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Carolyn Whitney-Brown

Carolyn Whitney-Brown

Photo: photo by author


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 introduction to the book on the Henri Nouwen & Carolyn Whitney-Brown YouTube channel for Flying, Falling, Catching: 


Contact me at carolynwhitneybrown @


Coming up NEXT:

Because these events will be online, you are invited to attend from anywhere in the world:

  • Thurs October 6 - PUBLIC LECTURE in person and livestream: "The experience of an enfleshed spirituality"  Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, University of Victoria, British Columbia,  5-6pm Pacific time.
  • Sunday October 30 - ​​​BOOK LAUNCH READING with The Low Commitment Blues Band, 2pm Pacific time, hosted by Sylvan United Church, Mill Bay, BC, with support from the Canada Council for the Arts through the Writers Union of Canada.

Postponed - ZOOM SEMINAR at the Beatitudes Center with John Dear - originally scheduled for Sat Sept 24, 11am-12:30pm Pacific time. Watch for new date and opportunity to register at

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



FLYING, FALLING, CATCHING depicts Henri Nouwen in two key communities: the Flying Rodleighs' world of a travelling circus, and Henri's home in L'Arche Daybreak where people with and without intellectual disabilities share life in community. Two book launch events offered glimpses into each of these two worlds that were so important to Henri, then two readings brought the book to life:

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

JULY 28 READING with Joe Abbey-Colborne reading Henri Nouwen -  hosted by Rob Crosby-Shearer of Abbey Church and Emmaus Community, with support from the Canada Council for the Arts through the Writers Union of Canada. Audio recording at


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



"This is Not Church" podcast with Jon and Nat Turney, posted March 14 - Jon and Nat were so caught up in reading the book that they could not concentrate on the SuperBowl game! True story.

"Henri Nouwen, Now & Then" podcast with Karen Pascal, posted March 5 - we discuss how this new book differs from Henri's other writing -

"Following the Fire" podcast with Steve Martin and Nathan Wheat, posted April 27  -

"Things Not Seen: Conversations about Culture and Faith" with David Dault: David understood right away that the core of the book is not a spiritual lesson, but rather Henri's physical experience of a live performance:



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 and DLT). 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 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.


carolynwhitneybrown @
Cowichan Bay
Eligible for National Public Readings Program: