Spirituality for Today – December 2010 – Volume 15, Issue 5

Our Lady's Juggler

By Rev. Mark Connolly

An image of 3 colorful juggling balls

One of the most simple stories pertaining to Christmas is the story of the juggler of our Lady. This story applies to everyone whether you are Christian or non Christian.

The story is simply this. Many centuries ago, as written by Anatole France, there lived a man by the name of Barnaby. He was a juggler who lived from day to day on the small donations he received. He went from town to town and he would take knives or balls and juggle them. And that is all that he could do. He felt embarrassed over his lack of talent. He almost felt totally useless. People in the town in which he juggled would be involved in their business work. Some would run small little shops. Some were doctors and teachers. And Barnaby would see all these people working every day and be more discouraged with each passing day.

One day on his travels he was passing a huge monastery and he started to think and pray. Maybe, if they let me enter this monastery I can do the most menial tasks, do something positive and save my soul and have more meaning and happiness in my life.

He knocked on the monastery door and was greeted by the brother who was in charge of all the monastic duties. Barnaby told him he would perform the most menial tasks for just a place to sleep and a little something to eat. He was admitted and was given a small place in which to live and told when meal time was to happen. He did this for months and seemed to find more meaning and happiness to his life. But then his sense of meaning and happiness started to lessen. He knew all around him that the brothers of the monastery were preparing for Christmas. One brother was writing a new musical score for the midnight Mass. Another brother was making special bread to be given to the poor on Christmas Day. Another brother was making a beautiful Christmas crib for the birth of the Christ Child. Barnaby, in seeing what was done by others so talented, felt more inadequate than ever. His sense of his own inferiority became more painful than ever. Christmas was coming closer. And what was he doing but the most menial jobs in the monastery. He went to bed each night heartbroken.

But then one night, and no explanation has been found for this, he took his small little blanket and his eight juggling balls and went to the chapel. He stood in front of the statue of Our Blessed Mother and gave her the only talent he had, the art of juggling. At that moment something extraordinary happened. The statue of our Blessed Mother almost came alive with radiance that Barnaby had never seen before. The brothers of the monastery, seeing how the chapel was becoming filled with this new light, rushed in thinking that something tragic had taken place. The Abbot was there and as all of them came into the Chapel they saw Barnaby juggling with joy and happiness. The statue of Mary, whether it took on new life to others, took on new life to him. This man who thought he had so little talent had brought joy to Mary, the Mother of Christ, at Christmas time.

The lessons from the story of Barnaby, the juggler of our Lady, has application to everyone who thinks that he is untalented and that he does not matter. The story is a reminder to all of us that each one has a talent that if used can light up the life of many people.

The story of Barnaby, the juggler, the individual who thought he was a nothing in anyone's eyes teaches us that God has given to each one gifts and talents that if used can bring greater joy and meaning into each one's life. The story of Barnaby, the juggler of our Lady, teaches each one that you have a purpose, a value, a meaning that will become clearer when you daily use the talent that God has given you.