“The culture around miracles distinguishes Catholicism from Protestantism, a branch of Christianity in which miracles aren’t attributed to the Virgin Mary or to other saints. While Protestants believe in the miracles of Jesus and that God is capable of miraculous feats like healing the sick, mainline Protestant churches don’t place the same emphasis on miracles in contemporary society that the Catholic Church does. In short, Catholics are overwhelmingly interested in what Morrison described as 'the strange stuff.'

“According to historian and anthropologist David Carrasco, whom Morrison consulted about Afro-Brazilian religions while writing Paradise, she considered 'the strange stuff' to be a vital 'part of the religion in [her] work.' Her Catholicism, a belief system in which miracles are not just relegated to antiquity but accepted as part of life today, surely informed this religious view — as did her Blackness. In the lives of her characters, she pointed out, 'birds talk and butterflies cry, and it is not surprising or upsetting to them.' Such magical events unfold in her novels to reflect the 'vast imagination of Black people' who existed in Morrison’s personal orbit. These individuals didn’t just recite folklore; they believed in the stories they told, even the ones about Africans who could fly.

“ 'I don’t care how silly it may seem,' Morrison said of that folklore. 'It is everywhere — people used to talk about it; it’s in the spirituals and gospels. Perhaps it was wishful thinking — escape, death, and all that. But suppose it wasn’t. What might it mean?' “