Holy Water! Put on when entering or leaving a church, as a reminder of our Baptism. (Also good for the remission of venial sins- “little” sins, if there are such things- if you’re truly repentant.) You can do it if you want to, to start the habit going. I was taught to dip my right index and middle fingers, then “pinch” with my thumb to make a triangle, symbolizing the Trinity. You can also leave your hand open to symbolize the five Wounds. Either way, once your fingers are wet, make the sign of the cross. Forehead, down to the middle of your chest, over to the left shoulder, back to the right shoulder.
I know this must sound very silly to ask but I am not sure how you perform the act of crossing yourself and when this is to be done?
As above. We also do a little version just before the Gospel is read. Right thumb, up-down-left-right, on your forehead, lips, and heart, to ask God to seal when you hear into your head, speech, and heart. When you do the regular sign of the cross…hard to say. At the start and end of Mass, at the start and end of private prayer, after receiving the Eucharist, when you notice other people doing it, when the missalette calls for it, when you pass a Catholic church, when you pass a graveyard, when someone says something awful, when you see something cool, or just when you feel like it. It’s a reflex.
Also, I see people genuflect at the pew before entering. Is this done differently for men and women, or the same? If I am unable, for medical reasons, to drop to one knee or to kneel once inside the pew for prayer, is there an “abbreviated” version that would be acceptable?
Genuflect on your right knee towards the tabernacle, with the sign of the cross (forgot one!). If you can’t kneel, then bow. If you can’t find the tabernacle, then bow towards the altar. You can sit and pray in the pew, don’t feel bad. Genuflecting is the same for men and women, unless the lady is wearing a shorter skirt, then she might swivel in towards the pew wall for modesty and consider different attire for next week’s Mass. FYI- Though it isn’t for awhile yet, don’t genuflect at the Good Friday services. The tabernacle is empty and there’s nothing to reverence!