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Why do some Catholics kiss their thumb after making the sign of the cross?

Full Question

I notice that Latinos in my parish kiss their thumb after making the sign of the cross. Why?

Answer

They actually are kissing a cross formed by placing the thumb and forefinger at right angles. Kissing the cross (as we do on Good Friday) is an ancient gesture of devotion. It implies a humble acceptance of one’s own cross in imitation of Jesus.










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115 comments

  1. Caoimhín P Connell Reply

    We don’t kiss our thumb per se – When we make the sign of the cross, we imagine holding a crucifix in our hand, and we kiss the feet of Christ on the imaginary crucifix we are holding.

    1. Mikedj Reply

      I like that. I will start to do that.

    2. LORNA DREWS Reply

      IT’s after we make the sign of the cross last touch is the mouth to claim AMEN .

    3. Anna Alamillo Reply

      My mother taught me that we are kissing the head of Christ as he hangs on the cross for us, as a sign of love for our suffering Jesus

  2. tina Reply

    I have wondered about this! I asked some of my Hispanic friends and they didn’t know why they did it. Now we can all know!

    1. Angela Anamekwe Freeman Reply

      You are right. A lot of us claim to be Catholics but have never been through catechism or in my own case have not continued with religious education in order to grow and fortify our faith. People call us idol worshippers because we have pictures of The virgin Mary and the saints in our churches. Have they discarded pictures of their departed family members just because they have passed on ?

      1. Forgiven Reply

        Yes but we don’t kneel in front of the pictures not like you all do. As in exodus 20 said, Exodus 20:5New International Version (NIV)

        5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

        New International Version (NIV)
        Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

        Exodus 20:5 in all English translations

        1. Kristopher Reply

          Catholics do not worship the picture or statue itself, that would be silly. If it is an image of Jesus, we worship our Lord who is seated at the right hand of the Father. If it is a picture of Mary, kneel as to show her honor for she was the mother of God, but we do not worship her, only the Trinity is to be worshipped. Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

        2. Old Soldier Reply

          Catholic’s don’t worship idol’s, therefore your argument is illegitimate.

          1. Dave Santiago

            We Catholics honor Mother Mary because God honored her first by choosing her to be the mother of Christ.

        3. Doug Reply

          The Roman catholic Church teaches that it is a mortal sin to worship ANY image, statue or entity except Jesus, the Christ. When Catholics kneel before a statue, they are not doing it to worship the statue. This would be a mortal sin. I taught catholic theology for nine years and did plenty of research on this and numerous other misunderstood issues. Consider this – If the church took nearly 300 years to assemble the scriptures, print the bible and give it to the world, would they have somehow missed that part? Does the catholic teaching somehow employ this practice for some dark purpose with the thinking that people will not notice? This practice was employed long before Protestantism was in existence, so, it wasn’t like they had competition of sorts. Hebrews held the tradition before the time of Christ. Praying for those departed is older than Christianity and has strong scriptural foundation.

        4. Yvonne Reply

          I bow down and get on my knees when I’m scrubbing the toilet that doesn’t mean I’m worshipping it. I use to be baptist and I converted to Catholic and I went through my adult learning RCIA and had all those questions answered. If at any time for those of us who do not understand what is done in the Catholic Church, there is an adult learning program/school where all questions and bible versus can be pointed out. “Don’t knock it till you try it.” If any question arises that is where to learn about the Catholic faith. That is where I was learned. It usually starts n September.

      2. Melissa Reply

        Just like Mother Teresa said. “no Mary, no Jesus”. She gets the RESPECT she deserves.

      3. Vivien Oge Reply

        I wonder! People should first of all discard pictures of their lost loved ones before calling us idol worshippers

      4. Engel Jacobs Reply

        Difference is we don’t think they holy and make statues of them to take with to people sick in hospital.

  3. Lady Rahab Tagwai Reply

    Im not a Catholic, but I kind of like it when I see the mexicans in telemundo kissing their thum. Its kind of cool

    1. Godluvsu2 Reply

      Would you like to become Catholic? If so, just call your local parish. There is so much beauty in the Catholic Church. I’d like to invite you to see.

      1. Koucna Reply

        Love it

    2. Patmos.F.B Reply

      +But Lady Rahab Tngwi you are welcome to our worship too, sure you will be blessed!1!

    3. justice uloko Reply

      I am very pleased to hear this. Am so glad to be a Roman Catholic Church

    4. Anayo Njoku Reply

      If it is cool the thumb, then try making the sign of the Cross, or saying the Rosery! Its cooler!

    5. Jay Reply

      U are so welcome to b a Catholic u wud love it

  4. koloraro Reply

    I’m from Spain and here we do the same after making the sign cross and before the pastor begins the homily.

  5. Chris Reply

    It actually started during the religious persecution in Mexico, where many Catholics were martyred. If a soldier saw someone do the sign of the cross, they would be immediately captured and put in jail, or sometimes killed on the spot. Many Catholics started kissing their thumb and finger which makes a sign of the cross in order to stay alive, but still have that devotion. Now, we do it in memory of them! Viva Christo Rey!

    1. Marques Reply

      CHRIS — that was For The Win

    2. Sean Reply

      When I was in elementary school, I attended a Catholic School where the priest was an elderly Polish Priest who had been in seminary just prior to the German invasion, where similar religious persecution took place. He told me stories from the ghettos and kissing the fingers was a similar clandestine symbol of devotion. I am not of Hispanic heritage, but I continue to do it to this day, and have been asked about the gesture often.

    3. Dee Reply

      This is what I have been told. When your finger crosses your thumb it forms a cross which we kiss.

    4. Jane Reply

      Viva Cristo mi Rey. Amen.

  6. Clark Reply

    I grew up in Houston, and in my continuing Catholic education classes, I was told that we should kiss our hand after making the sign of the Cross because we greet Christ as we greet all of our loved ones, with a kiss….

    1. Cindyaj Reply

      That’s beautiful!

    2. Kimberly Reply

      That’s what I heard when I lived in Texas. I had never seen the practice until then.

  7. Steve Cuarteron Reply

    im from the Phillippines, in i am a proud Catholic. everytime i saw a Latin American,mexican kissing thier thumbs by making the Sign of the Cross it makes me Feel more Proud to be a Catholic…

    1. Patmos.F.B Reply

      +Ahaaa! Steve that good, you know Catholic liturgy is heavenly inspired!!!,my hi to philipines the Catholic nataion!1!

  8. Rebecca Marui Abad Reply

    I am devoted catholic I didn’t even know why I do the gesture of literally kissing my thumb afte id o sign of d cross. But now knowing the reason why is such a big addition of my knowledge being a catholic.

    1. Roberto Sosa Reply

      After the sign of the Cross I’ve always thought that your either sending a kiss to his few Jesus or kissing God in a loving gesture

  9. Zana Reply

    What the Hispanics really say: By the sign of the Holy Cross + (make a small sign of the cross in the forehead)
    Protect us from our enemies + (make a small sign of the cross in front of mouth) O Lord.+ (make a small sign of the cross by the chest area)
    + (regular sign of the cross) In the Name of the Father, + and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
    (Place index finger over the thumb forming a cross and say) + I Kiss the bottom of the crosses feet. (and kiss the area of the bottom thumb) OR Por la señal de la Santa Cruz, De nuestros enimigos,Liberanos Dios nuestro SeñorEn el nombre del Padre, el Hijo, y El Esprito Santo, Amen

    1. Bibi Reply

      Im not Spanish or Mexican, but of Portuguese decent. I learn about this as Zana mentioned above. By the sign of the Holy Cross, (forehead) Deliver us Our Lord (over the lips) from all Evil (over the heart) Amen. Then kiss the crossed thumb.

      1. Christine A Hall Reply

        I was always taught “May God be always on my mind, always on my lips, always in my heart, Amen.” (The cross on the forehead, lips and heart, that is.) Never understood the kissing of the thumb, glad to know! But is touching the middle of the chest, 3 times, or just once, I’ve seen both – the solar plexus area – for the Sacred Heart of Jesus? Thats also what I was taught.

        1. Sheila Reply

          Christine A. Hall, I too learned to touch 3x by my mom but don’t remember the significance???

          1. Ken

            3x or once depends on the person if how they are truly remorseful. It is a sign of remorse…”through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault”

    2. Lianne Reply

      Beautiful!

    3. Nina Gossman Reply

      That is lovely, Zana.

    4. Koucna Reply

      Thank you . I’m still learning

    5. naresh Reply

      thank you for your conment..
      through you i understood clearly..
      thank you soooo much..
      god bless you..

    6. naresh Reply

      To everyone who post comments ..
      clarify the doubts and plz dont confuse and abuse one another..
      love our neighbours and
      dont crticize plzz…
      grow faith not doubts and sins…

      Thank’s to zana’s comment which helped me to easily understand
      once again soo much..
      God bless us and his grace be with us..

    7. Pablo Reply

      That was close Zana, my dear sister-in-Christ, but the second cross, the one on the lips, we say, “from our enemies”, (in Spanish, ‘de nuestros enemigos’), followed by the last cross on the heart with, “deliver us Lord, our God”. This in Spanish is “libranos Señor, Dios Nuestro.”

      As you know, for each of the the three little crosses said, each short phrase is 4 little parts, which tends to add to the effectiveness and simple to memorize effect of this prayer.

      Here it is in its entirety: Por la señal de la Santa Cruz (1st cross), de nuestros enemigos (2nd cross), libranos Señor, Dios Nuestro (and finally the 3rd cross). This, of course, is followed by the regular…..”En el nombre del Padre etc…….”

  10. Aida Tolentino Reply

    I now understand why we kiss our thumb when doing “The Sign of the Cross”.

  11. Áron De La Verdad Reply

    I’m a Filipino, in Filipinas we also do the same, we kiss our thumb after we do the cross. It is not kissing the Dump but actually kissing the cross where Jesus was crucified.

    Addition, there is also another tradition in Filipinas, we do a sign of the cross everytime we pass by to a church, whether in front of it, side or at the back of it while on your way to your location. Whats nice is that, every Barrio (Village) in a City has their own respective Parroquia, Capilla or Small Church aside from the Metropolitan Cathedral we have. In other word, before reaching to your destination, you might be passing by to one or two or three churches. So, you’ll be making the cross as well accordingly. 🙂

    That is how Devoted Catholic Filipinos are.

    1. Kay Reply

      We do that in Jamaica as well. We cross ourselves when we pass by any Catholic church as an acknowledgement of Christ’s presence in the Tabernacle. I live in the US now and still do that!

    2. Theresa Cisneros Reply

      My parents taught us to do this as children and my children and grandchildren carry on this beautiful tradition. .

    3. MeRp Reply

      I’m glad the tricycle drivers seem to just glance at their crucifix as they pass, rather than going all in on a full sign of the cross; that would get quite frightening with 20 tricycles all going whatever way they wished as the drivers all made signs of the cross!

    4. Heideliza Labitan Rubin Reply

      I agree you, Aron De la Verdad,..making the sign of the cross as we pass by any Catholic Church…in fact even some similar churches aside from catholics we happen to pass by, we mistakably made the sign of the cross….that’s how FAITHFUL and DEVOTED Catholic Filipinos are!!

  12. emily ward Reply

    I kiss my crucifix after making the sign of the cross when mass is ended as I remember seeing my Mother doing as a sign of respect to Jesus.

  13. Victoria Cianci Cipullo Reply

    I am an Italian American, catholic and seen many (catholics) kiss their thumbs (as was said) I now know what it means….

  14. Mo Reply

    I’ve seen Greeks and Orthodox people do that too.

  15. Jesinta Reply

    Now I know why Catholics kiss their thumbs…praise the Lord. Thank you for this valuable info.

  16. jun arevalo Reply

    for me it means ” amen “.

  17. Jolly De Castro Reply

    in my belief it is the holy way of how the Lord is in our heart

  18. Troy Damon Simpson Reply

    In Waveland, Mississippi we have not been kissing our thumbs, but in honor of my Catholic brother and sisters who have been oppressed I will. We do cross ourselves when we pass a Catholic church.

    1. Koucna Reply

      Why do you make a cross when pasting a Catholic church ?

      1. junelyn Reply

        we believe that christ is present in the chuch,inside the tabernacle.

  19. chris Reply

    Am proud to be a staunch catholic…..Amen

  20. LRC Reply

    I kiss my hand after receiving communion, after all I just held Jesus in my hand.

    1. Christine A Hall Reply

      Me too! I just thought it was a weird thing I felt like doing and thereby I don’t do it openly, just a small gesture between me and God! Wow, never thought I’d meet someone else who did it! :))

  21. Gift Reply

    i do not carry the cross or wear it on me i bear the cross that is having to accept the burdens that comes on you for being a follower of Christ such as persecution,imprisonment etc etc

  22. sally Reply

    Am Kenyan, we dont do it much, but i adopted it from Mexican movies. Thanks didnt know much about it

    1. justice uloko Reply

      That’s good to hear

  23. aiza Reply

    Im from philippines proud to be a roman catholic.and i study high school in The Sisters of Mary..i learn a lot on that school..but b4 i enter there my mother teach us how to pray rosary and to @zana u know i remember my mom doing that small sign of the cross in forehead mouth and chest but in other language maybe latin or spanish every 6pm wethe angelus and then rosary with litany!and also making sign of the cross whenever we pass tru a church even we are in the car if we see a church we make sign of the cross!me i do sign of the cross before taking shower b4 and aftr eating..b4 sleep and wake up!

    1. Terry Reply

      I also place the thumb over the index finger as a symbol of the cross. When entering and leaving the church as a Roman Catholics, we also bless ourselves with Holy Water with the sign of the cross. At the Gospel reading by the presider (priest etc.) of the mass I do the sign of the cross on my forehead saying: ENLIGHTEN MY MIND, on the mouth: PURIFY MY LIPS and on the chest: SANCTIFY MY SOUL and elsewhere during the mass with the presider, especially when receiving the Body and Blood of Christ. Throughout my life I have been blessed for my belief in faith and trust in the Lord especially from the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit and the graces I have received in the Sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Holy Matrimony and that of the Sick which is passed on to my family. PRAISE GOD FOR BIBLES AND CATECHISMS OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. AMEN. I believe on silence in Churches and Chapels as respect to the Lord and to others praying. There is also the gesture to genuflect or kneel in church when passing before the Holy Cross or when praying the Stations of the Cross or receiving Holy Communion. God bless you all for reading my post.

  24. Queca Reply

    I’m from Mexico n we do the cross when passing by church n also if we go by a house with a black ribbon or that we know someone has passed also when ushers from the church deliver the holy eucharist to the ill, in our town they usually have a small bell that they ring before approching the house of the ill n that’s a sign for all to give reverence n we sign..

    1. Sue Roediger Reply

      I was on a bus in Los Angeles. Every one was lost in their own thoughts. As we passed in front of a church nearly everyone made the sign of the cross. We all laughed at what we had in common. After that people began to introduce themselves to the people near the and the ride seemed more friendly and cheerful.

      1. gigi Reply

        that’s awesome 🙂 this site is awesome. so glad to know the catholic faith is alive worldwide 🙂

  25. Courtney Lynne-Rose Garvey Reply

    Very interesting I am always trying to learn new things about the Catholic Church because I am a convert I have only been a Catholic for five years and I was told priests did that but I forgot because I am visually in paired so it’s nice to have a reminder that they do this and it totally makes sense why they kiss their thumbs

  26. maria ana neves Reply

    In Portugal the most traditional catholics make the sign of the cross (benzem-se) beginning with a little cross on the forehead (saying “pelo sinal da santa cruz”, “by the sign of the holy cross”), another little cross over the mouth (saying “livre-nos Deus Nosso Senhor” “may God Our Lord free us”) another cross over the chest (saying “dos nossos inimigos” “from our ennemies” ) ending with the normal cross (“em nome do Pai, do Filho e do Espírito Santo”in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”, AMEN. Some people kiss their thumbs, but I thought it was because they act like if they were holding a rosary and kissed Jesus on the cross, but now I see there are other reasons.