Some people bless themselves – make the Sign of the Cross – when they pass a church. What does it mean? Perhaps only God knows. It is a prayer, an invocation, a visible act of faith, a public yet personal gesture as you pass “God’s house” – “teach Dé” – “teach an phobail”. It is a reminder of how precious and universal that gesture is: to bless yourself in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
You see people blessing themselves in all sorts of situations: absentmindedly on the way into church; solemnly at the end of Mass; in thankful delight, as with sports people; poignantly, in the case of mourners at a grave. In extreme sickness, when the brain can no longer form words and the only way we can turn to God may be with our feeble fingers, forming a cross. This sign can grow hurried and thoughtless through custom, but in moments of crisis and deep emotion, there are few gestures as rich in meaning as blessing ourselves. Perhaps this is the meaning of Jesus’ command. “Let your light shine before all…….. so that people, seeing your good works, may glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Our Lord’s words are not about coercing people into religion but about doing good in a visible way.