Tattoos on the Heart
The Power of Boundless Compassion
As a pastor working in a neighborhood with the highest concentration of murderous gang activity in Los Angeles, Gregory Boyle created an organization to provide jobs, job training, and encouragement so that young people could work together and learn the mutual respect that comes from collaboration. Tattoos on the Heart is a breathtaking series of parables distilled from his twenty years in the barrio. Arranged by theme and filled with sparkling humor and glowing generosity, these essays offer a stirring look at how full our lives could be if we could find the joy in loving others and in being loved unconditionally. From giant, tattooed Cesar, shopping at JCPenney fresh out of prison, we learn how to feel worthy of God’s love. From ten-year-old Lula we learn the importance of being known and acknowledged. From Pedro we understand the kind of patience necessary to rescue someone from the darkness. In each chapter we benefit from Boyle’s wonderful, hard-earned wisdom. Inspired by faith but applicable to anyone trying to be good, these personal, unflinching stories are full of surprising revelations and observations of the community in which Boyle works and of the many lives he has helped save.
Erudite, down-to-earth, and utterly heartening, these essays about universal kinship and redemption are moving examples of the power of unconditional love in difficult times and the importance of fighting despair. With Gregory Boyle’s guidance, we can recognize our own wounds in the broken lives and daunting struggles of the men and women in these parables and learn to find joy in all of the people around us. Tattoos on the Heart reminds us that no life is less valuable than another.
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Tattoos on the Heart
Read an Excerpt
God, I Guess
God can get tiny, if we’re not careful. I’m certain we all have an image of God that becomes the touchstone, the controlling principle, to which we return when we stray.
My touchstone image of God comes by way of my friend and spiritual director, Bill Cain, S.J. Years ago he took a break from his own ministry to care for his father as he died of cancer. His father had become a frail man, dependent on Bill to do everything for him. Though he was physically not what he had been, and the disease was wasting him away, his mind remained alert and lively. In the role reversal...see more
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Reading Group Guide
Topics & Questions for Discussion
• Rival gang members worked side by side in Greg’s first humanitarian business venture, Homeboy Bakery. How did this unusual arrangement—enemies working together— play out? Can you think of ways this approach might work in a different context of conflict?
• Greg talks about offering opportunities, not to people who need help but to those who want it. What difference do you think this makes?
• Elias Montes accepts an award on Greg’s behalf and says to the audience, “Because Father Greg and Homeboy Industries believed in me, I decided to believe in myself.“ Greg himself writes, “Sometimes resilience arrives in the moment you discover your own unshakeable goodness.” For all their bravado, a lot of the gang members are deeply vulnerable and insecure—how does Greg approach this contradiction?
• Greg writes, “Kinship [is] not serving the other, but being one with the other. Jesus was not ‘a man for others’; he was one with them.” How are the see more