The Little Juggler

// In 1995 Father Peter McAfee [St Patricks College Kilbirnie, Wellington] asked me to act out this story during mass at St Marys Church.

For 20 years I tried to find this story, remember it. Finally I made contact with Father McAfee who sent me a copy. I remember being terrified, juggling for the first time in front of the whole school, especially during such an important occasion, but the story resonated with me. I'm glad to be able to share it with you.


I have a story I want to tell you today. And I would like to dedicate it to all those students who have come forward for Confirmation, First Communion or Baptism this year.

The story REALLY happened hundreds of years ago in France, but it has been told so many times, it has become a legend. The “main man” is a lad of 13 or 14. He is a street performer – he earned money by juggling – you know, throwing balls and hoops and skittles. The place he performed was the town square – where the market was – with stalls that sold clothes and smelt of donuts and sausage sizzles. It was very like our own Manners Mall – even though it was faraway France a long time ago. That was where the juggler lived too – on the streets – he didn’t go to school – only the rich did. And LIKE the street kids of Manners Mall, he knew how to steal food, and to fight if necessary. I tell you, this story could happen still today. 

Before I go any further there is a message I want you to look out for. It’s this. Somewhere in this world for each one of us, there is a special task that God has set aside. We are meant to do it in our life. Finding out what that task is , is not easy – but God has it in mind for us and it’s the part we each have in His plan. 

Anyway, about the juggler, I want you to picture him putting on a show – for when he set up his hoops and balls and skittles, people all about would slow down and watch him. 


- First he would throw three balls. (first trick)

- And some people would clap (5 Claps)

- Then it was 4 balls – all eyes were on the juggler (second trick)

Some of the people clapped and some shouted for more. (claps and calls “More” Bravo” or other suggestions you discern Dianne …. Contemporary)

So then he would throw the skittles. (third trick)

And, when he threw the skittles the entire crowd, by now over a hundred people clapped , and the little juggler bowed low. 

(full applause and juggler bows.. turn back on to people.)


There WAS one trick however that the crowd enjoyed THE most of all – called “The Eclipse of the Sun.” It was difficult for it used a double simultaneous revolution – and a yellow ball was the sun. 

One day in the Capital City he performed before a crowd of over 700. “My Lords and Ladies” he cried out.  “Prepare to see the most famous of all tricks through out all France – I give you the “Eclipse of the Sun.”

  • juggler turn to people 
  • does trick four
  • drops them
  • covers face /bows/departs

That was the day he DROPPED them. The crowd were stunned silent. Some laughed , some gasped. (according to the actual response of the school)

Others booed and shouted out (Boo shout)

Feeling so ashamed, the little juggler packed up his kit and left the town square. 

In fact he left the main streets and squares completely. Instead he hugged the dirty back streets where the rubbish tins were kept. There he rummaged for food, and he gathered cans to sell. AND he juggled no more. “I’m too clumsy now “ he thought. “Besides, the people booed me.”

I want to change scene now to fast forward over many years – to another incident in the juggler’s life. It takes place in a church very like this one we are in now. The juggler had taken shelter from the rain and was asleep behind a pillar in a corner. He had grown old, for life on the streets was hard. 

He was awoken by singing - a clear high voice from up near the roof “Gloria in excelsis Deo.” And then he heard a great crowd of people with the organ join in too. It sounded like a river roaring. The church was full. Candles blazed, and a long procession of magnificently dressed people wound up to a statue of a young woman who was holding a Boy in her arms. In fact the young woman and the boy were very like this statue here at my side. And the people placed before Mary, rich and colourful gifts. The juggler was spellbound, “What is happening?” he asked a person nearby. ”Don’t you know?“ she said, “it is the Birth of the Holy Child. You must present your gift” The old juggler wanted to take part but he didn’t know the songs – his clothes were filthy and he had NO gift. And he wished he did. He felt sorry for the woman in the statue – her face was so serious.  

It was then he decided that, when the people were gone, he would juggle for her. Once more,  he would for that would surely make her smile. And that is what he did. When the Church was empty he juggled for the lady and the boy. An audience of 2 - yet he’d never felt so happy. He gave them his very best. A monk entered unnoticed by the juggler. He was just beginning his favourite “The Eclipse of the Sun.” 

Then, with the highest throw, his old heart suddenly stopped. The juggler fell, dead on the floor. The balls and hoops clattered on the stone surface. I guess the exertion for the old man was just too much. His life was over.

I said at the start of this talk that God has a special task in mind for each of us. And its hard to know what it is. You at St Pat’s are still young men. Who can tell what God has in his mind for you? For your FATHER at home, it is probably raising you his son. For me it is to be a priest. For you fellows your call is probably to be a man like your father OR PERHAPS to be a priest like I am. ONE thing IS certain, God has in mind a special task for each of you. 

I want to encourage you to listen to him and say “Yes Lord to whatever it is you want me to do.” I promise you fellows you will be richly rewarded. 

But what of the juggler – he wasn’t meant to be a husband and raise children or to become a priest. I want to tell you the end of his story – for it’s the END that made this STORY a LEGEND. Remember there was a monk who came into the church?

Well he rushed over to help the fallen juggler. He was dead but with a smile on his face. As the priest started the prayers for the dead – he looked up and saw the miracle – a sign of God’s delight. For on Mary’s face was also a smile. And the Boy Jesus was holding in his hand the yellow ball. The poor juggler had found his life’s task. His life was complete. And it was pleasing to God.