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<<  The Catechism of the Catholic Church Today!

The Catechism of the Catholic Church Today on the Sign of the Cross and Holy Water.


  • The Catechism Today
  • All the Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church states on this issue:


A priestly, prophetic, and royal people

786 .....the People of God shares in the royal office of Christ. He exercises his kingship by drawing all men to himself through his death and Resurrection. (cf. John 12:32) Christ, King and Lord of the universe, made himself the servant of all, for he came "not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:28) For the Christian, "to reign is to serve him," particularly when serving "the poor and the suffering, in whom the Church recognizes the image of her poor and suffering founder." (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 8; cf. 36) The People of God fulfills its royal dignity by a life in keeping with its vocation to serve with Christ.

The sign of the cross makes kings of all those reborn in Christ and the anointing of the Holy Spirit consecrates them as priests, so that, apart from the particular service of our ministry, all spiritual and rational Christians are recognized as members of this royal race and sharers in Christ's priestly office. What, indeed, is as royal for a soul as to govern the body in obedience to God? And what is as priestly as to dedicate a pure conscience to the Lord and to offer the spotless offerings of devotion on the altar of the heart?


St. Leo the Great, Sermo 4,1:PL 54,149

In Brief

802 Christ Jesus "gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own" (Titus 2:14).


803 "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people" (1 Peter 2:9).


804 One enters into the People of God by faith and Baptism. "All men are called to belong to the new People of God" (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 13), so that, in Christ, "men may form one family and one People of God" (Vatican II, Ad Gentes 1).


805 The Church is the Body of Christ. Through the Spirit and his action in the sacraments, above all the Eucharist, Christ, who once was dead and is now risen, establishes the community of believers as his own Body.


806 In the unity of this Body, there is a diversity of members and functions. All members are linked to one another, especially to those who are suffering, to the poor and persecuted.


807 The Church is this Body of which Christ is the head: she lives from him, in him, and for him; he lives with her and in her.


808 The Church is the Bride of Christ: he loved her and handed himself over for her. He has purified her by his blood and made her the fruitful mother of all God's children.


809 The Church is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the soul, as it were, of the Mystical Body, the source of its life, of its unity in diversity, and of the riches of its gifts and charisms.


810 "Hence the universal Church is seen to be 'a people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit'". (Lumen Gentium 4 citing St. Cyprian, De Dom. orat 23: PL 4, 553)




The celebration of Baptism

1234 The meaning and grace of the sacrament of Baptism are clearly seen in the rites of its celebration. By following the gestures and words of this celebration with attentive participation, the faithful are initiated into the riches this sacrament signifies and actually brings about in each newly baptized person.


1235 The sign of the cross, on the threshold of the celebration, marks with the imprint of Christ the one who is going to belong to him and signifies the grace of the redemption Christ won for us by his cross.

In Brief

1275 Christian initiation is accomplished by three sacraments together: Baptism which is the beginning of new life; Confirmation which is its strengthening; and the Eucharist which nourishes the disciple with Christ's Body and Blood for his transformation in Christ.


1276 "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20)


1277 Baptism is birth into the new life in Christ. In accordance with the Lord's will, it is necessary for salvation, as is the Church herself, which we enter by Baptism.


1278 The essential rite of Baptism consists in immersing the candidate in water or pouring water on his head, while pronouncing the invocation of the Most Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.


1284 In case of necessity, any person can baptize provided that he have the intention of doing that which the Church does and provided that he pours water on the candidate's head while saying: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."




The characteristics of sacramentals


1668 Sacramentals are instituted for the sanctification of certain ministries of the Church, certain states of life, a great variety of circumstances in Christian life, and the use of many things helpful to man. In accordance with bishops' pastoral decisions, they can also respond to the needs, culture, and special history of the Christian people of a particular region or time. They always include a prayer, often accompanied by a specific sign, such as the laying on of hands, the sign of the cross, or the sprinkling of holy water (which recalls Baptism).


1669 Sacramentals derive from the baptismal priesthood: every baptized person is called to be a "blessing," and to bless. (cf. Genesis 12:2; Luke 6:28; Romans 12:14; 1 Peter 3:9) Hence lay people may preside at certain blessings; the more a blessing concerns ecclesial and sacramental life, the more is its administration reserved to the ordained ministry (bishops, priests, or deacons). (cf. Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium 79; Code of Canon Law, can. 1168; De Ben 16,18)


1670 Sacramentals do not confer the grace of the Holy Spirit in the way that the sacraments do, but by the Church's prayer, they prepare us to receive grace and dispose us to cooperate with it. "For well-disposed members of the faithful, the liturgy of the sacraments and sacramentals sanctifies almost every event of their lives with the divine grace which flows from the Paschal mystery of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. From this source all sacraments and sacramentals draw their power. There is scarcely any proper use of material things which cannot be thus directed toward the sanctification of men and the praise of God." (Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium 61)


Various forms of sacramentals


1671 Among sacramentals blessings (of persons, meals, objects, and places) come first. Every blessing praises God and prays for his gifts. In Christ, Christians are blessed by God the Father "with every spiritual blessing." (Ephesians 1:3) This is why the Church imparts blessings by invoking the name of Jesus, usually while making the holy sign of the cross of Christ.


1672 Certain blessings have a lasting importance because they consecrate persons to God, or reserve objects and places for liturgical use. Among those blessings which are intended for persons - not to be confused with sacramental ordination - are the blessing of the abbot or abbess of a monastery, the consecration of virgins and widows, the rite of religious profession and the blessing of certain ministries of the Church (readers, acolytes, catechists, etc.). The dedication or blessing of a church or an altar, the blessing of holy oils, vessels, and vestments, bells, etc., can be mentioned as examples of blessings that concern objects.


1673 When the Church asks publicly and authoritatively in the name of Jesus Christ that a person or object be protected against the power of the Evil One and withdrawn from his dominion, it is called exorcism. Jesus performed exorcisms and from him the Church has received the power and office of exorcizing. (cf. Mark 1:25-26; 3:15; 6:7, 13; 16:17) In a simple form, exorcism is performed at the celebration of Baptism. The solemn exorcism, called "a major exorcism," can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness. (cf. Code of Canon Law, can. 1172)


In Brief


1677 Sacramentals are sacred signs instituted by the Church. They prepare men to receive the fruit of the sacraments and sanctify different circumstances of life.


1678 Among the sacramentals blessings occupy an important place. They include both praise of God for his works and gifts, and the Church's intercession for men that they may be able to use God's gifts according to the spirit of the Gospel.


1679 In addition to the liturgy, Christian life is nourished by various forms of popular piety, rooted in the different cultures. While carefully clarifying them in the light of faith, the Church fosters the forms of popular piety that express an evangelical instinct and a human wisdom and that enrich Christian life.




III. The Christian Name


2156 The sacrament of Baptism is conferred "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 28:19) In Baptism, the Lord's name sanctifies man, and the Christian receives his name in the Church. This can be the name of a saint, that is, of a disciple who has lived a life of exemplary fidelity to the Lord. The patron saint provides a model of charity; we are assured of his intercession. The "baptismal name" can also express a Christian mystery or Christian virtue. "Parents, sponsors, and the pastor are to see that a name is not given which is foreign to Christian sentiment." (Code of Canon Law, Can. 855)


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.


2158 God calls each one by name. (cf. Isaiah 43:1; John 10:3) Everyone's name is sacred. The name is the icon of the person. It demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it.


2159 The name one receives is a name for eternity. In the kingdom, the mysterious and unique character of each person marked with God's name will shine forth in splendor. "To him who conquers . . . I will give a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it." (Revelation 2:17) "Then I looked, and Lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty- four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads." (Revelation 14:1)


In Brief


III. The Christian Name

2166 The Christian begins his prayers and activities with the Sign of the Cross: "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."


2167 God calls each one by name. (cf. Isaiah 43:1)



  1. Tertullian, (A.D. 160-218)
    St. Hippolytus of Rome, (A.D. 170-236)
    Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253)
    St. Cyprian of Carthage, (A.D. 200-258)
    Lactantius, (A.D. 240-c.330)
    St. Anthony of Egypt, (A.D. c.251 - 356)
    Eusebius of Cæsarea, (A.D. c.263-338)
    The Apostolic Constitutions, (dated A.D. c.270)
    St. Athanasius of Alexandria, (A.D. 296-372)
    Macarius of Egypt, (A.D. c.300-391)
    St. Ephrem the Syrian, (of Edessa), (A.D. 306-378)
    St. Cyril of Jerusalem, (A.D. 315-386)
    St. Gregory of Nazianzen, (A.D. 318-389)
    St. Basil the Great, (A.D. 328-379)
    St. Epiphanius of Salamis, (A.D. 332-403)
    St. Gregory of Nyssa, (A.D. c.335 - c.394)
    St. Ambrose of Milan, (A.D. 340-396)
    St. Jerome, (A.D. 342-420)
    Blessed Jerome of Jerusalem, (flourished in A.D. 385)
    Severus, Rhetor, (unknown - A.D. 398)
    St. John Chrysostom, (A.D. 344 - 407)
    St. Gaudentius of Brescia, (unknown - A.D. 410)
    St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428)
    St. John Cassian, (A.D. c.360 - 433)
    Sulpicius Severus, (A.D. c.363-c.425)
    Paulus Orosius, (A.D. c.375-c.418)
    St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444)
    St. Nilus the Elder, (A.D. c.385 - c.430)
    Theodoret of Cyrus or Cyrrhus, (A.D. 393-458)
    Philo of Carpasium, (late 4th to early 5th century)
    Sozomen, (Salminius Hermias Sozomenus), (A..D. c.400-c.450)
    Andrew of Cæsarea, (A.D. 563 - 637)
    St. Maximus (the Confessor), (A.D. c.580-662)

Tertullian, (A.D. 160-218), North African; ecclesiastical writer, Christian apologist and lawyer, son of a centurion and contemporary of St. Irenæus, a native and citizen of Carthage. The zeal and ability with which he defended the Christian cause, and vindicated its faith and discipline, have immortalized his name, though it has suffered by his adoption, around the year A.D. 200, of some of the Montanist's errors, whose cause he is thought to have supported until his death. His works are numerous, and are written with great ability and erudition, but in an harsh style.

"In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our clothes and shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our lamps, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark (wear) our forehead with the sign (seal) of the cross. For these and such like rules, if thou requirest a law in the Scriptures, thou shalt find none: tradition will be pleaded to thee as originating, custom as confirming, and faith as observing them."

De Coron. Mil. n.3,4.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 423-424

St. Hippolytus of Rome, (A.D. 170-236), Roman; bishop and martyr, probably a scholar of St. Irenæus of Lyons.

"When she had done as he had directed her, she signed her whole body with the mystic sign (mystery) of the cross, and went forth from the place uncorrupted."

De Virg. Corinthiaca, t. ii. Galland, p. 514 (Fabr. t.i.p. 284).
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 424

Origen of Alexandria, (A.D. 184-253), Alexandrian; born in Egypt, philosopher, theologian, writer.

"This (the letter Tau) bears a resemblance to the figure of the cross; and this prophecy (Ezekiel 9:4) is said to regard the sign made by Christians on the forehead, which all believers make whatsoever work they begin upon, and especially at the beginning of prayers, or of holy reading."

T. iii. Select, in Ezech. c. ix. p. 424.

In a sermon on the Epiphany, published amongst Origen's works, we have the following:

"His cross is our victory; His gibbet our triumph. Let us with joy lift up this sign, let us carry the banners of victory on our shoulders; let us bear the immortal laver on our foreheads; when devils see it, they will tremble."

The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 424

St. Cyprian of Carthage, (A.D. 200-258), North African; bishop; biblical scholar, martyr.

The heading of chapter 22 of the second Book of Testimonies is:

"That in this sign of the cross is salvation to all who are marked on their foreheads."

Second Book or Testimonies, chapter 22, Page 557.

"Ozias the king, when, bearing the censer, and contrary to God's law, with violence assuming to himself to sacrifice, despite the opposition of Azarias, the priest, he refused to be obedient and to give way, was confounded by the wrath of God, was polluted by the spot of leprosy on his forehead, in that part of his body marked by his offended Lord, where they are signed who merit the Lord."

De Unitate, page 403.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 424

We there meet with a curious account of a virgin called Justina, who:

"made the sign of the cross and thus repelled the assaults of demons . . . and with the cross of Christ cured diseases, and calmed the tumult of the people."

P. ccxci, attributed to St. Cyprian by St. Gregory of Nazianzum
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 425

Lactantius, (A.D. 240-c.330), was an early Christian author, the goal of his writings was to present Christianity in a form that would be attractive to philosophical pagans.

"Christ stretched out His hands in death and measured the world; that even then He might show that, from the rising of the sun even to the going down of the same, a mighty people, assembled out of all tongues and tribes, would come under His wings, and receive on their foreheads that greatest and sublime sign.

[He then says that of this sign the marking of their door posts by the Jews, with the blood of the paschal lamb, was a type.]

For Christ was a fair lamb without blemish, innocent, that is, and just and holy, who, sacrificed by those same Jews, is salvation to all who have marked the sign of blood, that is, who have marked on their foreheads the sign of the cross on which He shed His blood. . . . Let it suffice for the present to explain what is the potency of this sign. What a terror this sign is to devils He may know who sees how, when adjured through Christ, they flee from the bodies which they have obsessed. For as He, while living among men, put the devils to flight by a word, and restored to their former senses the troubled minds of those who had been driven to madness by their evil assaults, so now His followers expel those same foul spirits from men by the name of their master, and by the sign of His passion. Of this the proof is not difficult. For when they are sacrificing to their gods, if there stand by one who has his forehead signed, they cannot proceed with their sacrifices,

Nor the consulted prophet answers give.

And this has often been the chief cause why wicked kings have persecuted righteousness. For certain of ours, who were in attendance on their masters as they were sacrificing, by making the sign upon their foreheads, put to flight their gods, so that they could not describe what was to happen, in the bowels of the victims. . . . And as demons cannot come nigh unto those on whom they see the heavenly mark, nor hurt those whom the immortal sign fences round as an impregnable wall, they assail them by means of men, and persecute them by the hands of others."

Divin. Inst. c. 4, Oxon. n. 26-7, pp. 395-97, Galland, p. 305.
For an actual example of the above, see
De Mortibus Persecutor, c. x.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 425-426

St. Anthony of Egypt, (A.D. c.251 - 356), (also known as Anthony the Great, Anthony the Abbot, Anthony of the Desert, and Anthony the Anchorite), Egyptian; prominent leader among the Desert Fathers. The biography of Anthony's life by Athanasius of Alexandria helped to spread the concept of monasticism, particularly in Western Europe through Latin translations.

"Neither ought we to fear these appearances (of evil spirits). For they are nothing, but quickly vanish, especially if one defends himself by faith and the sign of the cross."

Oratio ad Monachos, n. 8, p. 638, t. iv. Galland.
See also Ibid. n. 20, p. 645.

This passage is quoted by St. Athanasius in his Life of St. Anthony:
Sec. 23, p. 649, Ed. Ben. t. i. par. 2, Patav. 1777.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 426

Eusebius of Cæsarea, (A.D. c.263-338), appointed Bishop of Cæsarea in A.D. 314, Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist, scholar of the Biblical canon who was deeply embroiled in the Arian controversy.

Narrates of Constantine that he was accustomed:

"to sign his countenance with the saving sign, and to glory in the victorious trophy."

De Vita Constant. l. iii. c. 2.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 426

The Apostolic Constitutions (or Constitutions of the Holy Apostles), dated A.D.c 270, is a Christian collection of eight treatises which belongs to genre of the Church Orders.

The high priest, therefore, together with the priests, praying to himself and having put on his shining garment, and standing at the altar, and having made the sign of the cross upon his forehead with his right hand before all the people, let him say:

[Then follows the preface, the narrative of the " Institution," and he then continues.]

Being mindful, therefore, of His passion, and death, and resurrection from the dead ... we offer to Thee, King and God, according to His ordinance, this bread and this chalice, giving Thee thanks through Him, that Thou hast thought us worthy to stand before Thee,

L viii. c. xii.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 2, Pages 464

St. Athanasius of Alexandria, (A.D. 296-372), Egyptian; bishop, theologian, and Doctor of the Church. He was present, as an assistant to St. Alexander of Alexandria, at the council of Nicea who he succeeded in A.D. 326. During more than forty years he was the champion of orthodoxy, and suffered much severe persecution from the Arian party.

"By the sign of the cross all magic ceases; all incantations are powerless; every idol is abandoned and deserted ; all irrational voluptuousness is quelled, and each one looks up from earth to Heaven."

De Incarn. Verbi, t.i.n. 31, p. 59.
See also Ibid. n.48, page 71; and n. 55, page 76.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 426-427

Macarius of Egypt, (A.D. c.300-391), also known as Macarius the Elder and the Lamp of the Desert was an Egyptian Christian monk, hermit and priest. contemporary with St. Athanasius, and the friend of the great St. Anthony, died at the advanced age of ninety, after passing sixty years in the desert.

"After the sign of the cross, grace immediately thus operates, and composes all the members and the heart, so that the soul from its abounding gladness seems as a youth that knows not evil."

Hom. ix. p. 48, in Ed. Op. S. Greg. Thaum. Paris, 1622.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 430-431

St. Ephrem the Syrian, (of Edessa), (A.D. 306-378), Syrian; born in Nisebis, deacon, hymnist, poet. His works were even during his own lifetime almost all translated into Greek, and were, as St. Jerome informs us, held in such high estimation, as to be read in some churches after the Holy Scriptures. We have his life by St. Gregory of Nyssa.

On Ezekiel 9:4

"And mark a sign upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, he says, for the circumcision of the flesh sufficed not unto salvation, and therefore has it been set aside, and the sign of the cross is substituted in its place."

T. ii. Syr. Comm. in Ezech. p. 174.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 428

"And having ended his prayer, as he withdrew, he thrice made the sign of the cross over the village."

T. ii. Gr. in Vit. S. Abra. p. 7.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 428

"He signed himself with the cross, and thus addressed the evil spirit."

T. ii. Gr. in Vit. S. Abra. p. 9.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 428

"Let us crown our door-posts with the honored and lifegiving cross, saying with the Apostle, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14). Let us sign that same life-giving cross upon our door-posts, and on our foreheads, and on our breasts, and on our lips, and on every limb; and let us arm ourselves with this invincible weapon of Christians; the conqueror over death; the hope of the faithful; the light of the earth s boundaries; that opens paradise; that destroys heresies; faith's support; the mighty safeguard, and salutary boast of the orthodox. This, O Christians, let us not cease, day and night, each hour and moment, to bear about us; without it do nothing; but in going to bed, and rising up, and working, and eating, and drinking, and journeying, and voyaging, and crossing rivers, adorn all your members with the life-giving cross, and there shall no evil come to thee, nor shall the scourge come near thy dwelling (Psalms 90:10). The adverse powers, on beholding this sign, depart trembling. This too has sanctified the world; this has dispelled darkness, and brought back light; this has destroyed error; this from the sun's rising to its setting, and from north to south, has gathered together the nations, and linked them in love into one Church, one faith, and one baptism. This is the impregnable wall of the orthodox. What mouth, or what tongue, shall worthily sing the praises of the invincible weapon of Christ the king? . . . And this and more than this (might be) said concerning the honored cross."

T. iii. Gr. in Secund. Adv. Dom.pp. 211-12.
This passage is repeated in T. iii. Gr. p. 372; and Ibid, in Sanct. Parasc.p. 471.
See also a passage to the same effect in T. iii. Gr. Panopl.p. 221, D. E.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 428-429

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, (A.D. 315-386), Palestinian; ordained by Maximus, he was made bishop of Jerusalem in A.D. 345; scholar and Doctor of the Church. None of his writings have been preserved to us, except eighteen catechetical instructions addressed to catechumens, and five mystagogic discourses addressed to neophytes.

"Let us not, therefore, be ashamed of the cross of Christ, but even though another hide it, do thou openly seal it on thy brow, that the devils beholding that royal sign may flee far away trembling. But make thou this sign when thou eatest and drinkest, sittest or liest down, risest up, speakest, walkest; in a word, on every occasion, for He who was here crucified is above in the heavens."

Catech. iv. n. 14, p. 58.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 427

"Many have been crucified throughout the world; but none of these do the devils dread, but Christ having been crucified for us, when they see but the sign of the cross, the devils shudder."

Catech. xii. n. 22, p. 194.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 427

"Let none be weary: take up arms against the adversaries in the cause of the cross itself: set up the faith of the cross as a trophy against the gainsayers. For when thou art about to dispute with unbelievers concerning the cross of Christ, first make with thy right hand the sign of the cross of Christ, and the gainsayer will be dumb. Be not ashamed to confess the cross."

Catech. xiii. n. 22, p. 194.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 427

"Let us not then be ashamed to confess the crucified. Let the cross become our seal, made with boldness by our fingers upon the forehead, on everything: on the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in and goings out; before sleep, when we lie down and when we awake; when we are walking and when we are still. Great is that preservative; it is gratuitous, for the poor s sake; without toil for the sake of the weak; since also its grace is from God; it is the sign of the faithful and the dread of devils. For He has triumphed over them in it, having exposed them confidently in open show (Colossians 2:15). For when they see the cross they are reminded of the crucified: they are afraid of Him who has bruised the heads of the dragon. Do not despise the seal, because it is a free gift, but for this the rather honor the benefactor."

Catech. vi. n. 36, p. 200.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 427-428

St. Gregory of Nazianzen, (A.D. 318-389), Cappadocian; archbishop, theologian, Doctor of the Church.

"But when, as this man (Julian) proceeded in his career, fears began to assail him, he flies unto the cross, and to his old remedy, and with this he signs himself against his terrors, and Him whom he had persecuted he makes his helper. And what follows is more fearful. The sign of the cross prevailed; the demons are vanquished; his fears cease; and then? He again breathes forth evil; he recovers his audacity; he dares again; and again the same fears, and again the sign of the cross, and the quiescent demons."

Contr. Julian. Orat, iii. T. i. p. 71.
See also another instance in the same oration, p. 85, C.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 430

"Avaunt, demon, lest I smite thee with the cross; the cross before which all things tremble. I bear the cross upon my limbs; the cross accompanies me on my journeyings; the cross is my heart; the cross is my glory."

T. ii. Carm. xxi. p. 94.
See also Carm. lxi. p. 142.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 43

St. Basil the Great, (A.D. 328-379), Cappadocian; bishop of Cæsarea in A.D. 369, theologian, monk. Studied in Palestine, Constantinople, and Athens. Many of the subsequent years of his life were spent in the deserts of Egypt and Libya. His character and works have gained for him the surname of "the great".

"Gordius having thus spoken and signed himself with the sign of the cross, advanced to receive the stroke."

Hom, in Gord. Mart T. ii. P. i. n. 8, p. 208.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 430

St. Epiphanius of Salamis, (A.D. 332-403), Palestinian; bishop, abbot, scholar.

He says of a woman exposed to sin, that "She signed herself in the name of Christ; for she was a Christian."

[He then mentions recourse being make to magic to seduce her, and observes:]

"This was the third circumstance that taught him that the power of magic availed not against the name of Christ, and the sign (seal) of the cross."

T. i. Adv. Hæres. (30), pp. 131-32.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 431

St. Gregory of Nyssa, (A.D. c.335 - c.394), bishop of Nyssa in A.D. 371, an erudite theologian who made significant contributions to the doctrine of the Trinity and the Nicene creed. Gregory's philosophical writings were influenced by Origen. He was the brother of the great St. Basil.

In the dying address of St. Macrina we find the following:

"Thou, O God, hast given unto those that fear Thee a sign, the form of Thy holy cross, for the destruction of the adversary, and for the safeguard of our life. . . And at the same time that she was speaking these words she formed (laid) upon her eyes and mouth, and heart the sign (or seal)."

T. ii. De Vita S. Macrinae, pp. 194-5.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 429

"Having entered the temple with his attendants, he (St. Gregory Thaumaturgus) at once filled with dread the evil spirits, by invoking the name of Christ; and with the sign of the cross he purified the air defiled with vapors."

T. iii. De Vita S. Greg. Thaum. p. 548.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 429

"Let the sheep hasten unto the seal (character) and that sign of the cross which is a remedy against evils."

T. iii. App. De Baptismo, p. 216.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 430

St. Ambrose of Milan, (A.D. 340-396), German; reluctantly made bishop in the A.D. 374., Doctor of the Church. He closed a great and glorious career in A.D. 396. We have his life by Paulinus.

"But now there is no need of the slight pain of circumcision for a Christian people, which bearing about the death of the Lord, inscribes at every instant, upon its own forehead, the contempt of death, as knowing that it cannot have salvation without the cross of the Lord."

T. iii. Ep. lxxi. Constantio, n. 12, pp. 1073-74.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 431

"The catechumen believes also in the cross of our Lord Jesus, with which (cross) also he is signed."

T. ii. de Myster. c. iv. n. 20, p. 331.
See also Ibid. De Fide Resurr. L. ii. n. 46, p. 1146.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 431

St. Jerome, (A.D. 342-420), Dalmatian; born in Strido; priest, hermit, abbot, biblical scholar, translator and Doctor of the Church. In an age distinguished by men of the greatest eloquence and learning, St. Jerome, especially in all matters connected with the Sacred Scriptures, was then preeminent, and has probably never since been equalled.

"Let the banner of the cross be planted on thy forehead."

T. i. Ep. xiv. ad Heliod. n. 6, col. 32.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 431

"At every action, at every step, let thy hand depict the cross of the Lord."

Ib. Ep. xxii. ad Eustoch. n. 37, col. 119.
See also Ib. Ep. cvii. n. 2, col. 673;
T. ii. Vita S. Hilarion, n. 6, col. 16, et alib.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 431

"Keep the door of your heart shut, and frequently defend your forehead with the sign (seal) of the cross, lest the exterminator of Egypt find some (unguarded) spot in you."

T. i. Ep. cxxx. n. 9, col. 980.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 432

Blessed Jerome of Jerusalem, (flourished in A.D. 385), a presbyter of Jerusalem.

"To enter into a Church, that is not the mark of a true Christian, seeing that many unworthy persons enter with us, nor the making the sign of the cross"

Galland. T. vii. Comment, util. p. 529.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 431

Severus, Rhetor, (unknown - A.D. 398), (Severus Sanctus Endelechius or Endelechus), Christian rhetorician and poet of the fourth century, a friend of St. Paulinus of Nola.

"A sign, which, they say, is that of the cross of Christ; this sign, placed on their foreheads, was the certain safety of all the flocks."

Carm. Bucol. De Victu. Signi Crucis, p. 208, Galland, t. viii.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 434

St. John Chrysostom, (A.D. 344 - 407), Syrian; archbishop, Doctor of the Church. Born at Antioch in 344; he was ordained priest in A.D. 383, and raised to the see of Constantinople in the year A.D. 398. His eloquence gained him the title of Chrysostom, or the mouth of gold. His expositions of Scripture, especially the Epistles of St. Paul, are very valuable. This illustrious prelate died on his road to exile, in A.D. 407.

"And how wilt thou enter into the (Jewish) synagogue? For if thou shalt sign thy forehead, instantly will the wicked power that dwells in that synagogue flee away; but if thou sign not thyself, thou wilt at once, at the very doors, have flung away thy weapons; and then the devil, taking thee naked and weaponless, will load thee with ten thousand evils."

T. i. Or. viii. Adv. Jud. n. 8, p. 841.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 432

"Reflect why the whole world hastens to look upon a sepulchre that now contains no body: what power draws men from the very extremities of the earth, to gaze on where He was born, where buried, where crucified. Contemplate the cross itself, what a sign of power it is. For that cross was previously an accursed thing, a shameful death; yea a death of all others the most disgraceful. But lo! now it has become more honored than life; more resplendent than diadems; and we all bear it about on our foreheads, not merely not ashamed of it, but even glorying in it. Not private individuals only, but even they that wear the diadem, bear it on their foreheads in preference to that diadem : and justly. For better is that than countless diadems. For the diadem adorns indeed the brow, but the cross protects the mind. This is that which repels demons; this the diadem that removes the soul's diseases; this an invincible weapon; this an impregnable wall; this an unconquerable safeguard; this not only repels the irruptions of barbarians and the incursions of hostile troops, but the phalanxes of pitiless demons."

T. v. Expos, in Ps. cix. n. 6. p. 310.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 432

"Wherefore let no one be ashamed of the venerable symbols of our salvation, and of the chiefest of good things, whereby also we live, and whereby we are; but as a crown, so let us bear about the cross of Christ. For indeed by it all things are perfected amongst us: whether one is to be regenerated, the cross is there; or to be nourished with that mystic food; or to be ordained; or to do anything else whatsoever, everywhere this, our symbol of victory, is present. For this cause, both on house, and walls, and doors, and on the forehead and on the mind, do we inscribe it with much care. For of the salvation wrought for us; and of the common freedom; and of the goodness of our Lord; this is the sign. For, "as a sheep was He led to the slaughter." Whensoever, therefore, thou signest thyself, reflect on the whole purport of the cross, and quench anger and all the other passions. When thou signest thyself, fill thy forehead with great confidence; make thy soul free. . . For not merely are we to engrave it with the finger; but before this, with the will with much faith. If thou shalt thus fashion it on thy face, none of the unclean demons will be able to come near thee, seeing the blade from which he received his wound, seeing the sword from which he had his mortal wound. . . . This is the sign which for our forefathers and for us has opened closed doors; this has quenched poisonous drugs; this has taken away the power of hemlock; this has healed the bites of venomous beasts."

T. vii. Hom. liv. in S. Matt. n. 4, pp. 620-1.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 432-433

"If thou perceive thy heart burning within thee, seal thy breast, placing on it the cross."

Ib. Hom. Ixxxvii. n. 2, p. 927.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 433

"Learn how great is the power of the cross: how many good things it has done, how many it still does; how it is a security of life. Through it all things are done. Baptism is through the cross, for the seal must be received; ordination (xetporovia) is through the cross: whether we be in the way or at home, wherever we are, a great good is the cross, a saving armor, a shield which cannot be beaten down, the devil s adversary."

T. xi. Hom. xiii. in Ep. ad Philipp. n. 1, p. 342.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 433

St. Gaudentius of Brescia, (unknown - A.D. 410), Italian; became bishop around A.D. 387, theologian and author of many letters and sermons, held in high esteem by the people of Brescia.

"Let the word of God and the sign of Christ be in the Christian's heart, in his mouth, on his forehead, at his food, at the bath, in his chambers, at his coming in and going out, in joy, in sorrow, that agreeably to the doctrine of St. Paul, "Whether we eat or drink."

Serm. viii. De Lect. Evanyg t.v. Bib. Maxim. SS. PP. p. 954.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 434

St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428), North African; born in Tagaste in A.D. 354, baptized in Milan in A.D. 387, ordained a priest in A.D. 391 and appointed bishop of Hippo in A.D. 395, Augustine is one of our greatest theologians. His numerous works display genius of the highest order, and have ever had great weight in the Christian churches. He is also a Doctor of the Church.

"What is the sign (or seal) of Christ, but the cross of Christ? Which sign, unless it be applied, whether to the foreheads of believers, or to the water itself whereby they are regenerated, or to the oil wherewith they are anointed with chrism, or to the sacrifice by which they are fed, none of these things is rightly performed. How then can it be, that by that which the wicked do no good thing is signified, when by the cross of Christ, which the wicked made, every good thing, is signified to us in the celebration of His sacraments?"

T. iii. Tract, cxviii. in Joan, n. 5, col. 2439.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 434-435

"Not without cause did Christ wish His sign to be impressed upon our foreheads, on the seat as it were of shame, lest the Christian might blush at the indignities offered to Christ."

T. iv. in Ps. xxx. Serm. iii. n. 7, col. 237.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 435

"Whatsoever thou mayest suffer, thou wilt not approach those insults, those scourgings, that disgraceful robe, that thorny crown; thou wilt not, in fine, come to that cross, because now it has been removed as a punishment by the human race. For whereas, under those of old, criminals were crucified, now no one is crucified. It was honored and ceased. It ceased as a punishment, it remains as a glory. From the places of punishments it has passed to the foreheads of emperors."

T. iv. in Ps. xxxvi. Serm. 2, col 380-1.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 435

St. John Cassian, (A.D. c.360 - 433), ordained a deacon by St. John Chrysostom and a priest in Marseilles, a Christian theologian celebrated in both the Western and Eastern Churches for his mystical writings. He is known both as one of the "Scythian monks" and as one of the "Desert Fathers". His opinions on grace being in opposition somewhat to those of St. Augustine and the Church, caused him to be opposed by St. Prosper.

He narrates a miracle performed by a monk:

"by giving a cup of water which he had signed with the sign of the cross."

Collat. xv. Abbat. Nestor, c. iv.p. 191, t. vii. Bib. Max.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 437

Sulpicius Severus, (A.D. c.363-c.425), a Christian writer and native of Aquitania. He is known for his chronicle of sacred history, as well as his biography of Saint Martin of Tours.

"He (St. Martin of Tours) having lifted on high the sign of the cross upon those who were opposite to him, and commanded the crowd not to stir, but to lay down their burdens; then might be seen those miserable men in a wonderful manner grow rigid as stones."

Galland. t. viii. De Vita B. Martini, n. 12, p. 395.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 435

"Against the (visible assaults of the) devil he always protected himself by the sign of the cross and the help of prayer."

lb. n. 22, p. 397.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 435

"Worshipper of God, remember that thou hast, under the hallowed dew of the font and of the laver, been signed with chrism. Let, when sleep summons thee to thy chaste couch, the sign of the cross be imprinted on thy forehead, and on thy heart. The cross drives far away all crime; darkness flees before it; the mind consecrated by that sign cannot fluctuate."

Lib. Hymn, per horas, Hymn. 6, Ante Somnum, v. 125- 136, p. 530.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 435

Paulus Orosius (A.D. c.375-c.418), Spanish; a Christian historian, theologian, student and friend of Augustine of Hippo. He is best known for his "Seven Books of History Against the Pagans". His "History of the World" is valuable, and has been frequently translated.

"Theodosius knowing himself without friends, but that he was surrounded by enemies, with his body prostrate on the earth, but his mind fixed on Heaven, prayed alone to Christ alone, who is able to do all things. Having spent a sleepless night in uninterrupted prayer...he confidently, though alone, seized his weapons, conscious that he was not only to be protected by the sign of the cross, but thereby even to be victorious; fortifying himself with that sign, he gave the signal for battle."

Histor. L vii. c. 55, p. 444, Bib. Max. SS. PP.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 436

St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444), Egyptian; bishop, theologian and Doctor of the Church. He succeeded Theophilus in the patriarchal see of Alexandria, in A.D. 412, and was the great champion of orthodoxy against Nestorius, against whom the general council of Ephesus was called, in A.D. 431 and in which St. Cyril presided.

Explaining Isaiah 19:19-20:

"He, in this place, calls the sign of the holy cross, with which it is the custom of believers to be fenced round, a pillar. For this we have ever used; overthrowing every assault of the devil, and repelling the attacks of evil spirits. For an impregnable wall is the cross unto us, and our glorying in it is truly salutary. God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Christ."

T. ii. Comm. in Isa. lib. ii. p. 294.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 436

St. Nilus the Elder, (c. A.D. 385 - c. 430) (also known as Nilus of Sinai, Neilos, Nilus of Ancyra), Syrian, was one of the many disciples and fervent students of St. John Chrysostom; an eyewitness of the martyrdom of Theodotus.

"Certain Christians whilst seeking for the bodies of some who had been martyred, were terrified, and each of them impressed the sign of the cross upon their foreheads, when there appeared to them a brilliant cross which they seemed to see emit a flash of fire from the eastern side; and they immediately bent the knee to pray towards the place where the cross appeared to them."

Martyr. S. Theodot. Ancyr. n. 17, Gotland, t. iv. p. 122.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 425

"When he had said this, Theodotus made the sign of the cross over his whole body, and proceeded, without turning, to the stadium."

Ib. n. 21, p. 123.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 425

"It is useful to pray, for the most part, signed with the cross; for thus are we blessed by God; and thus again do we bless others. Yea, for the divine Moses, when consecrating the tabernacle, and anointing his own brother as a priest, having stretched forth his hands towards Heaven in the form of a cross, blessed him."

L. i. Ep. lxxxvii. pp. 38, 39.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 438

"If thou continually seal, with the sign of the cross of the Lord, both thy forehead and heart, the demons will flee away from thee, for they tremble exceedingly at that blessed seal."

L. ii. Ep. ccciv. p. 270.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 438

"If thou wouldst destroy the evil remembrances which have been left in the ruling part (of the mind), and the multiform snares of the enemy, arm thyself readily by the memory of our Saviour, and by the fervent invocation of the venerable name, both by day and night, frequently sealing both thy brow and breast with the sign of the cross of the Lord. For when the name of the Lord is uttered, and the seal of the Lord's cross is placed upon the brow, and heart, and other members, the power of the enemy is undoubtedly destroyed, and the wicked demons fly trembling away from us."

L. iii. Ep. cclxxxviii. pp. 434-5.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 438

Theodoret of Cyrus or Cyrrhus, (A.D. 393-458), Greek; an influential author, theologian, and Christian bishop of Cyrrhus, Syria (A.D. 423-457). He played a pivotal role in many early Byzantine church controversies that led to various ecumenical acts and schisms. His friendship for Nestorius embroiled him, for a time, with his great contemporary, St. Cyril of Alexandria.

Having narrated a miracle performed by St. James of Nisibis, he says:

"Such was the miracle performed by this new Moses, effected not by a stroke with a rod, but a power manifested by the sign of the cross."

T. iii. Hist. Relig. c. i. p. 1111.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 437

Philo of Carpasium, (late 4th to early 5th century), known as bishop of Carpasia (or Carpasium, in Cyprus), according to others bishop of Carpathus (an island between Crete and Rhodus), has hitherto enjoyed but slight repute as a Christian writer.

"A garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up (Canticle of Canticles 4:12), by the seal of Christ, which is (used) in the laver of regeneration."

Enar. in Cant. Cantic. p. 748, t.ix. Galland.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 436

Sozomen, (Salminius Hermias Sozomenus), (A..D. c.400-c.450), Palestinian; was a historian of the Christian church. He composed an Ecclesiastical History in nine books, comprising the period between A.D. 324 and 439.

"Show me a token for good," (Psalms 85) For He, having risen from the dead, and ascended into Heaven, we His Apostles and disciples will, together with all believers, have the sign of His cross for good; that our enemies, whether visible or invisible, may see the sign upon our foreheads, and be confounded. For in that same sign you are aided, and in it you are comforted. "

Comm in Ps. 85, p. 284, t. viii. Bib. Max.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 43

Applying Psalm 144:1 et seqq. he says:

"He has therefo taught our fingers to fight, that when we feel the encounter of foes, whether visible or invisible, we may with our fingers arm our foreheads with the victorious cross."

In Ps. cxliv. Ib. p 324.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 437-4

Andrew of Cæsarea, (A.D. 563 - 637), Greek; theological writer and bishop of Cæsarea, known for his commentary on the Book of Revelation which is the oldest Greek patristic commentary on that book of the Bible. He succeeded St. Basil.

Commenting on history Ap. vii. 3:

"At the coming of antichrist, the sign of the vivifying cross will distinguish the faithful from the faithless. For the former shall, without fear and without shame, bear the sign of the cross of Christ in the sight of the impious."

Comm. in Apoc. c. xix. lb. p. 601.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 434

St. Maximus (the Confessor), (A.D. c.580-662), Byzantine; a Christian abbot, theologian, scholar and ascetical writer; he gave up this life in the political sphere to enter into the monastic life.

"When we rise in the morning we ought to give thanks to God, and to do every action through out the day in the sign of the Saviour. While thou wast yet a Gentile, was it not thy custom to seek for signs, and to ascertain with great care what signs were favorable to certain things? Now I would not have thee be mistaken in their number; know then that, in the one sign of Christ there lies undoubted success in everything. He who, in this sign, begins to sow, will reap as fruit life everlasting; he who in this sign begins his journey, will reach Heaven ; in this name, therefore, are all our actions to be regulated."

Hom. ii. De Non Timendis Hostibus, p. 44, t. vi. Bib. Max. SS. PP.
Also The Faith of Catholics, Volume 3, Pages 436



The Use of the Sign of the Cross: This sign is prescribed in our rituals to be frequently used, particularly in the administration of Baptism and in the Sacrifice of the Altar, the Mass; to signify, that all grace is derived from the Passion of Christ. The Cross, furthermore, is marked on various parts of the dress of our ministers, and on the vessels appropriated to the divine service, to denote their destination.


On the altar is raised a cross with the figure of our crucified Saviour placed upon it, to bring to our minds that it was He who died for the sins of the world, and that there is no other name under Heaven whereby we must be saved. Finally, we often sign ourselves with the sign of the cross, pronouncing at the same time the words,

"In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the [Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit]",

thereby attesting our belief in the blessed Trinity, and in the incarnation and death of our Saviour. Jesus Christ.



The Use of Holy Water in the Church: From the history of the earliest ages of the Church we learn that it was the practice to bless all inanimate things destined for the use of man, and particularly such as were used in the service of religion. Thus, a blessing was pronounced over the water and oil used in the administration of the sacraments. Besides this, water, mixed with salt that had been blessed, was placed at the porch of churches, with which the faithful washed their hands and signed their foreheads as they entered; and with the same water they, and other things, were often sprinkled by the minister.


Salt, mingled with the water, is deemed the emblem of prudence and incorruption; and the water denotes purity and innocence of heart. When the parishioner enters their Catholic parish, and applies Holy Water, with the sign of the cross, to his forehead, he is admonished, by the action, of the cleanliness of heart and hand he should have in the presence of his Maker.




The Church's Scriptures that support the Sign of the Cross and Holy Water.


The importance of the Word of the Cross

18 The word of the cross to them indeed that perish is foolishness; but to them that are saved, that is, to us, it is the power of God.


1 Corinthians 1:18

The importance of preaching Christ crucified

23 We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling-block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness; 24 but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.


1 Corinthians 1:23-24

The importance of preaching Christ crucified

2 For I judged not myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

1 Corinthians 2:2

The importance of the Cross of Christ to St. Paul

14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.

Galatians 6:14

Paul encourages the Philippians to be obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross

8 He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. 9 For which cause God also hath exalted Him, and hath given Him a name which is above all names; 10 that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in Heaven, on earth, and under the earth."

Philippians 2:8-10


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