Sunday, May 23, 2010
LIttle Left Handed Devils
Sister, here is something that has come up among our catechists and a question from someone on another forum has brought it to mind to find an answer. Left handed kids tend to do the sign of the cross with their left hand. Is that okay? Should we be correcting them?
I have an old ruler I can loan you, if that helps.
I'm not going to say outright that it's not okay. I'm sure Jesus doesn't particularly mind which hand anyone uses for anything, contrary to the efforts of many an old nun.
Why do Catholics have a history of shunning left handedness? It's not rocket science. The left hand was associated with the devil, so people who were left handed were guilty by association, as though their handedness was a sign that they were evil.
The list of devil associations with the left hand is long. Satan uses his left hand to 'baptize'. Witches greet Satan with the left hand. The very word "left" comes from the old English word "Lyft" which means "weak, worthless".
In many cultures, the left hand is used...let's just say, to clean oneself, and leave it at that. So the left hand was considered unclean. It would be the utmost in discourtesy in some cultures, even today, to offer someone your left hand in greeting and friendship.
These cultural roots are old and deep. No wonder the old nuns were running around with their hair on fire trying to 'cure' lefties.
It is always news to people that a lot of old nuns were actually quite superstitious. They believed in curses and people who were cursed. Perhaps they believed all of that in a "Jesus vs. the devil" sort of way, but there's no getting around whacking the knuckles of left handed kids because they might be left handed because of the devil was superstitious.
I think a lot of the old nuns might not have even questioned why they were whacking the knuckles of left handed kids. Old nuns love conformity and the "Palmer Method" really only works if you're right handed.
But after all is said and done, I would encourage the kids to use their right hands when making the sign of the cross. Do you let them put their left hand over their hearts for the "Pledge of Allegiance"? Do you not teach them to shake hands with other people with their right hands?
Supposedly, the real reason we shake hands with our right hands is because that freed the left hand to be ready with the sword if the hand shake didn't work out so well. Whatever. I'm sure it had more to do with the left hand being literally unclean in so many cultures.
We don't care anymore why we shake with the right hand. That's just the way it's done.
The Sign of the Cross is made with the right hand. That's just how it's done.
If you're Roman Catholic, you touch your head, your heart, your left shoulder and then your right shoulder. If you are Eastern Orthodox, you touch your right shoulder first.
As I said, I'm sure Jesus doesn't really care much. But don't pass up the opportunity to teach little kids left from right by using the Sign of the Cross.