Q&A: When should we introduce RCIA seekers to the Sign of the Cross?

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).

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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.

Your Turn

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.

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Comments

  1. In our RCIA class, we introduce the sign of the cross pretty early, because it is a sign of our faith, and because it is seen so commonly at Mass (and other times), But we also introduced it early this year because members of this year’s class were asking about it almost from the git-go. (We have an exceptionally enthusiastic group of participants this year, who already, even with Zoom, seem to have bonded together – earlier than we usually see. It’s almost as if they have known each other for years).

    Our only regret is that we have to meet by Zoom rather than by face-to-face (but that has it’s benefits as well – members who for various reasons can’t make it to class for a week can request the recording of it that Zoom creates for us).

    • That’s great! I was going to ask if folks ask about it on their own. Definitely in our time of video conference, it is hard to fully share in the embodied prayer of our faith, but it is giving us more of a sense of reverence for the things that we “just do” and that are signs of our faith.

  2. We introduce the Sign of the Cross as the first Christian prayer that the new Catechumens learn. Once they have accepted the cross and its responsibility and been signed in the Rite of Acceptance, they “belong” to it. In becoming Catechumens, they have made the first step toward living in the power and shadow of the Cross. We discourage the use of anything that Inquirers and Catechumens don’t yet understand, including Easter Vigil candles and holy water before Initiation.

    • Thanks for sharing. Our sacramentals are powerful items in our “toolbox” in which our faith/imagination is sparked. I hope that we can provide catechesis and experiences (safely of course at this time) to show that catechumens (and candidates) are part of the household of God, e.g. that they are able to celebrate and receive blessings (RCIA 95).

  3. As most people are aware of the Sign of the Cross, we introduce it right away. Each week we spend a few minutes talking about one of the many meanings it has before we enter into prayer. Then we invite them “if you feel comfortable, please join us as we begin our prayer”. That way no one feels pressured.
    Gradually, they adopt it when they are ready – usually all have adopted it within the first month or two. After that, each time we begin prayer we introduce the Sign of the Cross with one of its meanings i.e. “Let us sign ourselves with the sign of our salvation” so that we reinforce those meanings throughout the sessions. We have found it very helpful to take the time to explain the various meanings and it is a good introduction to how Catholics view the use of our bodies in prayer.

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