The sign of the Cross
The Cross is simply a mark, figure or object formed by two intersecting lines or pieces of wood, iron or other materials. It was on a Cross formed of wood that the Lord Jesus Christ was crucified; his crucifixion changed the meaning of the Cross.
Catholics are known for always making the sign of the Cross, in fact we begin and end every prayer with it. It is our identity and it is our faith.
Though it is not explicitly stated in the bible what exactly the Cross was used for before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, or even if it existed before the crucifixion, we however know that it became different thing for different people. For the Jews it became a stumbling block, foolishness to the Gentiles, and to believers from every culture, color and race it means something different: wisdom, power, hope, salvation etc (1Cor. 1:23-24). The Cross certainly became a stumbling block, foolishness and power after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. If the Cross therefore became these things after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, then what was it before the crucifixion? Did it even exist?
I do not think that the Roman soldiers just invented the Cross on Good Friday simply for the purpose of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Cross must have been in existence before Good Friday for a different purpose or even for the same crucifixion. Though the bible is silent about it, extra biblical sources however tend to support the pre-existence of the Cross for various purposes. Whatever the Cross stood for before the crucifixion of Jesus Christ does not matter to me now, what matters is what the Cross has become for me: power, victory, life etc.
I will quickly use this opportunity to differentiate between a Cross and a Crucifix even though they are not opposed to each other. A Cross is simply as we defined it above, while the Crucifix is a Cross with the image of Jesus nailed to it.
Some people sees the Cross as a sign of contradiction, very true. Jesus himself was seen as a sign of contradiction (Lk.2:34). The Cross indeed is a sign of contradiction because it is an instrument of death, yet through it we have eternal life. It is a sign of defeat, yet it brings victory, it is a sign of shame, yet it brings joy. So, we are not ashamed of the Cross. The Catholic Church encourages her children to boldly make the sign of the Cross anywhere and anytime without shame or fear, it is our identity as Catholics and every Christian should make it his or her identity. It is the wood upon which the Saviour hung. We proudly display this wonderful instrument of salvation in our homes, cars, offices, parishes and everywhere we deem fit. We are proud of it!