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Carolyn Whitney-Brown



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

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.

Published March 2022 by HarperOne in hardcovereBook and as an audiobook.

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 @



Friday October 20, 2023 - I'll be doing a book reading in Kitchener, Ontario, with support from the Canada Council for the Arts through the Writers Union of Canada. More details coming soon.

The Korean version is now published:

The German version was published in February 2023: 

Jan 13, 2023 -- BOOK REVIEW by Rachel Mann:   

My November 2022 online event with John Dear at the Beatitudes Center, with commentary by Sue Mosteller, is now available online: 



Next ...!

The Portuguese translation will be published on October 18:

The Dutch version is almost ready - publication details coming soon!


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 2022 - 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 2022 - 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



Sorry if you missed:

  • ONLINE RETREAT April 2023: La Ferme retreat centre in France offered an online retreat with talks by me and Curt Armstrong of L'Arche International, titled "Flying, Falling, Catching: Practicing Trust and Finding Freedom with Henri Nouwen." It will probably be offered again: see
  • MAY 24, 2022 - 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, 2022 - 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.



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

Flying, Falling, Catching is a beacon of hope. It reminds us that despite all the perils and sufferings that surround us, with which we often collide, we can find healing, peace, and awe even in the most unusual detours that life offers. A must read.”  — Marina Nemat, Author of international best-seller Prisoner of Tehran

"In Carolyn Whitney-Brown's deft hands, Henri’s intentions literally, vividly swing alive. This is a beautiful, moving story about interconnectivity, interdependence, and life's rich, beautiful, complicated pageant. I devoured it in a sitting.” — Lisa Napoli, Author of Ray & Joan: the Man Who Made the McDonalds Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away

“No question that flying, falling, and catching were unlikely teachers for Henri Nouwen, whose clear preferences were security, stability and being caught! I hope and trust that you, the reader, will allow Henri to guide your journey through risk to freedom!” —  Sr. Sue Mosteller, CSJ, Executrix of Henri Nouwen's literary estate

“I am very grateful for Carolyn Whitney-Brown's accurate account of my brother Henri's inner feelings, hopes, wishes and despair. You brought Henri very close to me again.” — Laurent Nouwen, Founder of the Henri Nouwen Foundation

“A lifelong search for wholeness takes a surprising late turn—toward the circus! As someone who’s spent much of my adult life absorbing beautiful spiritual truths in gritty entertainment venues, I can definitely relate.” — Shad, Rapper, Host of documentary series Hip-Hop Evolution  

"A loving achievement and a riveting story of spirit meets body. With splendid pace and wit, Carolyn Whitney-Brown drops the words of Henri Nouwen’s flights of thought before us. Then, she arranges to gorgeously catch them. A singular spiritual tale written with tender-hearted eloquence from two arresting minds.”  — Kathryn Bond Stockton, Author of Gender(s), Distinguished Professor of English, University of Utah

“In this book, I see Henri in the audience, smiling straight at me, clapping his hands above his head, enjoying our performance success as much as we did. This one is for you, my friend.” — Rodleigh Stevens, Founder of the Flying Rodleighs and former trainer with Cirque du Soleil

"Anyone who knew Henri, either through his writing or in person, will immediately recognise how beautifully he’s been brought to life in this book – his willingness to write so vulnerably about human relationships and feelings as a means to discovering our purpose in life, and a sense of the divine.” — Gary Donohoe, Professor & Chair of Psychology, National University of Ireland, Galway

Flying, Falling, Catching is far beyond religious belief or affiliation. It is a universal tale of mind-body connection and disconnection. While undoubtedly an account of a spiritual journey, Carolyn Whitney-Brown nimbly explores the corporeal inner life of Henri Nouwen as he literally swings through the air. It is brilliant!” — Ruth Rakoff, Author of When My World Was Very Small

"For Henri Nouwen, a flying trapeze performance was like a Russian icon, drawing him into a spiritual world. This endearing true story about living and dying carefully brings together all of Nouwen's thinking on the Flying Rodleighs and the circus. Like the act itself, sheer elegance.”  — Michael Ford, Author of Wounded Prophet and Lonely Mystic.


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



            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.


---- --- ---   About Jean Vanier  --- --- --- 

            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): When Vanier died in May 2019, I wrote an obituary for Sojourners: Later in 2019, my second book, Sharing Life: Stories of L'Arche Founders (Paulist Press), traced how Jean Vanier's telling of the story of the founding of L'Arche Trosly evolved between 1964-2015, then told the stories of how L'Arche communities were founded in the next seven 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, with and without intellectual disabilities, took up Vanier's vision:

            Days after the shocking news of Jean Vanier's manipulative and abusive 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: 

            In a June 2020 paper presented for the Canadian Society of Church History, I offered possible directions for further research:

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

            In 2020, I agreed to write something further about Vanier a year later. My reflection "Making Out Jean Vanier" was published in Religious Studies and Theology 40.1, June 2021, 122‒130. After that, turning my attention to other projects was a great relief.

            However, a new report released in January 2023 renewed attention on Jean Vanier, and Sojourners contacted me for interviews and to write something about the report. I struggled to bring myself back to focusing on Vanier, especially as his duplicity and callousness become more apparent, but I agreed to be interviewed for the podcast series:  and to write a short reflection: I hope these will be helpful. 



City: Cowichan Bay, Province/Territory: British Columbia
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