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Laura wrote:

Dear Mike,

My daughter was bombarded with objections to the Catholic Church by a group of Born-again
or Born-a-new Christian classmates. Amanda is 17, and thankfully she had the grace to let the kids know that she never feels the need to criticize the way other denominations worship.

The kids focused on how they don't have to make the Sign of the Cross and that their religion allows them to feel like real Christians, not like a denomination. She also said they weren't straight-edged, like Catholics. Amanda asked me later why they don't make the Sign of the Cross since Christ died for us and our sins on the Cross.

I'd like to know your thoughts on this, not so Amanda can go back to school and enter into a debate, but so I can share with her why some don't make the Sign of the Cross or respect others who do.

Sincerely,

Laura

  { Why don't Born-again Christians make the Sign of the Cross? }

Mike replied:

Dear Laura,

Thanks for your question.

Allow me to share with you the importance of the Sign of the Cross, from the Church's view,
from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

CCC 2157 The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the Sign of the Cross:

    "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior's grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father.

The sign of the cross strengthens us in temptations and difficulties.

In addition to what the Catechism says, I personally would say:

When Catholic Christians make the Sign of the Cross, we are renewing our:

  • Belief in Christ,
  • Love of Christ, and
  • (when done in public, which I recommend) making a public stance to stand up for Jesus in the work place and world.

As Catholics, we should especially make the Sign of the Cross when we pass or drive by a Catholic Church.

Why?

Because, our divine neighbor Jesus is there in the Eucharist in that parish!

When we make the Sign of the Cross, we are renewing to the world, the Baptismal promise we made:

  • as infants, through our parents, when we could not speak for ourselves and
  • as adults, at Confirmation, by our own choice.

Both times we promised to renounce Satan and his works, and renewed our willingness to believe in all the Church believes and partake in Divine Nature through the Sacramental Life of the Church.

Of course, we should only partake in Divine Nature when we are in a state of grace. That state comes through the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist on a regular basis, so we can carry out the special charism or state of life the Lord has put into our soul from the beginning of time.

You said in your e-mail:
The kids focused on how they don't have to make the Sign of the Cross, and that their religion allows them to feel like real Christians, not like a denomination. She also said they weren't straight-edged like Catholics.

First, the Catholic Church is not a denomination. The word denomination comes from a word which means "to designate". When Christians first broke from the Catholic Church, they had a variety of different sets of beliefs that were contrary to Catholic Christian beliefs. For that reason, they had to be designated a name for their group. Roman Catholics were the very first Christians and secular history bears this out. The only true word that designates [or names]
a Catholic, is Christian! Practicing Catholic Christians believe all the Teachings Jesus wants us to believe; we don't pick and choose.

Second, Christianity isn't mainly about feelings. There are issues dealing with pastoral care of the faithful and meeting their spiritual needs, but Christianity is based:

  • on real historical facts and occurrences, and
  • on Divine [teachings/beliefs] given to us by God himself [Jesus Incarnate] that have been pasted down through history for 2000 years through the Church He founded on St. Peter and His successors, the Catholic Church.

When they tell Amanda, she is a "straight edged" Catholic they are telling her, she believes in the truth. Did Jesus say:

"I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. He who feels good about me will never die"?

or did he said:

"I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. He who believes in me will never die".

Matthew 16:13-20, 1 Timothy 3:15

If I were Amanda I would say: "I believe in Jesus and His ONE Church."

  • Do you? and if not, ask
  • Why do you believe in a man-made congregation, instead of the one Church founded by [Jesus|God] Himself?

Hope this helps,

Mike

John replied:

Dear Laura,

I'm a former Baptist/Evangelical and I'd like to share a different approach, your daughter might take with "born again" friends vis a vis why Catholics make the Sign of the Cross.

As Mike said, we remind ourselves of what we believe every time we do it, but it is more than that. First of all, the Sign was developed long before your average Christian could go up the street and buy a Bible or a Catechism so the way people learned things was by repetition and signs.

In the Old Testament, particularly in the Psalms, there are references to worship which included all sorts of gestures, clapping, singing, and dancing. In short, we worship the Lord with all of our being. So Catholics today do that as well. Posture and gestures are an integral part of the way we worship. We make the Sign of the Cross, we sit attentively to the Word, we stand at attention for the Gospel, we bow during a section of Creed, we kneel during the Consecration, and so on.
The gestures remind our bodies as the words remind our minds of what we believe and what we are doing.

Many "born again's", will express this sort of thing in a much less organized way. They will express their joy in the Lord through song and clapping. Some will dance, some will raise their hands to the Lord in submission, and so on. You might even see Charismatic Catholics do very similar things at their prayer meetings. The point is we use our entire being to worship the Lord, and that includes signs and symbols like the Sign of the Cross.

Oops, forgot one thing.

Many born again's, will avoid anything which they see as rote tradition. Anything which seems mechanical, or automatic, they see as vain repetition. This is also evident in their prayer life. Most Evangelicals do not pray rote prayers either; instead they pray extemporaneously. This is a difference in style and not substance.

Hope this helps,

John DiMascio

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