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Africans, African American, Incarnation, Mystical-Contemplative, Roman Catholic Church


This paper focuses on the intersection of the mystical and the contemplative by engaging The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila with Dr. Barbara A. Holmes’ Every Shut Eye Ain’t Sleep: The Inner Life During Slavery. The conversation reveals their perspectives on the role contemplative practices have in building and sustaining community. Contemplative prayer, like God, is no respecter of status or position and encounters souls where they are. The mystical-contemplative dimension of my paper is to see whether these two works in conversation would be able to address concerns I have about anti-black narratives in my present location as an African American Catholic woman. These two authors’ works are foundational to my proposal and are the genesis of my hope for the Church’s handling of issues involving biases and racism. My hope is that this conversation would stimulate leaders of the Catholic Church to have a deepening awareness to effectively acknowledge the incarnational aspects of human life in a way that extends dignity to all--inside and outside of the womb. Both authors diligently chronicle the contemplative practices of two culturally distinct groups of people who were able to embody the mystical presence of God in such a way that it preserved them in the midst of society’s external threats. Detachment and humility are essential to pursuing inner freedom. Both the sisters under Avila’s care and the Africans under extreme duress pursued contemplation to survive.