When I was a child sharing a room with my affable but dim-witted brother, Tom, my mother placed a tiny holy water font on the wall so we would bless ourselves when we entered or left our bedroom. The sign of the cross upon exiting brings favors as we exit home (or a church) to enter the world and, upon our return, gives thanks for the safe return. Between my brother and I, it was simply a way to mess up the other’s hair.
When passing by or upon entering a church, many in SMA make the sign of the cross. Hand on forehead (In the name of the Father), tummy (and the Son) then left shoulder (and the Holy), right shoulder (Spirit). Amen (from the Hebrew for “so be it”). In Spanish it is “En el nombre del Padre, y del Hijo, y del Espiritu Santo, Amen”
Next one kisses the cross made by the thumb laid over the index finger. Even if you don’t linger around churches, like I do, you can’t ride a taxi in SMA and not witness this ritual of the sign of the cross when the driver passes by a church. It is also readily on display by passengers during a bumpy airplane landing or sudden and unexpected swerve of a bus you are on.
The sign of the cross is a refuge in moments of grief, fear, need and danger. It is also a symbol of joy, thanksgiving, hope and gratitude. Hence why it is performed prior to peril and after the danger has passed. This rich gesture helps maintain continual contact with God.
A local child may be only a few days old when the mother takes its little hand and makes it go through the movements required to perform the sign of the cross. She is very careful that the child does the act correctly many times over the coming years as every parent wants God on their child’s side coming or going.