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“Ask a Priest: Is Making the Sign of the Cross Left-handed OK?”
Q: My daughter is in first grade at a Catholic school. She is left-handed. They were recently tested on the proper way to make the Sign of the Cross. Naturally, she did it with her left hand, and lost points on her test. She will be tested on this again. I have gone over it with her, and she continues to use her left hand. She writes left-handed, eats, throws a ball, brushes her hair and teeth … everything with her left hand. This is how God made her. Why must she be forced to conform to a way that isn’t natural to her? Is there a legitimate reason, other than that’s just the way it’s always been? -J.G.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It sounds a bit over the top that a first-grader would “lose points” because she blesses herself with her left hand. Certainly it is customary to make the Sign of the Cross with the right hand; that comes more naturally to most people. But one wonders in this particular case whether it makes a difference to Our Lord.
The teachers might be under the misunderstanding that there are iron-clad rules about using the right hand. Maybe they are thinking of Jesus’ being at the right hand of the Father.
For priests in high-profile situations, yes, there is something to be said for uniformity. But it seems like the wrong kind of thing to force on a child. As the young lady grows older she might see an advantage to switching to the right hand, but we could leave that for her to decide.
Perhaps you could point the school toward an article of my colleague Father Edward McNamara.
I hope this helps. And I hope this whole situation doesn’t sour Mom or her daughter about the faith.
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I went through the same thing in first grade in a Catholic school. The first time we blassed ourselves I, of course, did it with my left hand, the hand with which I did everything else “handed”. The nun was horrified and she told me I had done it wrong. So I blessed myself like everyone else, with my right hand, until I had a chance to ask one of our priests about it. He told me I can use my left hand. When I did this in front of the teacher again she forced me into the ‘cloakroom’ to go over it again, but I cut her off, telling her that Fr. Smith said I could. She left me alone from that day on. Then she tried to change my writing hand, but my mother put a stop to that, thank God! It seems finally we’ve come a long way from being considered to have been ‘spawn of the Devil’!