Dear Sacred Heart and St. Mary on the Lake,
Blessings to everyone on one of our Patronal Feasts - The Sacred Heart of Jesus! It always falls on a Friday so it can be easy to slip by us. When we pray the Consecration prayer to the Sacred Heart, we are asking Him to be in every part of our life.
Our Faith is filled with many prayers and gestures that help us intentionally invite Jesus into every part of our life. One particular prayer takes place at every Mass right before we listen to the Gospel - when we sign the cross on our head, lips, and heart before hearing the Gospel. I have here part of an article from Alyson Rockhold writing for Busted Halo - a great Catholic resource. May it help us pray that prayer more intentionally. https://bustedhalo.com/life-culture/head-lips-and-heart-learning-about-unity-through-the-three-cross-prayer
“We cross our forehead so that the Word of God may be in our thoughts and purify our minds. We cross our lips so that our speech may be holy and incline us to share the Gospel with others. And we cross our hearts to invite God to strengthen our love for him and others. All of this is so that we might know, proclaim, and love Jesus Christ all the more.” What a perfect summary of the purpose behind my deceptively simple three cross prayer!
Beyond understanding the meaning of this gesture, I wanted to know its history. I learned that the first record of making the sign of the cross before the Gospel proclamation was in the ninth century. Benedictine Monk Remigius of Auxerre (d. c. 908) wrote that the congregation signed their foreheads as the deacon signed his forehead and breast.
Later, this practice was solidified by Pope Innocent in the 11th century. He declared that the deacon would make the sign of the cross on the Bible, and then together with the congregation, everyone would sign their foreheads, lips, and chests.
This ancient tradition was handed down from the time of Remigius to me. That’s over 1,100 years and untold billions of people approaching God’s word with this same gesture. These crosses connect me to my ancestors of faith, but their power and purpose don’t stop there.
When I served as a Jesuit volunteer in Tanzania, I started going to weekly Mass once again. The service was in Swahili, and I was out of Catholic shape. So I often felt lost: sitting when others knelt or mumbling under my breath when I couldn’t remember the correct responses. But then, right before the Gospel, came my shining moment. Together with my Tanzanian brethren, I made the crosses over my head, lips, and heart. The gesture grounded me and connected me to the people around me. Even if I couldn’t understand the words, we stood as one body before our God and King.
The three cross prayer reminds me that encountering God is not a solitary activity. When I make that gesture, I am not the first, the last, or the only person praying for God’s word to be on my mind, lips, and heart. Instead, I am joined by believers around the world and throughout the generations in our collective desire to know God. And even if we have different skin tones or customs, wear different clothes or speak different languages, we are united as God’s children. We are not alone, and we truly are more alike than we are different.”