ROME – during the morning’s General Audience that was held in Paul VI Hall, the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from all over the world. The Pope focused his meditation on the Holy Mass’ Rites of Introduction and the importance of teaching the sing of cross to the children correctly.

In his speech, he said: “I would like to get to the heart of the Eucharistic Celebration. The Mass is made up of two parts, which are the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharistic Liturgy, so closely joined between them as to form one act of worship. It is introduced by some preparatory rites and concluded with others, the celebration is, therefore, one body and it can’t be separated; however, for a better understanding, I will try to explain its various moments, each one of which is capable of touching and involving a dimension of our humanity. It’s necessary to know these holy signs to live the Mass fully and savor all its beauty.

The celebration opens with the introductory rites, including the entrance of those celebrating or of the celebrant, the greeting – “The Lord be with you,” “Peace be with you,” — , “I confess,” where we ask for forgiveness of our sins –, the Kyrie eleison, the hymn of the Gloria and the Collect prayer. The purpose is such as to have the “faithful, gathered together, form a community, and dispose themselves to listen with faith to the Word of God and to celebrate worthily the Eucharist” (Ordinamento Generale del Messale Romano, 46). The Mass begins with the sign of the Cross, with these introductory rites, because there we begin to adore God as a community. And, therefore, it’s important to plan not to arrive late.

Then there is the sign of the cross. The priest that presides traces it on himself and the same is done by all the members of the assembly, aware that the liturgical act is carried out “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” And here I pass to another very small argument. Have you seen how children make the sign of the cross? They don’t know what they do: sometimes they make a design, which isn’t the sign of the cross. Please: mothers and fathers, grandparents, teach children from the beginning – when very small – to do the sign of the cross well. And explain to them what it is to have Jesus’ cross as protection. And the Mass begins with the sign of the cross. The whole prayer moves, so to speak, in the realm of the Most Holy Trinity – “In the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” –, which is the realm of infinite communion; it has as its origin and as its end the love of God One and Triune, manifested and given to us in the Cross of Christ. In fact, His Paschal Mystery is a gift of the Trinity, and the Eucharist always flows from His pierced Heart. Therefore, by signing ourselves with the sign of the cross, not only do we remember our Baptism, but we affirm that the liturgical prayer is the encounter with God in Christ Jesus, who was incarnated for us, died on the cross and rose glorious.

Therefore, the priest addresses the liturgical greeting with the expression: “The Lord be with you” and the assembly responds: “And with your spirit.” We are in dialogue; we are at the beginning of the Mass and we must think of the meaning of all these gestures and words. We are entering a “symphony,” in which various tones of voices resound, including times of silence, in view of creating “agreement” among all the participants, namely, to recognize one another animated by one Spirit and by one same end. In fact “the priestly greeting and the people’s response manifest the mystery of the gathered Church”. Expressed thus is the common faith and the mutual desire to be with the Lord and to live in unity with the whole community.

This makes us understand how important the penitential act is. And, therefore, we will take up this argument in the next catechesis. We go step by step in the explanation of the Mass. However, I recommend: please teach the children to do the Sign of the Cross well!


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