God the Holy Spirit: Explaining the Holy Spirit to Children
by Catherine Fournier
Children live to ask questions - and we live to answer them. Teaching the faith to our children is a several years long series of questions, beginning with "Where is God?" and culminating in wonderful challenges like, "If Christ was fully human and fully divine, does that mean He had a human soul, so both God the Son and Jesus' soul are in Heaven now?"
One such question is "What is the Holy Spirit?" How can we explain the Holy Spirit in a way that will help our children always remember who the Holy Spirit is and how the Holy Spirit can help them everyday? What stories or analogies can we use that go beyond that the Holy Spirit comes to a person in baptism or the story of Pentecost?
A basic understanding of the Trinity is necessary before going on the teach about the Three Persons, including the Holy Spirit. The Faith and Life catechism series offers some useful ways to explain the Trinity.
The Grade Two teacher's manual suggests that first all you make sure your child understands that the Trinity is a mystery. Even very holy people who are very close to God don't understand it, it's something that we can't understand with our limited human minds. A mystery is something that God wants us to know and believe even though we can't understand it. Explain that lots of people have used examples to try to describe what the Trinity is like, not to explain it. Saint Patrick used a shamrock with three separate leaves in one larger leaf. Some other ways to describe the Trinity use candles or an apple.
1. Place three candles on the table. Light one of the candles. From that candle, light the other two candles. Point out that two were lighted from one light; that there are three separate flames but they are all equal to one another. Then bring the three flames together to form one flame. There are still three flames, but they are mingled together into one flame.
2. Bring out an apple. There is the peel, the fruit we eat and the core. These are three distinct and different parts in one apple. An apple must have all three parts, there's no such thing as an apple without a peel, or without seeds, or without the fruit. In the same way, the Trinity means we must have the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
When you are sure your child clearly understands that the Trinity is a mystery that we can describe but not really understand, and that while each person of the Trinity is a separate individual, they all 'work together' - like the three flames mingle to make one flame, you can go on to describe the Holy Spirit.
God the Father is the Creator of Heaven and earth. His Word is God the Son, Jesus. The love between God the Father and God the Son is so perfect, and so complete that it is another Person, equal to the Father and the Son. (Your child loves you and you love your child, but sometimes you get mad at each other, or sometimes you do things for yourself instead of for each other - God's love is better than that, he never gets mad, or tired, or impatient with us or with His Son.)
The Holy Spirit is the Love between God the Father and God the Son. Whenever God gives us something out of love, we call it the work of the Holy Spirit. Since everything God has given us is given in love, the Holy Spirit is always active in our lives.
Since the Holy Spirit is Love, it is the Holy Spirit in us that makes it possible for us to love God and others. We receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism, and get 'booster shots' all through our lives from the other sacraments.
It is your love that helps him when he gets discouraged with his homework or has trouble with his friends. The Love of God, in the Person of the Holy Spirit, helps him the same way if he remembers to call on it with a little prayer.
In the same way a child remembers the good dinners people have made out of love, a child can remember the Eucharist, and know that God's Love is with him.
God is like food. Food tastes good, looks good and smells good. I wouldn't want to eat food that tasted good, but smelled bad, or had no smell at all. In the same way, God isn't God without all three Persons.
Food also nourishes us with protein, carbohydrates and vitamins. All of the nutrients in food are essential - without protein we can't build muscle, without carbohydrates we won't have any energy and without vitamins we can't stay healthy.
God the Father is like protein; He helps us grow and makes us strong.
God the Son is like carbohydrates; He gives us Life and energy to help and teach others.
God the Holy Spirit is like vitamins; He keeps us healthy and able to fight off infections (temptation to sin.)
Since the Holy Spirit is God's Love and is with us at all times, we should remember His presence and call upon HIm at all times. A solid understanding of the Holy Spirit will help develop such a habit.
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