A listener named Katrine asks, “Why do we bless ourselves during Mass?” She’s noticed people making the sign of the cross during certain parts of the Mass, and wonders if we’re required to do so at specific times.
Father Dave explains that most people bless themselves during the Penitential Rite, the part of the Mass when we recognize our sins as a community. “It’s not indicated in the Rite, but the reason why people [make the sign of the cross] whether they have been instructed to or not, is because it is a form of an absolution prayer. It’s similar to what would happen when we’re celebrating the Sacrament of Confession, When the priest gives us the absolution prayer and concludes with, ‘In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’ The only difference is that the absolution the priest gives during the Mass covers venial sins, but not the mortal sins … While it’s not required or indicated, I can see why a lot of people would bless themselves during the Penitential Rite.”
Father Dave also points out that people might bless themselves during other parts of the Mass because of regional or cultural customs.