Then I read this story, of which there are several versions. (I found this one on Sacred Space www.sacredspace.ie)
In a time of plague hundreds of years ago, oxen are dragging wagons full of
fresh corpses to the lime-pits outside the village. There is no one to bless
their burial because the parish priest has already died from his risky
sick-calls. The little village juggler begins to fear for his life. How will
his wife and his small child manage if he catches the plague? He decides to
So he steals into the parish church that he only visits at Easter because
the Church law obliges him. He kneels in front of the altar; but he hasn’t a
prayer. What can he say to God Almighty, that stern magistrate? Instead, he
stands in front of a statue of Our Lady, and he tries to recite the Hail Mary,
but it’s been too long since the last time he blessed himself. The words of
that small prayer are beyond him, let alone the litanies he learned as a
'I shall pray in my own words’ says the little juggler. ‘I shall speak from
the heart to the Virgin Mother. She was a villager too.’ But the little
juggler has no knack for the smooth sentences he wants. Whistling at women and
cursing the world are his usual way. He is dumb.
And then he thinks: ‘I shall do what I do best. I shall juggle for her!’ He
takes the balls from his pouch and begins to throw them, there and then, in
the empty Lady-chapel. First slowly, now swiftly, one, two, three, higher and
higher the little juggler spins them until there are four, five, seven in the
air, dancing like planets in the dust-clouds, the Galilean satellites of
Suddenly, out of nowhere, the sacristan appears, rude and red-faced. He
punches the little juggler in the belly with his broomstick and he says: ‘Do
you not know where you are, you ignoramus? Do you not know?’ But the statue of
Our Lady softens and smiles and laughs aloud. She leans down to the little
juggler from her tilting plinth and she wipes his sweaty forehead with the
palm of her hand.
I considered, then, that I cannot know how my actions affect others, God and myself. A seed planted lives and grows in the darkness, but bears its fruit in its time. I must trust that this endeavour is also a viable seed, pregnant with potential, possibilitiy and promise - and that it will, in its time, bring pleasure and blessings.
May we live fully and consciously today, hoping each moment to be the person we are invited to be.