When to Make the Sign of the Cross? 25 Suggestions

I love the Sign of the Cross.

I love the movement from head to heart to shoulders. I love the words, “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” I love how familiar it feels, and how comforting it is, and how powerful a sign of our Faith it is.

Sign of the Cross p36 Carmody edit

But sometimes I wonder, when can I do it? When does one make the Sign of the Cross?

So I made a short list of times when you can make the Sign of the Cross. These are by no means exhaustive but they should be enough to get us started.

1. Before you pray, make the Sign of the Cross.

2. After you pray, make the Sign of the Cross.

3. When you wake up in the morning, dimly aware you should pray, but you’re so groggy that you can’t possible put together a coherent sentence or even remember a prayer, make the Sign of the Cross. (This is a considerable improvement on “Our Father who sleeps… as it is in Heaven… and deliver us from our daily bread… Abed.”)

4. When you’re a successful athlete and just won that really important race/game/point/contest/meet, make the Sign of the Cross.

5. When you want to worship Almighty God, honour the Incarnation and the two natures of Christ, laud the Holy Cross of our redemption, and emphasis the Christian’s call to carry around the death of Christ in our bodies at the same time, make the Sign of the Cross.

We begin with the forehead: it is the head, creation – the Father; then the heart: love, life, redemption – the Son; then the shoulders: strength – the Holy Ghost. Everything reminds us of the Cross.” (St. John Vianney)

6. When you have about three seconds to live, make the Sign of the Cross.

tumblr_lypxpu9FGL1r5a3cgo1_5007. When you’re passing in front of a church, make the Sign of the Cross.. (The general rule, at least as far as I can make it out is that if you can see the tabernacle, you genuflect but if you can’t, you make the Sign of the Cross.)

8. Speaking of genuflections, when you want to add a little flourish, make the Sign of the Cross.

9. When you want to weird people out on public transport, make the Sign of the Cross.

10. When you’re feeling baptismal, make the Sign of the Cross.

11. When you’re being all Catholic so your mother gets her Irish on and says “JAAAYSUS, Merry and Jooseph, gerl”, make the Sign of the Cross. (This leaves her in a delicious quandry as to whether you are concurring despite her irony or making reparation for said irony.)

12. When you’re St Benedict and some bitter monks try to poison you with a goblet of wine, make the Sign of the Cross, drink that thing anyway and voila, no poison!

13. When you bless yourself with Holy Water or the priest sprinkles drenches you with Holy Water, make the Sign of the Cross.

14. When you’re a monk helping the Doctor save the world and you find out a woman is involved, make the Sign of the Cross.

15. Or really, whenever you are in a sitcom and you need a punchline and you’re too lazy to come up with something worth saying, make the Sign of the Cross.

16. When you’re a disgraced member of the British aristocracy lying on your deathbed, about to be immortalised in a book by Evelyn Waugh, and surrounded by your Catholic wife and children – as well as that one agnostic kid who wants your house, falls in love with your daughter, and ends up narrating the very book you are now dying in, make the Sign of the Cross.

17. When you need protection against the devil, other evil spirits or the temptations of the world, make the Sign of the Cross.

“Let us, therefore, not be ashamed of the Cross of Christ; but though another hide it, do thou openly seal it upon thy forehead, that the devils may behold the royal sign and flee trembling far away.” (St Cyril of Jerusalem, 4th Century)

18. When you want to cause a schism in the Russian Orthodox Church over whether to make the sign of the Cross with two fingers alone or two fingers joined with the thumb and held at a point, make the Sign of the Cross. (Doing the latter would have gotten you arrested in 17th Century Russia.)

Vasily Surikov, A fragment of painting Boyarynya Morozova by Vasily Surikov depicting a defiant Old Believer arrested by the Czar's authorities in 1671. She holds two fingers raised: a hint of the old "proper" way of crossing oneself: with two fingers, rather than with three. 19th C.

Vasily Surikov, A fragment of painting Boyarynya Morozova by Vasily Surikov depicting a defiant Old Believer arrested by the Czar’s authorities in 1671. She holds two fingers raised: a hint of the old “proper” way of crossing oneself: with two fingers, rather than with three. 19th C.

19. When you’re a Protestant but you think it’s stupid that Catholics and Orthodox have a monopoly on something as awesome as the Sign of the Cross, make the sign of the Cross.

20. Before you eat Maccas, make the Sign of the Cross. Twice. (Did you know that the more unhealthy the food the more reverently you have to make the Sign of the Cross to offset all the calories? True fact.)

21. When you see + in a missal, make the Sign of the Cross. Did you make the Sign of the Cross just then? You could have… Go on, do it. (Wait, my blog isn’t a missal??)

22. When you are writing a post on the Sign of the Cross and you’re worried you’re heading dangerously close That Line One Should Not Cross Because Blasphemy Is A Sin, make the Sign of the Cross.

23. When you need a partial indulgence, make the Sign of the Cross.

A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who devoutly sign themselves with the sign of the cross, while saying the customary words: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

24. When you want to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified, make the Sign of the Cross.

25. And lastly, when you’re as adorable as this little girl, make the Sign of the Cross, because sweetie, you don’t need a reason. (Isn’t she just the cutest!!!)


Actually, even if you’re not as cute as this dear one (and let’s be honest, that’s probably most of us here), we still don’t need a “reason” to make the Sign of the Cross. And sure, we might be discouraged how Christians have been divided over the Sign and how our culture has satirised and sit-com-ised it. (That’s not even a word!) But that is because it is such a powerful and eloquent symbol. It shatters the status quo and so it should! 

As long as we are taking up our crosses and following Christ, let us make the Sign of the Cross.

“Let the sign of the cross be continually made on the heart, on the mouth, on the forehead, at table, at the bath, in bed, coming in and going out, in joy and sadness, sitting, standing, speaking, walking in short, in all our actions. Let us make it on our breasts and all our members, that we may be entirely covered with this invincible armor of Christians.” (St Gaudentius, c. 4th Century)


  1. says

    I taught myself the Sign from a YouTube video, after I started attending Mass. I learned the (new?) Eastern way, three fingers joined together In a point to represent the Trinity, two folded down to represent Christ’s human and divine natures. And I don’t need any reason at all to do it!

    • says

      Haha, of course!! And yes, I agree that our solemn duty as Catholics is to eat McDonalds… It’s certainly my way of contributing to the New Evangelisation. ;)

    • says

      Oh dear, that’s my Australian coming through!! It’s what we call McDonalds. ;) Because being Australian we have to shorten everything! I’m so used to it I didn’t even think. Hehe, sorry! :)

  2. Julia Smucker says

    I too have long had an affinity for the sign of the cross and have at times felt compelled to do it before I had any thought of being Catholic. Thanks for unpacking some of the richness in this simple yet meaningful gesture. When you get a bit tongue-in-cheek about it, I don’t see this as approaching blasphemy at all but actually helping to illustrate its beauty in an unpretentious way.

    I’ve always been ambivalent about the athlete one. It looks somewhat presumptuous to me when I see athletes crossing themselves to celebrate a victory or a big point or something like that – as if they’re saying that God is on their side and helping them win. What about the Catholics (and other Christians) on the other team?

    On a different note, I got a big kick out of that picture of Stephen Colbert (who, incidentally, can be quite brilliant at showing glimpses of his genuine faith through the satire).

    • Julia Smucker says

      I forgot to mention, about Colbert, that he crossed himself on his show recently, and it was brilliant because on one level he was doing it ironically in response to something weird that some politician said, but knowing that he is a devout Catholic, I wondered if at a deeper level he meant it sincerely as a counter to the nationalistic blasphemy – sort of like your “delicious quandary” in #11.

  3. Stephen says

    I like the patristic quotes and the tips for new opportunities to make the sign of our salvation upon our bodies, redeemed by the crucified and risen One.

    A question? Can a Latin rite Christian make the Byzantine sign of the cross? Will the Roman rite congregation be alarmed or just think I’m an Oriental rite Christian, worshipping with the Westerners?

    I find the thumb and the two forefingers held together as three to represent our Triune God deeply significant. The longer downwards action (to the navel) makes the signing seem like a true cross symbol, not someone brushing lint off their coat. Left to right or right to left, who’s really fussed?

    And if I’m lazy, or not wanting to freak the general public out when not in church, can I simply trace the cross on my forehead with my thumb?

    And, ‘under usual conditions’, would I receive that indulgence?

  4. says

    In Syriac-East. The Sign of the cross is done with three fingers representing the Trinity. And the index finger slightly in front representing the One Way to Heaven (Our Lord Jesus).

    The hand goes up to the forehead then to the breast then from the left shoulder to the right shoulder.

    This represents our Lord coming from the heights of heaven to earth. and he redeemed us from the gloomy path of darkness (left) to the path of truth and light (right)


Let me know what you think!