Simple yet profound


Traditions are accepted unquestioningly and become as natural as breathing and blinking, but I’ve had a lifelong preoccupation with why we cross ourselves three times before the gospel is read.

Crossing oneself

Although I’m not one with roaming eyeballs in church— Mom was adamant about that— I’ve observed variations of the triple crossing before the gospel.  Some dot the four edges of the cross on their forehead, mouth, and heart, while others make the sign of the cross with their thumb.  I’ve also noticed that, while no one struggles to get it right, some perform the ritual so gracefully that it’s elegantly genuine.

With countless observations in the field I was ready.  Sooo, in 2005, I took the plunge.

If I make the ritual uniquely mine, it’ll make sense to me. 

I felt awkward at first— actually, for some time— but practice has its perks.  I’m okay with it now; but every single time before the gospel’s read, the simple act of crossing myself three times still makes me self-conscious.

Do others fumble with the ritual as I have?  Or are they perfectly at ease with the tradition? 

How can something so simple be so complex?

Perfect explanation

Until yesterday when I received Father Brummel’s weekly devotion from the Claretian National Shrine of St. Jude, I’d never thought to ask, nor had anyone thought to explain, the significance of the triple crossing before the gospel is read during Mass.

“We make the sign of the cross over our forehead, lips, and heart… praying that God’s powerful Word might always be in our minds, on our lips, and in our hearts.”


Father Brummel’s simple yet profound explanation was so insightful that I’m still smiling.

More to ponder

Only now, this inquiring mind is percolating another thought.

At Mass back home, the Alleluia is always sung before and after the gospel and is followed by the sign of the cross after the homily.  Is this not a universal practice?

Note: Only when the bishop is present during Mass is the Alleluia sung after the gospel (Fr. Frank Martinez, STL; Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 7.22.17).


Behold the cross of the Lord!  Begone all evil powers!  The lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has conquered!  Alleluia, alleluia! (St. Anthony).

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.  Amen.

O Father, your power is greater than all powers.  O Son, under your leadership we cannot fear anything.  O Spirit, under your protection there is nothing we cannot overcome (#72: Kikuyu, Kenya).

June 15, 2014

“Think of the Father as a root, and of the Son as a branch, and of the Spirit as a fruit; for the substance in these three is one” (St. John Damascus).

April 4, 2015

“His sign is the sign of the cross, the death that leads to transfiguration” (Fr. Robert Barron).

March 24, 2016

“The sign of the cross is a seal at sight of which the destroying angel passes on and does us no harm” (St. John Damascene de Boulogne).

April 21, 2016

When making the sign of the cross, therefore, we confess three great mysteries: the Trinity, the Passion, and the remission of sins by which we are moved from the left, the hand of the curse, to the right, the hand of blessing (St. Francis de Sales in The Sign of the Cross).

June 13, 2016

The devil is afraid of us when we pray and make sacrifices.  He is also afraid when we are humble and good.  He is especially afraid when we love Jesus very much.  He runs away when we make the sign of the cross (St. Anthony of Padua).

December 20, 2016

Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself.  Do not lose courage in considering you own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them— every day begin the task anew (St. Francis de Sales in The Sign of the Cross).

June 11, 2017

Lord Jesus Christ, who for the redemption of the world gave your life completely even unto death on a cross, we lift up your glorious cross as our sign of salvation.  Through your infinite love you transformed the hated cross, an instrument of humiliation and suffering, into the holy cross, a symbol of victory over the powers of sin and death.  For this reason, we wear the holy cross around our necks, hang the cross in our homes, and now sign ourselves with that cross.  [In] the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen (Stephen J. Binz in Saint Junipero Serra’s Camino: A Pilgrimage Guide to the California Missions).

April 6, 2017

“When making the Sign of the Cross, therefore, we confess three great mysteries: the Trinity, the Passion, and the remission of sins, by which we are moved from the left, the hand of the curse, to the right, the hand of blessing.”

—St. Francis de Sales, The Sign of the Cross


St. James Church – Bishop, TX

Links of interest…  100 prayers…  Ascension & our journey home…  Blessing your children…  Bored at Mass? A 7-step method to fix that…  Bowing at Mass…  Claretians: blog / faith reflections national shrine / prayers / videos (YT)…  Holy water: hidden poweruse, & why…  How geometry expresses Christian truths in art / to dispose of sacramentalswe fill our space…  John Adams & the Mass…  Kneeling ban: Good liturgy or loss of religious freedom…  Make Christ present, wherever you are…  Mystery of the beloved apostle…  Ritual & prayer are what we have in common…  Sacred vessels & linens used at Mass…  Sharing a faith with spectacular sinners…  Sign of the cross: 21 things we do / about / & our baptismbeautiful gesture / book / homilyhow to make (more) / our faith / significance / what is / why Catholics do this…  Spiritual power of church bells / significance of genuflecting…  St. Francis de Sales: Treatise on the love of God: bookebook (more) / quotessummary…  Symbolism of numbers…  Thomas à Kempis: Imitation of Christ…  Three powerful sacramentals for your home  We are all marked men & women…  What do the hand gestures in icons mean / does it matter if my rosary is blessed…  Where did the Bible come from…  Why Christians use the fish symbol / churches have columns / churches have Mary on the left & Joseph on the right / Catholics genuflectwe fold our hands in prayer / we pray “world without end”…  Yale offers free online courses in the Early Middle Ages

WP posts…  Church time blues…  Concrete abstraction…  Dear God…  Gifts…  October novena…  Our music…  Prayer power…  Seven dwelling places…  St. Anthony Claret…  St. Jude Shrine (Chicago)…  Two angels

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.