Sanctity in the Family:

The Love of the Cross

by Brother François-Marie, O. P.

From Le Sel de la terre 123 (winter 2022/2023)

The cross is the mandatory passageway into glory. Children are no exception: they too have to live this journey: baptized, redeemed by the blood and death redeemed by the blood and death of Our Lord, they have to conform themselves to Jesus just as much as we do. So how can we awaken a love of the cross in their hearts? It has to start at an early age, following the stages of their development.

To do this, we have to start in childhood. So let’s ask ourselves: How can we awaken a love of the Cross in our children’s hearts?

Familiarizing Children with the Cross

There’s a progression to be observed. The first step is to use gestures, which the child will gradually understand as he grows up, when we explain them to him.

From the cradle onward, the little cross on his forehead, drawn with his finger, will be a constant reminder that he has been baptized and belongs to God. When he’s a little older, we’ll explain: “I entrust you to God because you are His child.”

For Catholics, the cross isn’t bare like it is for Protestants; it has Jesus on it, which is why it’s called “the crucifix”.

At the end of evening prayer, when the little child is still unable to recite the prayers, we can have him kiss the crucifix and say: “Jesus, I love you with all my heart.” Then, as soon as he can, teach him to make the sign of the cross with great respect and love.

The Next Step is to Create Compassion in Their Heart

From the age of two, with a crucifix in hand, we can have him touch the crown of thorns, the place of the nails, and express for him the feelings this should arouse: “How Jesus must have hurt! Jesus hurt so much for you, so that you could go to heaven”; then have the child kiss Jesus’s sacred wounds.


Around the age of three or four, you need to start making the connection between Jesus’ sufferings and himself: when he’s been naughty with his brothers and sisters, or when he’s had a tantrum or acted capriciously, you need to get him to say, taking the crucifix: “Forgive me, Jesus! When I’m mean, I’m like those who hurt you on the cross. You hurt so much for me. You died to help me be good, so that I could go to heaven.”

Around the age of four or five, we continue to awaken his responsibility for the sufferings of the Crucified One, leading him to the beginnings of an act of contrition.

For example, if the child has been particularly “naughty” in a particular act, we need to tell him that by doing so, he caused Jesus to suffer on the cross, even if he didn’t mean to, and that now that he knows it, he certainly doesn’t want to cause him any more suffering. He needs to be encouraged not to do it again, and to do this, we ask Jesus, who is present in his heart through his grace, to give him a lot of strength to be better and not do it again. We finish by having him kiss the crucifix to ask for forgiveness.

Meditation on the Passion

Around the age of 5 or 6, he still doesn’t know, so you need to tell him the story of the Passion. To do this, you need to use beautiful engravings, if possible, expressing the sacred, and read sober narratives that are always close to the sacred text, such as La Bible d’une Grand-Mère by Comtesse de Ségur. The reading should be done in a soft, collected, interior tone, punctuated by a few silences to facilitate meditation.

There’s also the Stations of the Cross: age-appropriate commentaries can be used to encourage children to make amends for wicked people’s contempt for Jesus, and to join in St. Veronica’s gesture of gentleness, the Cyrenian’s assistance, and Our Lady’s sorrow, by showing their love for Jesus in their prayers, and offering their little misfortunes in union with Jesus’s sufferings.

This awakening of the children to the cross of Jesus prepares the soil of their hearts for the generous practice of sacrifice required by the Christian life. This is the way that the Angel of Portugal and Our Lady of Fatima taught the three children to make them saints.

Let’s ask Our Lady of Compassion for the graces needed to put this into practice in our children’s daily education.