It is not so evident how to present this complex belief in a way children (or adults) can grasp.
One of the most fundamental beliefs of Christians everywhere is the belief in the Holy Trinity, the confession that God is one in substance and three in person. This is a belief that God has revealed to us, most explicitly through the incarnation of Jesus and the sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
This is a mystery of our faith and no human being can truly understand it fully. Then there is the challenge of taking such a complex concept like the Trinity and making it easier for children to grasp. For most parents and educators the task is daunting.
Thankfully, there are many different ways to present the Trinity to children that may even shed light on the belief for adults. It is a tricky business, one where the parent or educator needs to walk a fine line. For example there are many popular explanations (such as the shamrock — or our modern version, the fidget spinner) that present the Trinity as “parts” of a whole and end up creating an image of the Trinity that is not entirely accurate. To be sure, God has no parts. In the end whatever explanation is used, it needs to be faithful to the essential belief in the Trinity while not creating misconceptions in the believer.
In this article, we will examine three traditional methods of teaching the Trinity that have stayed with the Church over the centuries. These are older methods that stay true to the Trinity and are generally accepted by theologians.
Before we can look at the three methods, it is important to remember that ultimately our efforts will fall short. The Catechism explains how it is a mystery, one that requires more than just reason to believe in.
The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the “mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God.” To be sure, God has left traces of his Trinitarian being in his work of creation and in his Revelation throughout the Old Testament. But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel’s faith before the Incarnation of God’s Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit. (CCC 237)
Going forward, we take this important task of education in a spirit of faith, realizing our limits, but doing what we can to help others understand the truth and beauty of God.