According to the jacket description, this 50-minute TV movie is based on a 12th century French tale in which God rewards the faithful by performing miraculous acts of beauty and wonder. In the modern Americanized movie version from Paulist Productions, a circus juggler named Barnaby has lost faith in God through a series of devastating life events, and then gradually discovers with the help of faithful friends that he has not been neglected or forgotten.
The Loss of Loved Ones
Nothing is more destructive to faith than losing a loved one unexpectedly. Barnaby loses not one, but two loved ones: his young wife, Beatrice and a close friend. Beatrice was a circus high wire performer. Shortly after they were married, she fell from the high wire and Barnaby, in desperation, tried to catch her and break her fall, “…as if to juggle her.”
After the loss, Barnaby blames himself (and God), abandoning the circus life and giving up his treasured juggling craft. He soon comes upon another restless soul, Sparrow. A homeless but faithful man, Sparrow befriends the lost Barnaby and quickly their bond becomes strong enough for them to develop a juggling/comedy act together.
Tragically the friendship ends with Sparrow getting robbed and killed by thieves on the road. Barnaby descends deeper into depression, throwing his juggling supplies away and wandering until the Christmas season is upon him, not caring whether he lives or dies.
What is Faith?
True faith means believing without seeing, and sometimes without understanding why terrible things must happen. A small community of joyful people in the process of rebuilding a dilapidated old church will be the next stop for Barnaby, and this will be where he finally discovers what faith really is.
Jonas, a sculptor who takes Barnaby in, has suffered loss as well. A fire burned down his store and home, taking with it his wife and small child. After a time, Jonas recovers sufficiently enough to rediscover the beauty in God’s world.
Thoughtful Christmas Gifts
During Christmas mass at the church under construction (Notre Dame), it is the tradition of the community to present gifts of each person’s specialty to a statue of the mother of God, which was sculpted by Jonas. Barnaby, amazed that the statue resembles his deceased wife, keeps this fact quiet. He is also troubled that he has nothing to give at the traditional celebration.
Constantly reminded of his losses and without anything to give, Barnaby decides to leave the town prior to midnight mass. However before he does, he has a revelation and discovers that he might actually have something to give after all.
The True Meaning of Christmas
With the many movies about Santa Claus, and the annual holiday shopping mania, it is easy to forget the true meaning of Christmas. It should be a time when Christians celebrate the birth of Christ and spread good will, taking care to give to those who are less fortunate. The Juggler of Notre Dame is a movie that will remind viewers of the profound meaning of giving and faithful devotion.
Tears will flow, but joy will be the ultimate reward after watching this movie and rediscovering that gifts given out of desperation and love are the ones that God truly treasures.
Note: This film is not rated but contains a short scene of mild violence. Use discretion when viewing with young children.