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How Do I Teach a Child about the Eucharist?

Jimmy Akin

Jimmy Akin lays out the basic explanation that parents should give to their young children who want to know what happens in the miracle of transubstantiation.


Host: Let’s go to Mike in Champagne, Illinois, listening on 95.7 AM. Mike, you are on with Jimmy Akin, what’s your question?

Caller: How’s it going today, guys?

Host: Very well.

Jimmy: Just fine. What’s your question?

Caller: My question is: I have a five-year-old daughter that has shown an amazing interest in the bread and the wine changing into the Body and the Blood of Christ. And she’s been really asking a lot of questions. Now, I…I teach Confirmation at our church, and I’m used to teaching high school kids about this; I’m really having a hard time talking to my five-year-old about how that actually happens in the terms that she can understand. So I guess I’m asking for some advice on how I can explain to her…you know, how—what actually is happening, and…do you understand what I’m asking, I guess?

Jimmy: I do. Now, it’s gonna depend on what her own level of interest is here. You indicate she’s been asking a bunch of questions; I’m not sure what all those questions are. But if I—just to give a first pass answer—if I were talking to a five-year-old about transubstantiation, I would say that: when the priest consecrates the elements, they stop being bread and wine, and they start being Jesus. They still look like bread and wine, but they’re not. They only look like bread and wine, but in reality they’re Jesus.

And that’s the essence of the doctrine of transubstantiation. It is…it’s explained in those terms without any technical philosophical terms that are beyond what a five-year-old would, you know…or at least, would with certainty be beyond what a five-year-old would know. So that would be my first pass answer of how I would explain it. It just—it looks like bread and wine, but it’s stopped being bread and wine and now it’s really Jesus.

Caller: Okay. I—that’s kinda how I described it. She was asking me if—how the Blood gets in there, like if he’s literally bleeding into the cup and stuff like that.

Jimmy: No.

Caller: And I said that, I said—yeah go ahead, I’m sorry.

Jimmy: Yeah, so…everything that looks like it’s…again, I’m explaining this like I would for a small child, but—everything that looks like wine is Jesus. So the whole Jesus is there. It’s not like this is just his Blood; it’s all of him. And in the same way, in the host, even though it looks like a piece of bread, it’s ALL of Jesus. It’s not just a part of Jesus. And how this happens is, God does it by a miracle.

Caller: Yup. Okay. Well, I’m glad that’s—that’s kinda what I told her, I just wanted to make sure that…it’s hard to know when you’re getting over somebody’s head or not, and I just wanted her to continue in her thinking of it, more than anything. I didn’t want to deter her from, you know, thinking about it. That’s…for me, having a five-year-old even thinking about it is profound in my world.

Host: Well, thank you very much, Mike, appreciate that call.

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