The sign of the cross and other”public displays of affection”


The greatest commandment

Christ said that the greatest commandment is, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.” (Matthew 22:36)  One of the ways we express our love for anyone or anything is with public displays of affection.

Examples of Catholic public displays of affection

As Catholics, our church’s tradition has been blessed with several ways for others to know we are disciples of Christ. The crucifix, the image of the suffering Christ, is decidedly Catholic.  Hanging it in our home or in our office is a public display of affection for God. Certainly our honoring of Mary, the Mother of God, in our prayer life, our jewelry and even for some of us, body art, is a visible sign of our discipleship in Christ. In ecumenical groups, others know that we are Catholic Christians because we visibly remind ourselves, and others, of our common baptism through the sign of the cross.

We have greetings that are in common – “The Lord be with you – And also with you.” We can go almost anywhere in the world and know that we are among fellow Catholics through our public displays of affection for God and his only son, Jesus Christ.

Don’t be afraid, be proud

I submit to you that Catholics have built into our religious culture a strong desire to let everyone know that we are disciples of Christ. But at times, we suppress that part of our religious culture. And this is a shame. It is the shared traditions that I described above that invite us to love one another.

How many of us say grace regularly at home yet, feel self-conscience about praying at a restaurant? And if we pray, do we omit a visible sign of the cross for fear of drawing attention to ourselves? If so, why?
We are taught by polite society that public displays of affection are at times inappropriate. But, I submit to you that a public display of affection for our God and for our fellow Christians is always appropriate!

How else will people know that we are disciples of Christ!  They will know us by our love and affection for God!

Sharing your faith in common conversations


“I am blessed and highly favored!”

I have a very close friend who is very friendly and outgoing. She is often the first to say hello to a stranger and greets all who come into her presence with a smile and maybe even a hug. However, she gets easily frustrated by what she calls, “mediocre Christian responses” to her greetings. I have learned to share in this frustration because its source should be obvious.  However, it is subtle and hidden.

Here is an example of a mediocre Christian response: When asked, “How are you doing today?” it is common for us to reply, “I am OK” or “hanging in there.” That is a mediocre Christian response. If we are made in the image and likeness of God, then we have to be doing better than “OK.” The Evangelist Matthew tells us that God cares even for the sparrow and therefore, he is deeply concerned for us. (Matthew 10:29). So, we have to be doing better than “Hanging in there.”

My close friend is so deeply bothered by these mediocre Christian responses that she refuses to give any herself. In fact, when asked, “How are you doing?’ she most often says, “Blessed and highly favored!” Even if she is having a bad day, she is blessed and highly favored by God and does not mind saying so.

Last fall during a homily, I challenged members of my parish to avoid mediocre Christian responses. I challenged them to respond to a greeting from each other and even those outside of church with a proclamation of God’s goodness and love. When asked, “How’s it going?” try saying something like, “God loves me, so it’s going great.” I challenged my brothers and sisters to do this because, I had already given this a try and I found, it really works. I tried it at my school. I tried it with my family and neighbors. I even tried it in the grocery store at the check-out counter. Each and every time, my answer was received with a least a smile if not a reciprocal affirmation of faith.

Even at the end of a conversation, rather than saying “good-bye” or “see you later”  we said, “God bless!” To date, no one has reported a negative response. No one got offended and no one rejected our good will. In fact, we often get a sincere, heart felt “Thank you” or “God bless you too!”

Brothers and sisters, Christ is everywhere and it is our calling to bring His presence and His grace to the attention of others. I challenge you, just as I challenged my parish, to avoid mediocre Christian responses and to remind yourself and others that you are indeed, “Blessed and highly favored!”

See you later – I mean – God Bless!