One of the great histories written on the topic of the Sign of the Cross was written in defense of the ceremony by St. Francis De Sales. St. Francis De Sales took up his pen in defense of Catholicism while he was Bishop of Geneva in Switzerland, which was dominated during his time in the 16th century by Calvinists. Francis De Sales decided to write on the topic of the Sign of the Cross because the Calvinist of his day accused the practice of being a Papist invention that had nothing to do with the early Church.
The translator, Christopher O. Blum, writes in the forward of The Sign of the Cross that “The reader will not fail to be struck by the relevance of this work in our own age. Crucifixes to be sure, but even bare crosses, are conspicuous by their absence in America’s Evangelical churches, and the act of making the Sign of the Cross is regarded by many non-Catholics as superstition at best.”
I am a born and raised Catholic, so the ceremony of the Sign of the Cross has always been a part of my life. However, I have encountered instances where I have felt self-conscience because of a stare from another member of society–especially when I was younger. I never really knew the history of the Sign of the Cross just that it was done by Catholics, a distinct action of our Latin culture, but St. Francis De Sales book is a beautiful explanation that I wish I had to encountered at a younger age so that I could have been properly informed.
In the first chapter, St. Francis De Sales discusses how “the Sign of the Cross is a Christian ceremony that represents the Passion of our Lord.” When discussing ceremonies that take place within the religions, Francis De Sales explains the importance of religion in the context of these ceremonial actions. He says, “the virtue of religion, having for its proper and natural work to render to God the honor that is His due.” Francis De Sales explains that the action of the Sign of the Cross is an action that outside of religion would have absolutely no meaning and no use. He says, “Indifferent actions would remain useless if religion did not employ them, but once put to work by it, they become noble, useful, and holy.” Of course, we Catholics do other actions when we enter our sanctuaries as we bend our knees to the ground to show a free submission to the will of God in front of him in the Tabernacle, as explained by Bishop Paprocki during the Solemnity of Corpus Christi.
However for the Calvinist of De Sales days–and the Protestant of today– who are not convinced, he has the reader look back into scripture to find where religion requested such action from those in the world since the beginning of humanity. He explains for all to look at the story of Abel and Cain and notice how religion called for them to make offerings, and in regards to Noah, an altar was constructed without delay. Regardless of the rejection from Calvinist in St. Francis De Sales day to Protestants in the modern world, The Old Testament is filled with examples such as the sacrifices and ceremony of Abraham, Melchizedek, Isaac, Jacob et al. Furthermore, look at the accounts of the New Testament where John is baptizing, St. Paul is cutting his hair for a vow, and prays on his knees with the church of Miletus. De Sales reminds us that these action by themselves mean nothing, but when used in the context of religion to praise the glory of God “they become honorable and efficacious ceremonies.”
St. Francis De Sales reminds us that God even works through ceremony when conducting miracles on earth. He has Moses touch the rock with his staff, or a beggar touches the robes of Christ they become healed.
So the Christian who employs the ceremony of The Sign of the Cross does so to honor God in a manner that is strictly Christian. A sign that was conducted in the early Church to symbolize to others during the height of persecution that they were Christians. A symbol of the Passion made by a simple motion that creates the shape of the crucifixion. It must be made with the right hand with either three fingers representing the trinity or five representing the five wounds of Christ. St. Francis De Sales reminds us to use either three or five fingers as the Jacobites and Armenians employed only one figure to represent their Christological heresies. The sign of the Cross should begin at the forehead while saying, “In the name of the Father,” and move down toward the stomach while saying “and of the Son.” The downward motion illustrates that the Son proceeds from the Father by sending his Son to the womb of the Virgin Mary. The hand then moves to the left shoulder to the right while saying “and of the Holy Spirit.” Catholics do this to illustrate that the third person in the Trinity proceeds from the Father and from the Son.
The beautiful ceremony is the confession of the mysteries of the Trinity, the Passion, and salvation from sin. It is one that is that shows our Catholic culture and one that honors the traditions of Christianity. If your own faith does not practice this beautiful ceremony, I ask that you reflect on the matter.
 St. Francis De Sales, The Sign of the Cross (Manchester: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), xiii.
 Ibid, 3.
 Ibid, 4.
 Ibid, 5.
 Ibid, 6.
 Ibid, 9.
 Ibid, 10.