Announcing the Book Selection for Advent 2022!

Flying, Falling, Catching: An Unlikely Story of Finding Freedom

by Henri J.M. Nouwen & Carolyn Whitney-Brown

Henri Nouwen loved everything about the circus. He was especially taken with the elegant, high-flying trapeze artists known as the Flying Rodleighs. He never missed an opportunity to watch the Flying Rodleighs perform.

He and the aerial acrobats quickly became close friends. The Rodleighs even invited Henri to tour with them as they performed in towns throughout Germany.

While travelling with the troupe, Henri kept a journal of the experience and the Flying Rodleighs’ captivating performances. He realized that the trapeze act had much in common with living a spiritual life and decided to write a book about it. He believed this could become his most important book yet.

Henri died before the manuscript was completed.

Now, his friend and colleague Carolyn Whitney-Brown presents his unpublished trapeze writings framed by the true story of Nouwen’s rescue by paramedics through a hotel window during his first heart attack.

Light-hearted, insightful and often comic, this captivating story reveals Nouwen as a joyful spiritual risk taker.

The Flying Rodleighs’ circus act was like Nouwen’s own life: full of artistry, thrilling successes, crushing failures, and continual forgiveness. In this new story, Nouwen invites us all to let go and fly, even when we are afraid of falling.

“What’s wrong with being an entertainer? Isn’t Jesus the greatest of all entertainers? Isn’t He holding people up in a life that constantly wants to go flat? Didn’t Jesus come from another world and travel from place to place to let people look up for a moment and realize that there is more to life than they might have thought? And weren’t most of those who listened to Jesus like circus-goers, going home with some excitement, but forgetting about it when everyday life reasserted its demands?”

-Henri Nouwen, “Flying, Falling, Catching”

Join us Wednesday, November 23rd for greetings and introductions. Then beginning Sunday, November 27th, we’ll journey through Advent reading and discussing this particularly touching and thoroughly enjoyable publication.

Facilitated by Ray Glennon, the Advent online book discussion is a wonderful way to celebrate Jesus’ arrival as Emmanuel (God with us) into our global community at Christmas. What a wonderful way to give special meaning to your Christmas preparations. We do hope you can join us.

A reading schedule will be posted prior to the beginning of the book discussion.

Need a copy of the book? It is available at many bookstores, or you can order it online through the Bookstore tab in the menu bar above. 

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26 Responses to Announcing the Book Selection for Advent 2022!

  1. Carol Park says:

    What remains in me after my reading: I’m astonished that Henri felt so nervous about talking to the acrobats. I watched a cricus this fall – first time in a long time. And the acrobats were my favorite portion. They were astounding. But I had nothing so deep emotionally as Henri had. His meditations on their agility and fearlessness were meaningful to me as I think about risks I’m taking in my own life with my writing as as a couple as we are seeking to make a somewhat investment for the sake of a charitable agency. His reflections on the nature of trust – of the ups and down emotionally – of letting go of the stable thing and reaching out to God to hold us are just what we need to do right no1

  2. Carol Park says:

    I picked up the book today and read the preface. I’m excited! I live in California and look forward to this group.

  3. I”m so looking forward to reading this book and learning from a community of commenters! It’s exciting too, to see Rodleigh Stevens as a participant remembering, sharing and seeing Henri very up close and personal. What a wonderful way to part the curtains and usher in a new Advent filled with mystery, flying together and finding freedom. Thanks to all at the Henri Nouwen Society that make this online discussion possible.


  4. Christine Tinker says:

    I am looking forward to the Advent book discussion. I was fortunate to have been able to participate in retreat, classes and presentations by Henri Nouwen when living on the East Coast. Looking forward to this opportunity to share with other travelers. Thank you for the opportunity.

  5. Liz Murphy says:

    Thank you for the clarifications, William, re the discussions not being in real time. I look forward to joining them from Eastern Canada when my schedule allows. I thoroughly enjoy Henri’s daily meditations so know that the book discussion will be rich.

  6. Constance Harrington says:

    Just to further try to clarify for my questions—are we to reply to a blog post-as we are doing now? A blog post that will go up on the designated day, and then comments will continue the discussion until the next blog entry is posted?

    Thank you!

    • You’ve got it. On this coming Wednesday, Ray will offer greetings and invite everyone to introduce themselves. On Sunday, the discussion begins. (A reading schedule is now posted.) Each week, discussion will be on the assigned reading — although the comments go well beyond simply analyzing content. The comments are typically insightful, personal, and encouraging as well. If you’re not reading along in the book for whatever reason, you will still enjoy the discussion. Everyone is free to join in.

      As I mentioned previously, the comments are moderated so they will be posted as soon as Ray has a chance to review them.

      I sense that this will be a particularly rich and lively discussion through Advent. Great to know that many of you are excited about it!

  7. William Slingsby says:

    I am looking forward to joining. I had just taken ‘Advent and Christmas with Thomas Merton from my bookcase ready for the start of Advent and was busy with my emails when I came across yours and the invite to join the new book discussion. So, Flying, Falling, Catching is ordered and being delivered tomorrow and I look forward to joining you from Somerset in the UK sometime on Wednesday 23 November.

  8. Don Schuessler says:

    Thanks for doing this!

    • Thank you for joining us! It’s wonderful to see so many repeat and new participants plan to join our online book discussion. Come back on Wednesday an meet some of the Nouwen-readers who are really looking forward to this discussion. And be sure to introduce yourself!

  9. Sandy Richardson says:

    I have already read this book, thoroughly enjoyed it, grew from it, and am looking forward to reading it again in a group setting.
    Now all I have to do is, do what I can to remember about joining in.

  10. Hi, I live in Australia and I would like to participate in the book reading. What is the expected local time of starting so that I can plan to join in as soon as convenient for me?
    Many thanks. Rodleigh Stevens. (The Flying Rodleighs)

    • It’s wonderful that you will be joining us, Rodleigh.

      In answer to your question, it’s a moderated discussion. It’s not in “real time” per se. Ray Glennon posts all comments after he reviews them, and the discussion of each assigned part of the book continues throughout the week. So participants are free to join in at whatever time is most convenient. Join us for greetings and introductions on Wednesday, November 23rd and you’ll quickly get the hang of how it all works.

  11. Susan Will says:

    I’ve been wanting to read this book, so this sounds like a great opportunity to do so within this online community!

  12. Jackie Rutkowski says:

    I am new to all this. I’m assuming it will be explained in the introduction session and we will see reflective questions for the first weekend of Advent then?

    • Hello Jackie,

      Following greetings and introductions on Wednesday, November 23, the discussion begins on Sunday, November 27. Ray has posted the reading schedule as well as directions on how to post comments. You can find them by clicking on “Advent 2022 Reading Schedule” in the black bar beneath the photo at the top of the page. Everything is pretty easy to do and I’m sure you’ll have no trouble participating. Glad to have you join us for the discussion!

  13. Roselit Madappallil says:

    I like to participate in this book discussion. Hope I will get a reminder towards the dates

    • Hello Roselit,

      We’ll be posting reminders at the top of our Daily Meditations as the starting date approaches. Since it’s our Advent book discussion, as soon as Advent begins – so does the discussion.

      Hope you can join us!

  14. Roger Dowdy says:

    Re: the online Advent Series….I do not see times listed for:
    Nov. 23 Intro session?

    Nov. 27 Session 1, and all following?

    Clarification is appreciated.
    Rev. Roger Dowdy, Richmond, VA

    • Hello Roger,

      The discussion is not in real time, rather it’s moderated – meaning all comments will be posted as soon as moderator Ray Glennon reviews them.

      Ray usually gets things going early (East Coast USA), but it may not be early for some of our global participants who could be in vastly different time zones. So just check in at whatever time is most convenient for you. The discussion goes on throughout the week before Ray posts the next set of reflective questions for the next assigned chapters.

      Hope all that makes sense. A reading schedule will be posted prior to the start of the discussion.

      Looking forward to having you join us!

      • jannie henkelman says:

        Thank you William – this makes it all very clear and so easy to work into each person’s individual schedule.

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