I’ve been blessing myself more frequently lately.
Depending on one’s religious affiliation, the gesture may also be referred to as crossing oneself or simply making a sign of the cross. To a non-Christian Steeler fan, it might be better known as that ritual that Troy Polamalu does 200 times each game.
I really can’t pinpoint the real reason for making a sign of the cross so often other than it makes me feel a tad better, and a whole lot more secure.
From the earliest of my recollections, I remember blessing myself before and after each prayer every evening and I remember the rote repetition during my hour-plus long Byzantine Mass every Sunday. Reciting the Rosary before Mass was another occasion that sticks with me, too. Because it was such an ordeal for Mom to get us all to church on time, arriving early for the recitation was not that common, but we sure did bless ourselves if we were there.
I still see and feel Dad’s blessing. Every night, regardless of his shift at work, he would open the door just slightly to our bedrooms, stand in the dimly lit hall, say a short prayer, and then bless us with a sign of the cross. During my childhood this was a ritual for him, and although I was asleep more times than not during his blessing, I was positive that he never missed saying his prayer for his kids each night.
I realized as a kid where my dad learned this custom. Every time my grandfather visited, he would give us his blessing and conclude the practice with a sign of the cross, too.
As my grandfather’s age and dementia became more and more apparent, I can remember well that he would get his days and nights mixed up and would sit up in bed and lie back down a dozen times or so every few hours, each time whispering in Slovak, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” It is no wonder why this sign of the cross has had such an impact on me yet today.
For one reason or another, I did stray away from the church for a time or two. I think to some degree we all search for something else or we just don’t find the purpose in our religion that we once did. Oddly though, even during those times of searching, I discovered that I never stopped blessing myself and saying a quick prayer every time I felt the need for some security.
Today, I try to pass on the words to my grandkids that were repeated to me by my mom many times, “When you’re feeling alone or frightened, simply say a quick prayer and bless yourself and you will feel better.” I follow that up with “And it works every time.” And it does.
During my dad’s hospital stay recently, I noticed him kissing the cross he wore attached to a chain around his neck. He would bless himself a few times, and although his words were not audible, it was apparent he was blessing each of us in the room, too.
We often don’t realize how we miss something in our life until it’s gone. You see, Dad passed away last month in that same hospital. Today, I would give anything I have to have him bless his kids just one more time in person. But if faith holds true, he just might be blessing us from above, and combined with my own personal sign of the cross, that makes me feel more secure with each passing day.