QUAERITUR: sign of Cross after Holy Communion – WDTPRS POLL

From a reader:

Some friends were having a discussion about whether or not making the sign of the cross after receiving Holy Communion is encouraged, discouraged, or doesn’t matter either way.  What say you ?

I saaaaay…. I sayyyyy…

Sure.  Why not?  Great idea!  But it is not obligatory.

I will wager that a large percentage of those who attend the Extraordinary Form make the sign of the Cross after reception of Holy Communion.

Let’s have a POLL and find out!

Please select your best answer and then leave a comment in the combox.

After I receive Holy Communion, I generally...

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106 Responses to QUAERITUR: sign of Cross after Holy Communion – WDTPRS POLL

  1. AndyKl says:

    I, personally, find it redundant. Before I began attending the TLM regularly, I noticed people would receive in the hand, move to the side, look to the crucifix, and make the sign of the cross. I think all of those steps are redundant, and betray a lack of knowledge about the Real Presence.

    Of course, receiving in the hand would also betray a lack of knowledge of the Real Presence, but that’s a whole other can of worms….

    Anyways, I just receive (at the TLM) and go back to my pew.

  2. Baylor_convert says:

    What about us Anglican Use oddballs?

  3. Serviam1 says:

    What about those, as myself, who attend both the EF typically on Sunday and the OF typically for daily Mass? In other words, attend both forms regularly.

    I make the Sign of the Cross (bless myself) after receiving Holy Communion at ANY Mass.

  4. Gail F says:

    I attend the OF and I always do. I don’t know whether someone taught me to long ago, or I just saw other people doing it, but as I always make the sign of the cross after I pray it seems natural — after all I have just said “amen” and I am thanking God. I never thought of this as a rule, though.

    Two funny things: When my oldest child had first communion, the DRE ordered the children not to make the sign of the cross afterward! She literally said “no one is to make the sign of the cross or do anything else but go back to your pew.” I didn’t argue with her (we had plenty of disagreements), I just told my daughter that was silly and she could make the sign of the cross any time she wanted to. My kids always make the sign of the cross after communion, probably just because my husband and I do. Number two: A couple of years ago I had lunch with some lay staff at our local seminary, and the topic came up. One of them said something like, “a lot of people make the sign of the cross after communion — what’s up with that?” She was bemused and could not imagine why anyone would do it. Considering all the weird things that go on at masses: “liturgical movement,” ladies with incense bowls, people refusing to say “he,” various combinations of holding hands, etc., I thought that a person making crossing himself/herself whenever personally moved to do so was no big deal!

  5. pberginjr says:

    We were taught to cross ourselves before receiving communion.

  6. It’s always a good thing to question our faith, but I want to suggest that worrying about something like this is really being a bit too OCD about things. Do what devotion in your heart compels you to do.

  7. Johnofthecrumbs says:

    Father add the Liturgy of Anglican Use to the poll. We receive our Lord kneeling, on the tongue and a lot of us make the Sign of the Cross as we leave the rail.

  8. Mike says:

    Typical UGCC pattern: cross, cross, icon, cross, cross arms, communion, cross.

  9. AM says:

    Some people reckon that, having just received Our Lord, there is nothing more “you can do” to be blessed. Rather like, at the end of Mass, when we “bow our heads and pray for God’s blessing”, the priest blesses, and we are blessed: we don’t bless ourselves (although many people make the Cross then, too.)

    I have some sympathy with this reckoning : being aware of it helps me be attentive to What The Prayers Really Say : who is really blessing whom, who is really addressing a prayer to whom, who is really being asked to pray, and for what, etc. So although I sometimes make a Cross after Holy Communion, usually I don’t.

  10. cblanch says:

    I do and attend the OF. It’s the way I was taught.

  11. Bender says:

    I’ve noticed a large percentage of those who attend the Ordinary Form make the sign of the Cross after reception of Holy Communion.

    Why does EVERYTHING have to be seen through a divisive OF vs. EF lens?? Must we even use the Body of Our Lord to score points in this fight? [I think you are the only one fighting.]

  12. GirlCanChant says:

    One of the sisters at my grade school told us not to make the Sign of the Cross after Communion. She said, “Does the priest do it? No, so neither should you.” So I’ve been receiving for years without making the Sign of the Cross. Now that I assist at the EF, I am starting to occasionally do it, but it is not a habit for me.

    And in case anyone is wondering, this is not a pantsuit sister we are talking about. I trusted her!

  13. Ef-lover says:

    I generally attend the EF mass and do not make sign of the cross after recieving holy communion since kneeling at the altar rail is already a sign of reverence but when attending an OF mass I sign myself since holy communion is standing and the sign of the cross is a sign of reverence

  14. pelerin says:

    I have always made the Sign of the Cross after receiving Holy Communion whether at an EF or an OF. I do not remember ever having been taught this but it just seems the natural reaction of thanksgiving. If I were told it was no longer allowed I think I would have great difficulty in stopping the practise. In fact I still feel awkward no longer making it before and after the homily, at the end of the Credo and at the Benedictus qui venit and it must be many years ago when this happened.

  15. Titus says:

    Two points:

    1. The poll is missing an option for “… and I attend the EF when possible, which is not ‘usually.’” [I can't add every possible option.]

    2. I always made the sign of the cross in this context growing up receiving in the hand in the OF. I find that I inadvertently skip it sometimes now, receiving on the tongue. I’m not sure if that’s because I’m not doing something with my hands already, or because I’m accustomed to carrying a baby half the time.

    Third Point: it’s not a “divisive lens,” and nobody’s pitting OF vs. EF as if it were a fight of some kind. It’s merely an interesting statistical marker (even though these polls don’t result in highly useful statistical data from a “scientific” perspective).

  16. jmvm says:

    As a Eastern Catholic who usually attends a Latin Catholic Church (lack of own my own church for several hundred miles), I try not to add or subtract for what the expected norm is (yes, despite the fact that Bishop’s Conferences by themselves do not have binding authority.) Hence, I do not make the sign of the cross after receiving communion. That also means I remain standing while receiving communion (unless I am at an internal Opus Dei activity at which kneeling while receiving is the norm or at an ECF mass), I bow prior to receiving communion, I do not hold hands at the Lord’s prayer, I shake hands at the Sign of Peace, etc.

  17. Titus says:

    “Does the priest do it? No, so neither should you.”

    A common misconception. I know a fellow who grew up never knowing how to make the sign of the cross in a sensible manner because the priest always did it in blessing (so he walked around looking like he was blessing things when he went to cross himself). That’s an extreme example, granted, but still.

  18. Brad says:

    I’ve noticed that in my liberal parish, 95% receive in the hand and half of those then make the sign. Of the extreme minority who receive on the tongue, none make the sign. I have wondered if the former group are compensating for a pricking conscience.

  19. LouiseA says:

    Our priest expressly asked us NOT to cross ourselves after receiving. The problem was that many people are “too quick on the draw” so to speak, and they’d accidentally hit the underneath side of the paten before the altar boy had a chance to move it onto the next chin in line. This was dangerous because the hit risked bouncing any Consecrated particles on the paten off and onto the floor, or would actually tilt the paten where the particles would risk sliding off.

  20. When our catechists at the RCIA were going through how we should receive the Eucharist they told us we should not sign ourselves afterwards for the reasons AM gave…

  21. Joan M says:

    I do not make the sign of the cross after receiving. I do not remember having done it before the OF came into being. Before the OF we all used to receive kneeling at the altar rail. If we did make the sign of the cross, I just can’t remember that.

    Now, in most cases, at the OF we receive standing (when at Mass in an Opus Dei center it is usual to receive kneeling, which I much prefer) and we are required to make a sign of reverence prior to receiving. I bow before receiving and I receive on the tongue. My hands are clasped at about waist level, and remain so until I return to my pew.

    If it were required, I would have no problem whatever complying, but as things are, it just doesn’t seem necessary.

  22. Father G says:

    Once in a while, I have had communicants who -receiving on the hand-take the Host and bless themselves with It before receiving. I promptly tell them to never do it again.

  23. JMGDD says:

    I normally attend the EF, and do not cross myself after receiving. I am on crutches, and crossing myself with a crutch dangling off one arm can be difficult to do gracefully, not to mention a hazard to those around me! Sometimes I cross myself upon returning to a seated position in the pew, but not always. The cross is a powerful blessing, but having just received the Body of Our Lord is surely an infinitely greater blessing.

  24. APX says:

    This poll doesn’t have enough options!

    When I attend the Mass in the OF, I don’t cross myself, but I do in the EF, but…that’s only because everyone else does it. I attended an EF at a different parish where, as people left the communion rail, they turned to the altar, genuflected, and made the sign of the cross. Well, monkey see, monkey do.

  25. scarda says:

    We were instructed by the priest about a hundred million years ago to wait until he had moved 2 people past us before crossing ourselves, lest we joggle his arm and cause the Host to be dropped. Sensible advice when kneeling at a chancel rail, but not much use in the current custom.

  26. benedetta says:

    Had never considered it before but it is interesting, that at the OF it is ok to make the sign of the cross after receiving communion but frowned upon to receive on the tongue or kneeling or bowing before receiving…It does seem that it is being taught as well. Not to be overly cynical as some do come up with different theological justifications for certain things occurring in the OF but I wonder if so much doesn’t go back to decisions made especially out of convenience and utility. It’s hard quite often to find anything reasonable about why certain demonstrations of piety are discouraged (or even labelled as being this or that) while others are promoted…

  27. JoAnna says:

    I was taught in RCIA (Basilica of St. Mary in Mpls, MN) to make the sign of the cross before receiving (as well as to bow before receiving) so I do so. I usually attend the Ordinary Form.

  28. JoAnna says:

    correction: make the sign of the cross AFTER receiving and bow BEFORE receiving.

  29. Scott W. says:

    It’s always a good thing to question our faith, but I want to suggest that worrying about something like this is really being a bit too OCD about things. Do what devotion in your heart compels you to do.

    I want to suggest that we shouldn’t assume that asking the question constitutes “worrying” and that this is really being a bit too projective about things.

  30. Sarah R. says:

    I’ve usually made the sign of the cross after communion no matter what Mass I attend. I don’t see any reason why not to and I haven’t been particularly told either way. To me it is a sign of devotion and thanksgiving.

  31. Legisperitus says:

    I’ve always made the Sign after receiving. It’s the beginning of my meditation prayers.

  32. I make the Sign of the Cross whatever Mass I attend – but then I can’t kneel to receive. I try to genuflect (holding on for dear life to the altar rail) or bow reverently if my knees are really bad that day before receiving… I’m not blessing myself, I’m showing respect for the Blessed Sacrament which I’ve just received – I also bow and cross myself when an Extraordinary Minister carries the Blessed Sacrament past me in the pew (going to give Communion to the sick and housebound.)

  33. JMGDD says:

    @ Pelerin: To my knowledge, signing oneself at the “old” points of Mass, even if it is no longer the custom for a lot of people, has never been forbidden. Sr. Pantsuit or Fr Spirit of the Council may have told you it was, but their opinion is not law. Sign away!

  34. Joseph N. says:

    I was taught that one should make a sign of reverence the reception of Holy Communion. In the EF, you already are kneeling so another sign of reverence is not necessary. If you’re kneeling in the OF, same goes.

  35. benedetta says:

    I should add that actually was not taught to do this and I was taught at First Communion to receive on the tongue. Thereafter I was instructed/enlightened later in childhood as to the errors of my previous ways and did as I was told. Now if I am permitted to decide I prefer to receive on the tongue and from a priest. I do not always insist and do whatever is being done wherever in the world I happen to be. I take the cue from the priest and if he seems amenable then I receive on the tongue. It’s not a foolproof approach however…I try to bow before I receive but I appreciate that everyone wants the line to move along and that also many regard this as “divisive” unfortunately where I am so I try to not make a big overall statement. I am not doing it to make a statement regarding others, at all, in any shape or form whatsoever. Given the attitudes obviously it’s much more enjoyable not to rock the boat and have to be the target of whatever the misunderstandings may be…but then on some things even if everyone misunderstands in making assumptions, there is little that can be done about that.

    I will say that when I was re-taught how to receive I was also taught that the Eucharist is merely a symbol. It was very clearly stated and in fact I was required to memorize this definition at parish religious education. At the same time we were told that the earliest Christians received in the hand, that it was a sign of respect to stand and not to kneel, and so it went and we felt righteous in this…It was not until much later in life that upon encountering the faith and the prayers at Adoration of the poorest among us, combined with reading the writings of various Catholic Americans known for work with the poor such as Dorothy Day, that I began to look into what the Church actually teaches and believes about the Eucharist and was quite startled to begin to read the teaching with the Gospel of John, the prayers at consecration, what others have said about the sacrament… Over a period of time I came also to be helped to belief…and for this I can’t take credit as it wasn’t so much a willful choice but a reality that overpowered such that I had nowhere else to go (“Lord, to whom shall we go?”). Making a willful response now that is within my control and in proportion to what is received I still fail often…

  36. s i says:

    The question from the reader was posed to me recently; after First Communion practise. My research indicates that a gesture of reverence is required before receiving. Kneeling is, of course, the best gesture, but if you receive standing, the bishops request that we bow our heads just prior to receiving. A Sign of the Cross is also a valid gesture, as is a genuflection. Any way you slice it, the gesture is required before you receive; nothing is required after you receive.

    It’s difficult enough to get some of these little ones to keep their hands folded and eyes down, (instead of swinging arms and eyes looking all around), in the Communion line. Perhaps, once they begin to notice other people crossing themselves after receiving, they may feel they want to as well, and that’s fine, but it’s not required, and not necessary.

  37. QuaerensDeum says:

    Seems to me this is an odd discussion. The sign of the cross is a blessing, and no, it doesn’t compare with He Whom we’ve just received in communion, but surely blessing ourselves is an appropriate reminder of our call to follow the footsteps of the Lord we just received to Calvary. I view it as asking the Lord to give me the Cross and use it as a reminder to turn inwardly in joyful prayer while I return to my pew – in either form. So my vote is for “great; not necessary, but great.”

  38. AnAmericanMother says:

    At our former Nosebleed-High Episcopal parish, we made the sign of the Cross before and after the homily, at “and the life everlasting” at the end of the Creed, at the prayers for the dead, at “blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord”, before receiving, and after receiving. Nobody told me ‘not’, so I’ve just kept right on. Only difference is since we don’t kneel to receive in our parish, I genuflect first, and receive on the tongue instead of in the hand.

  39. fenetre says:

    I used to cross myself out of habit, without understanding why I did it. Several years ago I asked an old priest this question, and he told me it is not necessary as the Lord is already with us. This was re-confirmed afterwards by couple other priests.

  40. Denise-au says:

    I was taught to genuflect in adoration just before receiving the Eucharist, to receive on my tongue, then take a step to the side where I make the Sign of the Cross and return to my pew with my hands joined and my eyes cast down. I’ve been receiving that way for 53 years.

  41. lucy says:

    I attend EF every Sunday and do not sign myself after Holy Communion.

    It’s interesting to read the comments here. It seems it’s fine either way. I’ve always been curious about this. At first I thought it was a cultural gesture, because I live in a community highly populated with Mexicans. But, I recently have noticed folks of other cultures making the sign of the cross as well.

  42. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    I fear to say there is a certain degree of ‘missing the point’ here, especially in the “Our Lord is within us” school of thought.

    What are we doing when we make the sign of the Cross? We are saying the words “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

    If we say this after Communion, it is as an act of reverence, perhaps of wonderment, to honour the Lord we have just taken into ourselves and who have taken us into Himself. It can never be wrong to say these sacred words, which give Him so much pleasure.

    To every Catholic, of any hue, these words are always accompanied by the sign of the Cross. If not, we should make sure that words and gesture are always linked; we do not make an empty gesture as a talisman, but as a Credo, as an affirmation of our Faith.

    What better time for such an affirmation that the moment of receiving Him who is our Salvation?

  43. Glen M says:

    I’d like to know what percentage of Catholics who don’t believe in the Real Presence make the sign of the Cross after receiving Holy Communion.

  44. Sub-sub-porter says:

    I grew up with the OF in English at a parish where nearly everyone made the sign of the cross after communion and at the priest’s words “May almighty God have mercy on us…” at the end of the penitential rite–some people also beat their chests at the Lamb of God. I actually remember being taught to make the sign of the cross after communion in my First Holy Communion class in second grade: receive communion, step to the side, look at the tabernacle, and make the sign of the cross.

    That being said, when I attended a Ruthenian Catholic Divine Liturgy, the priest, in his homily, went over some of the basic gestures of the faithful during the liturgy. I imagine he did this because the church was filled with Latins. One of the things he reminded us of is that one does not make the sign of the cross after receiving communion in the Byzantine rite; this leads me to think, as the poll seems to show, that it is a predominantly Latin gesture.

  45. Centristian says:

    I do not make the sign of the Cross after communion because, believe it or not, the Lefebvrists taught me not to. “It is redundant, unliturgical, and typically American,” we were told at the Seminary at Winona. I haven’t made the sign of the Cross after Communion since, and that’s going back to 1989.

  46. JKnott says:

    Although I make the Sign of the Cross very often throughout the day, I have never thought to do so before or after receiving holy Communion at either the OF or EF and strangly have never noticed what others normally do, so this is a very interesting post. If I have to attend an OF where the Prescious Blood is offered by an EMOE off to the side, I do not receive from the cup but I do bow slightly and make the Sign of the Cross as I walk past the Lord.
    Our pastor at the EF makes the Sign before and after the homily.

  47. MarkJ says:

    I find that the sign of the Cross after receiving Holy Communion is a beautiful reminder that in receiving our Lord, we are agreeing to take up our cross and follow Him wherever He may lead us. It is a sign of surrender to His will. It is a sign of Communion with His Cross. It is a reminder that we are agreeing to die to ourselves and live for Him. It is a reminder that we are partaking in the Holy Sacrifice.

    I don’t understand why anyone would have an objection to this…

  48. Jayna says:

    I always cross myself after receiving. I’m pretty sure we were told to do so when I received my First Holy Communion, but I honestly don’t remember. At the time, the cathedral parish/school I went to was still pretty traditional (e.g. altar boys only – and this was in the 90′s!), so being taught that was likely not based on misguided theology. It has sadly gone downhill since then, but it was good while it lasted.

  49. pelerin says:

    JMGDD – wow – you have made my day! So making the Sign of the Cross has never been forbidden at those points? And I have often made them speedily and surreptitiously thinking I was wrong but feeling the need all the same. And yes I forgot to mention the one when the Priest gives absolution after the Confiteor. Sadly the one which used to accompany ‘May their Souls and the Souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace’ which I always found so powerful and comforting, cannot be done as this prayer has not been said for many years from the pulpit. I wish it could be brought back.

    The merging of body and soul when making the Sign of the Cross is indeed very powerful and I seem to remember that when the changes happened we were told that making the Sign of the Cross so many times during Mass was unnecessary. Thanks to the internet we are now learning what really happened after Vatican II.

  50. Konichiwa says:

    I usually attend the NO, and after I receive Communion I go straight to the pew because it seems as though I ought to keep moving or someone will bump into me. I try to frequent the UA, and there I make the Sign of the Cross before getting up from the rail. I do so because it is a prayer, and I believe that that sign is a part of my Catholic identity. I’ve been to Anglican Use a few times recently, and in my opinion it’s almost as beautiful as the UA of the Roman Rite. Most receive Communion kneeling, but many receive in the hand while doing so. I think that that form of the Mass is “NO friendly” so it might be that people from nearby NO parishes go there. I don’t know for certain. But I digressed, there I receive Communion and make the Sign of the Cross as I would at the UA since there is a beautiful rail and kneeler.

  51. Gail F says:

    Bard wrote: “I’ve noticed that in my liberal parish, 95% receive in the hand and half of those then make the sign. Of the extreme minority who receive on the tongue, none make the sign. I have wondered if the former group are compensating for a pricking conscience.”

    Brad: You should refrain from guessing. As someone who both receives in the hand and makes the sign of the cross, I do not have a pricking conscience. Should I assume that people who receive on the tongue don’t cross themselves because they believe they are too good to bother? Of course not. If you ARE going to guess reasons for other people’s behavior, in charity you ought to guess good ones.

  52. Cathy says:

    When I was in RCIA (in 1997), we had a sort of practice for the Easter Vigil where we practiced receiving Holy Communion. I’d been going to Mass regularly for over a year and most people made the sign of the cross after receiving. I’d seen that so many times that I did it without thinking at our practice. It somehow felt right and helped me to be more conscious of Who I was (or rather would be) receiving. I don’t know if Catholics realize what a big deal it is for a non-Catholic to do these external devotions like making the sign of the cross that are so uniquely Catholic. They are very meaningful.

    After my making the sign of the cross at our practice, the priest stopped the practice and railed against making the sign of the cross after receiving Holy Communion. I realize now that it was a good opportunity to make reparation for my sins, but at the time it was just plain humiliating. His main objection seemed to be that it wasn’t part of the rubrics, but he didn’t seem to be much of a stickler for rubrics when it came to more modern leaning additions like applause.

    I’m in a different OF parish now where traditional things are better tolerated, but I don’t make the sign of the cross after receiving – just because it isn’t required and I don’t want to unnecessarily tick people off. I have plenty of opportunities to tick people off with things that are necessary.

  53. Leonius says:

    Making the sign of the cross is never redundant, after receiving a gift its is normal to thank the giver, God is no different, we make the sign of the cross after receiving as a sign of our appreciation for Christs sacrifice.

    I was taught to make the sign of the cross after receiving during preparation for my first communion back in 1988, it sure beats strolling away like what just happened was no big deal as far as I am concerned.

  54. Leonius says:

    I should add I received my first communion in the UK so its not merely an American practice as the prev poster said was stated by an SSPX priest.

  55. teaguytom says:

    Making the sign of the cross after communion is an example of a pious practice that was done before 1969 and carried over to the OF. People would receive on the tongue, bless themselves, then return to their pew. There was no precious blood for the people before 1969. Another example of pious practices carried over from the EF are the striking of the breast and crossing oneself during the Confiteor in the OF. Even though the Consilium neutered the Saints from the Confiteor and simplified the “mea culpa” you will still see many people striking the breast and then making the sign of the cross when father says “May Almighty God have Mercy…” These are vestiges of the old mass that the people have continued to retain . They are good practices that should continue.

  56. MichaelJ says:

    Wow. With all of the concern about redundancy, unnecessary effort and lack of a specific requirement to Cross ourselves, it certainly seems that there are a lot of Engineers here.

  57. barbarafaustyna says:

    I think it was Saint Faustina who, after the Holy Communion, crossed herself and told the Lord – “With the bars of this cross I imprison you in my heart”. I understood this much better after reading Padre Pio’s prayer:

    Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have You present so that I do not forget You.
    You know how easily I abandon You.
    Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak and I need Your strength, that I may not fall so often.
    Stay with me, Lord, for You are my life, and without You, I am without fervor.
    Stay with me, Lord, for You are my light, and without You, I am in darkness.
    Stay with me, Lord, to show me Your will.
    Stay with me, Lord, so that I hear Your voice and follow You.
    Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love You very much, and always be in Your company.
    Stay with me, Lord, if You wish me to be faithful to You.
    Stay with me, Lord, for as poor as my soul is, I want it to be a place of consolation for You,
    a nest of love.
    Stay with me, Jesus, for it is getting late and the day is coming to a close, and life passes;
    death, judgment, eternity approaches.
    It is necessary to renew my strength, so that I will not stop along the way and for that, I need You.
    It is getting late and death approaches,
    I fear the darkness, the temptations, the dryness, the cross, the sorrows.
    O how I need You, my Jesus, in this night of exile!
    Stay with me tonight, Jesus, in life with all its dangers. I need You.
    Let me recognize You as Your disciples did at the breaking of the bread,
    so that the Eucharistic Communion be the Light which disperses the darkness,
    the force which sustains me, the unique joy of my heart.
    Stay with me, Lord, because at the hour of my death, I want to remain united to You,
    if not by communion, at least by grace and love.
    Stay with me, Jesus, I do not ask for divine consolation, because I do not merit it,
    but the gift of Your Presence, oh yes, I ask this of You!
    Stay with me, Lord, for it is You alone I look for,
    Your Love, Your Grace, Your Will, Your Heart, Your Spirit,
    because I love You and ask no other reward but to love You more and more.
    With a firm love, I will love You with all my heart while on earth
    and continue to love You perfectly during all eternity.
    Amen.
    To me, it is enough reason to always cross myself after receiving the Lord.

  58. amenamen says:

    I never even heard of this practice growing up. It has never been part of my practice of the faith.
    Priests do not make the sign of the cross after receiving Communion. The pope does not do it. I have never heard a bishop or priest preach about the practice, either favorably or unfavorably. It is not in the rubrics.

    To me, it never seemed like a practice that was ever taught or encouraged by the Church. When I first saw it happen, it reminded me very much of the way some Latin American baseball players will make a quick sign of the cross when they step up to the plate. Maybe it is part of their culture, but it is not the custom, even for devout Catholics, where I grew up.

    That being said, I have no objections to the practice. Although, I have seen one very peculiar situation, when someone receives Communion in the hand, and makes the sign of the cross WITH the Eucharist in his hand, before placing it on his tongue. That is clearly wrong.

  59. Brooklyn says:

    I like what St. Cyril said:

    Let us, therefore, not be ashamed of the Cross of Christ; but though another hide it, do thou openly seal it upon thy forehead, that the devils may behold the royal sign and flee trembling far away. Make then this sign at eating and drinking, at sitting, at lying down, at rising up, at speaking, at walking: in a word, at every act.

    I found this at Fisheaters.com, and their advice is:

    Catholics should begin and end their prayers with the Sign of the Cross and should cross themselves when passing a church to honor Jesus in the Tabernacle, upon entering a church, and after receving Communion. The sign is made, too, in times of trouble or fear (e.g., when receiving bad news, in times of temptation, when hearing an ambulance or fire truck go by), when passing a cemetery or otherwise recalling the dead, when seeing a Crucifix — any time one wishes to honor and invoke God, or ward away evil, fear, and temptation.

    http://www.fisheaters.com/sign.html

    I see the sign of the Cross as a way of saying we belong to Christ, and what better time to show that then when we have just received him in the Eucharist!

  60. Alice says:

    I’m pretty sure I was taught to receive Holy Communion in the hand and then after putting the Host in my mouth to make the Sign of the Cross. (I was homeschooled and neither my parents nor the priest felt I needed to learn how to receive on the tongue.) When I taught CCD, I taught my students to bow and make the Sign of the Cross before receiving and to make the Sign of the Cross after receiving as well, regardless of whether we were practicing on the tongue or in the hand. I find it odd that the SSPX considers it redundant. If it’s redundant for the laity to make the Sign of the Cross 8 times instead of 7 at Mass, surely it’s also redundant for the priest to make it 52 times in the EF as opposed to maybe 15 times in the OF.

  61. Centristian says:

    “I should add I received my first communion in the UK so its not merely an American practice as the prev poster said was stated by an SSPX priest.”

    For clarification’s sake, I recall that my class was told this not by a priest, actually, but by a team of Masters of Ceremonies (seminarians) as part of an orientation about how to participate in choir, prior to our tonsure. They also mentioned that they realized that it was the prevailing custom of the laity at SSPX chapels to make the sign of the Cross after Communion (that was certainly my experience), but that didn’t mean it was correct. As clergy (which we were about to become) we were expected to do things correctly, now.

    I have subsequently encountered liturgical opinions which support what we were taught at Winona…although I haven’t heard anyone else ever describe the habit as being “typically American”.

  62. MichaelJ says:

    Taken to its logical (abeit extreme and absurd) conclusion, concern about redundancy would seem to indicate that a Catholic should never make the Sign of the Cross more than once in a lifetime or should never pray twice for the same person.
    I would be interested in learning more about why this practice is considered redundant and how much time should elapse before it is no longer redundant.

  63. jesusthroughmary says:

    I suppose that’s why the French laid down their arms and cowered like schoolgirls in the face of Nazi aggression – fighting them would have been too “typically American”.

    Also, as an aside to Josephus’ post of 11:06, if I hear one more CCD teacher teach the prayer accompanying the Sign of the Cross as “Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Amen”, I’m going to start hitting people upside the head with a Baltimore Catechism. The following words are all within the grasp of a 5-year-old: “In, the, name, of, and”. Ugh.

  64. Jitpring says:

    I always attend the traditional Mass, and always make the sign of the Cross. I didn’t participate in the poll because I refuse to support the Orwellian “Extraordinary Form” language embedded in it. I don’t doubt that others have also refused to participate on this ground.

  65. Centristian says:

    “Taken to its logical (abeit extreme and absurd) conclusion, concern about redundancy would seem to indicate that a Catholic should never make the Sign of the Cross more than once in a lifetime or should never pray twice for the same person.
    I would be interested in learning more about why this practice is considered redundant and how much time should elapse before it is no longer redundant.”

    It isn’t about numbers of times that one makes the sign of the Cross that is the concern, but the fact that one is doing so at the moment of receiving the Eucharist, which seems to some liturgical experts (and SSPX rubricists, apparently) a redundant, liturgically incorrect gesture. I seem to gather what they’re saying, although I find myself at a loss to intelligently explain it.

  66. jesusthroughmary says:

    Jitpring says:
    18 May 2011 at 1:26 pm

    “I always attend the traditional Mass, and always make the sign of the Cross. I didn’t participate in the poll because I refuse to support the Orwellian “Extraordinary Form” language embedded in it. I don’t doubt that others have also refused to participate on this ground.”

    You really need to get over yourself. If there is a more traditional way that you’d rather me state it, something perhaps that was in effect in 1962, please let me know and I will do my best to accommodate.

  67. JKnott says:

    Mark J said: “I find that the sign of the Cross after receiving Holy Communion is a beautiful reminder that in receiving our Lord, we are agreeing to take up our cross and follow Him wherever He may lead us. It is a sign of surrender to His will. It is a sign of Communion with His Cross. It is a reminder that we are agreeing to die to ourselves and live for Him. It is a reminder that we are partaking in the Holy Sacrifice.”
    That was certainly worth repeating. Great reflection Mark J.!
    Count me in from now on.

  68. ByzantineCatholic says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z., for remembering us Eastern Catholics in your poll. It is refreshing to see that we have not been forgotten on your blog! Bravo!

  69. Jitpring says:

    “The sign of the cross is the most terrible weapon against the Devil. Thus the Church wishes not only that we should have it continually in front of our minds to recall to us just what our souls are worth and what they cost Jesus Christ, but also that we should make it at every juncture ourselves: when we go to bed, when we awaken during the night, when we get up, when we begin any action, and, above all, when we are tempted. We can say that a Christian who makes the Sign of the Cross with genuine religious sentiments, that is to say, when fully aware of the action which he is performing, makes all Hell tremble. But when we make the Sign of the Cross, we must make it not by habit but with respect, with attention and thinking of what we are doing. Ah, dear Lord, with what devout awe we should be filled when we make the Sign of the Cross upon ourselves and recall that we are pronouncing all that we hold holy and most sacred in our religion!”

    -St. John Vianney, http://www.catholicpamphlets.net/pamphlets/The%20Sermons%20of%20St%20John%20Mary%20Vianney%208.pdf

  70. James Joseph says:

    I absolutely love the Sign of the Cross. I absolutely love all 52 of them made during the Most Holy Sacrifice.

  71. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    @Jitpring
    Orwellian? Benedictine, surely?

    @jesusthroughmary
    Thank you, Sir.

  72. Nun2OCDS says:

    In the EF the priest makes the sign of the cross over the communicant when distributing communion. Why or what its significance is has never been explained to me. I take it to be a personal Benediction and after Communion respond with the sign of the cross. The priest has said not to do this and not to make the sign of the cross upon returning to the pew. What’s wrong with devotion?

  73. Stephen says:

    I prefer the Extraordinary Form but attend the Ordinary From because my city does not have ready access to the EF. I usually do see people cross themselves at the OF and it seems rarer at the EF to my memory.

  74. Enoch the Sleestak says:

    I’m not sure I understand the reasoning by some above that, since the priest does not cross himself after receiving, neither should we. Accordingly, should we genuflect after receiving, because the priest does?
    I either was taught or read somewhere–and I wish I could remember where!–that one should receive in front of the priest (or EUM), then step aside from the communion line, briefly pause and cross oneself whilst looking toward the altar, then return to one’s pew. I like making the sign of the cross at this moment because it slows me down. But I wish I could slow things down even more: being forced into what always feels like the furtive lurch of quickly turning to duck back down the aisle, seems…well, less than optimal.

  75. EWTN Rocks says:

    I was taught to make the sign of the Cross as a child and continued to do so when I periodically attended Mass as a teen and later as an adult. When I started attending Mass regularly last year I asked my parents if I should after noticing that about 50% or so of my fellow parishioners made the sign of the Cross after receiving Holy Communion. Dad said “yes”, Mom said “no.” As a result, I stopped for awhile but resumed because it didn’t seem respectful not to do it.

  76. ReginaMarie says:

    Dittoing Mike’s comment…
    “Typical UGCC pattern: cross, cross, icon, cross, cross arms, communion, cross.”
    (Translation: Make the Sign of the Cross 2 times, venerate the icon on the tetrapod, make the Sign of the Cross a 3rd time, receive the Eucharist with arms crossed over your chest, make the Sign of the Cross again)
    …and ByzantineCatholic’s comment…
    “Thank you, Fr. Z., for remembering us Eastern Catholics in your poll. It is refreshing to see that we have not been forgotten on your blog! Bravo!”
    ICXC+NIKA!

  77. Andy Milam says:

    I don’t make the Sign of the Cross. I assist at TLM 99.99% of the time. The only time I assist at the Novus Ordo is when I am at my parents. Then I don’t make the Sign of the Cross either, but then again, I rarely approach for Holy Communion when I am home.

    As has been stated, I think that it is redundant. There is no need to bless myself when I have just received the Consecrated Host. My sign of reverence is that I kneel to receive our Lord.

  78. justamouse says:

    I can’t not cross myself after receiving.

  79. dervorin says:

    I do not make the sign of the cross and I attend the Extraordinary form. Why? Because I am serving, and since the paten is in my right hand, I can alas not make the sign of the cross.

    But when I’m not serving I do make the sign of the cross when I receive. I don’t say Amen, though, because the priest says Amen thusly: “Corpus Domini Nostri Jesu Christi custodiat animam tuam in vitam aeternam. Amen.”

    I serve in Newburgh, NY, and I often see people who are clearly new to the Extraordinary form, and I hear them say “Amen” under their breath after the priest gives them Communion. As for the sign of the cross, after Communion, it’s another one of those things that in my opinion is superfluous: neither obviously harmful nor overtly beneficial. It’s not as if I expect I am to receive some special grace or indulgence for making the sign of the cross after Communion.

    In fact, since we are expected to use the moments after Communion when our Lord is truly inside us to pray, the sign of the cross, which is of course the universal introduction to Catholic prayer, can be for some people an introduction to that special time of prayer.

    Others may say that since we have already signed ourselves upon entrance to the church itself in preparation for the prayer of Mass, we do not need to do so again. However, our post-communion prayers (not to be confused with the last part of the Proper) could be seen as prayers withing the Prayer of Mass, and therefore would be introduced with the sign of the cross.

    On the topic of the sign of the cross, if I might ask a question, who signs themselves when they leave the church? I used to, a long time ago before I came upon the Extraordinary Form, but I don’t now and haven’t for a while. I always do so upon entrance to the church, but how about upon exit? Father Zuhlsdorf, is it expected of us to sign ourselves either upon our entrance or exit from the church?

  80. EWTN Rocks says:

    dervorin, you said: “Father Zuhlsdorf, is it expected of us to sign ourselves either upon our entrance or exit from the church?”. I’ll be anxious to see how Fr. Z replies. I always do the sign of the Cross with Holy Water entering and exiting the Church (I believe that is what I was taught). However, the pastor at my parents’ church told them it was appropriate upon entering only, but that doesn’t seem quite right to me.

  81. EWTN Rocks says:

    Oops dervorin and Fr. Z – I just remembered my parents’ pastor was referring to Holy Water, not the sign of the Cross. I believe he said Holy Water for entering only (sorry, long day…)

    Also sorry for jumping to a different topic.

  82. Mariana says:

    I attend the OF, but only because there is no EF, and I make the sign of the cross. I did it when I was a high church Lutheran and intend to carry on, but practically no one else does.

    Other high church Lutheran things I’d like to do, but which perhaps aren’t Catholic: making the sign of the cross at the end of the Credo and bowing before the processional crucifix.

  83. Benjamin says:

    We customarily make the sign of the Cross before receiving communion. I never heard about crossing after the communion neither have I ever seen someone doing such a thing (in Europe).

  84. I make the sign of the cross after receiving Communion. I also usually attend the OF. Two points about the latter. The first is that I usually attend the OF not out of preference but availability. I would be attending the EF if there were a regular licit EF Mass nearby (there isn’t one either licit or otherwise). As it is, I live large periods of the year in a place where I am happy there is Mass within reasonable distance at all! The second is that as a convert I learnt to make the sign of the cross at this stage by example from people attending the OF Mass.

  85. Gaz says:

    I’ve made the sign of the Cross after receiving Holy Communion since we started standing up to receive. At my parish, Holy Communion is offered in both forms. It feels odd to genuflect before the sacred host and do nothing at the precious chalice. As receiving Our Lord in both kinds is a unified action undertaken in two acts, I “frame” my acceptance of Our Lord and Saviour with a genuflection before and a sign of the cross afterwards. It’s just my own reminder to myself of what I’m doing.

  86. MichaelJ says:

    Gaz brings up an interesting point. Why is making the Sign of the Cross after Holy Communion considered superfluous or redundant, but receiving under both Species is not?

  87. AnAmericanMother says:

    Mariana,
    I forgot about bowing as the processional crucifix passes. I do that too.
    “High” Lutherans and “High” Anglicans seem to have kept the same customs. They came from somewhere. And since our former parish prided itself on being “more Roman than Rome” – at least from a ritual standpoint – I don’t feel bad about continuing the practice. Who knows, somebody might join in. I’ve gotten positive comments about my little chapel cap, which dates back to my childhood.

  88. Centristian says:

    “Other high church Lutheran things I’d like to do, but which perhaps aren’t Catholic: making the sign of the cross at the end of the Credo and bowing before the processional crucifix.”

    I also end the Credo by making the sign of the Cross (at “et vitam venturi saeculi”), regardless of whether it’s recited in Latin or in English. It was something I picked up attending Mass in the Extraordinary Form, and something I have continued while attending Mass in the Ordinary Form. Since at that point I’m standing in the very back of the church with no one around, I’m able to do it without drawing attention to myself.

    Jitpring: you seem cross.

    +

  89. irishgirl says:

    I do, and I attend the EF Mass. I make the Sign of the Cross after getting up from my knees and walking back to my pew, and then again once I get settled in.
    I’ve done that, I think, ever since I can remember.

  90. asperges says:

    I was taught (in the 60s) by an ex-Benedictine who had serious views on non-liturgical and “fussy” extras. In particular, he disapproved, inter alia, of genuflecting and making the sign of the Cross concurrently – the sort of multi-tasking approach. He insisted moreover that it was quite wrong to genuflect once one had received the Blessed Sacrament (eg whilst passing the tabernacle), since Christ was actually within us at that point.
    Likewise, although I cannot recall anyone doing it, he would certainly have dissapproved of doing anything other than receiving Communion and then moving away without any extra gesture. I suppose the only justification in our dumbed-down age might be to bear a sort of public witness by piety, but it is quite unliturgical IMHO.

  91. Revixit says:

    I’d like to repeat what Denise-au said:

    “Denise-au says:
    18 May 2011 at 10:59 am
    I was taught to genuflect in adoration just before receiving the Eucharist, to receive on my tongue, then take a step to the side where I make the Sign of the Cross and return to my pew with my hands joined and my eyes cast down. I’ve been receiving that way for 53 years.”

    No one else mentioned “eyes cast down” and that’s a shame. As a convert, I only learned in recent years that we are supposed to keep custody of the eyes after receiving the Eucharist. More accurately, we were supposed to do this before Vatican II; it’s a good practice that fell by the wayside. I now receive as Denise does, and I attend OF Masses as no EF Mass is available.

    I encourage others to try keeping custody of the eyes. It’s a wonderful practice because it encourages your thoughts to stay on Jesus. Look at Him before you receive Him, then look at the floor as you go back to your seat and think of/pray to Him. You only need to look far enough ahead to see the feet of the person in front of you and anything else that you need to avoid bumping into.

    People in the Communion line shouldn’t be looking around to see who in the pews they can wave to or shake hands with and those in the pews shouldn’t be looking at those in the Communion line, either. We all know better but we all do it, anyway, unless we make a deliberate effort not to let our eyes roam. Fellowship is a good thing but we should be focused on Jesus during the Mass and particularly during Communion.

  92. PaterAugustinus says:

    The question really shouldn’t be, “What do you do,” but rather, “What does the Holy Tradition recommend?” Lots of posters cited the long tenure of their individual disciplines. But, perhaps we have been doing the wrong thing “for as long as I can remember!”

    The long custom in the East – and one, which I’ve heard from traditionally-minded persons in the West (and seem to remember reading in the Ancrene Wisse, or “Ghostly Meditaticiouns in the Tyme of the Messe” – one of those good old books – ) is not to make the sign of the Cross, nor to reverence any icon, nor TO EVER GENUFLECT OR PROSTRATE ONE’S SELF after receiving the Lord’s Body and Blood.

    If we just think of the teaching of the Church, the reason for all this is obvious: in the Eucharist, we are joined to Christ and, through Him, to the entirety of His Body (the Communion of Saints) in a most profound way; reception of the Lord’s Body and Blood also ensures “that as many as shall have partaken of this heavenly altar be filled with every grace and spiritual benediction.” Therefore, such crossing and reverencing indicates that we don’t really believe this is the case, since we’re still scraping after small blessings like the sign of the Cross, when we are actually radiant with the benediction of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection (and Ascension and Session and Mission of the Spirit, and all the rest). It is actually an affront to the perfect benediction we have received.

    Finally, because Christ is enthroned within us in a most powerful way at that time, when His physical (and spiritual) presence is within us, it is absolutely inappropriate to make servile gestures with our body, because we are not only humiliating ourselves, but also the Eucharist which is physically present in us. This is clearly a major indignity to the Eucharist, and if one has been doing this, he should stop immediately… in the Orthodox Church, one could receive an epitimia (penance or spiritual chastisement) for disrespecting the Eucharist in this way. Those of the faithful whose prayer rules involve prostrations of some kind (which is fairly typical for most practicing Orthodox) are forbidden from making the prostrations if they have received the Mysteries that day.

  93. Joker Phinn says:

    I’ve been crossing myself after communion ever since I got smacked in the back of the head by Sister for not crossing myself after communion in 2nd grade.

  94. Mariana says:

    An American Mother and Centristian,

    THANK YOU!

    “at “et vitam venturi saeculi” -exactly!
    I feel much better now, and will start doing all these things again.

  95. kelleyb says:

    I do not cross my self after receiving our Lord. I was taught that I REALLY receive Jesus. He is present within me. I say Amen (affirming His Divine Presence) before He is given to me. There is no purpose to any other external action.

  96. Elizabeth D says:

    Not only do I not cross myself after receiving my Lord, I do not take holy water on the way out of church after Mass. I’ve been blessed infinitely by receiving my God, been blessed by the priest at the end of Mass, it seems completely redundant at that time.

    There’s one gentleman who comes to daily Mass at my parish who makes the sign of the cross and strikes his breast three times with his fist and makes the sign of the cross again, after the consecration of the Bread and again after the consecration of the Wine. He sits in the front and even after years of this, I am still distracted, my attention drawn to him by his devout but busy and liturgically extraneous gestures, at a moment when I just want to adore the Lord.

  97. EWTN Rocks says:

    Elizabeth D,

    I believe you are correct that taking holy water on the way out of church is redundant. I’ve been taking holy water on the way out of church for some time but will stop.

    I apologize – hopefully my actions didn’t offend anyone…

  98. Alice says:

    OK, for you “redundant” folks, is it redundant for the priest to genuflect after receiving the Host and before drinking from the chalice in the EF? What about the various genuflections and Signs of the Cross during the Ablutions, Blessing, and Last Gospel? In the OF, every priest I know genuflects after replacing the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle. Is this redundant? I guess I don’t see how my making the Sign of the Cross after receiving Our Lord is somehow redundant or, worse yet, an affront to my Lord and a denial of my belief in the Real Presence when the Church requires these gestures from the priest.

  99. Elizabeth D says:

    One genuflects before the Blessed Sacrament on the altar or in the tabernacle–outside oneself. The priest genuflecting after receiving the Host and before receiving the Precious Blood is obviously genuflecting to the Sacrament on the altar, even though Jesus is also within him. Immediately after receiving Communion, the focus of our adoration is interior. There’s nothing sacreligious about making the sign of the Cross immediately after receiving Communion, Fr Z said he thought that’s fine, but personally my sense of awe at Christ’s self-gift and the power of the Sacrament to sanctify, does make it seem completely unnecessary to bless myself at that point.

    The priest’s final blessing is of all the people present, not only those who received Communion, and it’s not specifically associated with receiving Communion. Even if the priest visits someone on a sick call, he never gives Communion and then immediately blesses the person. He might bless them before he leaves, but the blessing is not directly related to receiving Communion.

    And certainly after Mass I still genuflect if passing in front of the tabernacle or before exiting the Church, making the sign of the Cross also. I am genuflecting, of course, to Jesus in the tabernacle, and not in relation to having received Communion.

  100. Elizabeth D says:

    But, I am not that sure there is a genuflection in the midst of the priest’s communion. There is one right before.

  101. EWTN Rocks says:

    Alice, I don’t know about anybody else but your post makes me feel better. However, I think I’m being overly sensitive – looking back at Fr. Z’s original post, he says it’s o.k. to make the sign of the Cross after Holy Communion but not obligatory. That’s good enough for me!

  102. EWTN Rocks says:

    Sorry Elizabeth D – I didn’t see your comments before I posted my comment. I appreciate your thoughts on this topic.

  103. dervorin says:

    EWTN Rocks said: (dervorin, you said: “Father Zuhlsdorf, is it expected of us to sign ourselves either upon our entrance or exit from the church?”. I’ll be anxious to see how Fr. Z replies. I always do the sign of the Cross with Holy Water entering and exiting the Church (I believe that is what I was taught). However, the pastor at my parents’ church told them it was appropriate upon entering only, but that doesn’t seem quite right to me.)

    You were right to mention Holy Water, yes, I meant to say “sign ourselves with holy water either upon…”. Thanks for catching that! I always sign myself with holy water upon entering the church, never upon exiting, that was the crux of my question.

  104. The tradition of making the Sign of the Cross with holy water on entering a church goes back to ancient times, when people would wash water at fountains before entering the sacred space. So, we use holy water on entering churches just as our ancestors did. This probably goes back to ritual washing by the Jews and certain lustrations of the Romans.

    And devils really hate it.

  105. EWTN Rocks says:

    Thank you Fr. Z!

  106. trentondeak says:

    Back to the original question in the poll… about 72% of those attending the OF sign themselves after communion, as compared with 68% of those attending the EF. The two groups taken together are about 71% likely to sign themselves. Not that a statistical analysis is valid here. I’d expect that those who are OF only are underrepresented in this poll. So I’d think that those who attend the EF are slightly less likely to sign themselves after communion, but the proportion is about 70%.

    As to the theology, I understand the points about the shift from exterior to interior presence and so forth. If signing oneself is just a gesture, then it’s not as meaningful as if signing oneself is a prayer that recalls the Trinity. Personally, I’m going to continue to sign myself after communion.