Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries in L.A., writes poignantly of Boundless Compassion, Redemption & the ‘Slow work of God’ in his book, Tattoos on the Heart. Providing powerful snapshots of his ministry among violent Gang Members in Los Angeles, Fr. Boyle takes us where our fears may never allow us to go and shows us what Hope amidst despair (seasoned with Lots of Perseverance) can do.
Unlike St. Augustine’s massive City of God, this is a short book – a great opportunity during Lent to expand our compassion horizons. In each chapter Fr. Greg tackles a theme (God, grace, compassion, jurisdiction, patience, success etc.) using stories from his 20+ years in this ministry.
Seems to me that Fr. Boyle is Love with Skin On to a community we would rather just transplant straight to prison — but he sees (with the Eyes of Jesus Christ) their value as Beloved Sons & Daughters of our Heavenly Creator (of course, his Guardian Angels are probably using some Heavy Duty Divinely Bullet-Proofed vests!)
As the Thief next to Jesus on the Cross believed when Jesus told him, “you will be with me in Paradise,” so, too, many of these young men and women experience redemption and new opportunities at Homeboy Industries (‘Jobs not Jails’) where Tough Love is available 24/7. Although after a particularly major office screw-up, Fr. Boyle writes: “Normally, I’d want to throttle this kid and give him the ‘what for.’ I manage something I rarely can. I morph into Mother Teresa AND Ghandi.”
Fr. Greg’s raw honesty will move your heart.
There are many ‘success’ stories in the book (i especially liked the hilarious description of 3 former Gang members visiting the Laura Bush White House when one of them forgets his brand new suit pants!), but what has stuck with me for more than a year is how Fr. Boyle’s chapter entitled “Success” is about everything but what we would define as a successful outcome.
Success in the gang-wars of L.A. requires a paradigm shift in thinking, as Fr. Boyle shares challenging stories: after losing 2 sons to violent deaths, one mother encounters the shooter of her son in the ICU ward where she works & then prays for him to live because ‘I don’t want his mom to go through what I have.’
No bullet can pierce Fr. Greg’s vision for restored & renewed youths & communities in L.A, even though there’s so much pain & so much death, because his is the vision of Jesus Christ’s love for ALL PEOPLE (even Gang members who point guns at us & each other..)
“I want to lean into the challenge of intractable problems with as tender a heart as I can locate, knowing that there is some divine ingenuity here, ‘the slow work of God,’ that gets done if we’re faithful.” (Father Gregory Boyle, S.J.)
grace, peace & Inspirational Books (!)
Virginia : )