This Easter, we welcomed nearly 3,600 new Catholics to the family of God here in Los Angeles, including more than 2,000 catechumens who were baptized at the vigil Masses across the archdiocese, and more than 1,500 candidates who were newly confirmed in the faith.

Of course, these are not statistics. Each is a precious soul, a brother or sister who by grace has found joy and life in Jesus Christ. Praise God!

As I’ve been praying for these new Catholics and their families, I find myself reflecting on the beautiful rites of initiation that we use for adults preparing to enter the Church.

There is a powerful moment in the welcoming ceremonies when the priest traces the sign of the cross on the foreheads of catechumens and candidates; in some celebrations, they may also be “signed with the cross” on their hearts and hands, as well as on their eyes, ears, nose, and mouth.

This practice is thought to date back to the first baptisms performed by the apostles, who Jesus commanded to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

St. Paul said to the newly baptized in Ephesus: “In him you … who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.”

Catechumens are signed with the cross to signify the “seal” that the Holy Spirit places upon our souls in baptism. The sign is the “imprint of Christ.” It means our lives belong now to Jesus. It assures us that by his sacrifice on the cross, we can have salvation.

In the Bible’s final book, the redeemed are identified by the sign of the cross — called “the seal of God” or “his Father’s name” — written on their foreheads.

The cross is the great sign of Our Lord’s victory of love over sin and death, the great sign of the paschal mystery of his passion, death, and resurrection that we celebrate during these 50 days of Easter.

And Easter is a good time for us to renew our practice of this ancient prayer….

From Angelus News