THE SIGN OF THE CROSS - SMALL GESTURE, BIG MEANING


I would like to share my awareness of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and how making the sign of the cross which is so basic to our faith is meaningful to me in my everyday life.

In order to grow spiritually, I think the most important thing is to put one’s mind and heart into any religious practice, to really focus on the meaning of the words and to feel them. To me that is much more powerful than simply saying reams of words without any feeling. Someone told me a story a few years ago about a spiritual master walking along a beach. He pointed to the sea and told his disciple that God sees most prayers as like little drops of sea water landing on the shore, and God notices all of them, but prayer with the heart is like a big wave which God immediately answers!

For me, making the sign of the cross provides protection and strengthens my relationship with the Holy Trinity. My earliest connection with the Trinity was with Jesus, with whom I have always been close. As a child, I was deeply impressed by my home and school education as a Catholic, and I felt a great bond with Jesus. From about age ten, I used to regularly look up at the Sacred Heart picture in our kitchen and ask for help from Jesus and I’d also want to hide away from his stare if I was feeling bad about some of my behaviour. I often sang hymns to Jesus as I walked in the fields or stood in the orchard beside our home, and, in those moments, I felt a deep spiritual connection with him. Many hymns still take me to that place of close emotional bond with Jesus. I also felt great comfort in knowing that Jesus was close to me anywhere I went, and, as an adult when I travelled extensively, I always put myself moment by moment close to Jesus, sometimes singing hymns in my mind, such as Be Not Afraid. Words such as “You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way” or “ If you stand before the power of Hell and Death is at your side, know that I am with you through it all” give me courage and a feeling of inner Power. Another thing that provides comfort and strength for me is the repetition of simple prayers as I walk or drive or cycle, prayers such as “Glory be to the father, Son and Holy Spirit” or a statement like “Jesus Mercy, Mary Help.”

I love being a Eucharistic minister in my own parish of Screen-Curracloe, because I feel close to Jesus when I give communion to all kinds of people and I feel the blessing of Jesus on every person who comes forward to receive. Even now with all the regulations about Covid 19 as I distribute communion, when I am distracted with wearing a mask and sanitising my hands and standing away from people, and this leaves me less in tune with Jesus than normal, I have no doubt he is near, even when I am not focused on staying close to Him. I know that he is with me whether I am at my best or my worst!

I have also had a life-long awareness of the Holy Spirit as a wise guide who can help me to make good choices and enlighten my mind. Over the last twenty years, this awareness of the Holy Spirit was strengthened year by year when I was invited to primary schools to talk with the Confirmation classes about alcohol and drugs, and I began to say to the children that they could turn to the Holy Spirit for strength any time they needed help or guidance. As I spoke with children, I began to more regularly call on the help of the Holy Spirit for myself, and this is source of support in my life. During the Covid 19 lockdown, I began cycling almost daily on the road near my home which is busy with cars and tractors and could be quite dangerous. As I cycle, I ask for protection for myself, and I also ask the Holy Spirit to guide the minds of all the drivers and help them to take care of vulnerable road users such as walkers, cyclists, motor cyclists and animals. This is just one example of my regular contact with the Holy Spirit.

Strange as it may seem, God the Father had always been a more distant and less immediate connection for me, and I seldom prayed directly to God. Then last year, I received a CD with a poem recited on it called “Wishing like the Child of a King,” written by a German man called Rolf Reinhard and it touched me very deeply as I listened to it many times in the car. Here are a few lines:

Do not hold back with your wishes

That was the pattern of bygone times

Wish for the best, for the finest,

because you are a child of God.

God, the King, always wants to give,

and His treasures—they are boundless.

But He can only bestow abundance

if your thoughts are also great.

Let only the finest, the highest,

and best grace your thoughts.

The way your wishes are, King’s child,

is the way your life will be, too.

It was as if for the very first time, I opened my mind and heart to the idea of God being a King and also my father. Therefore it is fine to ask him for anything I want, and I get most of what I ask for if it is good for me. I can be sure of my Father’s abundance and generosity. Because God, my Father is a king, I can feel special and believe my needs will be met.

Over thirty years ago, I was fortunate to inherit by grandmother’s holy water font, which has a beautiful angel with outstretched arms and hangs inside the back door of my house. I need to go out my back door and across a yard to my therapy room, and I have a habit of blessing myself with Holy Water every time I leave my house and before I see each client. So I make the sign of the cross many times every day, and this keeps me consciously close to the Trinity. I feel very blessed, peaceful and happy about this connection, which is innately part of me at this stage. The three seconds it takes to consciously make the sign of the cross pays huge dividends in terms of keeping me healthy, protected, and strong and I have no doubt it blesses my work. Preparing this talk has made me feel joyful and ever so grateful for this strong lifetime connection with the Holy Trinity.

Alice McLoughlin, Psychotherapist, Curracloe. 26/8/2020 alicemcloughlin60@gmail.com

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