ELCA congregation about one-third do it. It’s optional, and it seems only the older members do it.

It is called persignation. The kissing part was normally done when you do it with a rosary, which you hold by the cross. When you finish doing the sign, you kiss the cross. It doesn’t make much sense kissing your fingers when you have no cross, but many people do it out of habit, or just copying the old rosary ladies or the priests.

It is still very commonly used by catholics. A good number of people I know will do it as they start any car trip, or any activity that requires some skill or luck. Sportsmen do it very often before an important play or after a score.

Oh, yeah. I just remembered seeing a doing a very small and kinda hidden sign of the cross on one knee after making a TD, I think it was.
I’m not a fan, so I won’t recall who it was.
Persignation, huh? My spellcheck didn’t like that. :smiley: But I do. Thanks.

But, who I observed doing the sign was a football player. That’s obvious, I know, but what the hell, huh.

Google is not liking it much, either. Google Suggest won’t offer it and a search gives you only 5 results (two of which are from other forums where someone is asking this same question).

The Latin is “persignare” and its direct translation is present in most romantic languages I know. The english form is very seldom used. I did four years in a Catholic seminar (in the US) and only a handful of the most old school guys used it.

It’s used during Eucharist as Shodan noted, quite commonly at a reference to “Father Son and Holy Spirit” in those words, and also when receiving a (liturgical) blessing to oneself. It’s a standard custom to “reverence the altar” – i.e., when entering a sanctuary where there i an altar or when “crossing” the altar, i.e., moving in such a manner that one passes in front of the altar. Reverencing the altar can be done either by a genuflection, a bow or inclination of the head, or crossing oneself, with the second choice most common in my experience. This also applies when passing in front of something else (e.g., a tabernacle) holding the Reserved Sacrament (consecrated elements preserved for use at the next Eucharist or if needed to commune someone taken ill).

As to who does it, Catholics, Old Catholics, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox (subject to the notes above, and with the caveat that my comments above may not match Orthodox practice), Anglicans including Episcopalians, some Lutherans, Moravians IIRC, and probably a corporal’s guard of Protestant groups.