Sign of the Cross

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: I am looking at the rite of Baptism outside of Mass and I notice that the liturgy does not start with the Sign of the Cross. While it is not included in the rite book, would it be appropriate to start with the Sign of the Cross in this instance? I noticed that the Marriage rite outside of Mass starts with the Sign of the Cross. I don’t believe the Funeral rite starts with one when it is outside the Mass. Is there a liturgical precedent that the church follows for when the Sign of the Cross is used?


A: I think you know my two personal rules for rubrics: Do what it says. Don’t do what it doesn’t say.

I admit, occasionally there’s a gray area.

Here, though, I would argue that any celebration without Mass begins without the Sign of the Cross unless the order of service explicitly says something different. Some years ago the Vatican added signs of the cross to Palm Sunday and the Easter Vigil, and then said that hundreds more were implied in the Book of Blessings. So there is a pro-sign-of-the-cross agent there somewhere.

But the baptism book just came out without it in the ceremony outside of Mass, so I think the answer is to leave it out.

Although Catholics commonly use the sign of the cross to begin almost any prayer, in the liturgy its usage is more restrained. It clearly belongs at the beginning of Mass, but not the Liturgy of the Hours, for example, even though the principal hours begin with the gesture accompanying different words. Consequently it takes restraint to begin a liturgy like Baptism outside of Mass without the sign of the cross, but I believe that that is correct. Its omission lets the liturgy begin naturally with the greeting.