John Nagy ’00M.A. | October 29, 2018
Chances are good you’ve heard this one before: A juggler of exceptional talent renounces the world and enters a monastery.
Finding himself unprepared to work, sing or even pray with his brother monks, he takes up his juggling kit and steals away to a chapel of Our Lady, where he prays in the language of his greatest eloquence. Before long, he is discovered and his offended brothers intervene on the sacrilege, only to see the statue come alive to comfort him in his soul-deep exhaustion and bless his performance.
The juggler’s name is Barnaby.
Or it’s Rene. Or Jakob.
Regardless, he is a plucky orphan of 10 or 12. . . . Or, he’s a virile virtuoso at the peak of his gifts. Or a weary old itinerant seeking a peaceful place to retire and die.
He is wealthy; he is poor. He’s adored. He’s ignored.
He is Our Lady’s Tumbler. The Juggler of Notre Dame.
First told nearly 800 years ago in a poem written in Old French, then forgotten altogether in the turbulence and aftermath of the Reformation, his story was rediscovered in 1873.
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