Q: When is the appropriate time for an inquirer or catechumen to begin using the Sign of the Cross?
A: You have probably heard the saying, lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of praying establishes the law of belief). The Sign of the Cross perfectly illustrates that maxim. However, there do not seem to be any canonical or juridical norms of when is an appropriate time to begin using the Sign of the Cross. The Sign of the Cross is one of those things in which we just “do.”
One idea of when to begin using and teaching earnestly about the Sign of the Cross is during the catechumenate. During the Rite of Acceptance, candidates for the catechumenate are admitted and given the title catechumens at the end of the Signing of the Candidates with the Cross (RCIA 54).
How you can share the Sign of the Cross in the RCIA
It would be really powerful to reflect mystagogically on the experience, unpacking our church’s tradition of the Cross and its meaning in our lives. Although not specifically stated in the liturgical rubrics, blessings and minor exorcisms would also allow the power of the Sign of the Cross to shine through to begin and end these moments of prayer if done with great care and reverence.
Of course, if a seeker does have questions about our gestures in prayer and worship they should be addressed at the moment. From personal experience, if a seeker seems comfortable to use the Sign of the Cross in prayer, that can be “evidence of the first faith… an intention to change…and calling upon God in prayer” (RCIA 42). These are all signs of readiness for celebrating the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens.
I would gently encourage an early introduction of the Sign of the Cross for seekers. Remember that initiation is a gradual process (see RCIA 4). Spiritual gestures like the Sign of the Cross help seekers build a foundation in preparation for their initiation process.
How have you first shared the Sign of the Cross with your seekers and catechumens? What questions have they had? Share your thoughts in the comments below.