Today, at the university where I work, I heard a student bid good-bye to a friend as they parted for the upcoming and much anticipated Spring Break. “Take care of yourself, man,” he called down the hall, “These are Biblical times!”
These are strange and Biblical times—when an infinitesimal virus that looks like a deranged pool toy has rattled the minds and ravaged the families of the world. It’s not frogs, locusts, or boils, but the novel coronavirus has brought death and changed the tidy, well-planned schedules of our 21st century life. We can’t really plan the after, because we don’t know what will happen. They may appear normal, but most mothers I know are a little afraid. We aren’t even supposed to huddle together for comfort, but maintain a “social distance”—six feet. Six feet? That’s only half the number of grandchildren in my world!
Yesterday, when I went over at lunch to watch my five-month-old granddaughter, I washed my hands thoroughly for much longer than I was supposed to, and traced the sign of the cross on her forehead instead of covering her in kisses like I longed to do. I had been thinking that morning of her recent baptism, and the words of the rite:
The Christian community welcomes you with great joy. In its name, I claim you for Christ our Savior by the sign of his cross. I now trace the cross on your forehead, and invite your parents and godparents to do the same.
When he was chaplain at the University of Dallas, Father Greg Kelly (now auxiliary bishop for the Diocese of Dallas) stressed in a homily that this action of tracing the cross on the foreheads of our children need not be reserved for the sacrament of baptism, but could and should be an everyday occurrence.
This sign of our faith, the mark of the cross of Christ, is only invisible insofar as the virus is invisible. By tracing the sign on our person, we mark and claim ourselves and our families for Jesus; we show we trust him; we confirm that we belong to him, that we are willing to sacrifice, share, and help ease the pain of the world for him. And make no mistake, the cross is a sign to the invisible Adversary that eternal death will never be our end.
So wash your hands, keep your children close, be brave, and keep praying until these present dangers are past.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.