Photo Credit:
Photo credit
photo by author
Carolyn Whitney-Brown


FLYING, FALLING, CATCHING: An Unlikely Story of Finding Freedom

Published March 2022 by HarperOne in hardcover, eBook and as an audiobook.

Co-authored with the late Henri Nouwen, Flying, Falling, Catching tells the story of Nouwen's friendship with the Flying Rodleighs trapeze troupe, and why his last manuscript was left unfinished at his death in 1996. You can watch my short pre-publication introduction to the book on the Henri Nouwen & Carolyn Whitney-Brown YouTube channel for Flying, Falling, Catching:


Contact me at carolynwhitneybrown @


Study Guide

HarperCollins asked me to write a free study guide for small groups. You can find it online at:

Available now online:

The first two BOOK LAUNCH EVENTS offered glimpses into two communities that were important to Henri:

  • MARCH 12 - the INTERNATIONAL BOOK LAUNCH PARTY with Rodleigh Stevens, founder of the Flying Rodleighs trapeze troupe. Rodleigh Stevens provided live commentary, as he showed film footage of the Flying Rodleighs act that Henri Nouwen first saw, along with hilarious video of Henri Nouwen trying the trapeze and frolicking playfully after falling into the net! Watch the recording on the Henri Nouwen & Carolyn Whitney-Brown YouTube channel
  • APRIL 5 - live online BOOK LAUNCH with L’ARCHE DAYBREAK. This was a delight! -- beautiful, profound, silly, messy, cheerful, big-hearted. It embodied the L’Arche culture and humour that is so hard to describe, the energy and spirit of the community that Henri loved. Watch the recording at


Postponed - St. Jerome’s University Lectures in Catholic Experience PUBLIC BOOK LAUNCH / ONLINE LECTURE. Watch for new date here.



Sorry if you missed:

MAY 24 - Live, in-person READING with Q&A at South Cowichan Public Library, Mill Bay. Hosted by the Vancouver Island Regional Library with support from the Canada Council for the Arts through the Writers Union of Canada.

OCT 30 - BOOK LAUNCH Reading with music provided by the Low Commitment Blues Band. Hosted by Sylvan United Church, Mill Bay with support from the Canada Council for the Arts through the Writers Union of Canada.



Church Times review by Rachel Mann: "this is a book full of insight ... In this ostensibly non-religious circus troupe, Nouwen discerned 'a community of love that can break through the boundaries of ordinariness'. Whitney-Brown captures with wit and tenderness the “odd-couple” friendship between the gawky writer-priest and the circus artistes. ... Ultimately, insights abound. Nouwen’s notebooks reveal how the Rodleighs deepen his understanding of human difference and otherness, and inspire him to fresh insights into the nature of vocation."

The Tablet Books of the Year: "Tablet reviewers pick the very best books published in 2022":

Quill & Quire review: "perhaps this book serves as a beautiful example of how even the most exquisite of truths are revealed to us through imperfect people and inauspicious circumstances" -

Broadview Magazine review: "The resulting book is a fascinating read, both as a portrait of Nouwen and for the insight it offers into his creative process."

Mike Mason review: "a wonderfully absorbing story that enchanted me for three reasons..."

Broadway Direct "Best New Theater Books for This Spring 2022” review: "An intriguing capper to one of the best known thinkers of religion since Thomas Merton.”

Goodreads reviews include this: "Highly readable and compelling, the author weaves together Nouwen's writings and her own narrative style into a thoughtful and engaging story that will resonate with anyone interested in the big questions about friendship, fear, and how we show up for each other."

Richard Propes review: "Whitney-Brown beautifully captures Nouwen as a joy-filled, almost child-like spiritual risk-taker who found a freedom in his later years as his carefully structured life increasingly became one of unpredictability, learning, vulnerability, and even failures" -

The Christian Bookshop, Rugby, UK: "It's a great story about someone who looked deeper into how we all see the world and was not disappointed!"

The Banner Magazine (Christian Reformed Church in North America): "Whitney-Brown gives gentle voice to Nouwen’s lifelong struggle with his sexual orientation and his aloneness, an acceptance of his own physical body and his social awkwardness. As Nouwen observes his trapezing friends he receives another picture of the grace, poise, and forgiveness that he so desires. To fly, to fall, and be caught again. It is everything a beloved community hopes to be."

Christian Century: "A theologically inflected narrative that explores Nouwen's fascination with a group of trapeze artists while imagining what he experienced during the last days of his life. Whitney-Brown’s story circles around [Nouwen’s] unfinished manuscript and its recurring themes of vulnerability, trust, fear, bravery, and freedom.”

And don't miss all the pre-publication reviews -- I was fascinated by how diverse readers discovered their own meaning in the story:


You can find FLYING, FALLING, CATCHING  at your favourite bookstore, online, or at your local public library

In Canada:

In the US:

In UK:



I completed my B.A. at Victoria College, University of Toronto, and my M.A. and Ph.D. at Brown University in Rhode Island. My doctoral thesis explored social and political meanings of childbirth stories in sixteenth and seventeenth-century England, using a wide variety of texts including drama, poetry, legal cases, midwifery manuals, diaries, theological discussions, homilies and popular news. My research interests continue to investigate how stories are told, and which stories remain important in diverse historical and cultural contexts.

I lived at L'Arche Daybreak in Richmond Hill for seven years with my partner Geoff and our children, and since then I have completed projects for L'Arche Canada and L'Arche International. Founded in 1964 in France, L'Arche is an international Federation of communities where people with and without intellectual disabilities live and work together. My two commissioned door paintings can be seen at the Dayspring Chapel of L'Arche Daybreak. You can see them and read about their creation here:

After leaving L'Arche, I coordinated national projects for the Canadian Council of Churches and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, and for The United Church of Canada. I am presently a fellow at University of Victoria's Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, and I teach Religious Studies for St. Jerome's University at University of Waterloo.

My publications include essays in In Another Country: Feminist Perspectives on Renaissance Drama (1991), Northern Lights: An Anthology of Contemporary Christian Writing in Canada (2008), Remembering Henri (2006), and the Foreword to DLT (Darton Longman and Todd)'s 1997 and 2013 editions of Henri Nouwen's Road to Daybreak.

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My first three books were each to some degree about Jean Vanier. The first was a selection of his writings in 2008 (Orbis, Novalis, DLT updated in 2019): In 2019, my second book, Sharing Life: Stories of L'Arche Founders (Paulist Press), told the stories of how L'Arche communities were founded in the first eight countries around the world:  My third book Tender to the World (MQUP 2019) explored disability and Canadian ecumenism through how people in the United Church of Canada took up Vanier's vision:

Days after the shocking news of Jean Vanier's manipulative sexual behaviour broke in Feb 2020, Broadview magazine interviewed me:

Soon afterwards, I was asked to offer further reflections about Jean Vanier for the journal Critical Theology. That March 2020 article can be found under the Related Links tab at:  

Hugely helpful has been Tanya Marlow's reflection, "But his books are still good, right? – 5 things Christians must stop saying about sexual abusers":

My most recent writing about Vanier is "Making Out Jean Vanier" Religious Studies and Theology 40.1, June 2021,  122‒130. I expect that will be all I write about Jean Vanier for a while. Turning my attention to other projects has been a great relief.


City: Cowichan Bay, Province/Territory: British Columbia
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