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I'm not Catholic so I could be wrong, but I'll share what I've heard. By saying the names of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, they are acknowledging the triune God. The cross itself represents the cross on which Christ died and acknowledges the sacrifice for our salvation and the blood shed to cover our sins.
Sheilamyers gave a good answer. Some Catholics do it more than others. Some will do it every time they drive by a church. i do not. It is not a requirement. It is a part of the mass and many Catholics make it when they start to say a prayer, be it the blessing before the meal, or praying with someone who is ill. It, in itself is a form of prayer, recognizing the existence of the Holy Trinity.
Sheila and Larry, both gave excellent answers - Sheila is correct as to the symbolism of making the sign of the cross, and I agree with Larry that some Catholics utilize the "Sign of the Cross" more than others.
A couple additional things I would add are that
(1) The Sign of the Cross is also used by Orthodox Christians, though it is slightly different because Orthodox cross themselves right to left across their chest, while Catholics cross themselves left to right. This is because in Latin and other romance languages your hand would be over your heart when saying "spirit" if you crossed yourself left to right, and the opposite in Greek/Russian.
(2) I would definitely stress what Larry mentioned, that the sign of the Cross is in and of itself a prayer! It is also a way of "setting apart" our prayer time, it is kind of like a "hello" as we start our conversation of prayer!
(3) As for the "why" of many Catholics making the sign of the Cross when passing by a Church, it is to recognize the presence of the Eucharist/Christ in that place.
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